Atlantic City #AtoZChallenge

DISCLAIMER: In this A to Z Challenge, some of the stories are true. All are fiction.

AWell, they blew up the chicken man in Philly last night And they blew up his house, too. Down on the boardwalk they’re ready for a fight Gonna see what them racket boys can do. Now there’s trouble busin’ in from outta state And the d.a. can’t get no relief.Gonna be a rumble on the promenade And the gamblin’ commissioner’s hangin’ on by the skin of his teeth.

– Bruce Springsteen, 1982

I love songs written in minor keys with great lyrics the way I do a well-written book or poem. There are precious few great song writers. The first moment I heard Bruce Springsteen sing “Atlantic City” , I knew I had discovered another to join the ranks of my favorite song spinners.

I saw a story explode inside my imagination the first time I heard this song. I have no idea who this “chicken man” was or what he did to have his house blown up. It didn’t matter. Masterful words executed to minor chords illustrated a world I had never seen before, and made it real to me. I felt that invisible line of winners and losers, and that fear that I would forever be caught on the wrong side of that line. This was a song I could use to stir soul into the characters I would later create in my own writing.



A was a plentiful letter for this particular theme. I choose Atlantic City because of that dark underbelly of society that it so well highlights. All those compromises so many are forced to make in order to simply survive.

Now I’ve been looking for a job but it’s hard to find
Down here it’s just winners and losers and don’t get caught on the wrong side of that line
Well I’m tired of coming out on this losing end
So honey last night I met this guy and I’m gonna do a little favor for him

While the specific story of the song did not much come into play, the mood it conveyed and the above verse inspired the character of Quinn Mandoras in my upcoming book, Idylls & Grimoires. Here is a little snippet, probably the only one I will offer prior to contract signed in blood and splattered about the publisher so enjoy it. Or not.

DISCLAIMER:  This is an early edit so yeah, it won’t be the same when you fish this off the discount rack in Walmart a few years from now.


Day 19 of the Cleansing Rain

Outside the Gates, Pig’s Spit

1 Hour Later

Plagues were nothing new in Pig’s Spit. Quinn Mandoras much preferred the endless days of rain to the boils and blood sickness of last summer or the frogs the year before that or those swarming flesh-eating locusts ten years back. Quinn shuddered at the memory. He crept back toward the road, being cautious as to not attract any attention as he watched guards escort the strange archivist up toward Phaedra’s Spire.

Quinn supposed that was the last he would see of Husk Grayvesone. He sighed at the man’s ill-fortune. He checked to see the book and card were secure in his jacket. He considered for a moment selling the card in King Springs, a right fortune he could get for it. So many thought these cards magical. Quinn did not believe in the cards and he did not believe this book tucked in his jacket was an Idyll. Still, Liam could have a full deck, a worthy deck that might get him out of Pig’s Spit.

Old Sawyers Tuch claimed Dalmeade Archivists to be supreme tricksters much like the Bone Masters who appeared in unlikely spots with their unpleasant prophecies, a spot of misfortune mixed with a few drops of blood for a card that might bring riches. Sawyers Tuch understood nothing.

Quinn wondered if the archivist truly knew his older brother? Cyril had made a trade once with a Bone Master, blood for a card. Screams echoed from years past and for a second, Quinn considered throwing both book and card in the mud. There would be a price for this. Still, his family near starved for the taxes and extortion Quinn suffered. There would be no honest living for him. Husk only wanted Quinn to go to a place he already must go. That seemed worth it, worth being able to improve his family’s lot.

Idylls & Grimoires was a splendid game to be sure. Quinn’s son would be thrilled by the new card, and if Quinn could get this strange book to the tavern, his son would enjoy a tournament worthy deck. That would make the errand worth it.

Liam was a clever boy. With the right deck, played at the right place, who knows how Liam might improve his fortunes? Quinn missed his son’s smile, and this might bring it back. The boy had been so melancholy this last year, ever since those damn boils left his son’s face disfigured.

Quinn shuffled his way into the crowds fleeing Pig’s Spit, blending in with their misery, keeping his head down. He wondered if he could find some little prize for his daughter. Cyd never required anything more than a good story and a kiss on her little forehead to make her smile, but she was so little, her innocence still well intact.

Quinn decided as a prize for his precious daughter, he would spend time at her bedside tonight and tell her the tale of The Toad and the Cowardly Knight. Cyd loved that tale and the way he did the different voices for her, croaking like a toad, speaking like a princess, putting on the accent of a well-born knight. How it made her giggle, and that was one of his favorite sounds in all of the world.

Quinn found himself up to his ankles in gathering pools of water and mud at the point where the little road converged into two paths, one spiraling in shining cobblestone toward the Royal Gateway into King’s Spring proper, and the other an unpaved path too steep and narrow for wagons or horses. Quinn began his climb toward hearth and home. How he cursed this steep incline so often after a long day’s work, but today, perhaps it would spare his family if the rain persisted and the flood waters continued to rise. Thunder rolled and boomed, and Quinn thought, yes, one of those hundred year floods was coming, and so he climbed.

A to Z Challenge Reveal #AtoZChallenge

thmrevelLast year, I had a blast doing the A to Z blogging challenge. My theme last year was beer. I had a beer for every letter and wrote a short story around it.

This year my theme will be music. Each day I will feature a song beginning with the appropriate letter and write a little short story inspired by the song.

Music has always been a big driver of mine, and great songwriters are also great story tellers and great poets. I made this argument with my high school English teacher thirty years ago. She disagreed. Too bad she passed away before Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize in literature, huh? So I hope all of you participating have as much fun as I do.

There Goes My Life

IMG_0601I remember my daughter’s first steps, her first words, the first book she read all by herself, her first day of school, the first movie she loved, her first crush, her first heart break, the day my best friend and I dropped her off at college, all of it a tapestry of memories, forever playing notes in my soul. One of those country songs waiting to happen.

Atlantis 011I no longer recall the pain that came with the struggles of raising a daughter on my own, the exhaustion, the stress of trying to provide a good life for the two of us. I know at times it was very hard, but from the moment I held my daughter the first time, all regret was gone. Even though, I had no business having a child when I did, a child I knew I would have to raise on my own.

My story is not that unusual. Wendell Mobley and Neil Thurber wrote about my life for Kenny Chesney to sing about way back in 2003 when Kate was only ten years old. It told the story of young man getting his girlfriend pregnant, giving up his dreams, and staying to raise a child and finding love and delight in his decision.

That was not quite my story.  There was no young man in my life. It was just me, immature, unsure of what I wanted, not settled, dead broke, and pregnant before my life even began. So I saw myself in that song, but only as far as the second verse. Yeah, I loved my little girl and there was nothing I would trade her for. Then the years rolled by.

KateandStuff 028My daughter went to the University of Georgia for college, just down the road a spell from where I lived. She had been accepted at schools as far away as California, but decided to stay close for a short while longer. And so I thought she would remain tied to the South, to home.

After all, I had dreams too that fell away over the years, dreams of living in the UK, living as a gypsy traversing the world with nothing but a backpack and pen and paper for writing. Perhaps, I was not so brave as my daughter. Perhaps, that mistake I thought I made simply spawned new dreams.

Friday morning, March 10, 2017, my life got up before dawn and drove away. My daughter, Kate, moved to Brooklyn, New York. To stay. This is how things are meant to be. I know that. I am so proud of my little girl. Still, who knew things would go so fast? The lyrics of that old song changed to strip my life bare and left me bleeding. There goes my life.

AutumnSkyAll she could think about was I’m too young for this. Got my whole life ahead. Hell I’m just a kid myself. How’m I gonna raise one?

All she could see were her dreams goin’ up in smoke. So much for ditchin’ this town and hangin’ out on the coast. Oh well, those plans are long gone.

And she said, There goes my life. There goes my future, my everything. Might as well kiss it all good-bye. There goes my life…….

IMG_0600A couple years of up all night and a few thousand diapers later. That mistake she thought she made covers up the refrigerator. Oh yeah……….she loves that little girl.

IMG_0598Momma’s waiting to tuck her in, As she fumbles up those stairs. She smiles back at her dragging that teddy bear. Sleep tight, big eyes and bouncin’ curls.

She smiles….. There goes my life. There goes my future, my everything. I love you, mommy good-night. There goes my life.


img_0381She had that Honda loaded down. With Abercrombie clothes and 15 pairs of shoes and her American Express. She checked the oil and slammed the hood, said you’re good to go. She hugged her tight and headed up the East Coast.

And she cried, There goes my life. There goes my future, my everything. I love you. Baby good-bye.


IMG_0589There goes my life. There goes my life.

Baby good-bye.

Clothing Optional

Say you live to be 80 years old. That is a good, long life. A bit better than average. That’s 28,160 days dancing on this earth.

That is a fine number but a decidedly finite one. How does the song go?

It’s only forever, not long at all…

Most days for most of us are unremarkable. We are such creatures of routine. So days, minutes, hours are meaningless in and of itself. Time spinning through an hour glass we are hopeless to stopper.

Life really comes down to those moments that distinguish themselves from the others in ecstasy or agony.

So here I sit sipping a Manhattan with my daughter and her customary glass of wine with this view at sunset. My daughter and I traveled to Asheville, NC to visit the Grove Park Inn and Spa. It is a mother and daughter retreat we had planned for sometime. When we planned it, Kate’s plan to move to New York had been tentative. Now, in less than two weeks time, she will be gone. How often life changes on a moment.

I will remember these two days with a mixture of awe and pain. I had never been to a spa, would tell you I am not a spa person. But I am a mother, and a spa seemed a grown up mother and daughter trip, a way for two women to share some time on equal ground. There was not time or resources for longer travel so we drove here to take a single day away from the chaos. Kate has so much to do before she drives up to her new apartment in Brooklyn, New York. And then who knows?

My brother and parents, and most everyone in my life, says she will come home one day, not to worry. No one really leaves the South. Yes, that seems true for most that I have known. However, I feel deep in my gut, a painful recognition, that this will not be the case with Kate.

My daughter may visit as she can, but she is never coming home again. In her heart, she has always been a New Yorker. Her father was from New York, and while I divorced him very early in Kate’s life, his family adored Kate and she spent many vacations in New York City. Every time she would come home, she would tell me someday she would live there, even when she was a tiny girl. So my emotions split between joy and loss during the two days in Asheville.

My daughter and I are as different as fire and rain and as alike as ice and water. The spa was enchanting place, far exceeding my expectations and far less awkward than I feared. We spent the day in pools, swimming laps, enjoying hot tubs, sitting in a steaming pool, sipping wine, and ending with long stone massages. We chatted quietly, but as usual as of late,  Kate’s attention was elsewhere most of the time.

When my daughter was little and new, she clung to me so fiercely, wanted to share everything with me, wanted to be included in everything. My mother used to fuss at me because Kate was so attached to me. I was told I would spoil the child into uselessness. My mother can rest easy now. Kate no longer clings to me at all.

At the beginning of our spa day, we were given a tour of the spa. We came to the woman’s whirlpool and sauna. The tour guide told us this area was clothing optional. I cringed with my own modesty. My daughter chose the optional bit.

I could not imagine being so bold. Kate has a confidence and courage I wish I could claim for myself. She is also young, brash, fiercely opinionated, and impulsive. That can and probably will get her in trouble or at least introduce her to some humility now and again. It is the way of things. She’s an adult, and she will have to learn like the rest of us do. My part is over now.

Time to let go. When clothing is optional, I have no say in what choice Kate makes. Life is now hers for the taking and the living.

An Ancient Tome

I wrote a paper on JRR Tolkien for an independent study while in school in London, this thirty years ago. Time is beating the crap out of me, no doubt. So I wanted to travel to Oxford to have look at a few original sources kept in the University libraries.  I am big on original sources. 

One of my professors proudly supplied me with a pass. However, I did not realize there were limitations to the pass. Much to the horror of the librarians, I was drawn to a restricted section full of ancient tomes. Most were locked behind glass. That should have been a hint. 

There was, among those moldy old books, one left unintended written in a script and language I could not decipher. On impulse, I picked it up thus earning my lifetime banishment from that library. 

It was totally worth it, despite the possible apocalyptic horror it might have unleashed. Oopsie. 

In the  moment I touched that book, I felt a surge of energy pulse through me. Possibly  brought on by the horror of the ruddy security guard sputtering at me, but I rather believe that electrified pulse came from the book itself, the book wanting to impart its contents to someone, anyone. Or possibly it unleashed the apocalypse, given current events. 

All books are magic. I have no clue what was in the book I came across, be it spells of a lost power or possibly a transcription of some church records. I never could find out. My escort, the one that unceremoniously threw me out of the library into the rain, only lectured me on how rude Americans could be and would hear no excuses from me. 

I only had my imagination to go by. I think the script was Gaelic of some kind. It possibly came from a monastary but I don’t even know how old the book might have been. I did not have enough time to examine the vellum. Might it have been crafted of human skin? There was a time… but such parchment would not hold ink for so long. Well, unless there was some evil enchantment at work. Definitely a possibility. 

Yes, all books are magic and so, some are quite dangerous. Magic and truth in equal measure all in black and white. Most people avoid both of these more vehemently than they do root canal. 

My imagination crafted that old restricted book into a grimoire, a spell book for the darkest of sorcerers. And so filled my nights with horrors for years after, some demon force chasing me across time and space. 

Now, I seek a way to defeat the dark magic unleashed on me by that ancient tome, to tame or banish the demons that rose with its powers. Sadly, books of miracles, are so rare. Well, I never could find one equal to the demons that haunt me so I decided I would write one, an Idyll. I am running out of time. I can’t hold off those demons  much longer. They are consuming me so back to it.

 I do apologize if my jaunt into the restricted section of the library ultimately leads to a zombie apocalypse should I fail at my writing. Awkward. 

Living an Alternative Reality

So this happened. The Chicago Cubs won the World Series. Donald Trump of The Apprentice is president of the United States (a joke made on The Simpsons in 1997- not even kidding), and The Atlanta Falcons are headed to the Super Bowl. 

This is not normal. Being from Georgia, I am thrilled about the Falcons. Just amazed, startled. Like everything that has happened in the last 12 or so months, this is simply not the expected result. All that has happened is not necessarily bad, just odd. Reality has crashed into the bizarre. 

Disturbedly, my current book, a fantasy full of magic and all sorts of mystical creatures is far less odd than the real world. It makes me worry for my genre. 

At this point, if dragons suddenly emerged and took over the world, it might be less insane than the current goings on in the world. And that would quite spoil my book sales. 

Frankie, my pug, also quite magical, tells me to relax. Probably, Frankie says, I am simply in purgatory and to move on to something more wondrous, I must keep writing. So that’s the plan. For now.

If I manage to finish this book, find an agent, and publish this year despite having to reside in bizarro world, then I will know I have moved on. So back at it. 

2016’s Last Gasp

The world has changed. In the inestimable words of W.B. Yeats, “A Terrible Beauty is Born” 
Midnight is almost upon us and I have nearly survived. For those who are promoted to the New Year, hang on tight. It’s going to be a wild and bumpy road. 

Our possibilities are infinite and as encouraging as they are horrifying. Let’s make 2017 count. Hello World.  Happy New Year.