Monday, June 30, 2014

From Drab to Fab (Part One): A Good Scrubbing

One of the things we had committed to this summer (and especially, during our week-long vacation coming in July) was to refurbish certain sections of Green Victoria that needed a little bit of care and attention. I've mentioned on many occasions that the guys who owned the place before us did an amazing job of making this place really special, but of course, there are still sections that need a little bit of fixing up.

The back yard needs the most improvement. Corb, who is the master builder, has a lot of ideas for what he wants to do--and some of it is going to take a few years. For one thing, he wants to grade the entire area so that it slopes downward (and doesn't become a swamp during the start of spring). He also wants to extend the back deck so that we can install a swimming pool and fire pit. And around the swing area, we need to remove an old dead tree that is what is popularly known as a "widow maker." It has a huge dead branch that extends over the swing set. If that ever feel while Kaeden was playing on it...

But, first for the easier stuff, and that's why, this week-end, we started on the patio area. It was clearly once really nice--in fact, at one point, the guys had installed a jacuzzi, but while the house was up for sale, the area had fallen into disuse. The stones were covered in moss, and the garden beds had become overgrown with weeds. This week-end, Corb fixed up a power washer that his brother had that was broken (Corb is a handy one, no?) and Sunday morning, bright and early, we got to work.

I did my fair share, but again, I have to give Corb credit for the grunt work. He spent six hours power washing all the stones. It was like watching an archaeological dig, as he used the washer to line by line remove moss and dirt from each stone individually. The whole project (which isn't completely done yet) went quite smoothly, except for one little rough patch, as we were weeding the flower beds and came across one bit of suspicious wickedness.

CORB: Is it poison ivy?
ME (Still weeding): I don't know...
CORB: It looks like poison ivy. Three leaves...
ME: Then we should get rid of it.
CORB: So get rid of it.
ME: I don't want to get rid of it. You get rid of it.
CORB: Does it look shiny? Poison ivy is shiny. Is that shiny?
ME:L Deep sigh...
Anyway, turns out it was climbing hydrangea. It is now dead climbing hydrangea. We didn't figure that out until we had removed it with a steel rake.

Other than that, I am pleased with our progress. We still have some planting to do and have to pick out patio furniture, but I think part one of the "Drab to Fab" project turned out pretty nice!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Don't fence me in.


You know how when you first move into a place, it’s really just the start of the journey? You never have everything you completely need…or at least, completely want, and you kind of live out of boxes for a spell, until you get everything just the way you’d like it to be.
We haven’t exactly been living out of boxes at Green Victoria, but this past week-end, we finally picked out the last pieces of major furniture that we needed: the dressers for the master bedroom.
Before this, that room had been looking rather sparse, with only the bed, my old dresser from when I first moved out of Josie’s house, a plastic crate full of clothes that neither of us really used, and Kyra’s crate. For the most part, Corb and I had crammed all of our T-shirts and underwear and sweaters into five small drawers. The white T-shirts were hidden in one of the closets under all of our dress shirts.
And, we actually have a…get this...a sock box.
What’s a sock box? Maybe other people have them, too, I don’t know. It works like this: instead of matching and folding your sox when they come out of the dryer, you simply save yourself that step, take all of the socks and throw them, unsorted, into one central box, roughly the size of a milk crate.
Of course, since everyone’s socks are mingled together, touching and groping and snuggled up next to each other, it does make mornings interesting. First, you have to locate the box (it’s never where it was the day before). Then, you have to find a pair of matching socks. And by the way, you have to do this by going into the master bedroom, where usually, either Corb or myself are sleeping.
It’s functional, but not very convenient.
So imagine our excitement when two enormous mahogany dressers arrived yesterday afternoon. Corb and I were like kids at Christmas! We literally spent an hour sorting through our clothing and scoping out our turf in the brave new world we found ourselves living in. Where once I had three drawers, now I had six! Where once Corb had two drawers, now he had five! Seriously, it was as if we had died and gone to heaven, prompting cries of:
“Oh my God, I actually have a place for all my jeans!”
“Hey, is that where that thing went?”
“Wow, I forgot I had that sweater!”
"I haven't had a dresser with this much space since I was in my thirties!"
"Oh yeah? I haven't had a dresser since I was twenty!"
And of course: “We actually have a drawer for all our socks!”
It’s in my dresser (since I had the extra drawer), and we are co-mingling, although we have banished the socks of Theo and Ashes to their respective dressers. But it is a thing to behold and made life extremely enjoyable yesterday. It also meant that the blue tub has been banished to the basement and Kyra’s crate has been moved to the room outside the master bedroom, which means that our master bedroom is finally starting to look like a master bedroom.
Of course, somebody had to be there while the furniture was being moved in, and that lucky guy was yours truly. I worked from home, typing away in the den, and the furniture guys arrived at around one. It was a half an hour job: all open doors, and grunting and groaning, and sweat. I offered the guys something to drink. They declined.
Around two, I was working away, and I happened to notice, out of the corner of my eye, a small brown animal scurrying across our lawn. That was weird, I thought. Was it a chipmunk? I put down my laptop and looked around, to see if I could see it again. But it was gone. Vanished into the shrubbery. I resumed working.
Twenty minutes, it dawned on me. Was that? Could that have been? I put down my laptop and looked around the house. Hmmm.
I opened the door, looked outside. It was a beautiful spring day, in the eighties. Wow, this was what the outside world felt like?
I hunted around the front lawn. Looked around the patch of woods in front of the house. Ah, sure enough.
There, under an old tree, looking cozy on a bed of pine needles. Our oldest cat Hayleigh. She was an indoor cat, but always longed to be outdoors. She had escaped during the move, and was enjoying her newfound freedom.
I picked her up. She made an odd groaning noise, as if she didn’t want to leave.
I completely understood how she felt. A little bit more freedom is a wonderful thing.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Talking inspiration

A few weeks ago, I was asked by a friend, Bill Richards (who goes by the far more serious formal author name of William D. Richards), to take part in the Writing Process Blog Tour, which is a series of linked blog posts by various authors about their writing process. From what I understand, the idea originated with fantasy author Heidi Garrett.

The idea behind it is that each author answers four questions about their writing and then enlists (coerces, cajoles) other authors to join the tour. And so far, quite a few have. So, in other words, if you link to Bill's post, you can then link back to the fellow who enlisted/coerced/cajoled him into participating, and so on, and so on, until by golly, the end of time. That's right, the end of time!

Okay, maybe not that long. But it does make for an interesting thread to follow. It also gives you a lot of ideas about how each writer finds inspiration and then acts upon it. Isn't writing wonderful like that?

So, that said, before I dive write into those FOUR WRITING QUESTIONS, I want to thank Bill for asking me to participate (and beg him to keep quiet about any embarrassing stories he may have on me from high school...yes, we go back that far).

Oh, and who is Bill? Yes, yes, that's a perfectly good question.

(Let's pause so I can clear my throat to use my most serious writer's voice. Think of it as a cross between an Orson Wells wine commercial and a Morgan Freeman voiceover...)

William D. Richards discovered writing at an early age thanks to a writing exercise by his fourth grade teacher and since has been bewildering people with his wild flights of fantasy. Yet, it was only recently that he began writing in earnest when the Great Recession forced him into making an involuntary career move. He splits his time between writing, promoting, and coaching others how to take the leap into publishing for themselves. His book, Aggadeh Chronicles Book 1: Nobody, is available through most ebook retail channels. You can find his blog at

And now, let's dive into those FOUR WRITING QUESTIONS, shall we?

What am I working on? 
So, here's my Daleks master plan:
·  First, I'm working on promoting the heck out of Pictures of You. Oh, wait, have I done that here yet? I've got this book, see? It's called Pictures of You. I hope you'll check it out...and if you haven't yet, let me make it easy for you: in case you haven't secured your copy, I'm making the Kindle version available for absolutely NOTHING for the next five days, starting today! So what have you got to lose? It's free! Why not pick up what one reader described as " a delightful, page turning experience for readers of all ages"?
· Next, I'm in the revision process for my next novel, The Late Night Show, which I'm planning to issue forth from Green Victoria Press around the end of the year. Think Pictures was creepy? Late Night is even darker. It's all about webcams, but with a Rear Window kind of twist. Here's the scoop:

The camera doesn't lie, but it may not tell the whole story, either. That’s what college freshman Kami Corley discovers when she meets a strange girl named Jeanette in a webcam community and receives a disturbing plea for help. Drawn into her story, Kami tries to help, but one Friday night at the stroke of midnight, she realizes her efforts have deadly consequences, when she becomes a witness to cold blooded online murder. 

Or is it? Without knowing who Jeanette really is or where she comes from, Kami is not sure what to believe or where to turn. But one thing she learns, and quickly: she's now caught in a web from which there is no escape…and next time, she may be the victim on the inside, looking out.

· After that? Well, of course, there's always Confessions of a Diva Rotundo, a murder mystery told from the hammy lips of the ultimate community theater actor, looking to clear himself of being the murder suspect and still get that standing ovation on opening night. And there's also a YA fantasy called Amelia's Bones, which my friends have been asking me to publish for years. So, just a few things in the hopper...

How does my work differ from others of its genre? 
Hmmm, that's an interesting one. I'd rather talk about what my stories tend to focus on, rather than how they are different from the rest. In order for a book to interest me, it has to have a strong central character. A lot of times I write about people who don't have perfect lives: gender identity issues, absent parents, single moms, siblings with autism, kids who are bullied. A lot of my work is about giving voice to voices that don't fit the norm. Some that lack the courage...and some, that hide in the shadows.

And then, I put them through hell.

Why do I write what I do? 
I was dropped on my head as a child. Twice. That's the only way to explain, I think.

But then I suppose there is a kinder, gentler way of looking at things. I've been writing since the first grade, ever since my dad tucked me into bed with stories about Nancy Drew's younger brother and the Lone Ranger and Tonto. And my first thought: "I don't want these stories to end." And that's why the stories keep coming.

How does my writing process work?
Usually my process starts by being distracted by something stupid. Like, tonight's story was about the world's oldest cat. No, seriously!

Oh, all right. It starts as an idea. Usually something along the lines of: "Wouldn't it be funny if?" I recently wrote about how Pictures of You came into being on the wonderful blog Skewed Notions. That was completely a "what if" sort of story.

But more than that, there's the sheer mechanics. When I am knee deep in writing a book, my goal is to write a least one page a day. That's all: just one page. After a year, you'll have 365 pages, right? And I do it the hard way, too: hand-written, on a yellow Legal pad (anyone who has seen my handwriting will know what a chore that is to decipher). That makes the first typed draft a first edit, of sorts.

And then comes the re-writing. And the re-writing after that. And editing. And input from friends. I can't help it, I take my time. I want the end result to be as good as I can possibly get it. Well, when I'm not being distracted by cat stories, that is.

Passing the hat. 
What, have the four questions been answered so quickly? My how time flies. Okay, so I am now tagging two other accomplished artists, who have just seven days to come up with their own responses. They are:

Kira Tregoning is a language enthusiast, writer, and book lover. I met her while she was in the process of rolling out her latest novel, She writes mostly fantasy right now, although she has some ideas for expanding into other genres. She lives in Maryland with my meddling cuddle-monster of a cat, Mama-Sita, who enjoys getting in the way when she's trying to write. No, she is not the world oldest cat. Her website is found at:

And then there's my dear friend JM Cornwell, someone I consider to be a mentor and an inspiration. Jackie was the person who dragged me kicking and screaming into the world of self-publishing, and I love her for it. Jackie has contributed stories to several Chicken Soup, Cup of Comfort and various anthologies. Her first novel, Past Imperfect, was published in 2009 and her second, the terrific, Among Women, came out 2011, and she is currently working on a sequel called Among Men. She can be found at:

Rock on, ladies! I look forward to hearing what you have to say.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A sleeping dog at Ugly Dog

Saturday was my second book signing at Ugly Dog Books and we decided to take Kyra with us. Although I had some concerns about bringing a puppy (on the second day we've had her) to a store for a signing, here's how she ended up. She was a perfect angel...friendly with everyone and didn't whimper once. Kim, the owner at Ugly Dog, said she is welcome any time.

As for the signing? It went really well. Signed a few books, met up with some old friends (including my favorite teacher from high school), had a local cable station that came to interview me and also received an invitation to discuss the book at a book club. Pretty happy with those results. Now I have to plan the next one.

Oh! Also have been asked to participate in The Writing Process Blog Tour, which is a series of linked blog posts by various authors about how their writing process works when creating a new story. I was asked by William D Richards, the author of the The Aggadeh Chronicles, who's also an old friend. How old? Well, we may have actually been in band camp together, many years ago. He played the saxophone, which is a lot cooler than what I used to play. (DON'T ASK.) Anyway, his post about the writing process is up on his site, and mine will be in about seven days. After I write a bunch of other nonsense. You know how it goes.

Anyway, this is going to be a short entry. Honestly, the puppy is wearing us out! I mean, she is a great dog, but...well, she's a puppy, you know? It's tough squeezing everything that needs to be done now into one day. My biggest concern now: when are we going to find time to shop for groceries? Seriously, that cupboard is looking pretty damn bare...

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Stupid Shit I Read in People Magazine (May 5 edition)

Nicole Beharie: The Sleepy Hollow star star has come up with a shudder-inducing way to make sure she looks her freshest for the camera. "I just got into doing cold-water splashes in the morning," says Beharie, 29. "When we have to wake up at 4 in the morning to be on-set, I will put ice cubes into a bowl and push my face into them. Basically, I dunk for apples in a tub of ice." 

"Corb," I said last night, well into a delicious lemon drop martini. "I know how much you hate getting up in the morning. I have a suggestion for how you can look your freshest. I know you like to look your freshest for work."

Corb groan could be heard through the restaurant. "This is one of those stupid things you read about in People magazine, isn't it? I may need another drink for this." And with that, he took a swig of vodka and cranberry. "Okay, Ted. How can I look my freshest in the morning for work?"

"I'm so glad you asked! All you need to do is to put ice cubes into a bowl and dunk for apples in a tub of ice."

"Ah...ha." The Ringmaster lifted an eyebrow and looked at me critically. "You want me to wake up in the morning and dunk my head in a bowl of ice cubes? That's a little Mommie Dearest, isn't it?"

Question mark? "What do you mean, Mommie Dearest?"

Corb smirked. "I'm surprised you never heard of it! It's a classicly bad movie from the early 1980s, starring Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford. She's the famous Hollywood icon who had a less than ideal relationship with her daughter. Wire hangers, gardening sheers. It's kind of a gay cult thing--"

"I know what Mommie Dearest is, moron. I saw it before you were born. But why is dunking for apples in a tub of ice like that?"

"Because that was Joan Crawford's beauty routine! She had this morning ritual where she would scrub her face and arms with soap and boiling hot water, then plunge her face into a bowl of ice to close the pores."

I lifted up the top of my martini ice container, staring down at the bottom at the glinting cubes. "It's nice to see beauty hasn't changed that much in seventy years. And that's why you owe it to yourself to look your freshest in the morning, Corb. Hey, I could take these ice cubes home with me, if you'd like, for tomorrow morning. Just to get you started on your new routine!"

"Oh yeah, right. Thanks." Corb finished off his drink and turned to face me head on. "We're going to have a new routine, all right. A new beauty routine. For YOU. You see, I read in Marie Claire the other day that there's another beauty secret that another star has that would be just perfect for you! You see, all you need to do is to dunk your head in the toilet bowl every morning after I've performed my morning constitutional. It's guaranteed to make you look you sparkling clean for all your friends all day long." A pause. "Just make sure you use a towel to wipe everything off."

Touche. I lifted up my martini glass. The main course was getting ready to be served. "It sounds refreshing. I'll pass."

"Oh no. I insist. Dunky dunky, Ted! Dunky dunky."

Sigh. Bring me another Old Fashioned, please. I grabbed a few ice cubes for my martini and closed the container on the ice container. Plunky plunky. Well. Looks like neither of us will be looking our freshest in the morning any time soon...

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The puppy principle, part two

Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention, this happened. (Or rather, is going to happen.)

Her name is Kyra and she is four months old. She's a retriever/hound mix and currently lives in Tennessee and was picked up by a rescue organization called Angels Among Us.

Those of you who have been with me for a while know that Corb and I have been looking for a dog for a while. It's always been a dream of Theo's, and while Corb initially had some concerns, we both realized that it's what we want, too. And we both knew that we wanted a rescue animal, too. That way we can save a life and bring a little love into Green Victoria at the same time.

According to the woman that is taking care of her in Tennessee, she lived around the Memphis area, in an area that's not so good. Her mother was owned by an elderly lady and got out one night, and apparently "connected" with the neighbor's dog. She had a litter of four, and some people being what they are down South, two of the four puppies were killed by a couple of teenagers for fun. The old lady freaked out and hid the other two puppies in her bedroom. When the mother was done nursing, the old lady bottle fed the pups. They were treated well, but eventually the old lady realized she wasn't going to be able to care for them and called for help.

We've gone through all of the interviews and home inspection, and Kyra is now being transported to Massachusetts this week-end. After a few days in quarantine (Massachusetts law), we will get to meet her, probably around next Tuesday. So, more to come, and we are pretty excited!

Looking to save a life and bring some love into your house? There are tons of good animal rescue organizations out there. We know several excellent ones that we checked out during our process, including another local organization called Big Fluffy Dogs, which many of my friends highly recommend. There was only one we checked out that didn't really work for us (the people just seemed kind of indifferent and the place was only open on Monday afternoons...and they weren't flexible about it at all. Plus I read a horrible review after going to visit them one afternoon.) But on the whole, the people working at these places are incredibly dedicated and the work they do is so worthwhile.

So, we're getting a new addition to our house! Now you all get to hear stories about our puppy. I bet you just can't wait... (snicker)

Friday, April 18, 2014

Local Author Holds Book Signing for Debut Novel

As part of an ongoing effort to support area authors and artists, Attleboro resident Ted Mitchell's debut novel, Pictures of You (which he wrote under the pen name T.J. Alexian), has been selected by Ugly Dog Books as May's featured book of the month. To celebrate this, the local bookstore, located at 75 Union Street in Attleboro, will hold two events: an artist/author showcase on Friday, April 25 from 6-7 p.m., as well as an author signing on Saturday, May 10 from 2-3 p.m.

Pictures of You is a young adult thriller combining social media with the macabre. Described as a "ghost story for the dispossessed," it tells the story of Ashes16, a self-professed video geek whose real-world past begins to haunt her when a strange video pops up on her YouTube account. Others soon follow, bringing back vivid memories of her older brother's grisly death and forcing Ashes to relive over and over again a nightmare she'd rather forget. The videos appear to be messages from her dead brother, asking her to uncover dark family secrets some people want to keep hidden--and will do anything to keep buried in the past.  

According to Mitchell, Pictures of You is "a ghost story that gives voice to voices that don't fit the norm, and also, those that hide in the shadows." The book is his debut novel, published through Green Victoria Press. Mitchell is a familiar face to the Attleboro area, having been quite active in the local theater scene, most recently, as stage director for eight Norton Singers productions at Wheaton College. By day he works as a Director of Public Relations for Fidelity Investments, and has over a decade of experience as an award-winning communications specialist. Mitchell is a graduate of Rhode Island College and has three children.

For more information about the author signing, call Ugly Dog Books at (508) 226-0100 or visit their web site at

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Read this post or I'll kill this deer with my bare hands

One of the things I had most been looking forward to when it came to my first spring here at Green Victoria involved the flowers. "You're not going to believe what is going to pop out of the ground!" the previous gays had enthused after they sold us the house. Money? Lawn gnomes? Pool boys? "No, no, no. There are so many beautiful flowers in the yard. You are going to be amazed." Oh, that.

Now that springtime is with us and the snow has finally disappeared, I didn't have long to wait. Last week, we were walking down the path leading to the house and suddenly, right there: a beautiful purple posy! Or tulip, or something like that. I'm not really good at identifying those things. Sprouting up bravely through a clutch of dirt and grass. The first sign of the season. It was glorious! No, really. It made me happy to be alive. 

The following morning, I woke up, determined to take a photo for Facebook, to share that purple posy with the world. I grabbed my smart phone, scurried downstairs, opened the door, looked outside...

And realized that some dumb deer had eaten up all of our fledgling flowers.

Dammit! Well, we knew that they were a problem. A lot of our leaves had been consumed during the winter, and one or two times, when we had woken up at a particularly ungodly hour, we were able to catch a glimpse. And I don't mind an occasional leaf or two, I'm perfectly happy to share those with Bambi, but eating our flowers? Well, that was beyond the pale. SOMETHING HAD TO BE DONE.

Quick as a wink, Corb did some research. "It says here that deer do not like certain smells, like the smell of decaying fish heads," he said.

Oh, great! I just can't wait to drive down to the local fish stand and pick up a bucket of fish heads. That should look really attractive on our front lawn. A bunch of smelly dead fish next to the pansies, with their dead unblinking eyes staring up at you as you walk by. Nice.

"My hairdresser said they don't like human hair, and it can be used as a deterrent. People would collect hair from her shop for that use. You should do that," suggested a friend.

Great idea. Next to our floppy fish heads, I can sprinkle a bunch of human hair. Maybe from the top of someone's head, but who knows? Maybe I will mix it up and throw in some pubic hair, every so often.

"Remember Doc Hollywood? Human urine does the trick," suggested another friend.

Even better! Every morning, as I wake up, instead of heading to the bathroom, I can walk downstairs, open the door, and taking my morning wizz on the porch, making sure to urinate over the dead fish heads and human hair that I've collected from a variety of body parts. Those flowers should be in perfect blook with all that!

And then the one I was waiting for: "A shot through the heart works. And you can fill your fridge with lovely venison for stews and kebobs."

"Should I leave the dead deer rotting in the flower beds for a few days, as a warning to the others?" I asked.

"No," replied my deer friend Jackie. "Hanging the deer upside down and slitting its throat so the blood drains into the flower beds would be better, so plant flowers that need blood meal to grow better."

So, bottom line? This spring, if you want to visit my house, come on over! It's pretty easy to find, too: we're the only Victorian in town with flower beds covered in fish heads and human hair, with an upside down dead deer hanging down from a tree. Come by, say hi! You can always find me, and I'll be sure to wave back, promise! I'll be the one outside peeing over the flower beds.

That is...until the cops take me away...  

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

More Tales of the Hopeless Handyman

Now that spring is finally with us, and we've got this home thing, this was the first week-end we really had to start all those outside things that responsible home-loving homeowners do every waking minute of their livings during the week-end. And p.s.: in case I haven't mentioned this before, I am completely inept when it comes to outdoor household duties.

It's definitely something I didn't miss when I left Josie with the homestead. Now, don't get me wrong: I can get the job done. But there is pain involved, and some things I really hated doing. I didn't miss not mowing a lawn for ten years, for example, after I moved out. Swollen

When Corb and I agreed to buy the house, we bought it with him clearly knowing this was a weakness on my part. There was no buyer beware, here. He knew that he liked to landscape and that I liked watching him landscape. Oh, yes, we agreed that I would help out. But there were limitations.

Anyway, we decided to start on the gutters this week-end. The gutters at Green Victoria are in dire need of doing. The previous owners had moved to Maine during the spring, and cleaning out leaves and other debris from the downspouts of their previous monstrosity had not been a priority. So, yesterday, we went to Loewe's, bought ourselves a nice long hose and a big huge ladder, and there I was, climbing up ladders, dredging out crap with my garden gloves, and then, watering the downspouts to make sure they were clear and free of the muddy sludge that had formed at the bottom.

And I was pretty good at it, too, until we reached the back gutters. The ladder had to go up a lot higher to reach them, and I suddenly realized I wasn't the biggest fan of heights. Corb was at the bottom, though, holding the ladder and coaxing me through it.

"I can't stand this...this is too high up..." Some people whistle while they work, I keep up a steady monologue of insecurity and paranoia.

"You can do it. You're doing great!" shouted Corb encouragingly.

"There! I'm done!" And then, with the hose still running, I nervously threw it down and proceeded to step downward, when---


Um? What?

I looked down, and there was Corb, gripping his right eye and screaming in pain. "I hate you! I hate you! I f***ing hate you!"

Oh no...had I...oh, dear. I had. As quick as I could, I climbed down the ladder to see if I could help. Corb was now kneeling on the ground, writhing in pain. "I'm blind...I'm blind...I can't see..."

"Oh my God, you're blind! You can't see!" I screamed out, bordering on the hysterical. "Waitaminute..." I looked over. "You don't have your glasses on..."

"Where are my glasses?" He looked at his hands. "Oh my God, I'm covered in blood!"

"Can I help you?" I looked over. Like an angel of mercy, an elderly gentleman had suddenly appeared near Corb. Oh great, of all times to meet the neighbors. He extended his hand. "My name is Dick Whitehead." 

Dick Whitehead? Let's pause for a minute to reflect on how awesome that name is. Suddenly my life was bordering on the surreal. "I'm a retired police officer. Is everything okay?"

"Oh. Hi!" I looked around nervously and shook his hand. "Yeah, we had a little accident with the--"

"Oh God, oh God! Ted, I f***ing hate you. I F***CKING hate you! Oh my God, it hurts so much!!!!"

The elderly gentleman turned a white shade of pale. "He doesn't usually swear like that, I swear."


For some reason, Dick Whitehead left quite quickly. And an hour later, we were driving to pick Theo up from work, without the need for an emergency room, but with the need of a bandage, which was now covered in blood. Corb had a terrible bruise under his eye...and a presentation to deliver in the morning.

"Oh God," I moaned as I was driving, reliving the incident in my head. "It was awful. I was so stupid and careless. How could I have thrown that hose down without looking? Without turning off the water? It was just stupid stupid stupid..." Then, another thought struck me. "Gah, I am so irresponsible! What would have happened if I had been up there with a CHAINSAW and done that? Your poor head would have been sliced off!"

Well, that got his attention. Corb stopped his groaning and looked over at me, eyes full of amazement (well, one eye, at least). "Ted, why in the hell would you be cleaning the gutters with a chainsaw?"

"That's not the point!" I said, wallowing in sadness. And then, another thought. "Oh my God! What if Kaeden had been down below?"

"Ted, why in the hell would your two year old grandson be holding the ladder while you cleaned the gutters with a chainsaw?" Then he held his eye and shook his head. "Please don't make me laugh. When I smile, my eye hurts..."

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Run! Hide! Bay windows!

sun room
It may look pretty, but it's zombie Point of Entry #1

Aha! I've FINALLY found something to dislike about Green Victoria, the sleepy old house that Corb and I purchased a few months ago.

No, it's not Lake Tittypeepee, the small body of water that has formed in our front yard as a result of all the rains we've been having lately. We kind of like that (as well as the River Ragina that flows around the house...and yes, you can tell that we both have the mentality of ten-year-old boys, right?) No, this is something far, far more serious than that.

Deadly serious.

This past Saturday, as Corb finished watching Dawn of the Dead in the den, he looked over at me and said, "Our house would be the worst place in the world to hide during a zombie apocalypse."

And it's true! What were we thinking? This house is all open and windowy, containing plenty of glass that zombies who don't care about those things could crash and break, and then climb through. We'd have nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide. We'd be reduced to zombie food, faster than you can sing the first lyric of that old Motown song!

Oh, there's the basement, I suppose. But that has windows, too, and besides, it's all cold and cementy, and who would really want to hide down there? It would not be a comfortable way to survive. Besides, I can't imagine that the zombies wouldn't find us down there in fairly short order and start gnawing away.

That does it. Come this week-end, I am heading straight to the nearest Home Depot and buying up as much plywood and nails as I can find, so I can better protect the homestead. Oh, this may seem a little extreme, but as every zombie movie created demonstrates, when the zombie apocalypse comes, it will be sudden and it will be swift, and there will be little time to prepare. So what if I have to wait decades, and maybe...even worse...NEVER. As every good Boy Scout will tell you (especially, as Tom Lehrer will tell you, if they come upon a Girl Scout who is similarly inclined), "Be prepared."

Or, maybe I'll just do nothing about it. I don't know. We'll see what the week-end brings.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Ice Age Recedeth

Photo: St. Franky is happier...the ice age is receding...

St. Franky is happier...the ice age is receding...

Monday, March 17, 2014

It's here...

Yes, I've been quiet this past week. Yes, there's been a reason :)


The Kindle version has been available for about a month now, but now the hard copy is available, too! This one has only been a few years in the making, but it's finally here, and the reviews so far have been really quite lovely. Here's what it's all about:

A story of a haunting. Of a memory that lingers. Of voices that hide in the shadows.

Living your life on video is fine, as long as you’ve got complete control. But what if one day you wake up and discover videos you didn’t know existed have gone public? That’s what happens to self-professed video geek, Ashes16, whose real-world past begins to haunt her when a strange video pops up on her YouTube account. Others soon follow, bringing back vivid memories of her older brother's grisly death and forcing Ashes to relive over and over again a nightmare scene she witnessed first-hand. Are they messages from her dead brother, asking her to uncover dark family secrets some people want to keep hidden? And what happens when Ashes finally starts to understand the meaning behind the messages? That’s the chilling secret behind Pictures of You.

For those of you agreeing to take the adventure...thanks!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Stupid Shit I Read in People Magazine (March 3 edition)

"The truth is, and I know this is corny, I fall more in love with Portia all the time." Ellen DeGeneres

So I closed my magazine, put down my coffee, and walked over to Corb, all spread out on the living room couch, watching some such nonsense. "Corb, do you fall more in love with me all the time?" I asked.

Corb grimaced and put the TV on mute. Clearly I was interrupting something vitally important, like the thousandth time he's seen Under the Tuscan Sun. "What is it, Ted?"

I pointed to the magazine in my hand. "It says here in this book that Ellen DeGeneres falls more in love with Portia all the time. And I think that's beautiful. So I was just curious. Do you fall more in love with me all the time?"

"Oh. Well, hmmm." Corb sat up and pushed his glasses back. He thought about it for a minute, and then he looked me straight in the eyes (with those beautiful blue eyes that he has). "No, Ted, I don't fall more in love with you all the time."

What? Is this the response that one wishes to hear from one's true love? Shocked to my very core, I said, as eloquently as possible. "What?"

"Well, of course, I love you," he replied, sanely and sensibly. "I'll love you forever. But, do I fall more in love with you all the time? I mean, we've been together for ten years. There are days you drive me crazy! But then there are times that I do love you more than ever. It just depends on what day it is. Sometimes even what time of the day it is. Sometimes even what minute of what time of the--"

"Okay, okay, I get it!" I lifted my magazine up, threatening to whack him with it. "Some real love you turned out to be."

The truth is, I wouldn't have it any other way.

I mean, that really is real love, isn't it? Love means knowing the other person well enough to understand that there are certain times when you just want to beat the crap out of them. And that's okay, because there are also certain times where you love them so much it hurts. And there are other times where you feel kind of somewhere in between, and even worse, some times where they mean about as much to you as the slippers you're wearing on your feet. You know they are there, and you like them, they're comfortable, and maybe even, they smell a bit. And that's it. And it's okay. 

For example, Corb is not a big hugger. He lets me hug him, but it can't be for too long, and I am the exception rather than the rule, because he really doesn't like hugging anyone else. I personally suspect it's because his mother pushed him down a flight of stairs when he was younger. 

Some days, when he is sitting at the computer playing The Sims, I will sneak up behind him, wrap my arms around him, give him a great big hug. A great, big, huge bear hug. More often than not, it drives him crazy! He will push away, say he wasn't prepared. Say he's concentrating. And then I will get mad because he pushed me away, and then we will bicker a little bit.

He also feels the same about when my feet get too close to his legs in bed.

And yet, there was this one time, about a year ago, when I was feeling particularly anxious about something. Maybe it was the plight of the diminishing bee population, I don't know. Maybe it was something serious. And Corb came over to me out of the blue and said, "Get up."     

 "Get up?" Okay, I got up.

He held out his arms. "I heard today that if you make it a habit of hugging the person you love for one solid minute each day, you'll actually live longer and feel calmer. So come on, let's do it. Give me a hug, Ted!"

I shook my head. "But you hate hugs."

"But I want to live longer." And then he made a funny face. "And I love you. So, come on!"

Ever since then, whenever I need it, all I have to do is to ask him for a minute hug and I can get it, on demand. Of course, it's on his terms: not while he's sitting at the computer, and always standing up. But it's nice to have, you know? And a minute hug is really good, by the way. Just that moment of body contact, that embrace, that reassurance, can be all you need to move on. To endure. To overcome. To aspire to bigger and better things. 

So, the moral of the story is, I'm okay with my version of real love. It may not be bigger and deeper, each and every day, but it's solid and it's honest, and it works for us. Works pretty well, actually.

It may sound corny, but it even makes me fall in love with Corb all the more...every so often.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

How I learned to love the voices in my head.

My friend Mary Ann Peden-Coveillo graciously asked me to write a guest post for her blog, Skewed Notions, promoting my book, Pictures of You. Mary Ann, thanks for giving me the chance, and for allowing me to repost it here! 

I mean, you never know where inspiration for a story is going to come from, right?

Take my novel Pictures of You. I know the exact place and time that the idea for the story came to me. It felt like a revelation, so much so I actually had to sit down.
Pictures of You 1600

I had just given my daughter her first driving lesson. It was a beautiful spring day. For some reason thought it would be funny to tape the experience and post it to YouTube. And that got me to thinking: what if one day you woke up and found videos of your life posted on YouTube for everyone to see that you never wanted anyone to see?

Break-up scenes with an old flame, or the day you went to school with your fly down. What if the scenes became progressively worse, and couldn’t possibly have been taped, and you had no idea who was sending them or how they had gotten hold of them? How powerless and out of control—not to mention scared—would you feel?

I was off and running. Mapping out the first few chapters, imagining scenarios. Constructing it as a Young Adult novel, because for some reason, that’s the creative medium I work best in…and always, as a 16-year old girl, for some reason. Probably better not to ask.

That’s when the really scary things started happening. Like my own personal unwanted YouTube video, my main character started to speak to me. Made herself known. And I realized this girl wasn’t who had I initially envisioned at all.

You see, I originally intended to write the story as a strict YA thriller, with your stereotypical girly girl young pretty teen-ager who all these awful things happen to, but who wins out in the end. But as I progressed with the story…about six or eight chapters in…the true Ashes16 increasingly started to assert herself. She wanted to become so much more than that. And one morning, as I was lying in bed dreaming about her life and her world, I realized, “Oh, wait. This is a girl with gender issues. This is a girl who really wants to be a boy. And not just any boy…she wants to be her dead brother.”

After that, to me, the book really came into focus. I had always viewed it as a ghost story, but in seeing who Ashes was, it became clear to me that the story was as much about being haunted by the memories of your past as it was about an actual haunting. When that fell into place, I realized the real point behind Pictures of You was about giving voice to those hiding in the shadows—and not just voices of the non-corporeal variety. It’s about those who are unable to talk, or too scared to speak their own personal truth—for even if Ashes is a self-described YouTube addict with a very public social face, she still wears a mask. She still feels different, every day of her life. She’s still hiding a past she desperately needs to come to terms with and a sadness that she dares not reveal to anyone, especially herself.

There’s a lot to be said for giving in to the voices inside your head. At least in the case of Pictures of You, I think the book was made stronger for the experience. So let this be a lesson for you, sinners: creative schizophrenia can sometimes be a beautiful thing. Would you mind taking a look at the story and letting me know if you agree?

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Coming soon.


Well, the day is almost here.

With the cover art complete, I've spent the past few weeks working on finalizing the layout. I now have a print version and a Kindle version almost set to share with the world. It's not been easy! Although I find that I really do like the mundane problems that come with formatting. For example, I actually typed the entire version in Courier New, and when I stripped that out to create a clean unformatted version to start working from, I ended up with a ton of reverse quotes at the end of dialogue. Very annoying.

Still, that's almost past me. Above you'll see a peak of what the final cover looks like. The logo only...and thanks to everyone who helped to weigh in on which one they liked best!

I promise to give everyone a full view of the cover art, a description of the story, and a place to actually buy a copy very, very soon. Just a few more days and another goal of mine will be complete! This is a terrific feeling..

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Tedwords Picture Parade: This week's project

party table

This week's project involved getting something underneath the lowest hanging chandelier. I banged my head on it a few weeks ago and almost passed out. It hurts! Annie did the same at one of our family pot roast parties and had a bump on head that lasted a few days.

But actually, truth be told, this project was a few weeks in the making. The table we purchased at Pier One a while back, and once we had it set up, we started thinking about getting comfy armchairs to circle the table. Perfect for playing board games, you know? But then we started scouting out antique stores and realized how expensive a proposition that would be. So, we ended up picking four armchairs at Home Goods--two differing types of fabrics, but connected by the rows of silver studs on running down all the chairs. Also, they bring out the two main color themes in the room: gold and blue (my beloved lime green twenties couch is still in this room, too, but I know something will be done with that someday. (A day that will make me tremendously sad.)

Just in time, too. This past week-end, Theo decided to hold a Super Smash Brothers party for about ten of his friends that started Saturday afternoon and lasted until Sunday afternoon. And after Valentine's Day, we have our next game party planned: Cards Against Humanity. My goal for this place to be Party Central is coming to pass!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


sugar bowl

Oh, the dinner party? Oh yes, I really was meaning to talk about that one.

I mean, it went fine. Of course, Corb had way too much in the way of pot roast (and his mother was forced to foot a fifty dollar bill, as a result), and OF COURSE, Aunty Carole was completely overblown and obnoxious. She made a huge show out of presenting us with hand towels that we probably won't be able to use and an ugly "Home Sweet Home" sign that Corb's mother had cross-stitched many years ago. She also pissed Corb off by going on and on about how his grandmother (who suffers from Parkinson's) was better off dead than the way she was living now and she just hoped that the good lord would see fit to put her out of her misery ASAP.

Note to self: never tell anyone that their grandmother deserves to die. It will not be taken well. sugar bowl

But really, as obnoxious as Carole was, the bigger story from that night for me involves the tale of THE SUGAR BOWL.

You probably all have something similar. A china set that's been in your family for years, that perhaps your grandmother collected. A set that's been passed down from person to person as if it's the most valuable treasure in the world.

Mine was from my Nana Mitchell. An Old Willow tea set in red, made by Alfred Meakin. I have an incredibly vivid memory of where she used to keep it. Nana lived in an in-law apartment downstairs from us, and all her good dishes were displayed in a glass china cabinet that was probably the most valuable thing she owned. I remember going downstairs to visit her every night, and having her make me toast and tea. As she'd crochet, the two of us would watch TV, and I well remember the sight of the china cabinet next to the television. When Mom and Dad sold the house, the new owner had only one request: to keep Nana's china cabinet. Mom and Dad let her keep the cabinet, but stored the china away in boxes.

And, handed them to me, two weeks ago, when we had my dinner party for my folks. It was a real thrill, getting the gift of something Nana cherished so much. That Mom entrusted them to me...well, it meant something. Something big.

So at one point during the Corb family party, I ended up talking to Corb's mother. And I was feeling a bit guilty that we had been talking to badly about her for the past week, what with the insistence that we buy TEN FREAKING POUNDS OF POST ROAST and that we invite Corb's "beloved Auntie" over.

So, in a moment of weakness, I foolishly said, "Oh! I just have to show you what my mother gave me last week. It's this beautiful china set that had been my grandmother's." Then I moved over to the cabinet where we stored the china. And then (mistake number two) I picked out what seemed to me to be the most interesting piece: the sugar bowl. Diana's face beamed as I lifted it up to show it off.

"Well, isn't lovely!" she exclaimed. "Do you mind I hold it?"

"Of course not," I said, and handed it to her. (MISTAKE NUMBER THREE MISTAKE NUMBER THREE)

(You can see where this one's going, right?)

"How lovely," she said. "Who made it?"

"Oh...I'm not sure..." I replied.

"They probably have it engraved on the bottom," she said, and turned the sugar bowl over. Including the cover, which had not been taped shut.

And that's all it took. In an instant, the cover of the sugar bowl had disconnected from the rest of the bowl, and plummeted to the wooden floor.

Time literally stood still for me. I watched as, in slow motion, that cap made its way down to the ground, and, gravity being what it is, smashed into fifty tiny little pieces, all across the floor.

"Oh! Corb's mother cried out.

"NOOOOOO!" I shrieked. No, really. I shrieked. I let out a huge womanish howl of despair.

Corb's mother looked mortified. And from what Corb tells me, I looked like I was going to cry.

And then, Aunt Carole tried to take over. "DIana, get over it, you broke a goddamn dish, just deal with it!" she screamed out.

"I can't believe I did that. I am so sorry," said Corb's mother.

"It''s..." But I couldn't bring myself to say it was okay. It wasn't.

"Ah, it's just a dish, it'll be fine!" continued Carole, even though neither of us were paying attention to her. "Diana, stop looking like that, just go and get a broom and pick it up and--"

"Please stop that," said Corb, quietly but firmly.

"What's that?" asked Carole, a bit surprised.

 "Stop talking. It's not helping!" Carole looked at him, shocked. But amazingly, that shut her up.

Well, at least something good came out of it.

Anyway, I could tell from the look on Diana's face that it was completely a mistake, and that she felt just awful about breaking a precious family heirloom from my grandmother. She did offer to pay for a replacement, too, and wrote Corb a note the day after saying how sorry she felt. (Although, given her insistence that Corb needed to personally invite Carole by phone and apologize for neglecting to have invited his dearest auntie in the first place, I think he would have been well within his rights to insist that she needed to call me and apologize.) And from what I learned from an antique dealer the week after, it may not be that expensive to replace either. A lot of the family china is actually relatively common. At least, the cups and plates. I don't know about sugar bowl covers.

Still, it's the significance of the thing. Mom had entrusted me to be keeper of the family china, and my first week on the job, I blow it. I am not happy about that. Nana, if you're up there in heaven reading this, I promise to do better with the rest of the set! Believe me, Corb's mother will never touch any of your antiques, ever again.

Anyone have any suggestions on how I can find a replacement? All I need is the cap to the sugar bowl. If you have any thoughts, please send me an email or comment. I want Nana's tea set all in one least, before my mom finds out!