Monday, December 12, 2016

Another piece from one of my classes:

We were supposed to show: He was angry at his mother for not letting him go to the movies.

I lean my rake against the tree in the middle of our yard and stare at the pile of leaves I just spent half an hour making, then kick the mound apart. Wish I could kick something else. Or blow something up.

All the guys are going to see “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” today, but not me, uh-uh. Mom said it’s because I didn’t do my chores yesterday, but I think it’s because she thinks it’ll give me nightmares. Bet she even thinks the devil wrote it or something. She’s always saying things like that.

I’d tell her it was written by that English lady, the one who wrote Harry Potter, you know? But she wouldn’t let me see those movies either. I had to sneak out of class one afternoon with Pete and Billy and use my own money for the ticket and popcorn and stuff. Nah, I can’t tell her who wrote it even if it isn’t the devil.

I rake the leaves into a high pile again. My shoulders ache when I’m done with that section. Even if I clear ‘em off our whole lawn, Mom won’t say I can go. I hear it’s one of the most dope movies this year. All them monsters and scary stuff. I bet I’m the only one in my class who can’t see it. Not fair. Why do I have to have the strictest mother in the world?

Pete’s mom is letting him go, and Billy only has a dad so he can do just about anything he wants. They’re so lucky. I kick at the leaves again, but this time not as hard. I’ll only have to rake them a third time. I punch my fist into the trunk of the tree until blood starts to drip, then sit down against the trunk, knees pulled up and my arms around them, and my head on my arms. I’m deflated like the balloons Pete had at his twelfth birthday party last week.

Wonder if I can sneak outta class again. Nah. Don’t have the money. So when the kids talk about Fantastic Beasts, what can I say? Like all the other times I didn’t get to do something, I’ll be the only one who doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Except for Nicholas. The high and mighty Nicholas.

Nicholas Phillips always acts like he’s above it all, that he wouldn’t be seen doing the things we like to do. I sometimes think it’s because he has strict parents, too. He can’t really believe those things aren’t fun, can he?

I look up at our house. I shouldn’t think evil thoughts, not about my mother, but I can’t help it. Can I? Uh-oh, there’s my mother at the window. I better get back to raking if I ever want to go to a movie ever again.

Friday, December 2, 2016

I ran a special on my self-published book this week and it looks like I sold a few copies - not tons but a few. A Bite of the Apple is slowly but surely selling. I'll give it a couple more months before I decide whether to self-publish the sequel.

Friday, November 18, 2016

This is a short story I wrote for one of my classes; the aim was to slo-mo something that took just a few seconds.

 The Diver

The instep of Jackie’s small feet bounced and then lifted off the end of the diving board. Toes last, pointed down the way she was taught, she rose into the air. Higher and higher she shot up and waited until she’d almost reached the rafters. Then she bent over and grasped her ankles, pulled up her knees to her chest, and rolled into a ball. Over and over she spun, head over heels, once, twice, three times and a half more. Mom would be so proud. Coach, too. Her form was perfect.

When her downward fall was in line with the board, she straightened her body, her arms, her legs and aimed the tips of her fingers at the shimmering blue below. Her fingernails touched the water’s surface first, then her fingers, hands and wrists. Warm water, like a bath. Her arms and body followed in an almost perpendicular, straight as an arrow line. She took a deep breath before her eyes, nose and mouth went underwater, her shoulders, straight arms, slim body, and legs. The goggles fogged up inside so she couldn’t see the bottom of the pool. The water kept her from hearing the cheers of the crowd, but she could imagine them.

Deeper and deeper she went, then judging the right point from previous dives, she turned up again. Or tried to. Which way was up? It should be the opposite of the way she entered the water. But she was blinded, deafened. In the pool there was no sense of up and down, or even sideways without the bottom and walls to give her clues. She had to let her body rise to get some air, to fight the growing panic that threatened her. She felt her heart pounding in her chest. She’d let the air out of her lungs slowly, but now they were almost empty. The lack of oxygen made her brain fuzzy.

Instead of swimming or letting her own buoyancy help her, she thrashed about. What if she didn’t break through the surface soon? What if she went down instead of up? The pool was only ten feet deep wasn’t it? Or was that twelve? She couldn’t remember. Couldn’t remember what coach said. Couldn’t remember what she’d done in the past.

She felt like hours had passed, like she’d been underwater way too long. She was cold, shivering despite the warmth of the water. Tried not to cry for fear that would fog the goggled even more.

And then hands slipped under her arms, lifting her, strong hands. When she broke through into the air at last, she took a deep breath, pulled off the fogged goggles and spied her mother’s worried frown near the edge of the pool. Her coach brought her to the ladder and gave her a shove upward.

The crowd wasn’t looking at her any longer. All eyes were on another diver high up on the board.

“You gave us a scare there for a minute,” her mother said.  

Thursday, November 10, 2016

It's November but I'm skipping NaNoWriMo this year. Between the four stories I'm working on actively and the three classes I'm taking, I wouldn't have the time. But I encourage anyone who's trying to write 50,000 words this month. The Crimson Orb was started as my NaNo novel in 2010, and I've worked on two sequels in succeeding years.

Good luck everyone.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Today I am the featured author at Science Fantasy, a group of writers who combine science with fantasy in their stories. Sunday the site will have one chapter for each of my books.

Let me know what you think.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

This is the prequel to Addie's Exile that I wrote for the first lesson in the Iowa course:

Papa’s been exiled. They didn’t even let him come home to say goodbye or get some clothing or food to take with him. He’ll go through the tunnel to the outside elements. Our town’s wall and dome were built to protect us from the heat, the dust, the never-ending wind. Now he’ll have to survive all that. I’m scared for him.

Randa stood in our kitchen. An open-mouthed stare had been fixed on her face since she heard the news. As the eldest at sixteen she’d have to take on even more responsibility for me and little Gan than she has since Mama died two years ago.

What did Papa do? In the past, I’ve struggled to understand why Commander Kenly and his people exiled folks, but now it was Papa, my father. How will we go on without him?

I’ll have to quit school, get a job.” Randa loved learning, wanted to be a teacher someday. Now she’d have to find a way to pay for our food, for the apartment where we lived in the western part of Muralta. The town wasn’t big, maybe four or five square miles, with a section containing the schools, stores and town hall separating west from east. Less than ten thousand people lived here. The illness that took Mama and the baby also killed about a thousand, and Kenly had exiled another few hundred souls.

Food supplies in the market were at their lowest levels ever. The dome was scratched and yellowed over the years. Our neighbor Letta once explained why we couldn’t grow anything. That was one of the times when she brought us ‘leftovers’ from a meal she prepared for herself. “Without enough sunshine and water, nothing can grow in soil that was poor even before. Bert warned them when they put up the dome that the composite of glass and plastic wouldn’t remain completely transparent, but no one listened. He was only one of the laborers.” Her husband also died from the disease that killed Mama. After he died she did mending for anyone who could pay, and even for those who couldn’t. But she’d been exiled six months before Papa.

I could get a job after school,” I told Randa. “We both can so you don’t have to quit.”

And who’ll watch Gan?” She shook her head. “Besides, no one will hire a girl of twelve.”

I frowned with no answer for her. “Do you suppose we should go to the hatch to bring Papa his clothing and such?”

Randa scowled and her voice grew louder. “The Enforcers won’t let us get close enough to him. Besides, he got himself into this.”

Oh, Randa!”

What was he thinking, mouthing off about Kenly. He and Mica Simms. The two of them. They had to know what would happen.” The words rushed out as if a dam broke, not that I’d ever seen a dam. “Did they even think about their families? What we’d do without them to support us?” Her lips trembled as much as the rest of her body.”

I didn’t know what to say, especially since what Papa said about the man who’d taken charge of the town was true.

Why are you two fighting?” Gan ran into the kitchen. He never walked when he could run.

Now that Papa’s gone,” I said, “Randa says she’s quitting school to work.”

Papa’s gone? Why? Where’d he go? When’s he coming back?” His narrow face puckered.

Randa took one look at him and picked him up into her arms. She buried her head in his soft blond curls.


Randa didn’t quit school. She only had another two years to go. Rosa and Luigi hired her to wait tables at their restaurant in the evening. My sister had been right. No one would hire me, so after school everyday I collected Gan from his preschool and took him home with me. Sometimes Randa prepared a meal for us before going to work, but even better were the times she took us with her. Rosa fed us huge bowls of pasta with her special sauce that made Gan mouth and lips all red. I paid for our food by helping Rosa with washing up. So we didn’t starve, but I was teased mercilessly by some of the kids at school ‘cause I didn’t have parents.

Lurie Mills, the daughter of the mayor was especially cruel in her sarcastic tone. “Wearing your sister’s hand-me-downs again?” and “Poor Addie can’t even afford a new notebook.”

About a month after Papa left, the buzz at school was all about his replacement as principal of the secondary school. Kenly appointed Ms. Lee, the cleaning lady, the woman who mopped the bathrooms and gyms at both the primary and secondary schools.


Over the next few months, things only got worse for all of us in the western part of Muralta. Electricity was reduced to five days a week, then four, and finally three. Which meant we had to walk up to the third floor of our apartment building and make sure nothing spoiled in the refrigerator or freezer.

Randa’s shirts and jeans were suddenly very loose on her. Gan was always cranky. Me? I was mostly sad.

Something had to be done. But what could a girl of twelve do that the adults weren’t already doing?

I tried to talk to Rosa about it, but she was always busy cooking. The restaurant always seemed to have plenty of food. I never dared ask where they got it.

One night Rosa sent us down to her basement, even Randa.

I think Commander Kenly and his people are having dinner here tonight,” Randa said as we hid in a storage room amongst huge jars of tomatoes and boxes of pasta.

I’ve never seen so much food.” Gan reached for a jar.

Careful!” Randa stopped him from grabbing it.

This can’t all be from before we stopped getting supplies from outside Muralta.” I studied the neat writing on the nearest bottle. “This says September, 2020. That was only last year.”

Rosa must have tomato plants in her garden.” Randa dismissed what seemed a mystery to me.

I couldn’t let it go. “Billy Tate says the Easties are growing vegetables. How can they with the limited amount of sun and water?” I sat on the cold floor with my back against a wall. “Papa always said they had more access to water than we do.”

And look where it got Papa to say that.”

Randa, all I’m saying is that it’s supposed to be fair.”

Well, life’s not, so live with it.”

I folded my arms. “I wonder if we can find out what it’s like in the East.”

Ask one of your Easty pals at school.”

I’d never told my sister about the way the Easty kids treated the rest of us, and I sure wasn’t going to tell her how few friends I had. I tried to let it drop, but a plan formed in my mind, a way to investigate. The schools, shops and town hall weren’t the only things that separated the two parts of Muralta. Each street and road into the east side had a guard house at the west end so that only those who lived there could pass in. But there might be a few places between streets...I’d have to look. What was the worst that could happen?

Monday, October 10, 2016

I had a busy September, and October is going to be at least as busy.

This week I'm participating in Virtual FantasyCon. My 'booth' today is at

Tomorrow I start an online writing class How Writers Write Fiction 2016: Storied Women from the University of Iowa.

Have you ever taken an online course or participated in an online conventions?

Monday, August 22, 2016

This past week, I self-published my novella, A Bite of the Apple. You can find the ebook here and the print version here. This is the cover:

I'll be selling and signing copies at Bubonicon 48 August 26-28.

Monday, July 25, 2016

My classes are providing me with all sorts of writing opportunities

Mom, Dreidel and Me

“Now, where has he gone now?” Penny grimaced and opened the door of her son's dungeon. She ignored the skull and crossbones he'd affixed to his door. Despite the sea of clothing on the floor and the rumpled bed, the cold and damp room was completely devoid of nine-year-olds. She flicked a switch and two sconces on the wall provided dim illumination in the darkness. She avoided the cobwebs she woven and the dust in the corners of the room. Atop the pile of jeans and t-shirts was Ethan's prized bathrobe, the one she'd painstakingly embroidered with moons and six-pointed stars. He usually wouldn't go anywhere without it.
Ethan probably expected her to believe he'd disappeared, passed into another dimension or something. But he still wasn't over the flu. Penny frowned. Who'd take care of him if she wasn't there?
She carried the bowl of Jewish penicillin up the flight of stairs to her galley and stashed it in the refrigerator. He'd re-apperate. It was an ongoing battle he was determined to win, magical son vs. mundane mother, but one she fought bravely and usually with a twinkle in her eyes. She returned to his room to collect his clothes and put them away. On second thought, she sniffed them and tossed many into the laundry hamper. As she folded and hung the cleaner items, she wondered where he really disappeared to this time. She opened the book on his ledge, full of magic spells and tricks. But there was no way to know which one he'd tried last.
She tried the lower basement and backyard. No Ethan. He wasn't under the bed in the guest room. Those were the places she'd found him before when he was frightened of something.
Penny finally unearthed Ethan in the linen closet. It was a tight squeeze, but she joined him. “What are you doing here?”
“They're after me.” He shrank in further. “They'll kill us.”
“Did I raise my son to be a crybaby wizard?” She placed her palm on his forehead, brushing away his sand-colored hair. “You're burning up. Let me tuck you in and bring you a nice elixir.”
“Maaaa,” he whined, mixing back his tears. “I'm not a baby.”
“Well you're acting like one. C'mon. There's no one here but the two of us.” She dragged him out and forced him downstairs, keeping one hand on his back.
He surveyed the room. “What happened to my robe?” He panicked. “How can I fight them without my wizard's robe?”
She took it from his closet and brought it to him. “I'll get you an aspirin and some soup.”
He grabbed for her arm. “Don't go.” A frantic whisper. “D'you hear that?”
She listened. Nothing. “Hear what?” But then she heard it too.
It’s only the washing machine.” But she hadn’t put the clothing in yet. “I’ll go check.”
He looked at her through fear-filled eyes.
She sighed. “Ethan, your dragon will get them, whoever they are.”
In a small voice he said, “I don’t REALLY have a dragon.”
She smiled. “Well, I do.”
A roar filled the cavernous room. The dust motes in one corner seemed to coalesce into a long, serpentine body. Gray scales covered every inch, and a trickle of smoke came from it’s mouth.
Penny smiled. “It’s time you met Dreidel, He protected me when I was your age. Now he can protect you.” She put an arm around his narrow shoulders. “So, now you have a dragon. What more can you want?”
Ethan had a ready answer. “A wand.”
His mother’s smile broadened as she pulled a thin, pointed stick out of thinner air and handed it to him. “Now nothing can hurt you.”
“But who’ll protect you?” Ethan asked.
“I will, sweetheart. And when you’re well again, I’ll teach you some real magic.” She planted a kiss on his forehead. “Nothing can hurt either of us now.”
Just then, the noise they’d heard earlier repeated louder, over and over, this time definitely coming from above.
“That’s not the washer.” Penny glanced at Dreidel as she decided what to do. “Stay here,” she told her son, taking four steps closer to the stairs.
“Mom!” Ethan reached for her hand.
“You’ll be safe here with Dreidel.” The dragon snorted like he agreed. “I’ll be back soon.”
Leaving her son in his dungeon, she climbed the stairs slowly, unsure what she’d find.
It had to be something solid to cause that much clanging, insistent like an unbalanced dryer. But just as she hadn’t used the washer, she was certain she hadn’t turn on the other machine.
Penny stuck her head through the doorway from the dungeon stairs and swiveled it to take in the entire hall. Nothing there. She took the remaining steps up and closed the door behind her.
Cautiously she crept toward the laundry room. The sounds seemed to emanate from there. But the room contained only the machines, sink, and folding table. She unlocked the door to the backyard from the room and opened it. The scent of the apple tree just outside and the sight of an empty swing set convinced her no one was there.
But the banging grew thunderous behind her. She tried to follow the sound back through the house to the kitchen. What she saw made her heart thump even louder than the noise. She took a deep breath, catching the scent of the beast, and as calm as a breeze, wrinkled her brow. “Now, where did you come from?” She didn’t expect an answer.
The enormous ball of brown wool tilted it’s head, or what seemed to be its head, since that’s where its three eyes were. It stared intently at her through all of those eyes.
Penny guessed it didn’t have one in the back of its head like she did, the invisible eye that saw all things. She stared back.
The ball unraveled two legs and four arms as it rushed her. She stood her ground, all the while surveying the room for a weapon. And smiled. “I know just the thing.”
Her knitting bag sat next to the dishwasher. She reached into it and pulled out a long, number 8 needle. “I should turn you into a sweater for my son.” She pulled at one of the arms and began casting on.

Monday, July 11, 2016

From another class:

Who Needs a Woodsman?

Crimson rushed to the market before it closed. Unlike the huge supermarkets in other parts of town, the family-owned one kept bankers' hours, closing at three-thirty sharp every weekday afternoon. They also charged much higher prices for food, but it was on her way to Granny's place. Still, she couldn't believe how expensive the Granny Smith apples were, the only kind her grandmother would eat.

By the time she left the store, her cloth bag full of apples, she'd missed the bus. She'd have to walk but it was a beautiful day for it. She tied her red hoody around her waist and headed off.

The quickest route was through the park. She'd been avoiding it ever since her best friend was mugged there. But wondered what could happen during the light of day.

The sidewalk on both sides of the roadway through the part was crowded, and she joined the throngs of folks enjoying the spring weather. As she strolled along, a car pulled over and the man inside whistled. It wasn't one of those kinds that construction workers use whenever they saw a hot chick, but rather the kind someone might employ to call someone over to them.

“Hey, you, Ginger. Need a ride?”

He was good-looking with a full head of wavy black hair and a sheep-skin jacket, but those looks were marred by the leer on his mouth and his very large ears.

“Thanks, but no thanks.” She resumed walking, ignoring him.

He drove slowly, continuing to call to her, but after a couple of minutes, he gave up and drove off.

She relaxed and practically skipped the rest of the way, hampered only by the weight of the bag.

Granny lived in a cottage on the other end of the park. Once Crimson caught sight of the stone walls, she broke into a jog.

She entered to find her grandmother tucked up in her double bed. Something wasn't right.

She squinted. “Granny, have you been dying your hair again? I don't remember it ever being so black.”

“A girl has to take care of her appearance, my dear.” Granny's voice sounded a little funny too as a hand patted the hair.

“And your new hearing aids seem to have made your ears grow.”

“But now I can hear you just fine, my dear.”

Crimson put the bag of apples on the table and stepped closer. “I don't think I like your wolfish grin. Are those new dentures? They sure are big.”

“The better to eat you with, my dear.” And with that, the figure leaped from the bed.

But Crimson was too fast for him. She hefted the bag of Granny Smith apples and bopped him in the noggin with them.

He fell to the ground and clutched his head in his hands as she hit him again, harder this time. He cried out for mercy as she swung the bag at one ear and then the other.

“You should be ashamed of yourself.”

He coward on the floor. “No one likes me because of my big teeth and ears. Girls don't give me a second glance.”

“Oh, you poor dear!” She knelt down to rub his head where she'd first hit him. A goose egg had already formed. “But it serves you right for trying to pickup girls in the park.”

“I was only trying to help.” His voice was a whine.

He was getting on her nerves and she was tempted to hit him again. Instead, since she was a kind and generous person, she helped him up and handed him one of the apples. “Here.”

He pointed to the bag. “At least there'll be one fewer apples in that bag the next time you hit me.”

“Where's my grandmother?” she asked rather belatedly.

He shrugged, then winced as the pain in his ears increased from the motion. “She was leaving as I drove into the clearing in front of this house. At least, I guess the woman was your granny.”

“Gray hair in a bun, granny glasses and round face and figure?”

He nodded. “She took off as if she was on a mission.”

“But she knew I was coming. I called her yesterday.” Crimson looked around the kitchen area hoping Granny left her a note. Nothing. “Are you sure she was leaving?”

He shrugged. “Look, if you're not going to hit me upside the head again, or even if you're planning to, I'm leaving.”

She nodded at him absentmindedly.

He went out and around the building, got into his car and high-tailed it out of there.

Crimson tried calling anyone she could think of who might know where her Granny went. Noone knew.

At five, she decided it was time to leave. She wrote out a note, poured the apples into a bowl, and left.

Days later she found a text that her Granny sent, telling her not to worry.

Monday, June 27, 2016

For a class I need to come up with an excerpt from a favorite writer - that's easy although deciding which writer might take a few minutes to decide - and one from a writer I don't like. The last is the hard part, since I easily forget writers I don't like.

Who are your favorite and least favorite writers?

Thursday, June 23, 2016

I haven't posted for some time. but it's time I started again. Beginning next Monday, I'll be posting something biweekly.

Look for blogs on an assortment of topics.

Any suggestions?

Thursday, February 11, 2016

This was my attempt to write something in the style of Tolstoy for a literature class I facilitated at Writers Village University:


As I look around the white sand beach I wonder how I got here. Aside from a few pieces of wood, there's nothing here, no boat, no luggage, no other people. Ripples of aquamarine lap the shoreline, the only sound besides the beating of my own heart. There is nothing inland either or rather the island is much too small to hide anything, more a sandbar than a true island. Yes, there are three trees around to my left, orange trees if I'm not mistaken, trees with green leaves and orange fruits hanging from the low branches.

I'm wet. Why didn't I notice before that my shirt and pants were wet, and my shoes and socks are wet, too? I conclude I was in the water since my wet clothing smells salty and so does my skin. I take off the shirt and spread it out on the white sand to dry although it'll be stiff with salt when it does. At least it won't be wet.

I have no other clothes so unless I want to walk around naked, my white skin reddening quickly with the sun, I'll have to let everything else dry on me.

I look to the horizon on all sides of my island but no boats are in sight. An orange tree beckons and I walk toward it, my shoes squishing as they sink into the soft white sand. I see oranges as my breakfast, lunch and dinner for some time to come.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

This is another post-apocalyptic story I'm working on that begins with that apocalypse. It's called Train to Nowhere Somewhere. In this first chapter, I introduce you to some of the main characters.

Chapter 1. Before the Event


“Geoff, don't let Ben wander off exploring.” Mom repeated the same thing she'd told me at least twice a day since she'd agreed to send us on our own to the grandparents' place. She lifted my six-year-old sister, Franny, from the train station platform for one last kiss.

As the oldest at sixteen, I'd be in charge for the three day train trip, and probably even after we arrived in Heartville. The Grands had a tendency to spoil my brother and sister. Still, all I'd only have to keep Ben corralled and make sure Franny ate her meals. I tried not to think what that would entail, because I was already nervous.

Mom and Dad claim to be Anglophiles, so they named me Geoffrey and actually pronounced it Jofry. And Ben is really Benedict. Then they really got fancy and went Spanish; Franny is short for Francesca.

Ben, who'd never been on a train before, must consider our trip an adventure. Who knew what he'd find fascinating? It certainly wouldn't be anything that could awe me and it might easily get him into trouble.

He ran toward us, followed more sedately by Dad. “Guess what? I can sleep in the upper bunk bed, Dad said so.” That just proved my point about what he'd be excited about. I'd much rather have the larger, lower bed. At least he should be safe. But then where would Franny sleep?

Mom and Dad helped the three of us onto the train. Dad stowed our large suitcase on the lower level, and we marched single file up the narrow, winding stairs to the corridor above. We each carried a backpack filled with a change of clothes, toiletries, and whatever else we thought was essential for survival. Our bedroom for the expedition was the first one we came to. The compartment was too small for all five of us to fit, even with my bed folded into a couch, so Mom took Franny inside first, settled her on the chair in a corner of the room and kissed her. Our parents said goodbye to Ben and me out in the hall.

“The attendant will tell you when you should go for dinner.” Mom smiled, then disappeared down the stairway. Were those tears in her eyes?

Dad handed me some three twenty dollar bills. “You might need this before you get to my parents' place.” Then he, too, was gone.

Ben entered the room before me. “Where's my bunk bed?”

“I think they only open it at night. For now we can sit on this couch thing.”

“Geoff, when will Mom be back?” Franny clutched her stuffed bunny to her. How she could stand the sour smell of Floppy I'll never know. She'd never let it out of her hands long enough for Mom to run it through the washer.

“Franny, remember? This year, we're going to the Grands on our own for three weeks and then Mom and Dad will come to get us.” Would she ask for Mom every other minute? I hoped she'd stop soon.

“But where are we going to eat? I'm hungry.” She pouted. When my sister pouts her lower lip doubles in size so you can see the inside of it and her forehead wrinkles like an old lady.

I didn't know the answer. “What kind of snacks did you bring?” Mom told us each to throw something in.

She dug through the backpack at her feet. “I have raisins, but if I eat 'em, what'll I eat later?”

Ben piped up “Yeah, Geoff, what did Mom mean about an attendant?”

“I think there's a restaurant or something.” I rubbed the back of my neck. “They'll tell us when and where we can go for supper.” Why were they so concerned about food already? We had lunch with Mom and Dad before we drove to the train station.

Ben's attention shifted. “We're moving!”

“Yeah, train's move.” I rolled my eyes.

“No, I mean we're leaving the station. This is awesome!”

Franny pressed her nose against the window next to her seat. “I can still see Mom and Dad.” She waved. “Bye, Mom and Dad. See you soon.”

“They can't hear you.”

Franny turned and frowned at me, then buried her face in Floppy's smelly fur.

Oh, great. Now I made her cry. How could I make her stop?

A woman slid open the door to our room and poked her head in. Medium height and slim, she wore a uniform. “Hi. You three are traveling alone, right?”

I nodded. “I'm Geoff, and I'm in charge of my brother and sister.”

She smiled in a friendly fashion. “I'm Marlene. I'm the attendant for this car. You're scheduled for dinner at...” she looked at a sheet in her hand “...five.”

“Thanks. Ben and Franny were asking about sup...dinner. Which way is the restaurant?”

“The dining car is four cars down. Go through the door next to the stairway and go through the next two sleeping cars. You'll come to the observation lounge. The next car after that is the dining car.” She focused on Franny. “Can I get you anything before then? We have juice and water.”

Franny studied her, glanced at me for permission, and then said, “Orange juice, please.”

“Sure sweetie.”

“My name's Franny.” She wiped her cheek with the sleeve of her sweater. “Francesca.”

“That's a pretty name.” Marlene turned to me and Ben. “Do you boys want anything?”

Before Ben could ask for something outrageous, I replied, “Bring us both bottles of water.”

“I'll go get your drinks. I hope you know where the toilet is.” She waved a hand to the space behind the tiny sink. “And it's also the shower.”

“Really? Both in the same space?” Ben had to go check it out. “Cool! But what happens if someone wants to shower when someone else is using the toilet?”

“We'll worry about that when the time comes.” I was curious about that, too, but it wouldn't be mature to say so.

Marlene smiled at us. “I'll knock on your door when it's your time for dinner.”

Just then, all the lights went out.


Franny cried out, but before I could comfort her, as quickly as they went out, the lights came back on.

Geoff rested a hand on her shoulder. “We went through a tunnel, Franny. That's all. It's OK. We'll go through a few more. Remember when we made this trip in the car with Mom and Dad and we drove into tunnels under the rivers and through the mountains?”

“I think so. Was it like that?” Her pretty little face scrunched up.


“Now, settle in and I'll be right back with your drinks. And I'll call you in about an hour for dinner, OK?” I looked at each of their faces to make sure they were all right. When I returned with their juice and water, Ben was engrossed in a video game and Franny stared out the window, clutching her stuffed animal.

Knowing they were fine, I continued on to check on the other passengers in the five other bedrooms in the car.

Two men and two women played cards in the second room. They told me their names as I checked them against the list I had, Eddie Tyler and Josh Vega, who shared the room, and Mimi LeBlanc and Abby Block, who shared the next room.

“I work with these two clowns,” Mimi told me, pointing to the two men. “We're headed to a conference in Denver. Josh's girlfriend, Abby, is along for the ride. Josh is such a wuss, he hates to fly, so Eddie and I agreed to travel by train with him.”

Eddie smirked. “Next you'll be telling her our life stories.”

Sarah and Charles Bailey, an older couple, sat side by side on the couch in the fourth room. Sarah twisted a linen handkerchief in her gnarled hands. “Maybe during this trip my husband will be able to see some of the scenery instead of staring straight ahead at the pavement like he did when he drove. I say 'maybe' because my husband's failing eyesight forced him to give up driving.”

I winked at her. “Then the train is a good choice.”

“As fast as the train is going, it's all a blur anyway.” He patted her hands.

In the next room, Patricia Malone read a fashion magazine. Her blond hair and makeup were as finished as the model on the cover. Her teenage daughter Jessica's head tilted forward as she tapped out message after message pn her phone.

“Is Internet service as spotty on the train as my friends tell me?” Jessica stopped long enough to look up at me.

“It depends on the line. This one has some dead spots, but most of the way the reception is pretty good.”

Patricia smiled. “We're on our way west to check out colleges before Jessica starts her senior year in high school.”

I wondered whether they'd intended the trip as an opportunity to spend time together. Had they run out of things to say to each other before they even left the train station? Because, as I left, Patricia went back to her magazine and Jessica to her phone.

A single passenger sat with eyes closed in the last car. He was listed on the manifest as Dr. Reginald Wainwright, Ret. I think that meant retired.

I didn't want to disturb him so I pushed his door open slowly, but he opened his eyes. “Dr. Wainwright, may I bring you something to drink? Tea or coffee, or perhaps some water?”

“Why, tea would be lovely. Thank you, my dear.” He spoke with a clipped British accent and had a salt and pepper mustache and a full head of matching hair. A proper English gentleman. We didn't see many of those on the train from Chicago to L.A. He smoothed his mustache. “You will let me know when I'm to go to dinner, won't you?”

“Yes. Of course.”

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

A new year has started, and with it, so many resolutions, mostly to finish everything I started in 2015, including the assorted series of blog posts. Among them are interviews of other writers and readers, 'pictures' of places in The Crimson Orb, and postings of scenes from my stories.

I'll start with the last. Today I'll post the beginning of a YA novel I began in 2015 and hope to finish in 2016. The title is Addie's Exile.

Chapter 1. Banishment

I didn't do it!” My cheeks burnt. “Why do you keep asking me where it is? How many times do I have to tell you?” I faced Ms. Lee across the scarred wooden desk in the tiny office she occupied as the secondary school principal.
Now, see here, Adina. I jes wanna be sure. Tha's all.” Her voice was placating, but she wasn't smiling.
I sat down heavily on the straight-backed chair, crossing my arms to hold myself together. “I didn't do it.” The bare ground visible through her grimy window caught my eye. It hadn't responded to the futile attempts by my classmates to coax vegetation. Not surprising when rain couldn't penetrate the glass dome enclosing our village. Only a few fruit trees remained here.
Well, someone did. Six hoes don' disappear. If you din' take 'em, who did?”
I lifted one shoulder. “I don't know. You always blame me whenever anything wrong happens. Everyone does.” I couldn't keep from raising my voice, or from wondering how someone so illiterate could be heading the school.
Don' be such a smarty pants. And it's never you?” The old woman's earlier gentle manner was gone. “You 'spect me to believe that?” She glared at me.
Yes, I do.” I felt like cringing but instead I stood again and faced her, arms folded over my chest, my voice became shriller with each sentence. “I didn't take Mrs. Stern's watch. It showed up in her drawer. I didn't break Mr. Tortino's window. Stell admitted doing that. I didn't send nasty messages to Lurie Mills.”
The woman shook her gray head. “You're a troublesome chile, Addy Hinger.”
No, I'm not. Not on purpose.” So why did everyone make me feel like I was?
What, it's all accidents? You know we can't tol'rate even accidents in here.”
Things happen and you all blame me. Why? What do you all have against me?” Ever since my father was exiled and Mama passed, they never let up.
Don't know what we should do with you this time.” She tsked tsked.
I swallowed hard.

Well, c'mon. Commander Kenly won't wait forever.”