Blog – Laugh. Snark. Love.

Moving On Means Owning It

… I felt a tap on my shoulder, and when I turned around, two lips pressed against mine, followed by a slow-probing tongue. My choice to fight or succumb to the kiss was slowed down a little by the three drinks I’d had. I’m a lightweight, I know. I put my arms up and placed them on her forearms, gently but firmly pushing her away.  
“I knew you’d be back.” She grinned. “Idaho’s creepy. I mean farms are cool and stuff, but people are all backwards there.” 
“Sure, Ton-ton.” I saw that Chloe was waiting for me, very patiently considering her prospects. “I have to go.”
 
“Well, I guess I’ll see you around. Do you want my new number? I changed phones.” 
I paused for a moment. “No, I don’t think I do. Anyway, good luck to you. No hard feelings.” 
“None for me, either. I’ll see you around.” 
I didn’t bother to correct her. Seeing her again was not in my future plans, and if I did, I would not let her catch me off guard like that again. 
– Chickenshit: Crisis #8A Big City Blues
Billie flies to Seattle for a work meeting. She sees some old friends and goes to a couple of bars, but the town has lost its luster for her. Seeing Ton-Ton helps Billie get some resolution on her feelings. Her boss puts her on notice: If she wants to keep her job, she’ll need to get back to Seattle soon. Billie gets some offers, but not the one she wants.

Chickenshit – Or: How a City Girl Does Country All Wrong is Volume I of a series. Available  now on Kindle and on Amazon paperback. The next volume will be published in Spring/Summer of 2018.


Like it or not, exes are often a concern for many of us. In my own experience, seeing a former girlfriend has been a unique form of torture that I have gone to great lengths to avoid, including moving to another state on every occasion, now that I think about it. When I was Billie’s age and going through a break up, I was dealing with such intense feelings that I didn’t want to let go. Even when there was no reason whatsoever to hang on. Even after I had “moved on” and gotten a life, hopes of reconciliation lingered. It is so hard to let go when you know that person through and through, and they know you and, at least for a short time, they accepted you for who you are until that something happened, or didn’t happen, and the relationship fell apart. No more picnics in the park or long drives singing Indigo Girls songs together, let alone the more intense moments that bonded you so closely in the first place. Time to move on. And, for us slow to learn folks, time to move on from moving on.
I am proud of Billie for having the courage to quietly stand up for herself with Ton-Ton. Sure, it would have been cathartic for Billie to blast her and take her down a peg or two, but she didn’t need that to move on. She needed only the opportunity to step away long enough to see Ton-Ton for what she was and the chance to trust herself to say no to being used again. Anything more would have erased her own responsibility for her own well-being. Sure Ton-Ton did things that hurt her, but Billie made two mistakes. 1) Trusting someone who was openly narcissistic and 2) making more of a casual relationship than was healthy. Lesson learned, I hope.

Author Day, Founding Fathers, and Chicken Feed

So, I haven’t posted for almost two weeks. After the last post where I shared the tenacity with which I am sticking to this writing thing, I came down with the worst case of … wait for it … the common cold. Okay, it really wasn’t that bad. I could breathe most of the time, and I only had a couple dozen coughing fits, and only a few of those resulted in, well, let’s just say more than a coughing fit. But here are the cool things that happened around my final cold of the year (fingers crossed).

We went on our monthly feed run to Brownsville, OR, and there were no hitches at all –  no accidents or severe weather, so hooray.

Steph has been doing some genealogical research on both of our families, and bam! she found my g13 grandmother. We’re talking all the way back to England and then Holland. It turns out, one of my great grandmothers married one of our founding fathers. Like, someone with a mansion, a statue, and stuff. This is shocking news, as I always thought the search would lead back to a poorhouse in Ireland. Also, there appears to be some communication back and forth between a relative of Steph’s and my g13 grandfather regarding the Louisiana Purchase. How cool is that?

On Friday and Saturday a week ago, I joined a group of local indie authors at the Costa Vida in Nampa to share our books with the general public. Not a super busy venue, but I did talk to a couple of interested and several interesting people.In the next few posts, I will share some of their work with you.

See you soon.

– A

Here they are in order: Merri Halma, yours truly, Bonnie Kloster, Davis J. Kelley, Chris Holloway, and J.S. Andersen.

One Thing

We ambled along the edge of the field, not going much faster than I could walk on pavement. When I asked Jodie what this was called, meaning how the horses were walking. She laughed and said, “Walking.” Then she told me about horse gaits, beating them out on the front of her saddle. Clop-clop, clop-clop. She pointed to different places around us and told me things, names of mountains, visible to us here and a little farther away, people my dad knew, and all sorts of other things.
In between we were quiet, listening to the hooves making contact with the pasture and the horses’ breathing as we went along. When we came up to a group of bushes, about 300 tiny birds began screeching and burst out and above us to the left. We stopped and focused, almost hypnotized, by the reflection of the sun on their wings, as they turned many times in mid-flight.
– Chickenshit: Crisis #7 The One Thing
Billie and Jodie spend a beautiful afternoon taking care of Sheila’s horses. Billie grows conflicted over selling the farm, even as more people show interest in buying it. The movies make it seem so easy to figure things out. Real life decisions are a little tougher for one Billie Hatcher.

Chickenshit – Or: How a City Girl Does Country All Wrong is Volume I of a series. Available  now on Kindle and on Amazon paperback. The next volume will be published in Spring/Summer of 2018.


The One Thing … Wouldn’t it be nice if life were that simple. If we could just search for that one thing, like the character, Curly (Jack Palance), talks to Mitch (Billy Crystal) about in City Slickers, that one thing that gives meaning and definition to our lives, grab it and hang on for dear life. Of course, we all can, but there are always consequences, and usually our one thing is made up of complicated parts, often at war with each other. Even when we keep the one thing in mind, life forces all sorts of compromises along the way.
With Billie’s dad, Dan, the farm became the one thing he could not live without. Unfortunately, his relationships with his family suffered because his one thing did not mesh with their lives at the time.  His one thing did bring other benefits, though, like the many friendships in the community and building a strong, loyal friendship with Elliot.
In my own life, I’ve searched for the one thing (and, yes, I cannot get the INXS song out of my head when I write about this) over decades that are now mounting into middle age, and had various answers at various times. In my teens and early twenties, it was all about finding love. I went to unbelievable lengths at times to win and keep the affection of another. In my thirties, it was about raising a child. I don’t regret one single opportunity I missed out on because of my focus on parenting. It has been (and still is) the most rewarding experience of my life. And now, in my forties, with my prior priorities still in my life, I have been struggling to focus on one of the one things I wanted to do all along (forgive the grammar) – gasp for air – write.
I just read an interview with Terri Gross, and she said that she never wants to retire, has no plans to ever do so. She’s okay that her career didn’t allow for children because she never had a burning desire to procreate. I guess, when you have that kind of certainty about something, it is your one thing, and it can take you through your whole life. Only being four years into taking this writing thing seriously, I cannot imagine ever quitting this process that both drives me and drives me crazy. Whether that will be the case a few years from now, or whether I will find a new one thing, remains to be seen.  I just know that I am enjoying the hell out of it for now, and, damn the consequences, I’m holding on for dear life. And I hope I make a few friends along the way.

Amazon Giveaway

Thank you, everyone! My book giveaways for Lookout Butte and Chickenshit Volume I have closed. Congratulations to the winners!

I hope to do another in the future. Until then, my books are available on Kindle Unlimited and are for sale at a reasonable price. I am currently working on Chickenshit Volume II. 

Later today, I will send out my weekly blog post which has a quote and chapter synopsis from Volume I.

Thanks, again!

 


 

Serenity Now. Whatever.

“Is that you?” I pointed with my fork.
“Used to be.” Elliot offered no explanation.
“Hmm. Were you in the service for a while?”
“Marines. A long time ago.”
We were quiet for a moment.
“I went to Panama. I was Recon, and I saw some awful things. I didn’t do so well when I came back. My unit took a pretty bad hit and I kind of got messed up in the head in more ways than one.”
“Gosh, I’m sorry.”
“Oh, I’m okay. A lot of guys I knew didn’t even make it back to complain about shit, so how can I? But for a long time I was scared to leave this house. I’d get where I was dizzy and I couldn’t breathe. I even passed out once. It happened while I was driving. So I just gave up driving. I’ve been doing better for a long time. Working on the farm helps me a lot.”
I let his words sink in for a moment.
“So what would you do if I sell the farm?”

– Chickenshit: Crisis #6 Water, Water Everywhere

In Crisis #6, Elliot starts to reach out after his mother’s death. Billie and Jodie spend more time together. When the water pump that serves the animals goes out, Elliot saves the day.

Chickenshit – Or: How a City Girl Does Country All Wrong is Volume I of a series. Available  now on Kindle and on Amazon paperback. The next volume will be published in Spring/Summer of 2018.


I hope everyone survived the holidays with their dignity intact. I spent some quality time with Steph and Phil and was able to talk to a relative who is kind of hard to reach. My family and I saw a ton of movies over the last couple of weeks. We just got Movie Pass cards, and, so far, they are fantastic. I am not running an ad here, but the card works on a monthly or annual fee and you can go to go to as many movies as you want, one per day. It was a no-brainer, since it costs less per month than one full price show, and I have already made my money back. Steph and I have been making further plans to turn Chickenshit into a graphic novel, talking with illustrators and honing in on a design and format for it. If it all comes together, the book could come out later this year.
There have been a lot of stops and starts over the last week. We plan on getting to the library early, but our chores run longer than expected. We set up a meeting and have to move it because the repairman comes later in the day than expected, then has to come back because the part wasn’t right.  We plan to get an early start, but someone’s addiction to Dexter keeps us up late, which causes us to sleep later than we meant to. Tsk tsk. So much beyond our control.
I do not make New Year’s resolutions, but I hope the past few days don’t prove to be an omen for the coming year. I have so many plans. Chickenshit Volume II should be published on April 1st, and volumes III and IV later in the year. My follow-up to Lookout Butte, Whippoorwill Springs, is due out for the Christmas season, and I would like to attend a few workshops and do some community events. And I want to go to the coast.
But Ontario, OR is nowhere near the coast. I have to find serenity where I can. Like Elliot, I sometimes find solace around the farm. In the early morning hours, I watch as the sun melts the hoarfrost and the orange-striped mouser stretches, stiff-legged out of her hay bale to wrap around my leg like a garden snake. In the barn, I move a goat mountain (yeah, I said that right) off me so I can throw some hay to her sisters and to the bucks. In the four-o-clock dusk, I snatch eggs from hens who are settled down for the night. They’ve squawked and bellowed the live-long day, but now I am disturbing THEIR quiet time – the gall!
At those times the empathy rises up in me.
“Hey, I just want to write, here! Why are these people/animals/vehicles thwarting me? You and me, Red. We got each other’s backs.”
“Bock, bock.”
Yeah, whatever.

Bah Humbug to Winter

As I stood in line, I could feel somebody watching me, so I turned around. A sawed-off redneck was staring me down.

“Is there something I can help you with?” I asked.

“Oh, shit, it’s a girl. Sorry, I thought you was a queer.”

“Well, I am, by the way.”

“Naw, I mean a queer boy. You mean you a lesbian?” He snickered.

I had just about had it when the cashier said, “Next, please!”

– Chickenshit: Crisis #5 Happy Valentine’s Day, Frodo

In Crisis #5, tragedy strikes Elliot’s household. Despite having a cold, Billie covers all the chores as best she can alone, takes care of poor Frodo, and runs errands for Elliot. Meanwhile, Billie’s mother doesn’t have time for her, Ton-Ton gets back in touch, and Billie can’t think up a good enough excuse to call Jodie. To top things off, two people in town misgender her.

Chickenshit – Or: How a City Girl Does Country All Wrong is Volume I of a series. Available  now on Kindle and on Amazon paperback. The next volume will be published in Spring/Summer of 2018.


I hope everyone had an enjoyable week of Christmas. Now that’s done, we can get through New Years and rampage on to Spring. Oh, Spring, my heart yearns for you. As I sit here at the Ontario Library ensconced in my Gilmore Girls sweatshirt, shivering Bob Cratchit style, and downing cough drop after cough drop, I dream of green leaves bursting up towards the sunlight. Of baby chicks and dogs begging to go somewhere … anywhere. My mother always told me not to wish my life away, but, geez, winter sucks more than ever. From I-84 pile-ups and closures to the threat of falling every time I leave the house, I would just as soon deal with mud. To winter I say, “Bah humbug!”

And speaking of that phrase, have you seen The Man Who Invented Christmas? I highly recommend it. Starring Dan Stevens as the amazingly resourceful Charles Dickens and Christopher Plummer as Ebenezer Scrooge, TMWIC, is easily one of the best films I have seen all year. We follow Dickens and his best friend, John Forster (played by Justin Edwards), as they scurry about London, trying to solve financial problems and overcome other obstacles, including the publication of a new Dickens novel and family issues. The portrayal of a writer interacting with his characters is witty and heartening for those of us who find ourselves bickering with our own characters over what happens to them and why.  In the movie, Dickens wins the argument with Ebenezer but later loses a debate with his reader and others who say the story is morose.

Writing can be a very solitary experience. For the writers out there, does anyone else have characters that sometimes talk back to you? Does it make it harder to put them in harm’s way or to let them suffer?

Happy Holidays, Ya’ll!

I woke up at 8:02 a.m. to a knock at the door. I took a look at my UW sweatpants and Pixies t-shirt and thought that whoever knocks at this time of morning should have low expectations. I opened the front door, and…

There. Stood. Jodie. From the library.

She was catching her breath and grinning the way girls do in cold weather. She had a snow shovel balanced on her shoulder.

– Chickenshit: Crisis #4 Chickenpooped

In Crisis #4, Billie is worn thin by working on the farm, doing her IT side jobs, and running back and forth to her best friend’s house in Boise. After Billie goes MIA at the ski lodge out of utter exhaustion, Liv decides she needs to put her stamp of approval on the farmhouse. Billie meets a talkative neighbor and a cute librarian.

Chickenshit – Or: How a City Girl Does Country All Wrong is Volume I of a series. Available  now on Kindle and on Amazon paperback. The next volume will be published in Spring/Summer of 2018.


This week has a had a lot of stops and starts, but with a lot of help (thanks Traci and Kellen, the chickens now have clean, warm bedding to cozy down into. We still have one rehab bird that I think may be a little emo (every time she is close to reintegration, she causes another injury). All the chickens seem a little on edge this week. Earlier, one rooster (name withheld) who is normally docile tried to attack Steph. Don’t worry, he’s okay. Poor little Red bit my gloved hand when I was trying to give her snacks (it was dark, I get it). The BBS Marans roosters are a little giddy, too, and one little Welsummer hen keeps trying to sleep outside, which is particularly frustrating because we just built a chicken barn with enough room for a few dozen birds to roost and a small pony. Next on the agenda: wild bird mitigation.

Other than chores, we did some last minute shopping, watched A LOT of Dexter, saw the movie, Wonder, and drove past all the lights in downtown Caldwell during the first night of snowfall.

Getting Chickenshit out in paperback was a big hurdle because CreateSpace, that’s why. All the support and good responses I’ve received in the last few weeks has made the stress and annoyance of publication worthwhile. Being a new author AND an indie author can be an insular experience at times, like talking to a lamp post. It is often difficult to get feedback, but I have benefited in some way from each review, comment, or verbal exchange in regards to my writing. Ya’ll keep letting me know when I have spinach in my teeth, okay? I’d rather not walk around all day like that.

Meanwhile, I have been laying the groundwork for my next southern novel, the second book in the Lookout Butte series. The working title is Whippoorwill Springs. The current plan is to have it on pre-release this spring.

I hope you have a wonderful and safe holiday season! Stay warm.

 

Are You a Sucker for Movies with Great Settings?

If you’re not looking for the movie, Wonderstruck, screenplay and novel written by Brian Selznick and not to be confused with the newly released, Wonder, you might miss it. I had never heard of it, and of the dozen or more trailers I have watched over and over again for the last few months, Wonderstruck was not among them. Although the children are played by less lesser known actors, Millicent Simmonds (new actress) and Oakes Fegley (Pete’s Dragon), it is strange that Julianne Moore’s involvement (she plays two important characters in the film) did not lead to more promotion. One day I just happened to check the dollar theater for movies I might have missed, and there it sat, teetering on the edge of disappearing forever. I clicked on a couple of trailers and thought it was worth watching. Even though it has gotten me into trouble in the past, I am still likely to watch any movie set in a museum, a college, or a library. I chose Wonderstruck over a couple of newer movies, and I am so glad I did. If you are a setting freak like me, stop reading and go watch the movie right now before it disappears from the big screen. If not, here’s what you will miss.

From the trailer, it is clear the two main story lines will merge into one, but as I watched I kept trying to do the math. The lady is old enough to be his grandmother, the mother just died, who is Dad again? Maybe it dragged a little in the beginning of Act II, or maybe a small pizza coma kicked in, but the movie quickly drew me back in and I stayed with it until the end. Unlike many movies I have seen of late, the plot is sound, without any holes or miss-steps. All the important questions are answered by the closing credits. The movie may be a miss for modern tweens who are without a long attention span, but it did connect with my inner twelve-year-old.

The first story line we see is set in 1927, where the main character, a deaf tween girl, rebels against her father, who wants her to study lip reading, ostensibly so she can fit into society better. Her reaction? Flee the house and head off to downtown New York to see her beloved actress, Lillian Mayhew, a woman she scrapbooks and dotes on. When her venture does not work out, she flees once again and heads straight for the Museum of Natural History. All along the route, the scenery, at least to this viewer, seemed flawless.

Interspersed with the first story line, is one about a twelve-year-old boy named Ben who becomes deaf from an accident. He, too, escapes a confusing life to run around New York, but this time in 1977. As he gets bumped around from one street to the next, eventually landing at the museum, as well, I scanned every corner of the screen for memorabilia and setting. From the storage cabinet fasteners to shoes to vehicles, and just the general feel of the film, every inch of the screen felt like the seventies. Although Space Oddity by David Bowie was used throughout the movie, the soundtrack includes other songs and orchestral music that adeptly set the mood. I was immersed in a place which felt like a lot like my childhood, those years in the late seventies that were striving to be the early eighties.

The museum scenes were cool, too. In the girl’s narrative, we get to see dioramas and displays from the twenties, as well as one of the exhibits that serves as a connection between both stories. In the boy’s narrative, we get to experience the museum displays, including another one that ties in with the story, and we get to go to an off-limits room, where the boys hang out and bond with each other.

I have not read the book yet, but I can see the movie strives to include many key points of the plot that would have been skimmed over in a different production. This story is beautiful, with a couple of tear-jerking moments and one of those tingly, realization moments, if you pay attention. The movie is thoughtful and adorable, definitely worth watching.

Next, I want to get a Redbox copy and go frame by frame to look for the digital watch I used to wear, scrutinize the furniture and glassware in Ben’s house again, and see if I can find my dad’s old car, a boat-sized 1972 Gran Torino, in any of the street scenes. In my old age, those things are comforting, don’t ask me why. If you see it, sit up close, and please let me know what you think of it.

 

Chickenshit Released on Paperback!

Seasons Greetings, everyone! 

Just in time for last minute gifts, my novel, Chickenshit, is now available on paperback (as well as Kindle). It’s the perfect present for the reader in your family and Amazon has free shipping through today! I hope you like the little video we put together. Please share with this with all your friends. Thank you for letting me be a part of your holidays!

Buy now by clicking here.

 __________________

Chickenshit, Or: How a City Girl Does Country All Wrong, Volume I 

Billie’s life is right on track. Solid. She has a girlfriend to hang out with and an internship to build her resume until she goes back to U Dub next fall. But when her girlfriend bails on her and she inherits her dad’s farm in Milepost, Idaho, you could knock her over with a feather. Milepost is a world away from Seattle in more ways than one. There’s no good coffee, the locals are a mixed bag, and there is no social life whatsoever. As for the farm – the chickens try her patience, everything she owns is covered in poop, and the goats may prove her undoing. There’s no doubt she is in over her head just getting the place ready to sell, and her mom and best friend are frustratingly supportive without giving her any answers. Luckily, she has help from a hired man of sorts, an attorney she happens to be named after, a gorgeous librarian/cowgirl, and a bunch of people she doesn’t even know. The road to making a decision is definitely rocky, and soon she begins to ask herself: How can she go back to the big city after being down on the farm?

Chickenshit – Or: How a City Girl Does Country All Wrong is Volume I of a series. Available  now on Kindle, and soon on Amazon paperback. The next volume will be published in Spring/Summer of 2018.