HOW TO DISCOVER WHAT A GOOD WRITER YOU ARE!

plopfront-148x223Horrible. Disgusting. Did I write those lines? How could I have?  What got into me? Was I drunk when I penned that paragraph? And the next one is even worse. These are questions and assertions that sprang to mind whenever I reviewed the first chapter of my novel The Phantom Lady of Paris.

I don’t know about you but I’m the greatest critic of anything I write. And I’m convinced most creative persons are the same way. Examples: I expect if you exhumed Picasso and put one of his paintings before him, he would want to change it in some way. “A little more orange here. A darker hue there.” Etc., etc. The same could probably be said of Leonardo da Vince when it comes to his Mon Lisa. “Don’t you think her eyes are too inexpressive?” Or “I failed to put a maternal softness to her lips. “The irony is that the world sees nothing wrong with the works of these great masters. The great masters see many flaws in their works.

When doing a book signing, I’m often asked to read a portion of my novel. I don’t want to do that. Why? Because every time I read from my book, I silently edit as I read. I am plagued by critical questions within my mind, similar to the following: “Why did I use that word there? Another word is much better. Why not use a more graphic and visceral term?” And on and on and on. The queries do not stop.

Recently I had quite an educational and enriching experience. For once, I liked what I had written. How could that possibly happen when I’ve been so critical of my lines and for so long. The answer is simple. A publisher of audio books has agreed to turn The Phantom Lady of Paris into an audio book. The publisher sent me a sample of the audio volume. I play it, sat and listened. I heard my lines and I did not mentally edit the material. I let the word spoken by the professional narrator draw me into the tale.

stock-footage-man-talking-into-a-professional-condenser-microphoneListening, I had a revelation. The enlightenment was this. As long I read what I have written, I will forever be critical of it. But…when a professional narrator reads the same lines, I become detached from them. And the words sound fresh and new and good. I liked what I heard. No, I loved what I heard.

Maybe there is a lesson in all of this. I won’t tell you what it is. I’m sure you can figure it out for yourself. Anyway, happy listening. And HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

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It Ain’t Necessarily So – 2

Aint 3 finalIt Ain’t Necessarily So
CHAPTER TWO

The Wages of Sin
In doing it My Way

I said before that I don’t remember the event of being born. It would seem to me that one should remember the most important event in his or hers life. Without that important event there can be no other important events. I guess that is a deficiency on my part. Nor do I remember sucking my mother’s breast, but again, I’m told I had a voracious appetite.

One other thing that I think should be made quite clear is that I also do not remember being consulted as to whether or not I wanted to be born. It seems to me that is something a person should at least be informed about if not consulted. After all, I’m going to be spend more time with me than with anyone else and I should be allowed to decide if I want to be me, and spend my entire life with someone like me. Continue reading

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Quiet Gratitude, by Carole Howard

I’ve never been a fan of expressing emotion on demand, as in, “Before we eat our turkey, let’s go around the table and everyone say three things he or she is grateful for.” If people choose  to speak of their gratitude, I’m all for it. It’s the “on demand” part at which I bridle.

Don’t get me wrong:  I do experience abundant gratitude and I do love Thanksgiving’s focus on it. I just don’t want to be told when and where to go public.  For me, spontaneous gratitude is more powerful, more meaningful, more uplifting.

One spontaneous-gratitude moment happened when my husband and I were living in the north of Senegal for two months, in one bedroom of a house we shared with four (sometimes six) others.  We gathered for breakfast every morning with Déyfatou, her husband Mamadou, and their two daughters, Ayisha (3) and Fatou (18 months).

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Our housemates and breakfast buddies

Déyfatou, about 25, tall and thin, soft-voiced and shy-smiled, brought in the same breakfast fixings every day:  French bread, butter and jam; a tea kettle of boiled water made over a charcoal fire behind the house; plates, cups, utensils; plastic bags holding instant coffee, tea bags, sugar cubes, coffee-creamer.

The bags were the plain-vanilla kind of  bag, tied in a knot at the top.  Every morning, Déyfatou opened them and we took out what we needed.  (I was amazed that the instant Nescafe with dried milk, which I’d have scorned in my previous life, tasted so delicious.)  Then she closed them with a knot tight enough to protect against moisture and bugs.

A knot opened, a knot tied, every day for what must have been years, judging from the appearance and feel of the bags.  They were like ancient skin:  very wrinkled, thin and so soft you might mistake them for suede if your eyes were closed.  And likely to disintegrate.

One day, I was getting some aspirins from the personal pharmacy I’d schlepped from home.  I had Ziploc bags of aspirins, ibuprofen, and Tylenol.  (Yes, I had all three because I couldn’t know in advance what I’d need or want.)  There was Pepto Bismol, of course, and Immodium (ditto about never knowing), daytime cold medicine, night-time cold medicine, cough syrup, malaria preventive, canker sore medicine, nose spray, and many, many, more.   I was pharmaceutically prepared.  Perhaps overprepared but, as I said, you never know.

And as I looked at those bags upon bags, it occurred to me that Déyfatou might like to have a few to save her from the tying and untying.  And, perhaps, from one of those ancient bags dissolving in front of her very eyes.  So I combined the white aspirin, brownish ibuprofen, and multi-colored Tylenol in one bag and gave Déyfatou the two newly-emptied and cleaned ones.

My bags were not the kind where you push the strips from the two sides of the opening together to join them. Oh no, these were the ultra-spiffy and ultra-convenient ones with an actual zipper at the top.

They were a huge hit.  Déyfatou loved them in a way that lit her up from inside.  Loved them out of all proportion to their value.  Transformed her into a giggling girl as she unzipped and zipped them over and over.  It was the kind of reaction every gift-giver loves.

I went through everything I’d brought with me – meds, spare batteries for the radio and flashlights, wet laundry-storage bags – to produce some 15 bags in different sizes.  Enough for coffee, tea, sugar, and creamer for years to come.  Each one a series of knots not tied, not untied.  I was Santa Claus! I was the bag lady!

The thing is, Déyfatou wasn’t poor. Mamadou had a good job and she was his only wife.  The girls had toys and bookbags and hair ribbons, all bought in Dakar.  It’s even possible that if Déyfatou were in a supermarket in Dakar, she’d see the French equivalent of Ziplocs and could have bought them.  They just weren’t part of her life, and, besides, why spend money on something that’s not necessary?

If called upon to say something I’m grateful for at Thanksgiving, I would never think of Ziploc bags.  Yet, in that moment, I appreciated not just the bags, but also the other things in my life that I usually don’t even notice.  Too many to name here.

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I was grateful for the mosquito net under which we slept. And I’m grateful we don’t need one here in the U.S.

The big things I’m supremely grateful for – my family, my health, my friends, my life in a stable democracy, my material comfort – are easy to think of and, for that reason, the gratitude sometimes is a bit knee-jerk, a bit glib.  But the little things that go unnoticed in the interstices bring it all home.  And that gratitude is nourishing.

Would anyone out there choose to mention one of the little things in life for which he/she is grateful? Of course, you don’t have to. No pressure.

*   *   *

Carole Howard is the author of Deadly Adagio,  published by Second Wind Publishing.  She is working on a travel memoir (I Didn’t Know Squat: Volunteering in the Developing World After Retirement), from which parts of this post are excerpted.

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It’s time for my annual Thanksgiving rant…

As I have said in the past, Thanksgiving is a holiday that seems to be fading into the background noise of Christmas. This bothers me; a lot. For all you people out there thinking, “Well, bah humbug to you too, Ms. Scrooge” – I do love Christmas. I’m actually pretty goofy about Christmas. I decorate inside and outside, sing carols around the house and in the car from the end of November through New Years Eve, bake cookies, make candy, and spend a great deal of time and effort picking out special gifts for the people I care about. I just like starting all that AFTER Thanksgiving. Most times it is the day after Thanksgiving – at least for the exterior decorating because this girl does not under any circumstances participate in the Black Friday nonsense. I think I have some form of PTSD from all the years I worked retail and had to work on Black Friday.

To me, Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude and reflection. It can be a uniquely American holiday but it doesn’t have to be. We could all use a great deal more gratitude in our lives. As a mother, I work hard at instilling a sense of thankfulness in my kids for what they have and to focus more on needs than wants. As in you need a new pair of shoes but you want the [insert name of whatever brand is hot] pair. I can afford their needs but frequently I have to say a firm “no” to their wants. My kids may be disappointed but they understand that they should express gratitude for what they are given because that pair of shoes they may see as lame would be appreciated by someone with no shoes. At this time of the year, I double down on the whole “be happy with and take care of what you have before focusing on what you want” with my kids. Before they can even start a Christmas List, I ask that they go through their toys and separate out what is still in good condition that we can donate to charity. I also limit the number of things that they can put on their lists to 10 items. That way they have to think about what they want. They know that they won’t get all 10 items but this ensures some mystery about what will be under the tree.

I think we all have our moments of ungratefulness, that split second (or longer) envy when your friend gets the new car/TV/appliance/vacation/etc. that you’ve been wanting but can’t afford because of all the bills or the kids need braces or the car just died. At least I know I have moments like that. When they happen I have to stop and remember that it’s not about getting what I want when I want it. I have to look at and appreciate what I do have. If you spend your life focusing on what you don’t have, you run the risk of missing or losing what you do have. My life may not be perfect and at times I suspect it may serve as a cautionary tale to others but it’s mine and I’m pretty thankful for it. Everyone has at least one friend, family member, or acquaintance who is oblivious to the blessings in their life such as true friends who stand by them/love them no matter what, basic necessities, family who love them, health, etc. and instead they chase those things that, or people who, in the end won’t bring them true happiness. It’s hard to watch and harder still to pick up the pieces in the aftermath but we do it anyway and silently give thanks or hope that we do not make the same mistakes, but all too often we do.

Our culture in America doesn’t help either. Every time you turn on the TV, listen to the radio, log onto social media, or pick up a magazine we are bombarded with consumerism, as though the pursuit and acquisition of stuff or a particular image will make our lives perfect. There’s a pressure to live above and beyond our means that we as adults find hard to resist. People go into debt each Christmas to buy toys that will end up broken or discarded by March, if not before, just so the kids have a “good” Christmas. Instead of sitting around after Thanksgiving dinner this year enjoying the gift of time with family and friends, there will be people who rush through dinner just to make the sales at those stores who are opening Thursday night or they will cut short the time spent with family or friends to get sleep so they can be up early or camp out in a line for the stores that will open early on Friday morning. In my opinion, there is no deal you can get, no purchase you can make, that will be worth losing one moment of time with the people you love and who love you.

My annual rant is done and maybe I gave someone something to think about. From my family to yours – Happy Thanksgiving everyone and may you realize how blessed you truly are.

Mairead Walpole is the pen name for a somewhat introverted project and contract manager who has 20+ years of business and technical writing under her belt. In her spare time, Mairead writes paranormal romance among other genres. Her first novel, “A Love Out of Time” is available through Second Wind Publishing (www.secondwindpublishing.com) or Amazon.com.

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Thanksgiving Day 2014—J. Conrad Guest

According to Wikipedia, Thanksgiving Day became an official Federal holiday in 1863, when, during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens” to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November.

Photo courtesy of Craig David Butler

Photo courtesy of Craig David Butler

The event that Americans commonly call the “First Thanksgiving” was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in 1621. This feast, which lasted three days, was attended by 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims. The New England colonists were accustomed to regularly celebrating “thanksgivings”—days of prayer thanking God for blessings such as military victory or the end of a drought.

Today, Thanksgiving is considered the harbinger of the broader holiday season, merely the announcement that Christmas and New Years are on their way. The day after Thanksgiving is considered the biggest shopping day of the year. Black Friday and the days leading up to Christmas are used as a measuring stick for how well the economy is doing.

Wikipedia claims the term Black Friday originated in Philadelphia, where it described the heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic that took place on the day after Thanksgiving. Use of the term started before 1961, and began to see broader use outside Philadelphia around 1975. Much later, it took on a financial meaning: that retailers operating at a financial loss (“in the red”) from January through November began turning a profit (“in the black”) on the day after Thanksgiving. For large retail chains like Wal-Mart, whose net income is positive starting from January 1, Black Friday merely boosts their year to date net profits.

On Thanksgiving Day, many gorge themselves on turkey and all the stuffings that go with it, watch football, and perhaps bicker with family members they haven’t seen since last year. How many of us think let alone speak of all for which we should be thankful?

In a world that grows smaller day by day—a world filled with ugliness and violence, hatred and terrorism—in our country, where lies govern politics and politicians govern for their own gain and no longer represent the will of We, the People who elect them to office; where individual rights overshadow the rights of all; where 10% of the population owns 47% of the nation’s wealth, and one percent of that 10% is one hundred times more well off than the next nine percent; where the middle class dwindles as more corporations offshore jobs to increase profits; in a nation that once led the world in many categories and now leads in only three: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending; where mention of God in public is at best politically incorrect, at worst offensive; where holding government accountable for the poor job they do is considered unpatriotic or even racist; in a country where profit is more important than morals, it’s becoming more and more difficult to find reasons to be thankful, even as the rest of the world envies us.

This Thanksgiving Day, I’m humbly thankful for the love a good woman, the roof over our heads, the warmth under it, the food that nourishes us, and for the God who provides it all, who shows grace to us mortals who don’t deserve it, who one day will welcome us for a job well done, for not worshipping materialism, for our generosity in thinking of others, and giving to others even when it was a hardship.

We take none of our earthly possessions with us when we die, so it is my hope and prayer that more Americans come to realize that and so, instead of hoarding, give something to those in need.

Happy Thanksgiving to all who read these words: you have much more for which to be thankful than you perhaps think.

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Sea of Destiny – Part 29 by Dellani Oakes

sea of destiny coverFinally able to get some sleep, Kyle is woken very early by Mindy. She’s excited by the fact that she can see Mexico out the window. The family has a day of sightseeing planned.

  “I used to shower with Mommy all the time. I wanna shower with Daddy!”

“You can shower with me, munchkin,” Cindy offered. This distracted Mindy enough for Kyle to escape.

While he was bathing, Randy walked in the bathroom and sat on the counter.

“I wanna shower with Daddy!” He laughed, his voice cracking.

“Don’t say that around anyone else. Seriously. They’ll think I’m some sort of pervert.”

“Never a word. So, what do you think of that Adam guy?”

“He’s nice. He’s Emily’s godson.”

“Yeah? Cool. He was hitting on Cindy yesterday. I thought he’d shit himself when I told him to lay off.”

“Thanks for handling that. I was about ready to toss him overboard.”

“Like I couldn’t tell? I haven’t lived with you my entire life not to see that murderous frown you get. He seriously thought she was seventeen. I get the feeling that’s gonna happen a lot. She’s filled out some this last year. All my friends think she’s hot.”

“They say that?” Kyle wrapped a towel around his waist and put on shaving gel.

“They say a lot more that I’m not gonna repeat. I about broke Billy Wilder’s nose a week ago.”

“Son, what have we said about self-control?”

“Like you wouldn’t hit a guy who told you that about your sister?”

“I don’t have a sister and I don’t know what he said. Why don’t you tell me?”

“Cause you’d want to fucking kill him.”

“Randall,” he lowered his voice, frowning at his son.

“Kyle,” Randy countered in a surprisingly deep voice. “Look, the point is, you need to have Carmelita talk to her about how she dresses and shit. She’s gonna end up pregnant by the time she’s sixteen otherwise.”

“I hope you kids make better choices than that. She knows better than to fool around at her age.”

“You and Mom knew better. Did that stop you? I’m not stupid, Dad. I can add. You were married in June. Cindy’s birthday is December. It doesn’t take a math genius to figure it out.”

Kyle nicked himself. Cursing, he took toilet paper to staunch the blood.

“We made a mistake.” He shrugged. “No matter what, I loved your mother.”

“Was she a virgin when you two got together?”

Kyle nicked himself again. “I can’t believe I’m having this conversation with my twelve year old son.”

“I’ll be thirteen in two weeks. And I want to know.”

“Yes. Why?”

“So, was she your first too?”

Kyle didn’t look at him right away, concentrating on his shaving. Randy stared at him until he nicked himself again.

“No. Are you happy now?”

“So, when did you lose your virginity?”

“I was older than you by a considerable amount.”

“How much an amount?”

“Why are you asking me this? Sudden curiosity?”

“Because I’ve got your undivided attention. And I want to know. Why does it matter?”

“I made some dumb mistakes in my life, Randy. I grew up too damn fast. I hope that your mom and I provided a better example than I got.”

“Why did your dad leave?”

“I don’t know. I was a kid, a little older than Mindy. One day I woke up and he was gone. My world turned upside down.”

“Did he die?”

“No, son. He left us.”

“Just like that?”

“Yeah. Just like that. Your mom may be gone, sport, but at least you knew she loved you until her last breath. You’ve got memories you can carry of her the rest of your life. I can’t even remember what my father looked like. Mom threw away all the pictures. My grandmother says I favor him, but she’s never showed me pictures either.”

© Dellani Oakes To Buy Dellani’s Books

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My Newest Release in the Slave Bound Series!!!

Happy Sunday!

I would like to share with you my newest release A Lady Unbecoming (Slave Bound Series #2) available now on the Second Wind Publishing website.

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Blurb:

Lydia Parker has never known love or compassion and doesn’t believe she ever will. After the death of her grandmother, she has no other choice but to fend for herself in the dangerous city of Dallas. She becomes two personnas to earn her living Lyod, a young skinny man who visits different peasant establishment to horn her craft of gambling and Wild Cat a seductive vixen and a whore to gain access to the gambling tables of wealthy men.  Lyida becomes the one thing no other woman dares to become, a survivor.

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Lord Nicholas Wentworth, Earl of Townson loves a challenge, especially one that comes in a red mask and little underthings. He loves women and all they have to offer and is determined to sow his oats until the dreaded day he had to take a wife because he is determined to remain faithful and be nothing like his father.

Lies are told, lines are crossed and tempers are lost.

Will one of them finally concedes and lets the other take the lead?

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Excerpt:

Lydia swallowed hard. His lustful look was the first that rendered her speechless. Her quick sharp tongue lay lifeless in her mouth.

Mr. Kingston laughed, “Not even for that sir.”

The Englishman shifted his gaze from her to the man she sat on for a moment before it rested back on her, “Is she your courtesan?”

Mr. Fisher, who sat to his right, snorted a laugh, “You will have no luck from that direction either. We’ve all tried to have our own romp in the sheets with her but Mr. Kingston threatens retaliation if anyone tried.”

The Englishman’s grin deepened. “It is possible what you offer is very low for her talents?”

Mr. Kingston leaned forward, pushing Lydia with him. Her hands fell on the table for support, inches away from the Englishman’s thick forearms. She stared at the few inches that separated their fingers from touching then back to the Englishman’s eyes, and swallowed the large lump in her throat.

How would it feel to touch his pale skin? Are his hands soft? What nonsense are you thinking of Lydia? She shook her head clear. She wasn’t a whore, even though the man’s gaze burned an unfamiliar fire in the pit of her belly.

Simple attraction, lust! She chastised herself as her eyes roamed his thick arms, broad shoulders and a chest she could only presume to be as hard as it was enticing from the little she could see from his parted collar and the two top undone buttons.

Lydia felt her body flush when her eyes travelled up his square jaw and a face that both echoed power and enticement. Her breathe seized when her eyes met his. They darkened with desire Lydia had seen in the eyes of many men. But none were as imposing and alluring as his. He didn’t drool, he had no reason to. His eyes clearly spoke his intentions and Lydia got the impression he’d seduced many women with just that look.

Those deep blue sea eyes….

“Listen Lord whatever your name is, she is mine and only mine. So drop your hunting!”

Mr. Kingston’s threat seemed to amuse the man. He laughed while his eyes slowly moved over Lydia’s visible body. Lydia felt her heart quicken under his consuming gaze. Never had a man made her so uncomfortable.

His eyes lingered on her breasts then rose to meet her own. “I’ll give you triple what he gives you, for the night.”

His voice was firm and direct. He was serious! But the most unbelievable thought, was that she was considering it. Not for the money he promised, but just to see him naked, to feel his hard body against hers.

Lydia sat back away from the table. It wasn’t her nature to let a man control her and she was quickly losing her sense drowning in this man’s eyes.

She was there for business not pleasure.

She smiled then tapped on the table to signal to the dealer to shuffle the cards, “Why not discuss this after we are done playing?”

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Would you like some space to talk?
I’m opening up my blog to anyone who would like to share a post exclusively on writing/publishing including book promos. Or even a story you just happened to remember because you were reading a certain book. Or even your views on a book and what could in your opinion have made it better. I’ll be publishing these posts starting January 2015. I’m not much of a blogger because truthfully I’m a little shy about sharing thoughts that are not about my books.
So ‘talkers’ are welcomed! Just inbox me through my FB page.
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Veteran’s Day by John E. Stack

This year my wife and I decided to go out to eat on Veteran’s day. I had the day off work, so we decided to brave the crowds. We took the kids and headed to a restaurant that we wanted to give another try hoping to beat the crowds. Every restaurant we drove past had a line out the door and the one we stopped at was no different. So, we got out and waited with our three small children.

Veterans and their families stood in line for about an hour to be served a free meal. Ages ranged from early 20s to probably late 80s. In order to get everyone seated and fed in a timely manner the single vets were seated together, most not knowing anyone else at their table. They chatted like old friends with the only commonality being that they served to fight and protect our country.

I didn’t feel out of place, because I too am a vet. I entered the Air Force in the summer of 1974 and I married my bride 5 months later. What we know that many realized later is that being in the military is not just a job, but a demanding position that not only affects the military member but the family also. Every assignment I had my family served with me. Every hardship, they endured also. They too made friends from once strangers, who still touch our lives.

We were blessed that I did not see combat even though I did serve in Korea for a year. I went in at the close of the Vietnam war. It was officially over when I entered, so after basic training I was able to stay stateside. I was trained as an Engineering Technician and learned all about construction. I was taught everything from project development, drafting, surveying, soils analysis, and hands on construction. All was in preparation of having to go in after an airfield attack and rebuilding the structures and runway. I did use my skills but never in a combat situation.

After twenty years, in 1994, I retired and started a new career. But, I can still recall hundreds of men and women that I had the opportunity to sit down and eat with. I didn’t know anything about them at first but we became friends with a common bond.

All of this is to say “Thank You” to all who served and the many who gave their lives for this common bond – America. Also, thank you to those who honor soldiers of past and present with these small tokens of gratitude. God bless.

And, I want to wish my grandson, Aaron, a super, Happy Birthday!

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo, and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.

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Hazel

The leaves are red and green and gold and brown… and mud-colored on the ground. And the sky is blue, or gray. I used to imagine people’s eyes were all natural colors too–not red, of course, but green, gold, brown, blue, and gray… Then there were mine, the ones that didn’t fit in, like a murky muddle of everything rolled into one. I’d write “gray” on one application, “blue-gray” on the next, then on to “gray”; rarely green or brown because somehow that sounded presumptuous in a family where everyone’s eyes were clear and bright as the skies above. When I moved to the States there were so many applications to write my eye-color on; I’m sure one day someone will declare me illegal because I can’t have eyes in two colors at once, but I never know which color I used last time.

Then I had coffee with Sharon, a friend in our local writers’ group. She took one look at my eyes and called them “hazel.”

“But they’re nothing; they’re mud-colored,” said I.

“They’re a bit of everything,” said she, “with flecks of gold” (hey, that sounds cool!), “and hazel can be more green or more brown or more, well, anything…” She liked my eye color! She named it! And the name’s kind of cool.

But will I have to change the eye color of Lydia in my novel now? In Divide by Zero, like me, she couldn’t work out what they were and called them mud. Still, I could always introduce her to her own Sharon in one of the sequels. Meanwhile, I’ll introduce you to Lydia in this excerpt from the book:

It’s time… It’s here… It’s a boy. You’re a mother of three! Lydia struggled to open her eyes and gazed at her baby son’s face. A lifetime seemed to have passed in a flash, while everyone else assured her the world would go on. No way. No way. Warm lips sucked leaking milk and Lydia asked herself, Do all mothers close their eyes when they feed their babies? Somehow eyes, hers, the baby’s, seemed more important than anything else. The baby’s eyes were fastened shut, damp arcs of lashes on his cheeks. She didn’t even know what color they were.

Mother of three? No way. She wouldn’t think about that.

If anyone asked about Lydia’s eye color, she’d refuse to answer. Yucky and mud-colored maybe—not an option on forms—or greenish brownish bluish gray. She could never remember which box she’d checked on driver’s license or passport application. One day someone might collect all her data on computer and decide she was fake, because the answers disagreed.

Occupation: mother of three. Open your eyes. Close them. Feed the child.

Lydia’s oldest son had beautiful blue eyes, like his father’s and grandmother’s. “They’ll change,” they told her when he was born, but they didn’t. Nearly seven now, blue-eyed, red-haired, narrow-faced Jeremy was the image of his Dad, apart from the hair—he even loved the same subjects in school. Daddy’s boy, for sure.

Lydia’s second had deep gray eyes to draw you in and trap you like bottomless pools. His chin was square not pointed, hair dark brown, wide nose, flat cheeks. “You’re not him,” she’d say as she changed his diaper, but it wasn’t Troy she meant. JC was the image, though nobody noticed, of Lydia’s deeply resented grandfather, who passed away before she was pregnant. She didn’t dare believe in reincarnation. “You’re not him. I know you’re not, and I love you little guy.” Then deep gray eyes would gaze up into sky.

This third infant, contentedly sucking her breast, was unique—

but of course, we’re all unique, and so are our eyes, even hazel ones.

Sheila Deeth’s novel, Divide by Zero, has just been released by Second Wind Publishing. Watch out for Infinite Sum, coming soon, Subtraction, still being written, and Imaginary Numbers, almost real…

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In Their Own Good Time by Chuck Thurston

My Aunt Lily — my father’s sister — was a formidable woman. Sturdy and big-boned, like most of my father’s side of the family, she had a crown of thick, snow-white hair — and a discernable mustache. Her loud, brusque manner masked a kind and generous heart. During my mother’s hospital stay, and at-home bed rest following the birth of one of my younger brothers, she moved right into our house and ran the operation with no-nonsense efficiency. And though she fed and otherwise cared for us, she always intimidated my brothers and me.

Our parents were always urging us to “Go give your Aunt Lily a big hug.” We did so with reluctance and hesitation — probably not very subtly — as she wrapped her muscular arms around us and pulled us into her ample bosom. She smelled vaguely of one of the Rawleigh products that she sold as a sideline.

I don’t think this reaction is unusual for many children. Looking up from near-floor level on a towering, unfamiliar figure, perhaps with odd clothes, smells, manners, etc., can be a daunting experience for a small child. It can be made even scarier by mom or dad’s strong insistence that grandpa, grandma, Uncle Billy or an old and treasured family friend be allowed to embrace and kiss you.

And it is understandable from the older person’s standpoint. Surely there are not many things sweeter in the world than a child’s tiny hug or peck on the cheek. Did Aunt Lily also yearn for these expressions from us, and sense our reluctance? Was this painful to her? It would sadden me even after all these years if I knew this was so.

And yet — I’ve concluded that it’s best not to push things very hard and to let children come around on their own. In time, they will reward a sincere and kindly heart.

I passed a young mother in the supermarket aisle one day while grocery shopping. As our carts passed, a toddler in her buggy looked at me, and our eyes met. The child hollered “Paw-Paw! The mother — obviously embarrassed — spoke crossly to the little boy, “That’s not your Paw-Paw!” I felt I had to ease her discomfort a bit, so I smiled at her and said, “They know a grandpa when they see one!”

Indeed they do. I’d be willing to bet that little boy has a somewhat scrawny, mustached, ball-cap wearing grandpa — not unlike me — and they are buddies.

A few years ago, I was trying, with not much success, to convince my youngest granddaughter that I would love to exchange an occasional little hug and to plant a kiss on her cheek. She continuously shied away, so I didn’t push things very hard.

One afternoon as I sat reading in my easy chair, the front of the newspaper was suddenly pulled down and I was looking straight into the solemn face of a four year old. With no preliminaries, she announced, “I like you,” then turned on her heel and walked away. Just like that. I was dumbfounded. What in the world…?

Later, as my son and his family prepared to leave, we were all out in the driveway saying our goodbyes with kisses, hugs and promises to get together again soon. I looked at my granddaughter, unsure how to play this one out, but she solved the problem for me. She walked up to me, put a finger to her cheek and said, “Grandpa, you forgot to plant one there!” I knelt down and happily complied.

In her own good time.

In-Their-Own-Good-Time

“In Their Own Good Time” first appeared in Chuck Thurston’s first collection of his columns, Senior Scribbles Unearthed, 2012. The illustration is by Curt Thurston.

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