In the Storm (April is National Poetry Month)

The Storm

(#NPM )

In the Storm

I reach for you…

With every crack of thunder 

I hear you laugh…

Your smile is every bolt of lightning.

The drops of rain, you touching me,

with unsalted tears…

No more pain; no more regret.

I raise my arms, 

as a child beckoning to be held

and it pours.

My grief is washed away by

stinging pellets of a spring rain

Leaving behind a clean slate

with only memories of the most mundane,

most cherished moments of my life.

Available at your favorite retailer.

Credits:

I created the cover from a photograph I had taken.

The heading image (The Storm) was created from a compilation of images I found at Pixabay. (Thank you Pixabay contributors).

The poem, In the Storm was taken from this twisted book of poems. And… guess what?

For a limited time my partnering experiment with Smashwords lets the reader decide what they will pay. Yep! You decide. Check it out.

And don’t forget to follow my podcast

Just keeping it real. 😘

Happy Halloweenie Ghouls & Boils

Hold out your eyes and I’ll give you a little insight into Smoke Free.

Smoke Free is a weird little story conceived in the smoke of a brush pile. The photos below show the cover; the first photograph and the finished cover.

Smoke Free is probably the only book cover we have not changed at least a dozen times. The truth is I have never wanted to change it. I love this cover and the image of that little pumpkin smoking a cigar never fails to amuse me. (I have the husband to thank for that.)

Smoke Free

I had never heard of Irwin Smutter before that day and he (like the cigar smoking pumpkin) still amuses me with his absolute weirdness; him and the bizarre world he resides in.

And a bite sized sample of the lunch break tale

Irwin marched down the stark white hallway with the impudence of a man on a mission. At the end of corridor, a glass door awaited with the words FREE YOUR SELF painted in large gold letters. He raised a curled fist to knock but decided against it. Easing the door open he called out, “Yoo-hoo. Is anyone home?” when no one responded he grudgingly entered the room and scanned its contents.

The room appeared empty other than an oversized sofa. Irwin reposed himself against the frigid vinyl, crossed his feet and sighed. A lively timbered scene covered the wall opposite the door, designed in such a way it almost looked like a window. Beyond the dull sheen of the pretend window was a forest where rays of sunshine cut through a smoky haze. The remaining walls were un-textured, pale and bare. The room smelled of sandalwood and acetone, a bizarre sweetness that sickened and comforted him at the same time. Irwin shifted nervously on the stiff upholstery in search of a warm spot. There was none.

The faux leather, the lifeless walls, the fake window – it was all too unsettling. Nothing is real, he thought, stretching his arms until his hands met above his head. Fads! The world has been reduced to kooks, phonies, and fads. Reassured by his own summation, Irwin interlaced his fingers and stretched further. When the joints in his entwined hands refused to pop, he rested them at the base of his neck.

Smoking cessation. Yeah, right. It was not Irwin’s idea. Irwin enjoyed smoking. The pungent smell of a fresh-lit cigarette made bitter coffee sweet. Smoking was one of the few things he looked forward to each day. A good smoke, a little booze, a lot of caffeine and Evie.

Happy Halloween!

Available wherever e-books are sold.

Smoke Free narrated by Troy McElfresh and is available at

Amazon

Apple

Audible

Never out of Season (Throw Back Thursday)

Dissing or Discussing Poetry

First published Feb 1, 2018 JANNA HILL

We are still months away from NPM and poetry discussions are abuzz. I love it!

I’m not even upset that one “genre” is dissing the other – I am just happy poetry is being discussed.

I clicked on a link/interview that was shared with a member of the Horror Writer’s Association and then BOOM I was knee deep in reading, searching and lurking a dozen other sites.

I [honestly] never considered a genre when writing poetry and probably couldn’t categorize if my life depended on it. But [speaking of dissing] I’ll share Thoughts on Writing from Getting Me Back.

Except from Getting Me Back (The Voices Within)

Thoughts on Writing  (The Requirements of an Author)

Desire: A congenital need to tell the story.

Determination: It is not enough to walk a couple of blocks or run five miles on a treadmill, come prepared to hike the Himalayas and explore the abyss.

An exoskeleton: A thick skin will not suffice — no indeed. Colleagues and critics are apt in the sadistic art of shaving and burning the thickest of flesh; their tireless wheel of pumice leaving the toughest callouses raw and bleeding. They will thin your skin; get beneath it and prove your vulnerabilities. Like a flesh eating bacteria they will consume you — kill you if you let them.

A poker face: Never let them see you sweat.

Gratitude: Because no one owes you anything!

Grace: For the rise and the inevitable fall.

Pills and booze and smoke: Because it is a hard and hateful world and you are not a god-damned ant.

The History of Read an Ebook Week (Tuesday’s Tell All)

Did you know it was a woman named Rita Toews who started the Read an Ebook Week? Yep.

Read an Ebook Week brings together ebook retailers, publishers, authors, device-makers and untold thousands of readers who join in this international literary event.

For one week only, publishers and authors offer thousands of original ebooks for free and at deep discounts to encourage book lovers around the globe to give ebooks a try.

Smashwords participates in the event every year.

Admittedly I have not given Smashwords the proper time and care I should have – because to tell the truth they were a great help to me years ago when I went independent.

I hope to remedy my negligence now by actively participating in Read an Ebook Week.

For this week (March 07-13) the price of my titles at Smashwords have been deeply discounted with a price range of $1.99 to $0.00.

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HaPpY reading Y’all.

Happy Halloweenie Ghouls and Boils ( #TBT )

Hold out your eyes for a Halloween treat.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_20191030_223942_394.jpg

Hold out your eyes and I’ll give you a little insight plus the beginning and the ending of Smoke Free.

Smoke Free is a weird little story conceived in the smoke of a brush pile. The photos below show the cover; the first photograph and the finished cover.

Smoke Free is probably the only book cover we have not changed at least a dozen times. The truth is I have never wanted to change it. I love this cover and the image of that little pumpkin smoking a cigar never fails to amuse me. (I have the husband to thank for that.)

I had never heard of Irwin Smutter before that day and he (like the cigar smoking pumpkin) still amuses me with his absolute weirdness; him and the bizarre world he resides in.

Okay, here you go.

In the beginning…

Irwin marched down the stark white hallway with the impudence of a man on a mission. At the end of corridor, a glass door awaited with the words FREE YOUR SELF painted in large gold letters. He raised a curled fist to knock but decided against it. Easing the door open he called out, “Yoo-hoo. Is anyone home?” when no one responded he grudgingly entered the room and scanned its contents.

The room appeared empty other than an oversized sofa. Irwin reposed himself against the frigid vinyl, crossed his feet and sighed. A lively timbered scene covered the wall opposite the door, designed in such a way it almost looked like a window. Beyond the dull sheen of the pretend window was a forest where rays of sunshine cut through a smoky haze. The remaining walls were un-textured, pale and bare. The room smelled of sandalwood and acetone, a bizarre sweetness that sickened and comforted him at the same time. Irwin shifted nervously on the stiff upholstery in search of a warm spot. There was none.

The faux leather, the lifeless walls, the fake window – it was all too unsettling. Nothing is real, he thought, stretching his arms until his hands met above his head. Fads! The world has been reduced to kooks, phonies, and fads. Reassured by his own summation, Irwin interlaced his fingers and stretched further. When the joints in his entwined hands refused to pop, he rested them at the base of his neck.

Smoking cessation. Yeah, right. It was not Irwin’s idea. Irwin enjoyed smoking. The pungent smell of a fresh-lit cigarette made bitter coffee sweet. Smoking was one of the few things he looked forward to each day.  A good smoke, a little booze, a lot of caffeine and Evie.

His wife, Evie was a non-smoker and she did not mind, she had never complained, but again, Evie never complained about anything. Evie was a saint.

So what am I doing here? Peer pressure. That was the only logical explanation. All of his friends had stopped smoking months ago. There is nothing more annoying than an ex-smoker. Irwin’s mind zigzagged trying to connect the dots, the trail of crumbs that had lead him here to this place where he was expected to free himself.

Evenings at the local tavern were not the same, instead of cheers and jokes the gang sat around bellyaching about a handful of smokers in the far corner. It wasn’t fun anymore. Irwin thought as he strained to recall the last time he had hung out with any of them, the last time he had stopped by the saloon on the way home. He could not remember. A few of his buddies had dropped by the house for a beer once or twice a week but then…

It occurred to Irwin he had been isolated for some time; cut off from society. Who needs them? Not me, I don’t have time for chewing the fat. He dug his heels into the armrest, tensed his abdominal muscles and forced a few halfhearted sit-ups. I’m healthy, a hell of a lot healthier than those slobs. Heck, Frank can’t see his ding-a-ling without a mirror. Irwin laughed aloud at the image of his friend groping for his penis. Poor bastard, he groaned, starring up at the flat alabaster ceiling, Frank’s a good guy. The kindest, most nonjudgmental man I have ever met… hey! Irwin bolted upright, Frank is my best friend.

When the sparkle abated from the realization, Irwin flopped back into a prone position and began a set of leg-lifts. Good ole Frank. Poor bastard. Dean and Will, now there is a couple of bonafide jerks!  Irwin scoffed to himself, holding his un-embellished feet at heart level, Health fanatics! You can smell Dean a mile away— wreaking of curry and cumin. And Will, with his dead man farts –methane poison. Both of them—with their stained yellow skin.

Irwin snickered at the memory of Frank again, the last memory of the saloon he could clearly recall. Dean and Will who were frequently referred to as Mutt and Jeff, and the sight of their jaundiced eyes–unwavering.  Long, lanky Dean slumped over his mug of warm Bud, squatty Will knocking back shots of cheap Vodka and the rank cloud of gas that always followed them.

“Dang! What are you two eating?” Frank had asked. When neither answered he pressed on, “It smells like you’re on the verge of shittin’ a dead man. What are you little tree huggers eatin’? Are y’all eatin’ people?” Irwin recalled Frank’s hearty laugh at his joke and smiled, until he remembered the response. Dean– shivering but never looking up.  Will with that cocky glare, wriggling his thin eyebrows and slamming his glass down on the table for effect, grinning through pink jagged teeth. “No one under the age of eighteen.”

“Screw it.” Irwin said aloud as he swung himself into a sitting position. He grabbed the package of Camels from his shirt pocket. Despite the shaking, he managed to free a cigarette without breaking it. He tapped the filter against his palm a few times and gently set it between his lips. His right hand habitually swept the pocket of his 501 jeans to retrieve the Zippo. Irwin studied the chrome lighter, rubbing his thumb across the engraving. “I loved your heart too Evie.” He whispered. Within the sound of two clicks, a beautiful orange flame emerged. Irwin closed his eyes and pulled the smoke deep into his lungs. The hissing crackle of dried tobacco had always eased his trembling. The feel of his Zippo, a gift from Evie, had always soothed his mind. I LOVE YOUR HEART was barely visible after years of stroking. He exhaled and imagined the writings of e.e. cummings. i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart). He fantasized about Evie, her soft white breasts against his back as she convinced him to be more accepting of lowercase letters and lower class people. Perfect breasts that now–

Just before The End…

Irwin and Evie spent their days and nights exploring endless trails. Time meant nothing to them now. Irwin was not sure how long he had been in this place, but it had been long enough to learn a few things. One: the sun never goes down. Two: there is no need for sleep and three: sometimes the boils come on slowly. He consoles himself with knowing Evie never minded his smoking.

Happy Halloween!

Available wherever e-books are sold.

Smoke Free narrated by Troy McElfresh

Tuesday’s Tell All (As If)

As If

As if your shoulder brushing

against my breast in a crowded room

meant anything to me…

As if your smile would thaw my frosty heart…

As if your constant assurance could overcome my cynicism…

As if the invisible boulevard would never rise up and beckon.

<>   |  <>  |  <>

The street lamp glows in the bleached mist only three floors below us.

I blow streams of smoke into the black night and hum to the drone of the unseen road.

Be steel my bleating heart!

Be quiet! Be silent, hard steel.

As if wearing your tee shirt made us lovers.

woman-994737_1920

I bought the photo above from Pixabay for a cup of coffee because I did not have one that resonated with the poem I wanted to share in this Tuesday’s Tell All. I took the photo below which eventually became the book cover for Getting Me Back.

getting me back.1

getting me back

Tuesdays Tell-All (Behind the Scenes)

Pretty Kitty Puddin Jam aka Jammin Jim, Jimmy, One eyed Jimmy Jones... (1024x683)

It was a cat very similar in appearance to pretty Kitty Puddin’ Jam [aka Jammin’ Jim, One-Eyed Jimmy Jones, Jimmy Jam and plain Jimmy] who played the character Strudel in the short A Hard Candy Christmas. The story is beautifully narrated by Julia Gayden Nelson.

Dolly Pardon’s song Hard Candy Christmas played in the background, fueling my imagination as I pecked out the words to the story.

Strudel was actually a stray feral cat who sought refuge with me through one rare snowy winter. Jimmy insists he could play the part and probably win a prestigious theater award. He would also totally love to hang out with Dolly.

Real Life Inspires – Cloud Wrangler (Fridays Free-for-all)

cloud wrangler

Q: Is any of your fiction true? Do you write about real life?

A: Well yes and no. For example a visit to Rockford Illinois for my granddaughter’s graduation inspired the following scene which takes place somewhere in the historical Lake-Peterson House.

Our dog Leia was the inspiration for the physical description of Gus and that is her on the cover.

Leia as Gus (1024x714)

There is some truth in the fiction I write. I will leave it up to the reader to decide where that truth lies.

 

Chapter Twenty Five

Mary paced the empty hallway on the third floor of the ancient house. She counted fifteen steps from one lamp to the next and wondered if the people below could hear her. The dark corridor seemed to grow shorter with each lap along with her patience. She considered unlocking her mind so she could tap into the thoughts of those around her but intuition advised against it. Occasionally she paused to listen at the door; each time she found the words indecipherable and returned to pacing until a gentle creak caused her to stop.

“You may go in now.” A flat voice announced as the heavy door gave way. Sunbeams flooded the hallway and Mary squinted at the figure in front of her; at the starched white cap and unwieldy dress which were as outdated as the house.

“Thank you.” Mary stepped forward and warmly squeezed the woman’s shoulders. Her affections were met with a rigid withdrawal but not before she could catch a glimpse of the nurse’s frontal imaginings.  As her eyes adjusted to the light she could better see the nurse’s features; her round face as stiff as her attire looked like a plate cemented between the pinned head covering and cinched collar.

“Thank you.” Mary reiterated with less affection as she slid past the nurse and closed the door behind her.

The floorboards groaned as Mary hobbled across the oversized space toward a single bed in the corner. Jim glanced up, forced a smile and promptly turned his attention back to his wife.

“How are y’all?” Mary anxiously inquired as she cast an eye over the new parents.

“We… we’re all fine.” Clara mumbled, straining to open her eyes.

“Where are the babies?” Mary asked, glancing suspiciously around the bare room.

“One of the nurses took them over to the hospital – said they had to be examined – tests and shots – routine stuff.” Jim explained as if trying to assure himself.  “They will bring them back as soon as they’re finished… as soon as they make sure they’re both in good health.” His voice trailed as he tenderly bathed Clara’s pale face.

“That makes sense.” Mary tried to sound convincing but the smell of sweat and panic made it difficult. She lifted Clara’s moist flaccid hand and asked, “How are you sweetie?”

“I can’t…”  Clara whispered, gasping between words, “can’t … hear… Frieda.”

“Don’t worry love.” Jim paused briefly to blot his own forehead and neck before sweeping the salty cloth across his wife’s.

“Mama?” Clara’s eyes fluttered.

“Something is wrong!” The vision appeared as red paint flowing over a white canvas and Mary yanked the sheet back. Doc! Mary opened the vault of her subconscious, honed her thoughts on the old doctor and yelled.  Doc! Hurry! Her brain was inundated with voices and images as the internal walls fell away; the extrasensory chaos proved to be too much and she collapsed on the floor.

__

When Mary came to she could see the doctor standing over Clara, pressing and massaging her abdomen. A bottle of clear liquid hung at the head of the bed and a pile of blood stained sheets littered the floor around them.

“She’ll be okay now. We just have to let the medicine do its work and keep the fundus firm.”  He spoke in a casual manner. “Fetch me another bag of special blend Gus and be careful not to puncture this one.”  The white shepherd sprinted to the door, his claws creating a rapid rhythmic tap against the wooden floor as he ran.

“Do you think he will speak to me?” Jim stood in the same spot, still sponging his wife’s face as he spoke but the scent of panic had lessened.

“Maybe.” The doctor replied suppressing any signs of optimism yet Mary could see the previous conversation between Doc and Gus.  She grinned as she raised herself to a standing position. The shepherd would soon have a new home.

“I guess the sight of all that blood got to you. Are you okay now?” Jim asked without taking his eyes off of Clara.

“I guess so.” Mary laughed, rubbing the small lump on her head. “Our girl definitely looks a lot better.” She said, running her fingers across Clara’s rosy complexion. “What happened? Why did she bleed so much?”

“That happens sometimes, especially with twins.” Mary accepted the doctor’s verbal response without debate as he knew she would. The truth of the matter would be kept secret between the two of them for the time being. If Jim learned of the attempted murder he would retaliate and that could put Doc and Gus in a dangerous situation. “Good boy!” the doctor took the pint sized plastic container from the dog’s mouth. “You rub the fundus just like I showed you James.” He said as he quickly inserted a fifty milliliter syringe, filled it with the thick crimson liquid and injected it directly into the intravenous line. He repeated the process nine more times until the bag was empty and the bottle overhead was dry.

“When can I have my babies?” An invigorated Clara sprung up and demanded, “I want Fritz and Frieda right now. If they are not here in five minutes I will go and get them myself.”

“Are you sure you are capable of handling them right now?” Doc asked.

“I am more than capable.” Clara took the salty half-damp cloth, snatched the I.V. from her arm and applied pressure. “I believe I am capable of taking this place down and everyone in my path to get to my children.”

“I believe you.” The old doctor smiled.

“What did you give her?” Jim shook his head and laughed, “An hour ago I was afraid I was losing her – now I’m just afraid of her.”

“You have nothing to fear.” The doctor’s face lit up with a shrewd grin, “As long as you are one of the good guys.”

“I’ll tell my nurse to bring the babies now.”

Within minutes a lovely petit woman entered the room with a bundle in each arm.

“I hear the new mommy is anxious to hold her little ones.”

“Oh yes.” Clara cried, extending her arms.

The nurse carefully placed the infants in their mother’s arms.  Frieda was nestled on the right and Fritz on the left. The twins instinctively turned their face to Clara’s breasts and began rooting and grunting. She in turn lifted her blouse and guided each mouth to an engorged nipple, welcoming the throbbing and stinging as they gulped.

“I have never seen anything so beautiful.” Jim’s voiced cracked as he spoke. “I have never felt so blessed.” He glanced at the others around him. Mary sniffled and held her hand to her mouth, the old doctor nodded and smiled and the white shepherd pawed at the tears streaming down his snout.

Cloud Wrangler is available at your favorite e-book store.