30 March 2012

Short Stories Published!

You may already know, but I had two short stories accepted into an anthology put together by some fellow writers at Agent Query Connect. I'm pleased to tell you that Spring Fevers is now available! Even better, it's free! Download from Smashwords, B&N, or Amazon. Fair warning, though, it's NOT free on Amazon, as they haven't price matched it. Any money from Amazon purchases will be given to charity, so if you want to spend the $0.99, go right ahead. If you read and love it, we hope you'll leave a review! You do NOT need an ereader to read the book, either! If you don't have one, there are free Kindle and Nook apps for your computer and smartphone, as well as Calibre, which will read all ebook formats.


About the anthology

An anthology of short stories, Spring Fevers is an exploration of relationships in their varied states: love -- requited and unrequited -- friendships discovered and lost, family in its many guises, and the myriad places in between. Created by Cat Woods and Matt Sinclair, Spring Fevers arose from their work with the Agent Query Connect online writing community, and while membership in the free site was not necessary for inclusion in the anthology, the ten writers whose stories appear are all members. Authors include MarcyKate Connolly, S.Q. Eries, Robb Grindstaff, J. Lea Lopez, Mindy McGinnis, R.S. Mellette, Yvonne Osborne, Matt Sinclair, A.M. Supinger, and Cat Woods. The debut publication of Elephant’s Bookshelf Press, Spring Fevers was edited by the team of Robb Grindstaff, Matt Sinclair, and Cat Woods, with cover design by Calista Taylor, and book design by R.C. Lewis. A new anthology is scheduled to be released in the fall of 2012. 

The beautiful cover was designed by Calista Taylor, who has been a great friend/beta reader/coach and taught me a lot about creating ebook covers, though my skill is amateur to say the least. If you're in the market for a book cover, check out her website Covers by Cali to learn about her incredibly affordable options and to check out the gallery of other covers she has done.

About my stories

I have two stories in this anthology.

The Adventures of Sasquatch is the story of a single mom's desire to assert her fun-loving nature despite the opinions of her coworkers, and maybe even find love in the process. It all starts, and ends, with the most unlikely catalyst: her big feet.

The Haricots Verts is flash fiction, capturing a moment of uncertainty between two potential lovers.

28 March 2012

#Scintilla Day 11: 23 Pieces of Me

This is the last day for Scintilla, so let me just take a moment to say thanks to everyone who has read and commented, and I do hope you'll pop in from time to time. I've read some great posts by immensely interesting people and will certainly be reading those blogs in the future.

I wasn't terribly inspired by the prompt options for today, so I'm going all the way back to Day 1 to do the other prompt from that day: Who are you? It's always a difficult and complicated question for me, and each time I answer it, I think the picture painted is a little different than last time. I was also inspired by this brilliant list of 23 combo post from another Scintilla participant, so I've decided to tell you who I am in a list.
  1. I'm sensitive. Not in the derogatory sense. (Oh, she's just sensitive.) Not in the psychic sense, either. But I'm attuned to moods and can sense when those around me are unhappy, or when there's tension between people. I don't usually let it affect my own behavior, but sometimes I'd rather avoid you than listen to another complaint about anything. Sometimes I just need a break from other people's negativity.
  2. Compliments make me uncomfortable. Praise for my skills, accomplishments, or other things I've done are easier for me to accept than compliments on how I look.
  3. I love to laugh.
  4. I'm a nice girl. But...
  5. There's a snark monster living in my head. I try to keep her chained, but she slips out now and then.
  6. I love dirty talk. I don't mean in the bedroom. Or maybe I do. You'll just have to guess on that one. But I mean I find it hilarious when men try to "clean it up" for my sake, or apologize to me for the sexual comments made to the other men in the room while in my presence. Hello. If they could see inside my head... I write erotica, for cryin' out loud. I'm not a prude. In fact, sex and sexuality - the emotion and psychology of it - fascinates me, and if you ask the right questions, I'll talk to you all day about it.
  7. I'm a writer.
  8. I am an introvert.
  9. I'm shy.
  10. I prefer beer over wine, and mojitos over everything.
  11. I think jello is fantastic.
  12. I'm a half Puerto Rican girl born in Jersey, raised on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, living in Pennsylvania, longing for the ocean.
  13. I love to eat. Thanks to #12, a husband who went to culinary school, and a love for food in general, my tastes vary widely. I love scrapple, even though I know what it's made of. I'll sit around picking crabs for hours. And I would seriously kill for some mofongo with pork right about now. My comfort food of choice is ground beef with rice and beans.The weirdest thing (according to other people) besides scrapple that I love to eat is Ritz crackers topped with sharp cheddar and orange marmalade.
  14. I'm childfree.
  15. I get immense satisfaction from seeing people I love succeed, even when they succeed at things in which I still only aspire.
  16. I spend way too much time playing Facebook games, games on my phone (Scramble with Friends! Draw Something!), chatting on Twitter, and otherwise being unproductive. But you'll never hear me complain about not getting stuff done or achieving what I want because I know if I don't, it's my own lazy ass fault.
  17. I have clown feet. Size 11 EXTRA wide. I love looking at shoes, but loathe attempting to buy any.
  18. I talk to my dog as if she were a person and can fully comprehend what I'm saying. (She totally can, by the way.)
  19. I'm smart. People have said that to me in a way that I felt was demeaning. But dammit, I'm smart! And that's a good thing.
  20. I love fashion and sewing. I made the corset and skirt I wore when I got married. It pains me to pay full price (and even sale price) for clothes from the store because I know what a rip-off a lot of it is.
  21. I'm not the jealous type.
  22. I'm not afraid of silence.
  23. I am love. I don't say this to be overly dramatic or romantic or deep. But the more I think about it (and I've been thinking about it) the more I realize that love is the defining feature of my life, and who I am. More than any one idea of god or spirituality, I've always believed in love. I love easily, and completely. I probably love you and you don't even realize it. I love when I know the possibility for hurt is high. I love when that hurt subsides. I don't take back love once it's given, though I may change how I express it. I love platonically, and romantically, and a whole lot in between. From my every day interactions to the people I call friends to the fiction I write, my life is an exploration of the spectrum of love.

#Scintilla Day 10: RANT RANT RANT RANT

Day 10 prompt is to talk about a pet peeve. There are so many... you may have seen my controlled rant on peek, peak, and pique (no? go! read! and never make the mistake again!) because the misuse/confusion of homophones is a major pet peeve. Their/there/they're, your/you're, and so on. Maybe it's the writer in me that gets so annoyed, but I've always been this way. Maybe it's just my need to be right. ;-) Either way, I won't talk about that pet peeve today. Since I have so many, I thought I'd talk about a less common pet peeve.

Hangers facing the WRONG way.

I said "less common" because while it might tickle the OCD parts of my writer friends, I doubt most loathe it quite as much as I do. Unless you've worked retail. Then you know the white-hot rage that can boil over at the sight of that one hanger facing the wrong way on a rack.

It's not that difficult! Just think question mark.

?

That's what the hanger should look like before you stick it back on the rack. It's actually more of a pain in the ass for you to shove the hanger in the rack, under the bar, to hook it on backwards, so STOP DOING IT. Not only are you wasting the precious extra ten seconds it takes you to do it that way for every. single. freaking. item of clothing you look at on your shopping trip (you know who you are *glares*) but you're also wasting MY TIME by making me fix it. Oh wait... that's not my job anymore! Mwahahahahahahaha... ha... ha. Sorry. Got carried away there. Straightening racks isn't exactly my job anymore, but hangers facing the wrong way still affect me, and still irritate me.

The salesperson will appreciate it greatly if you simply put the hanger back on the rack properly. You know. The way you found it to start with. Do you walk into a bookstore, proceed to turn all the books you look at so they face backward, and expect not to get a few sideways glances? No, of course not! You put them back where and how you found them. It's not a novel (heh) concept.

My trained eye can spot one of 75 hangers turned the wrong way in seconds. Seconds, I tell you! If I'm not looking to see whether the hangers are all faced one way (because, oh, I don't know, I've misplaced my faith in humanity by assuming no jerks have come by and put them back wrong) I'll go to grab a handful at once if I need to move things around during the course of my job... and you know what happens then? Where are all my retail bitches? You know.

You grab that run of 25 or so garments to move to a runner or different rack and because of that ONE DAMN BACKWARD HANGER holding on for dear life, you either end up nearly toppling the whole fixture or give yourself whiplash as you're yanked back.

Be kind to your salespeople (and OCD and neat freaks everywhere) and put the hanger back the right way. If I see any of you sadistic anarchists in my store turning hangers just to spite me, you better watch out. They'll have to change the term "going postal" to "going retail" because I will cut a mutha--

Oh. I mean... Pay no attention to the crazy lady behind the curtain. Put your hangers back properly. Please and thank you. :-)

26 March 2012

#Scintilla Day 9: Body Conscious, a Conversation

Finally current with Scintilla posts! Prompt for today: Talk about the ways in which your body is awesome.

Okay, let's see. My body. Is. Awesome?

Oh come on, you aren't going to bring everyone down with some kind of negative body image talk, are you?

No. I'm a realist when it comes to my body, both the flaws and features. I'm just trying to figure out what to talk about. How to frame it.

Well, what's your favorite thing about your body?

I really like my hair.

Your hair is not your body.

It's attached.

*hands on hips*

I've always liked my eyes.

Better, I guess. Still not very body though.

Very "body"? What does that even mean?

I don't know. Don't you think it should be something a little more sensuous? You know, all that stuff about curves and soft and inviting and womanly...

Bah. Boring. I certainly don't sit around thinking of myself that way. Besides, I have lots of "soft curves" in places I wish I didn't! Haha!

I thought you weren't going to do the negative body image stuff?

I'm not! It's the truth. And I'm well aware it's the truth. It's not negative body image when it's true. I'm laughing at  myself. Not everyone can do that, you know. It takes security and confidence to be able to laugh at yourself.

No, it takes not believing you're attractive to be able to laugh at yourself.

Not true. Maybe I think I'm really damn fabulous and just don't want less awesome people to feel bad if they hear me boasting about it.

Do you think you're really damn fabulous?

Eh. Not most of the time. But that doesn't mean I think poorly of myself or my body, either.

Okay, okay, whatever. I know what we should do. We should--

We?

Yeah. Me. You. Us.

Are you really referring to yourself in the third person?

No, I'm referring to your self in the third person. Anyway, you're the one having a conversation with yourself. Who are you to judge?

Touche.

Anyway. You should do like a sexy, suggestive kind of thing about your favorite body part. Or parts. Like your lips. You have nice lips.

Aww. Thank you.

You're welcome. Stop interrupting us. Where were we...? Oh yeah. Sort of like an "is this fiction or not?" kind post. About your lips or whatever. You know, the bottom one is nice and full, and it's kinda sexy when  you slick on that strawberry margarita lip gloss and pout a little bit and--

I don't pout.

Sure you do.

I do not. I don't frown, so I don't pout either. I smile. All the time. I think people think I'm a little strange sometimes because I always smile.

What? Shut up, they do not. And you do too pout. You know, a little sexy pout. Pout. Lips. Lip gloss. Red. Eyes looking up through your curly hair that you like, and maybe a wink, and a man should be so lucky to have that mouth--

Holy whoa! Stop right there. This is not going to be about sex.

*snort* Please. Everything is about sex with you, Ms. I Write Erotica and Find Innuendo in Everything.

Whatever. Why should it be about sex, just because it asks about how my body is awesome? Just because I'm a woman? And the only reason my body can be awesome is in a sexual context? For the pleasure of a man? Screw that! My body can be sexual on its own, but it doesn't have to be sexual. And it's not going to be about how awesome my body is because it has the potential to bear children, because it'll never do that, either. My worth is not related to my sexual organs and what they can do. Just because I have breasts and--

Okay, okay! My lord you have been reading too many feminist blogs lately.

What, I couldn't have formed my opinions on my own, they had to come from somewhere else? Why? Because I'm a woman? You can't gaslight me into submission and... oh. Okay, maybe you have a point.

Of course I do. I'm you.

Again, touche. You make some good points.

Of course I do. I'm you.

So what the hell am I supposed to write?

I dunno. I've got sex on the brain. You left those poor characters hanging right before a steamy scene in the short story you started weeks ago, you know. You should really finish that.

I know, but what am I supposed to write now, for Scintilla?

Write the truth. Isn't that supposed to be what it's all about?

The truth is that my body is not perfect, but it does what I need it do. Sexually or otherwise. *wink*

See, I knew you couldn't resist a sexual joke or comment.

Busted.

----------------------------------------------------

 ^^^THIS^^^ is why my brain is the reason my body is awesome. It never fails to amuse, enlighten, and entertain me. Sexually or otherwise. *wink*

#Scintilla Day 8: Childhood Friends

My best friend growing up was named Cassidy. We met in school at a young age, and were practically inseparable for a while. In middle school we had tons of classes together. We shared a lot of the same interests when it came to music, fashion, boys. We both played the flute in band. We both have curly brown hair, and struggled through learning how to care for/cut/style it without looking ridiculous. I would ride my bike across town to her house on the weekend or in the summer and we'd spend the day listening to the Cranberries, making cookies, freaking ourselves out with the Ouija board, writing, talking, or (for a brief period) smoking cigarettes along the railroad tracks, far from the prying eyes of anyone who might know my parents and tell them what I was up to. Cassidy and I were our own little clique of two.

I remember having a huge fight, I think in seventh grade, about a boy. Someone she had a "secret" crush on, but of course I knew who it was. You know how it is at that age. You write initials, or make up secret nicknames. I revealed the identity of her crush to someone who was asking about one of those initial/nickname doodles, and Cassidy was pretty pissed. It was a full-on fight, complete with angry hang-up phone calls. I laugh when I think about it now, of course. Part of me thinks that was around the time we started drifting, ever so slightly.

In high school, we rarely had classes together. Interests diverged a little bit. I was still in band, and joined choir (total band/choir geek, and I'm proud of it!) while she joined the marching band colorguard and took art classes. Another memory: Homecoming, sophomore year (I think). I had gotten up the nerve to ask someone to go with me - someone who'd gone to school with us in middle school, then changed schools. Someone I thought was cute. It was a huge deal for me, obviously. When we got to the dance, he ended up spending most of the night dancing with other girls, including Cassidy, while I danced with the friend of another friend's boyfriend - a sweet little Hispanic guy who barely came up to my chin and didn't speak English. I remember at one point looking at Cassidy as she danced with my "date" and she gave me this look of I'm so sorry, I have no idea how this happened. Part of me was pissed. At him, not her. Part of me thought oh well, that's what I get for going out on a limb. I should've figured I was just an "in" for him to spend the night checking out prettier, thinner, more "popular" girls. It's okay. My accidental dance partner kept saying I was pretty. In Spanish, of course.

Cassidy and I did drift apart, more significantly, as high school progressed. We were still friends, of course, but not really joined at the hip like we used to be. Then, somehow, after graduation, we lost contact completely. I don't know how it happened, exactly. I never thought it would happen. It was a strange feeling. Looking back, I feel like there were times where I sacrificed our long-standing friendship for... I don't even know for what, any more. For the opinions of people I didn't really even like that much, maybe. But also maybe it was something inevitable.

I remember my high school self wanting, in part, to figure myself out and create myself as something independent of my best friend. Somewhere along the line I'd found out that our guidance counselor had purposely made our class schedules as identical as possible throughout middle school. Her reasons for that were good, but on some small level it felt a little bit unfair to both Cassidy and I (in my mind), and I think I questioned whether our friendship would've been the same if the counselor hadn't orchestrated our schedules that way. And then, later, I think I used that as a reasoning for why we drifted apart and lost touch. Like maybe we weren't really such great friends for any reason other than spending so much school time together.

Because I think too much, and keep things to myself, and am prone to a touch of anxiety at times, this started to feel like a personal failure of the largest magnitude. I was sure I'd insulted her somehow, or hurt her terribly. It was my fault, because I was a bad person. I don't remember anymore why I felt these things then, whether they were based in fact or simply imagined. I tried looking her up on MySpace (MySpace! ha!) and later on Facebook, without luck. I knew I wanted to say I was sorry for anything I might have done, even back then when we were young and emotional and confused, or at least when I was.

Then one day on Facebook, I saw the little post that says "so and so is now friends with Cassidy Price" and I couldn't believe it. It sounds stupid, but I actually sat there and tried to figure out what to do. Do I friend request her? Do I send a message along with it, saying I'm sorry for whatever happened, but I miss having you as a friend? What if she didn't accept? Why wouldn't she accept? Yes, I admit it, I slipped back into one of my crazy moments where I'm convinced I'm a bad person and that thing that happened was my fault, even if it was just coincidence, even if it had nothing to do with me. Then I told myself to snap out of it and hit the button.

Thing about people you love - best friends especially - is that you always come back together. Even if one of you blabs the other's secret crush to someone else, even if feelings are hurt. Even if life happens and you lose touch for a few weeks, months, or years. When you find your way back, you'll talk and fill in the gaps and smile at the things about your friend that are still the same, marvel at the wonderful new parts of them that you get to learn about, and revel in the fact that it feels so good just to be their friend.

In case it isn't obvious, yes. Friend request accepted.

#Scintilla Day 7: Parental Personhood

(I'm playing catch-up with posts from Thursday and Friday of last week.)

Scintilla prompt for today: Talk about a time when you saw your mother or father as a person independent of his or her identity as your parent.

I'm not sure I can say that I've seen any of my parents as a person independent of their identity as parent, as it has been the trappings of that role - their responsibilities, their actions, and my expectations of them - that have shaped my ideas of them as people. Looking back, I feel like I've mostly seen them as people, most of my life. There are moments, memories, where I can point my finger and say parent, and that word encompassed everything they were for me, what they meant to me, what I wanted and needed them to be. Not really the other way around. Oddly, I feel more connected to them as my parents now that I'm a little older. Perhaps that's the universal experience of moving out of the immediacy of adolescence and into the adult ability to appreciate both hindsight and future possibility. In any case...

I didn't have what might be seen as the ideal or typical family structure as a young child. My parents were never married. I have no memories of my mother prior to our reintroduction when I was 13 or so. My older brother did, but it's all blank for me. My dad married my stepmom when I was little. I don't remember what age, exactly, but it was before I was old enough for school. If I count back based on when my sister was born, I was probably three or four years old. She's always been mom to me, never Regina, never "my step-mother." My younger sister and brother were never anything but that - half anything was never, and will never be, a distinction worth noting in our family. My mom mom came back into the picture when I was in middle school, which was a rough, awkward, strange, miserable time for me all on its own, without even tossing family into the mix. Family made it even crazier.

Maybe it's because I was a middle child, or because I'm an introvert, or who knows what else, but it was easy for me to see the inner workings, if you will. I was quiet. I watched. I analyzed. I thought. A LOT. I could see the aspects of personality that informed the words and deeds of those around me, my parents included. I saw them as clearly as strands of floss woven and coiled into intricate beings that I called mom and dad (or sister, brother, friend, etc.)

When my parents argued with my older brother, I saw those strands flailing, clashing. I saw the missed connections, the misunderstandings that only led to more clashing. For the life of me, I couldn't see the parenting in many of those situations, only the people acting in what I can only assume was the best capacity they knew how. That's still how I see it, thinking back.

When my parents argued with each other, or with my sister, or (much more rarely) with me, I saw people, and personalities, and the family ties were only relevant on the surface. It was the stubbornness, or anger, or ignorance, or self-righteousness at work, overriding whatever bit of parent was there.

When my dad used me as a shiny example of what he wanted my older brother to be more like, completely oblivious to the way it only made both my brother and I feel like shit and tarnished what should've been a more solid sibling relationship, there was no parent there. When my dad and my (birth) mother spoke negatively of each other, to me, as though I couldn't see the faults on both sides of my DNA chain for myself, there was no parent there. When my parents made comments about my mom making up for lost time and buying her way into my and my brother's lives and hearts, assuming I couldn't see that for myself, or that that was somehow counter to what I needed and wanted (because really, for a shy, introverted teen girl with no memory of her mother, gifts of what she thought/hoped I wanted said things, taught me things about her and I, and went farther toward building a relationship than my words ever could at that time in my life), there was no parent there.

Despite the proclamations of concern and just wanting what's best for me (or my brother), my parents were utterly absent in those cases, replaced by people. Scared people. Angry people. People who had been hurt and mistreated by life, by people from their pasts, and maybe even by each other, and who desperately needed that pain to be acknowledged and validated.

It's almost funny, when I think about it. I could already see the hows and the whys behind the "lessons" my parents were trying to teach me (or prevent me from having to learn). As people, sometimes we don't realize that our baggage isn't his baggage, or hers, or anyone else's. We assume that because this heartbreak handbag and that suitcase of cynicism have taught us and guided us and served us well (or not), then surely other people would do well to know the things we've learned from our baggage. But it doesn't work that way. Sometimes we forget that. We're only people, after all. Parents are no different. Maybe that's why I can't separate the two in my mind. Maybe that's why I've always seen the people behind the mask of my parents.

21 March 2012

#Scintilla Day 6: Still, I Have Faith

I'm one of those people other people sometimes can't stand:

Always smiling.


Always optimistic.


Ready to give anyone the benefit of the doubt.


Positive that it will all work out in the end.

I am this way without irony or deceit or hyperbole. Sincere without being saccharine. I can't help but be this way, and I can't ever remember a time when I wasn't.

I have faith that people are inherently good. Yes, I know the depraved things we are capable of doing to each other, and yes, I have witnessed things that might test my faith in this principle. Still, I have faith.

I have faith that no matter the difficulties I face, there will always be a brighter tomorrow, a satisfactory ending, a way to make the hurting stop. Yes, I have felt pain, and a darkness I was certain would be impossible to climb out of, and I have watched those I love experience worse. I know many never live to see the silver lining. Still, I have faith.

I have faith that those I help along this road will appreciate it, and will be better for it. And I will be better for it. Oh yes, I have been taken advantage of emotionally and psychologically. Still, I have faith.

I have faith that loving another is never a mistake, and that love is possible for all. Yes, I have seen the way love turns to hurt turns to disdain, or worse. Still, I have faith.

Still. I have faith. Because if I don't, there is no point. For life to have meaning, I have to have faith.

20 March 2012

#Scintilla Day 5: Getting Away With It

So apparently the weekend prompts are optional bonuses, so what I said was Day 4 actually wasn't. Yesterday would've been day 4, but I took the day off to lounge around the house with the hubby :-) Back on track with Scintilla today! One of the prompts was to talk about a time where you got away with it. I couldn't think of any personal experiences that fit (which is a recurring theme with me and some of these prompts... why are you all so much more interesting than me?! lol) so instead you get a bit of fiction today. I originally posted this last year, but it totally fits this prompt so I pulled it out and tweaked just a teensy little bit, and here you go:

Maggie knew she could get away with what she was going to do. She couldn't let Dan get away with what he'd done.

Ire for Hire
 
Moonlight is diffused by the fog outside the window, casting a silvery glow over the chair where he sits. I see what Shelly must've seen in him. But despite the handsome face, there's a meanness behind his eyes, even as he grins up at me now. They match his name, those eyes.

Dan Ire's ads make him seem more like a hitman than a private investigator. Call Dan – he's your Ire for hire! I want to laugh at how pathetic he is. But Dan thinks he loves me. He “loved” Shelly, too. At least Shelly thought so, until she showed up at my office with a black eye and busted lip.

Dan doesn’t know he and I are in the same business. Lady Dick. No better than Ire for Hire, but I don't advertise that way. That’s the nickname some of my cop buddies gave me when I left the force. Sometimes the law doesn't know what's best.

Dan thinks I'm a lonely young widow who needs him to track down money stolen by my dead husband's business partner. Flash a little cleavage, smear on some trashy red lipstick, and Dan Ire will bend over backward to take your case. He's also bent me over a few times since he took the case. Can't say I didn't like it. The man's got stamina.

I sit atop the desk in front of him, sipping the watered-down whiskey from the bottle reserved for clients. I know damn well there's another bottle in the bottom drawer that he keeps for himself. Cheap bastard.

“Like I said,” I uncross my legs and rest one foot on his thigh, “I can't pay the rest of your fee yet. I'm sorry.”

“I don't feel right asking for it, seeing as I didn't find anything.” He talks to my leg, his eyes fixed on the lace top of my stocking. A black garter disappears under the hem of my coat. He licks his lips and looks up. “Let me keep looking. Just a couple weeks.

And then charge me for the extra effort. Scumbag. I put on my best pout.

“I guess by then I'd have the money, if I pick up some extra shifts at work.”

He loves a damsel in distress.

“Baby, I wouldn't dream of taking your money.”

Besides the $5000 I paid up front. I drain the rest of the whiskey in one swallow and set the glass down.

“I know how to pay you back.”

“The money isn't--” He stops when I start unbuttoning my jacket.

These past few weeks I let him think that every time we fell into bed, or I let him shove me up against a building in some seedy back alley and cop a good feel, it was because he was so fucking irresistible and I couldn't help myself, but it was all business. I hadn't expected the sex to be so damn good.

With the last button undone, the coat slips off my shoulders. There's nothing underneath but stockings and a garter belt.

“Christ, Mags.” He shifts in the chair. That bulge in his trousers must be getting uncomfortable. He can't take his eyes off my thighs and their eventual destination. I know he can see how aroused I am.

Despite my hatred, he gets me hotter than blacktop in July.

The hardwood floor will probably bruise me, but I kneel anyway.

“There's a blanket--”

I put a stop to his worry with a kiss. His concern for me was superficial at best until this past week. I was a fucktoy and a source of income, until suddenly I wasn't. I bite his bottom lip.

“Ow! Mags, that--”

I silence that, too, with my hand in his pants. So easily I shut him up. He'll only love me until suddenly he doesn't anymore, and then what? Then it's bruises and broken bones, like Shelly. Or worse.

Freed from his trousers, his cock beckons me, thick, unflagging. I love to make it yield.

He loves the slow movement of my tongue.

“Oh Maggie.” He leans back as I slide him past my lips, over my tongue, to the back of my throat. “Ah, fuck.”

He loves to see my red lipstick smeared up and down his shaft. I hate how much I like seeing it there, too.

Dan thinks he's a man's man – wife-beater, unscrupulous businessman, and all-around sonofabitch. Yet my tongue reduces him to a soft, panting heap. I'd considered giving Shelley her money back and keeping Dan for my own purposes. I could overlook his faults when the job was over if he'd just keep making my toes curl for hours on end.

But that all changed when I found the videos. The same man who thinks he loves me takes depraved to a whole new level. Dozens of unconscious women on those recordings, pale skin nearly glowing in the dim lighting, full breasts bouncing with the force of each thrust from a different naked, masked man. The thought nearly makes me choke, but I don't.

He loves how I can take him without gagging. He fits just so.

I hate myself for loving how he feels inside me. Do I hate him more?

“Oh Maggie. God yes, Maggie.”

I hate the begging way he says my name. I want to scream at him to be a real man and fuck me, not some girl on a tape who looks like she's barely in high school.

I stand without warning. He's had enough. I've had enough.

“Mags, what in the hell!”

“Ssh. Just wait. I've got something for you.”

He settles back into the chair again. I reach into my purse on the desk.

Shelly hired me to find something she could use to drag his name through the mud. I found it. But he doesn't deserve to get up from the dirt, and sometimes the law doesn't know what's best..

I turn and sink a bullet into his forehead before his eyes can focus on the gun.

Then I slip my coat on, pull the belt tight,and steal away into the night mist.


18 March 2012

#Scintilla Day 4: Leaving Home

The prompt for Day 4 came through Twitter, and was to talk about a time we left home. The most obvious time I could think of was when I went away to college. I still had the previous day's prompts in my head, though. Prompt B from yesterday was What's the story of the most difficult challenge you've faced in a relationship? Did you overcome it? What was the outcome?

I convinced myself I didn't have any stories like this. Certainly not with romantic relationships, as I've been strangely lucky in that area. I only ever had one boyfriend, and I married him. I can count on one hand the number of times in ten years we've had anything even resembling a fight.

What about other interpersonal relationships, then? Nah, I thought. I'm easy to get along with, forgive more of people than I probably should, and refuse to let worry and stress take up much of my time. Nothing to talk about there.

De. Ni. Al.

The truth of it is, I've had those difficult challenges in certain relationships, but I have no desire to share. Fear of judgment, maybe. Perhaps because I haven't yet overcome the challenges. To be honest, these are stories I haven't even hashed out on the blank white page. My reluctance share could be a result of my shy and introverted nature. Attention makes me nervous already, so I'd rather not shine a spotlight on the negative.

When the day 4 post came through on Twitter, I was still thinking about relationships,and the night before I'd heard a heartbreaking story on the local news that reminded me of someone, and somehow it all seemed to converge into whatever this is I'm writing now. So let me tell you about a little boy, who isn't so little anymore, but who will always be "my baby".

College was six and a half hours from home. It was a separation I'd dreamed of for years. Sometimes you can be too close to those you love, and a little space is all you need to smooth over the cracks. That's what I was looking forward to. That, and the chance to spread my wings and become whoever I was going to be. I wasn't the type to call home once a week, or even once a month. I'm still not. I was a pretty independent kid, and that didn't change. My family and I have a much better relationship now that we aren't all stuck in the same house. I think I could have drifted farther from my family once I went to college, if not for something that happened five years before.

My little brother, Ian, was born.

I was smitten from day one. I adore cute babies anyway, but as Ian got older and was able to communicate, he easily became my favorite family member (sorry everyone else lol) and even one of my favorite people in general. Given my age when he was born, and the fact that I was the oldest sister, I got to do a lot of maternal things when our mom was working, or running errands, which might account for the special bond we have.

He was a quick learner, inquisitive, funny, and the sweetest baby. He went through a phase of insisting that he was going to marry me, which melted my heart even more, if that was possible. While Ian was a smart kid and seemed to develop ahead of his age group in that respect, his physical development didn't follow the same path. We have this picture of him "standing", with the help of someone holding his hands. I remember him pulling himself up on the low windowsill of the picture window in our living room and "walking" by holding on and taking steps sideways. We never got to experience the milestone of watching him walk unassisted. Ian was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (Type II).

It's impossible to deny that this condition further strengthened the bond with my little brother. He could crawl, but as he got bigger, he wasn't able to do that as well, either. If he wanted a drink, or a snack, or to change the tape in the VCR, one of us had to do it for him. And as I said, if my parents were in another room, or out at the grocery store, I did a lot of those things for him. We have a lot of personality similarities, too, so we'd do things together just because we wanted to. We'd watch the Powerpuff Girls and Dexter on the Cartoon Network. He'd tell me (and anyone, anywhere, who would listen) all about dinosaurs. When he started going to school, one of our afternoon habits became watching Dragonball Z together.

Five years of bonding with my baby brother before I left for college. He was the one I missed the most while I was gone. He was the one I liked talking to most when my parents would call me at school. He'd fill me in on what I was missing on Dragonball Z, or what he was learning in school. I got e-cards in my inbox from my parents email address, but when I opened them they'd be signed Love, Ian. He sent me valentines and little pictures or notes in the mail. My younger sister became the default helper (aside from my parents) since I was away. Sometimes, when I came home for break or vacation, he'd call me by her name out of habit, and I'd be lying if I said it didn't make me a little jealous, even though I knew it wasn't anything personal. I liked being the special sister, and I missed being there for him.

When I started dating my now-husband my freshman year of college, I knew he'd have to have Ian's seal of approval. Needless to say, my husband passed that test with flying colors. He passed down his old Nintendo64 to Ian, and my brother and I found a new shared love: Zelda. We played Ocarina of Time together, and then Majora's Mask. In addition to the fun of the games, I saw his reading improve over the time it took us to play the games. (If you've played any Legend of Zelda games, you know it can be dialogue-heavy at times, but it's all written. The character's don't actually speak.) I loved hearing him read the text and helping him pronounce words, or explaining the meaning of words he didn't know.

Ian is 16 now. I still can't believe it. He has facial hair! It's surreal to me, sometimes. And he's still my favorite family member (again, sorry everyone else, haha). We still have a great relationship, and I still feel like he's "my baby". His SMA means he's confined to a wheelchair, and it poses plenty of physical and other challenges that our family has faced and overcome.

I have my own emotional challenges that I don't usually let show on the outside. I cried after a phone call from my mom once, when she said Ian might need to be put on oxygen and a machine to help him breathe at night. It turned out to be a false alarm, some mistake in test readings or something. He does use a CPAP machine at night now, but the impact was different when he was just seven or eight years old. He's been hospitalized with pneumonia a few times, and I always worried then. I cried again, privately, when he had to have a spinal fusion. He's had two.

This kid makes me so proud, so happy. He's inspiring. I love him more than I can imagine loving anyone. And yet I do struggle with those moments of nearly crippling sadness, and anger. Once or twice I've had dreams where he was walking, and once I woke, the guilt and tears weren't far behind. No, I wouldn't change him for anything. Everything about him, including the SMA, is part of the brother I know, and has shaped the relationship we have. But I'm still susceptible to the it's-not-fair blues from time to time.

When I left for college, I thought maybe it was the start of an exciting life lived in faraway places. I still want to travel, and my husband and I have moved to a few different places and will probably move a few more times before really settling in one spot. But one thing I know now is this: home is where my brother is. And I never want to be too far.

17 March 2012

#Scintilla Day 3: Am I Really Doing This?

This is totally late, but I have a good reason. Sorta. These were yesterday's prompts:

Prompt A: Talk about a memory triggered by a particular song.
Prompt B: What's the story of the most difficult challenge you've faced in a relationship? Did you overcome it? What was the outcome?

(More on Prompt B later. You get a double dose of Scintilla tonight.) Songs don't generally evoke specific memories for me. My memories are sort of thin and spotty anyway. It's like I have only a set time span that I can remember, so as I get older, the lower end of that span erases the younger memories...

In the spirit of St. Patrick's Day, my friend Ty had mentioned the song Oh Danny Boy, and I got it stuck in my head. But I have this weird association where that song always makes me think of another Irish folk song, Cockles and Mussels (Molly Malone). All day I've been singing them to myself. I'd sing one verse of Danny, then go straight into one of Molly. I wasn't sure why I always thought of the two songs together.

Then it hit me. Those songs, together, do tie into a memory for me. Nothing profound or epic. I don't even remember my exact age, or many other details. But it was around St. Patrick's Day (I think), and some time between 5th and 8th grades. Probably 5th or 6th, but I'm not sure. I attended some festivities in my home town - I remember bagpipes, a fife and drum group, and Irish music, which is why I assume it was St. Patrick's Day. At the Avalon Theater I heard both of these songs, among others. There was a flutist, which interested me because I played the flute (and this is the only reason I know I was at least in 5th grade, because that's when I started playing). After the performance, my dad somehow managed to get flutist's sheet music. I remember playing the songs (and also The Rose of Tralee) and loving them.

That's it. Nothing special. The memory has little to do with anything but the songs themselves. But since I can't get them out of my head today, I thought I'd put them in yours. So here I am, singing the first verse of Oh Danny Boy and Cockles and Mussels. A capella. (I totally blame you, Ty Unglebower, for starting this memory chain reaction :-P) I have no idea what I'm doing when it comes to making movies, or how to take the sound from the video and put it with some pretty pictures, so you get to stare at my computer keyboard for two minutes. I attempted singing in front of the camera several times (which is why I'm posting so late), but I'm too shy even for that. I think I sound quiet and shy in the recording, too haha. But I'll let you decide.

I can't believe I'm doing this. But here goes nothing....

video

15 March 2012

#Scintilla Day 2: Letter to my Rescuer

My selected Scintilla prompt for today:

2. No one does it alone. Write a letter to your rescuer or mentor (be it a person, book, film, record, anything). Share the way they lit up your path.

Dear Blank White Page,

A lot of people have come in and out of my life. They've taught me things. Supported me. Encouraged me. Some hurt me, intentionally or not. A few loved me. I suspect many have barely noticed me. Forgotten me.

I don't mind.

It isn't that I don't appreciate what people have given and taught me. There are so many who've been instrumental in shaping me over the years. And it isn't that I don't feel the sting of rejection, pain, sorrow, or anger that other people have brought to my life.

But it has always been the page that helped me make sense of it all. The good and the bad. You're the friend I could call even after a long absence and pick up like we'd never been apart.

I could live any life I wanted in the depths of your blankness. Meet the most unexpected kinds of people. I could explore both the dark and the light. I could do none of the above, and simply escape into my imagination after looking upon your blank face.

You asked hard questions, but waited patiently for my answers. You saw me through dark times, without judgment. I know you'll continue to be there, always.

Thank you,

Me

P.S. Do you think you could maybe start paying the bills some time soon? ;-)

14 March 2012

The Scintilla Project: Day 1

Get ready, readers. I'm participating in The Scintilla Project! What does that mean for you? TWO STRAIGHT WEEKS OF DAILY BLOG POSTS FROM YOURS TRULY! What? Don't think I have it in me? Because that's more posts in one month than I usually do in three months? Well... You got me there. But I'll show you! The project starts today, and we were given two choices of these two prompts:


1. Who are you?

2. Life is a series of firsts. Talk about one of your most important firsts. What did you learn? Was it something you incorporated into your life as a result?


Who am I? Hell if I know. It changes almost daily. NEXT!

Most important firsts. Now there's something I can talk about...

The most important "first" of my life is one I've written about before on the blog, but one that continues to stick with me. I still remember this day often, and I still think about how far I've come from that day, because I never thought I'd get to that first, much less beyond it to where I am now. What was it?

The first time I drove a car.

Unlike a good portion of you, this didn't happen when I was 15 or 16. Not even at 17 or 18. It didn't happen until I was 25 years old. I had been married for almost a year at the time. I'd lived in the mountains of Western Pennsylvania (IUP, holla!), Towson, MD and then York, PA. I worked, part time while in school, and full time after that. I got by just fine without ever having to get my license and learn how to drive.

Why didn't I drive? Fear. Plain and simple. No matter how I tried to rationalize the decision, it was fear at the heart of it. (You can read about how the fear started here.)

The first time I sat behind the wheel.

I laughed. I don't mean a good-natured "hey, look at me!" kind of laugh, either. I mean a nervous, couldn't control myself kind of giggling. For a minute. Maybe two. That's the moment I think about so often.

If you look at the post about fear I mentioned above, you'll probably see how the fear developed, and how it grew, and you'll probably understand the why and how of it. But you can never understand just how real the fear was for me unless you've experienced something similar. Or unless you were there to see me that day.

I could see on my husband's face that part of him wanted to laugh with me (I bet I was a pretty funny sight, to an outsider, and laughter is contagious anyway) but I could also see another part of him that finally, finally, after six years knowing me, realized I was truly afraid.

I say often that my husband is my safety net. I feel safe with him in situations that might otherwise freak me out. He'd never pressed the issue of me not driving, but I still felt silly every time we talked about it. I felt a little bit sheepish whenever I explained my non-driving to anyone. Knowing my fear wasn't rational didn't make it any less potent.

But seeing the way he looked at me that day, at that moment, it was like I had suddenly been validated. The way his eyes said I get it now spoke to the tiny piece of me that had always whispered You're crazy. You know that, right? And it told that voice to SHUT THE FUCK UP.

It's something that I recognized only with a certain degree of distance. That whole hindsight is 20/20 thing. I'd never realized before that I was even saying that to myself and believing it until seeing the recognition in someone else's eyes that what I was feeling was real.

That first day was only the beginning of my long road to becoming a confident driver. We didn't do a lot of driving that year, and I let my permit lapse. I don't think I was emotionally or psychologically ready then, but that moment when my fear bubbled up in the form of laughter was a moment of release for me. Knowing my husband finally understood how much anxiety I had over the issue, and recognizing my own self-shame about it freed me, in a way, to deal with the fear consciously, rather than pushing it away as I'd done for years.

I did finally get my license, last May, three years after that first day learning to drive. There have been a lot of anxious firsts since then: first time driving alone, first long-distance trip (following behind my husband and his brother when we moved across the state), first solo long-distance trip (from Pittsburgh to Easton, MD - only five months after getting my license). But nothing compares to the first time.

What did I learn that I carry with me?

Believe it or not, I'm slowly learning not to care about what others think of me. Not in a big, monumental way. Not yet. I struggle with this every day of my life, and some days are better than others. But I've had to incorporate it into my life in tiny ways, related to driving. Sounds strange, I know.

You know how they say road rage happens because people feel anonymous or invincible in their cars? I'm the opposite. We'll call it road empathy. I'm always thinking about and aware of other drivers, anticipating what they're doing, where they're going. If someone is trying to merge on the highway, I'll let them in in front of me. These are all good things, of course. It does have a downside, though.

If someone rides my bumper, I'll probably speed up a bit, even if it makes me uncomfortable. I always use my blinker, and rarely merge/turn/whatever unless I have plenty of room, because I don't want to be rude, or inconvenience another driver. But goddamn, I live outside Pittsburgh now. Driving in the city can be crazy. I can't worry about whether the person behind me will think I'm a jerk for easing my front bumper into the next lane during rush hour, forcing them to let me merge whether they like it or not. Not everyone is as considerate as I like to be. I can't let someone else's impatience put me in a potentially risky situation.

It's only driving for now, but maybe... little by little... I'll let it seep into the rest of my life and stop caring so damn much about the impression I make on everyone else. I guess we'll wait and see.