Is It Too Much to Ask #VirginiaBeachShooting

Is it too much to ask

That when I washed my face at the sink in my gym

I did not see the CNN news-crawl crawling with the words “another mass shooting.”

Is it too much to ask

That I don’t bear this knowledge alone

That I can tell my husband as soon as I get home, to share the pain, the horror

Is it too much to ask

That I don’t keep silent during dinner

That I don’t refrain from sharing the pain because he doesn’t know yet

I don’t want to be the one to break his heart

Is it too much to ask

That I wake up in the morning not feeling anxious and afraid

And when I do wake up feeling anxious and afraid

It’s only because I had too much wine last night, or had a bad dream that I don’t remember

Is it too much to ask

That I don’t get used to this

this murder-suicide that my country seems so intent on committing

Is it too much to ask

That I don’t feel a need to write these words instead of working on my novel or my essays or my short stories or anything but my grief over another mass shooting

That my grief doesn’t grow with every shooting, every time one person is injured, one person is killed

Is it too much to ask

To not talk about how mass shootings could be prevented if only:

if only that shooter hadn’t been bullied by his fellow students

if only that shooter hadn’t lost his job

if only that shooter had met a “decent” woman who would have sex with him

if only the Tree of Life Synagogue had had better security

if only houses of God were not perceived as sanctuaries

if only the Hot Yoga Tallahassee studio had had metal detectors at the entrance

if only the yogis hadn’t been in child pose and at peace

if only the worshipers at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church hadn’t welcomed the shooter to pray with them

if only they hadn’t had so much faith

if only everyone carried a gun

if only we all lived in constant fear would we be free

Is it too much to ask

to live in a society that values the freedom to go about our daily lives unmolested and unafraid, not worrying about whether today is the day you die because you went

to your yoga practice

to your place of worship

to the movie theater

to a concert

to work

Is it too much to ask

To live without fear

To live without being in a constant state of grief


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Theodore Albers, WW II Veteran #MondayBlogs #MemorialDay2019

I wasn’t born yet when my family moved in next to you.

My older sister got your heart first. You still had dark hair. You often told me how pleased you were when my family moved in. You never had children of your own. You never married. My family came ready-made for you.

Did your heart sing when I was born? Perhaps more than my mother’s heart?

Anyone looking would see how you took possession of me like a blood relative, like a grandfather aching for a child to caress and teach and spoil.

Your hair is now gray at the sides. I don’t remember this photo (I was only a year old) but it doesn’t surprise me to see myself as full in the moment, on your lap, feeling loved.

You wouldn’t miss my birthdays. Somehow it seemed that you enjoyed them more than anyone else, maybe more than me. I felt like everything I did interested you, entertained you. Even simply opening a gift, my self-consciousness starting to show, the one-year-old’s glee giving way to the four-year-old’s apprehension.

You let me be wild and plastic where my own family wanted me quiet and still. I didn’t have to be still around you. I could, as I often did, suspend myself between your refrigerator and chair. I wore dresses but acted like a tomboy, flashing my cotton underwear. I was too young for anyone to think twice.

You let me play-act. I’m a famous movie actress enjoying a drink by your pool. I spent more time in your house, your backyard than in my own.

It seems sometimes I hung on to you for dear life.

And we might have both liked cats … at least I did.

You served your country. You were inducted into the Army on March 9, 1942, a few months before you would have been considered too old to serve. Earlier they had rejected you because of your varicose veins, but then they changed their minds, as the bodies came home or soldiers went missing.

You told me how the other men called you “Pop” because of your age, how you wrote letters for the ones who could not write, protected the vulnerable from the bullies in the camps. You cooked, something you enjoyed anyway, until August 1944, when you were attached to General Patch’s Seventh Army. You never told me how you saw your friend shot in the middle of the forehead while you were both fighting from a foxhole. You never told me how you went into shock, had to be hospitalized, and then was sent back to the Front.

You did tell me you were captured by the Germans.

From a local newspaper: George Albers has been notified by the War Department that his brother, Corp. Theodore Albers has been reported missing since December 23, 1944 in Belgium. The last his family heard from him was December 15, 1944.

You remained missing until Germany surrendered and you were found in a POW camp. You were quiet about your experience, only saying that often you subsisted on only black bread and water and that you had to be deloused before leaving Germany.

As you saw the end of your life growing near, you talked more.

They would only feed us every three or four days. And we had to work in a steel factory. One day I said, “I won’t work if I can’t eat.” Well, that was the wrong thing to say. They wore these long, thick leather gloves and the guard hit me across the face, knocked my glasses off. Then he kicked me where I shouldn’t be kicked and beat me so bad I was in the hospital for, oh … five or six months. I don’t remember where they took me. Just I was gone for five or six months.

You got smaller over the years, and I got taller. The last time I saw you, the last time we hugged, your head rested on my chest.

You died on April 5, 1994, but you still live in my heart.

RIP Theodore Albers, World War II veteran, former Prisoner of War. Thank you for your service, but more than that, thank you for being the best part of my life.




Posted in Memoir | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 32 Comments

More of the Same Publishing News #writingcommunity #ampublished

I don’t think anything warms a writer’s heart as much as seeing her story in print. Two stories, double the warmth. You could triple or even quadruple my warmth by clicking the links provided below and ordering a copy or two which will net me a small commission.

Okay, I’m done marketing.

First up in my double-header: America’s Emerging Literary Fiction Writers!

See here, about halfway down the page, is my story title and my name:

It’s enough to make me dance in my chair.

The short story in in this volume is “Love Me Tender,” about one morning in the life of Irene Newkirk, a middle-aged woman coming to grips with her husband’s mental illness and the weight of caring for her teen-aged daughter as well as keeping up appearances.

I wrote my first draft of this story in 1992, in a fiction workshop with the late Jerome Stern at Florida State University. I remember being surprised at how well it was received and, in particular, Stern’s enthusiasm over how well I could “do cold.” Well, yeah, I can definitely “do cold” after surviving twenty-one New York winters in a two-story house with only a first-floor furnace for heat. They say heat rises, but when you’re on the second floor and it’s double-digits below zero, heat don’t rise high enough.

My second story is in this anthology, America’s Emerging Suspense Writers. The Deep South:

And again, my name and story in print. Swoon.

Even though I do not consider myself a Southerner, even though some don’t even consider Florida as part of the Deep South given its history and demographics, and even though my story takes place in upstate New York, I think it’s kind of cool being in an anthology that marks me as an emerging writer in the Deep South. Well, it’s kind of cool being in any anthology.

“Together Forever,” is a horror story, one involving a different middle-aged woman. Vicky Brooks is a real estate agent in an economically depressed part of New York. She yearns to escape the cold dreariness of her hometown and her husband. She hopes to get that chance with Miss Smith, a potential buyer for a broken-down mansion, except there is something rather odd about Miss Smith.

If either of these stories interests you, then I hope you’ll take a chance on my writing and help me fully emerge. Here again are the links:

America’s Emerging Literary Fiction Writers

America’s Emerging Suspense Writers. The Deep South

Finally, here’s a correction for those of you who still have “Hello Julia” on a loop from last Monday’s post.







Posted in Book Promotion, Fiction, Writing | Tagged , , , | 15 Comments

Musical Monday: Kristen Wiig and James Corben #MondayBlogs #humor

Because sometimes we need to laugh …

Posted in Music | Tagged , , , , , | 14 Comments

Orchids and Publishing News Redux #writingcommunity #ampublished

I have it: America’s Emerging Literary Fiction Writers! It is beyond my vocabulary to describe how I feel at seeing my name in a list of published writers. (And how grateful I am that my last name begins with “B.”) By the way, if you use the link above to purchase or any other volume by Z Publishing, I get a small commission.

The short story in in this volume is “Love Me Tender.” It’s the story of one morning in the life of Irene Newkirk, a middle-aged woman coming to grips with her husband’s mental illness and the weight of caring for her teen-aged daughter as well as keeping up appearances.

If you have no clue what I’m talking writing about, visit my post here: Orchids, Butterflies, and Publishing News #MondayBlogs #amwriting

And just because so many of you enjoyed the orchids from my last post, here they are again. Enjoy!

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Orchids, Butterflies, and Publishing News #MondayBlogs #amwriting

No excuses. Life is busy, and if some of my absence from social media is because I’m living in the moment, well, won’t you join me? In spite of the news (which I only see when I dare to look, which is less often these days), there’s joy to be found.

First up: orchids. About a week ago my husband and I went to Gainesville, Florida, to visit a couple of friends. One of the many fun things we did was go to the Florida Museum of Natural History ( The best part of the museum is the Butterfly Rainforest, a live exhibit of free-flying butterflies and birds, non-flying turtles and fish. And orchids … oh, the orchids.


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The butterflies were very active. One became rather attached to the back of my hand. I was able to transfer him to my husband’s hand. Later we learned that he was likely “drinking” up the minerals in our sweat.

IMG_0867 (1)The museum has its own live web cam giving you a bird’s eye view of the rainforest canopy:

Or you can view my modest attempt at filming the very active butterflies here on YouTube: Butterfly Rainforest

Well, I hope you all enjoy the photos … what, wait! Oh, I almost forgot … heh, heh.

Z Publishing House has accepted TWO of my short stories for their 2019 Emerging Writers Series. Each story will be published in a different anthology in the series. You might recall that I had a short short story published in their 2018 Florida’s Emerging Writers Series (that post is here). I know, when do I stop emerging? A friend suggested I should adopt a pen name like Chris Alys (as in Chrysalis). All I can say is, I’m happy to keep emerging as long as Z Publishing House is happy to publish my stories.

I guess I should tell you a bit about the stories.

“Love Me Tender” is literary fiction, a story of one morning in the life of Irene Newkirk, a middle-aged woman coming to grips with her husband’s mental illness and the weight of caring for her teen-aged daughter as well as keeping up appearances. Stay tuned for the link to the anthology in which this story will be included.

“Together Forever,” is a horror story, one involving a different middle-aged woman. Vicky Brooks is a real estate agent in an economically depressed part of New York. She yearns to escape the cold dreariness of her hometown and her husband. She hopes to get that chance with Miss Smith, a potential buyer for a broken-down mansion, except there is something rather odd about Miss Smith. If you use this link — America’s Emerging Suspense Writers — to purchase this anthology, I’ll get a small commission. If you prefer to use Amazon, you can pick up a copy here: Amazon link

I should also mention that the first draft of “Love Me Tender” was written in 1992 for a fiction workshop. The first draft of “Together Forever” was written in 2006 for an online writing course.

Never let go of your stories, and never ever give up.

Many heartfelt thanks to all of you have supported me over the years. And a big THANK YOU to Kevin Brennan, author and editor at Indie-Scribable Editorial Services for editing my stories and giving me the bump I needed to get published. MWAH!



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A Different Kind of Book Review: 52 Stories in 52 Weeks by Phillip McCollum #bookreview #Mondayblogs

The following is a work of fiction, but the sentiments about Phillip McCollum’s collection of short stories, 52 Stories in 52 Weeks, are factually based. You can skip this different kind of book review and go directly to Fantastic Shorts for more information on how to get your own copy of this collection of great short stories. Or proceed and then you know, you’ll want your own copy. I promise you.


Kate was having a good morning. After two years of living with Michael’s half-sister Misty, they finally had their small condo to themselves. Last night, the three of them christened Misty’s new apartment with a champagne-sized bottle of sparkling apple cider. Kate was proud of Misty. She had been on the fast track to becoming a juvenile alcoholic. Her stint in prison cut that short, but since being released Misty not had taken a sip of anything alcoholic. Instead, she veered to the other extreme and banned alcohol from her apartment. She would not relent even to celebrate her new home. Kate and Michael respected her rules, knowing that a chilled bottle of Chardonnay waited for them in their own home.

This morning, Kate was puttering around, filling in the gaps that Misty had left behind. First she wanted to tidy up her and Michael’s bedroom. She smiled as she smoothed down the comforter and inched around the corner to Michael’s side of the bed.

“Ow!” As usual, Kate was running around barefoot, enjoying the feel of cool tiles on a day that promised to be hot and humid. Her right big toe had just made violent contact with something that felt like a brick. Kate looked down at the offender. It was a book. A big book.

“Are you okay?” Michael had been enjoying his coffee on their little balcony and was by Kate’s side in a matter of seconds.

“Uh, yeah, I just stubbed my toe on this … geeze … it’s the size of those Norton anthologies I had to read in college.” Using both her hands, Kate lifted the book and looked accusingly at Michael. “Must you leave this on the floor?”

“Must you not look where you’re going? It’s right next to the bed stand, Kate, which you’ll notice is already stacked with books, some of which are yours.”

Kate sighed. Michael had put himself on a fast track to get a dual bachelor’s degree in literature and history. Most of the books piled next to the bed were hers but from when she was a college student. Now that she was an adjunct at the community college, she had little time for leisure reading. She gazed longingly at the stack of novels. Then she looked back at the book she was holding. “Is this assigned reading?”

The tome was titled 52 Stories in 52 Weeks. She didn’t recognized the author Phillip McCollum, but the subtitle definitely intrigued her: One writer’s journey in tackling, shackling, and shooting his inner critic.

“No, I wanted to have a break now and then from my assignments. God, I love to read, but sometimes I just want to read and not be analyzing. This is a collection of short stories and the cool thing is I don’t need to analyze anything. I can just enjoy the stories and the author follows each one with a brief explanation of how he wrote the story.”

Kate started flipping through the pages, being careful not to move the bookmark out of its place. “Wow, there’s mind maps in here.”

“Yeah, isn’t that cool–”

“And statistics? What kind of writer is McCollum?”

“Oh, he’s very versatile. I think he has a background in technology which would explain how he put this book together. You know, including statistics such as his word count and a synopsis and then his process summary after the story. Sort of reminds me of how I organized and wrote computer programs when I was in the military. Anyway, I know he has a version of his stories without all this extra information, but I jumped at the chance to get the whole kit and kaboodle.”

Kate gave Michael a sideways glance. He was so adorable when he said things like “kit and kaboodle.” Michael was tall and quite well-built. He had allowed his black hair to grow out so he was no longer seen as a Jarhead, but his physical presence could be intimidating to strangers.

“You haven’t finished it.”

“It’s fifty-two stories, Kate.”

“Are they all in the same genre?”

“Oh, no, and that’s another thing I love about this collection! Look.” Michael took the book from her. “The first story is a “weird western” as he calls it. “And then there’s science fiction, horror, some where fantasy is mixed in with sci fi or horror. You could say there’s something for everyone. He mashes up some genres like with “Lights Out: An MC Ruff and DJ Tumble Adventure.” That’s sci fi, mystery and humor.”

Kate tilted her head and appraised Michael as if seeing him for the first time.

“I didn’t figure you for a guy who would like stories like that. I had you pegged as a classic literature or literary fiction kind of guy.”

Michael smiled and leaned in to kiss Kate. “We’ve been together long enough for you to know that I believe in reading widely and often.”

He looked back down at the book. “To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I would like some of these stories but McCollum is such a good writer, he got me hooked with each one. “Lights Out” was a real eye-opener for me. I felt sure I wouldn’t be that interested in rappers in outer space but, well, you remember the series Firefly?” Kate nodded. “The story reminds me of that series plus he makes it so believable. It is laugh out loud funny too. I’m only a quarter of the way through his collection, but I’ve enjoyed each of his stories that I’ve read so far. I am partial to his westerns, but that’s just my own interest in history. He really brings to life these old western towns, the hard lives people lived back then, the desperate choices they had to make.”

“Do I have to wait until you’ve finished reading all his stories?” Kate leaned against Michael. She wondered if she could coax him into reading one of the stories out loud to her.

“No, just use a different bookmark. Or you can skip around. He gives the word count for each story so you know how much time it might to take read. Of course, you’re a slow reader so any of them might take you awhile–”

Kate slipped her hand under Michael’s t-shirt and scratched at his naked flesh, causing him to recoil.

“Stop!” He managed to protest in-between giggles.

“Be careful. I know all your soft spots. I’ll stop if you promise to read me a story.”

“Okay!” Kate pulled away and gave Michael a minute to compose himself. For a former Marine, he was pretty easy to incapacitate.

“Let’s start at the top, with “Seven Hundred and Seventy-Six.” It has a Twilight Zone quality to it. I know you’ll love it.”

“Sounds good to me!” Kate plumped and stacked the pillows and positioned herself so she was reclined, her legs resting across Michael’s thighs. What an even better morning this was turning out to be.


Just a reminder: You can get more information on ordering 52 Stories in 52 Weeks here. This collection is a true treasure trove of damn good writing.

Posted in Book Review | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

the language of trees.

This is so cool I have to share. For lovers of trees and words.

I didn't have my glasses on....

NYC Parks Are Using a Designer’s ‘Tree Font’ to Plant Secret Messages with Real TreesNew York City Tree Font Alphabet by Katie Holten

Inspired by the nature around her, artist Katie Holten recently developed the New York City Tree Alphabet. Each letter is represented by an illustration of a different type of tree found in NYC. The letter A, for example is depicted as an ash tree, and the letter O is illustrated as an oak.

Holten is one of the first creatives to become an NYC Parks artist-in-residence, where she was asked to explore “the intersection of art, urban ecology, sustainability, nature, and design.” Holten’s resulting NYC Trees font is now available as a free download to anyone who wants to write secret messages in tree code. Not only that, but the NYC Parks Department plans to actually plant some of the messages as real trees in parks and other public spaces.

“Being an artist-in-residence with…

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Essay Published in Babbel Magazine! #BabbelUSA #ampublished

I’m very excited to announce that my essay, “How I finally gave in to my ghost,” has been published by Babbel Magazine in First Person:

My efforts to learn Spanish spans decades, although most of the essay is focused on my experiences in Ecuador.

I hope you enjoy reading my essay as much as I enjoyed writing it. While you’re there (at, read some of the other essays. They’re fun and inspiring.

Never give up … on writing or learning a foreign language.

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Reblog: LOVING JONI by Jan Priddy and My Own Take on Reframing Myself #Mondayblogs #CNF #memoir


I love this essay to the moon and back. I love when someone’s writing sparks me to write, especially when it’s something other than what I intended to write.

Last night my husband and I were talking about my spider phobia. He has taken up macrophotography and is excited about photos he took of a tiny spider on a fiddleneck fern. I glanced at one photo and had to immediately look away, as the sight of the severely magnified monster was like a kick to my gut. And yet … after almost 30 years living in Florida, I no longer panic when I see a Golden Silk spider. In fact, I might just walk up to it, as long as the spider is at eye level and not overhead where it might mistake my frizzy gray hair for another web.

I’ve adapted by getting over some of my phobias and dislikes. I eat foods now that I would never eat as a child. I listen to a wider range of music now, instead of only Bruce Springsteen. But what really struck me in Jan’s essay was being “allowed to be ourselves and for that self to be re-framed throughout a long life.” At 61, I often think I should have myself all figured out by now, be as constant as the sun and the moon, be as predictable as my cat Junior waking me up in the wee hours with his lonely cries. And yet I’m not. I’m constantly shifting, and the shifting drives me crazy.

When I visit my family, I see people who haven’t changed much over the decades. They have deep-rooted lives with children and grandchildren; cousins, aunts, and uncles; friends they’ve known since high school. They haven’t wavered (much) with their politics, the foods they like to eat, and the music they like to listen to. They adhere generally to the same cultural codes they always have. I’m not saying this is bad, as I’ve often envied them the ability to so strongly identify with their own people, place, and time.

Salt of the earth.

I’ve seen or heard shifting around the edges of their long-held beliefs and values as the world around them changes and intrudes. I’ve seen or heard them pushing back against injustice, inequality, discrimination, lawlessness. This is growth, but not necessarily a reframing of their lives, individually or collectively.

Since I was a child, I hadn’t felt I belonged. Any effort I made to believe that I was a member of a tribe, that I felt cohesion with a group, quickly failed. The fact that I had to make an effort belies the truth of my belonging. It’s not that I was treated as a foreigner in my own extended family, but that I felt as one which, of course, was in part because I was treated as one. I was always an oddity.

I remember when I was a kid, I wanted to go on a hike with my cousins. Vague memory as all my memories are, but the gist was this: We had been camping and were going to go for a hike up a hillside. I don’t remember my age, but I don’t think I was yet a teenager. I started off on the hike and then, for some reason I can’t remember, I turned around and went back to camp. I changed my mind. I don’t know if I saw something that scared me. I don’t remember if I thought the hike was too hard. Maybe I wasn’t dressed properly for a hike, didn’t have the right shoes. Maybe I was afraid of being left behind, which is something that seemed to happen often enough for me to be afraid of it happening again.

When I was much younger, perhaps 5 or 6, I went to the Fonda Fair with my family. There was a “Mystery House.” You were supposed to go in one end and come out the other, and it was pitch black with scary sounds and maybe ghosts jumping out at you. I was allowed to go providing I hold onto my brother’s hand. It was pitch black. I couldn’t see anything. People were laughing and I didn’t understand why, what was so funny. This was scary! My hand was let go and I found myself blocked by a wall or maybe a door. I couldn’t see anything but I could hear people. Some teenagers moved past me, laughing. Someone noticed me, remarked that a little girl was there and she was crying. But no one offered to help me through the house. I managed to turn around and exit through the entrance. Whenever I think of this event, I recall feeling humiliated. Not only was I embarrassed, but I sensed my family, my mom, was embarrassed too. People thought it was funny that I came out through the entrance, crying. I don’t remember anyone trying to comfort me. I could be wrong, but I’d like to think that if someone had, I would remember.

Back to the hike: I had a well-founded fear of being left behind, and I believe that even though I wanted to go on the hike, it quickly became evident that I would be left behind. No one of my cousins would be interested in lagging behind with me. If I couldn’t keep up, it was my own fault. So I turned around and went back to the camp and never asked to go on a hike again.

Flash forward 20-some years, and I’m visiting my home and family for a few weeks, after having moved to California a couple of years before. One of my cousins is also visiting and she tells me about a hike that she and some other cousins were planning. I tell her I’d like to go and she promises to call me. In the brief time I had been living in California, I had started hiking. I was broke most of the time so hiking and going for long walks was one way to entertain myself without spending money. I was looking forward to hiking with my cousins, being part of a group that I hadn’t been much part of when I lived home. It didn’t matter where we were going as long I belonged.

My cousin didn’t call. By the time she got back in touch with me, the hike had been and gone, and my cousin confessed that she hadn’t taken me seriously.

“Why would I have said I wanted to go on a hike if I really didn’t want to?”

“Well, you never wanted to go before.”

“That was years ago. I’ve been hiking in California. I like to hike now.”

“Well, I didn’t know.”

Right, she was remembering me as I had been, fixing me in a time I was trying to grow out of.

My struggles with growth, with allowing myself to reframe my self as I journey through life, have their origin in my childhood and adolescence. When my mother would jokingly complain that I was so unpredictable as to be predictable. When I go home and the contrast of how family remember me and how I am now is so stark that even I don’t always recognize myself. That might be one good thing about having lived in one place for almost 30 years, especially as an adult, when growth and reframing can be incremental, at worst a slight tremor. Not like the earthquakes of growth when I was a child and adolescent, when one day I was playing with Barbie and Ken and Midget and Skipper and the next day I was no longer a child and let my dolls rot away in an attic. I’ll say this for my mom: She tried to keep up.

My changeability was a source of frustration for my family. I understand that, but I also understand it’s why I could never “go home” again. Going home would mean going back to whoever I was that my family remembered the most, not who I am now. It’s also why I fantasize about leaving Florida and starting anew somewhere else. I want to grow, to reframe. To do that while nothing around me changes is not just hard. It makes me feel odd, like a foreigner in my own country.

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