May Wonders Never Cease to Exist

Although I occasionally write poetry, I don’t make a fuss about it because I so rarely do it.  And because I’m never quite sure if I should call it poetry.  My poems don’t rhyme.  They don’t have a recognizable meter or structure (and I don’t even know what I mean by that, either).  They don’t measure up to the poetry of Luanne Castle or Pamela Beckford.  But I write them anyway.

And sometimes I actually submit a poem for publication.  On a lark, as it were.  As I did with this one poem, When I Said Goodbye.  I submitted it to Tipsy Lit, an indie publisher founded by novelist and poet Ericka Clay.  To my happy surprise, Ericka accepted my poem and recently published it in Volume 1 of the Tipsy 10, available free on Wattpad.

Tipsy 10 Vol 1 Cover

If you want to go directly to my poem, here’s the link:  But be sure to read the other poems.  I am honored to have my poem among them.

Top Ten Things Not to do When Taking Family Photos

Are you the family photographer? The one who is always asked to take pictures during a family reunion or wedding or holiday dinner? If you are, then read on for tips on what not to do while taking family photos. If you are not, then read on anyway for all the reasons why you should be glad you are not the family photographer. Enjoy, courtesy of John Howell.

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This list was inspired by looking at a number of photos that have been posted on-line recently.

a camera

Top Ten Things Not to Do When Taking Family Photos

10 If you are taking family photos, do not forget the background. If you do, at best you might have a stray person in the shot. At worst, you may have the perfect family park photo with a lovely backdrop of the trash receptacle.

9 If you are taking family photos, do not ignore what each person has in their hand. If you do, at best you’ll take photos which catch a bunch of red Solos. At worse, you may get a fine shot of everyone with red Solos as well as Uncle Jeff and his smoked turkey leg.

8 If you are taking family photos, do not let anyone pose without a shirt. If you do, at best you have to hope…

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On Not Having Children: Childless, Child-Free or Freak? #MondayBlogs #childless

I am the youngest of my siblings: a brother 3 years older than me, and two sisters, 11 and 13 years older.  I didn’t grow up with babies.  While I’m sure I had the standard baby dolls when I was very little, the only dolls I remember are the ones that had boobs.  The ones that were more or less adult, independent.  They had cousins, like me, but no children.  I wanted to be Marlo Thomas, That Girl, when I grew up.

A couple of weeks ago, I read an essay in the Sunday NY Times on choosing to not have children.  “Childless by Choice” is a rather sad essay by Michelle Huneven about she came to be childless.  She had one stark opportunity for motherhood when she was young and single and broke.  I recognized that part of her story because I too once had an opportunity when I was young and single and broke.  Like Huneven, I passed it up.

And like Huneven, I followed with a “series of time-consuming, life-swallowing love affairs” mixed with a fair amount of drinking (and also, in my case, drugs).  We both grew up in families that were short on love and affection, although Huneven’s family far overshadows mine in terms of dysfunction.  As she put it:  “I didn’t trust myself not to recreate the turbulent family I’d known.” And there our stories begin to diverge.  For me, it was more the fear of recreating the turbulent me that I’d known.

When I was younger, I didn’t like myself much, and I didn’t trust myself.  I had flashes of violent anger that frightened me.  For a long time I was convinced I was mentally ill and just got from one day to the next by a sheer will to live.  So the thought of a mini-me running around was horrifying.  But when people talked to me about having children, I would just joke that I was too selfish. I didn’t want to go shopping for anyone but myself.

I would also joke that God neglected to wind up my biological clock.  I can honestly recall only two episodes in my whole 57 years when I even semi-seriously considered having children.  Once when I was 14 and with my first steady boyfriend and we were both saying we wanted to have our own kids as well as adopt a bunch.  Five minutes after that conversation, I remember thinking to myself how crazy that was.  At the time I didn’t even like kids!

The second time was after I had read an essay by Louise Erdrich in Harper’s (May 1993).  She was writing about women’s work, work that includes having children:  “With each pregnancy, I have been thrown into a joy of the body that is religious, that seizes me so thoroughly that the life of the imagination sometimes seems a spare place.”  Erdrich made it sound so soft and fuzzy and warm, an experience that every woman should have.  And I exclaimed to my husband that perhaps I had made a mistake, for it was too late now.

Several years before that essay, and a year before I married my husband, I had my “tubes tied.”  Tubal ligation to be technical.  I was about 30 when my body started spiraling out of control: every month I was beset by heavy periods, knee-buckling cramps, and painful bloating.  I had been on the Pill for 10 years without incident.  My husband-then-boyfriend wanted me off the Pill, concerned that long-term use might lead to cancer.  But what to do?  Neither of us wanted children, at least not right then.  He seemed more uncertain.  My indifference to children in general and antipathy to being pregnant made my decision easy:  I would be sterilized.  That way, if we broke up, he could still have a family.

So there my story again diverges from Huneven.  She seemed to simply avoid chances to settled down and raise a family “until it was biologically impossible” for her to have children.  She did marry (around age 50) and she has enjoyed sobriety for 27 years, but she had to get to that point–the sobriety and the biological impossibility–before she could think that she would be “somewhat willing to be a parent.”  I took a stand relatively early (31 to be exact).  And aside from my brief infatuation with Erdrich’s rendition of pregnancy and motherhood, I’ve never regretted it.

But I know I belong to a club with very few members.  Roughly 80% of women in the US have a child by age 40.  The remaining 20% no doubt includes women who want to have children but cannot.  An article in the LA Times reports, “The percentage of married women ages 40 to 44 who had no biological children and no other kids in the household, such as adopted children or stepkids, reached 6% in the period from 2006 to 2010.”  It is an increase, but it’s still small enough to make me feel like an overlooked minority.

Whenever I meet someone new, whether at work or a social event, I’m inevitably asked, “Do you have children?”  I inevitably answer, “I have cats.”  And I smile.  Often the questioner smiles along with me, but sometimes she also squirms a bit.  I want to reassure her that I’m childless by choice but quickly realize that would make things more awkward.  I am an uncommon phenomenon.

Even when I lived in San Francisco, after my husband and I married and were joyfully spreading the news, people assumed children were in our future.  When my husband told one of his coworkers that we were not going to have children, the coworker retorted, “What are you going to do? Just sit around and stroke each other’s egos?”  Both of us wondered, what the hell is wrong with that?

And for the past 25+ years of married life, we have been happily stroking each other’s egos, with cats the only demands on our time and resources.  I make no apologies.  But after all these years, I still feel a bit like a freak.  If I had had a biological desire to have children but chose not to say, for environmental reasons (e.g., overpopulation), that would be one thing.  If I had had that desire but was infertile, that would be something else.  But there’s been no desire.  Nada.  Nil.  I can’t claim some lofty rationalization. All I can say is “Meh, the biological clock never got wound up.”

A bit of irony comes with this story:  In early 2001, I was diagnosed with endometrial cancer.  This cancer is precipitated by an overabundance of estrogen, an overabundance usually caused by early menstruation (I was 9 when I had my first period), no completed pregnancy (there we go with the whole not-having-children thing), and obesity (I was not obese, but I was overweight).  Fortunately, it was Stage 1 and resolved through a total abdominal hysterectomy.  I’ve never needed any other treatment, and I’m considered “cancer-free.”  But it was a slap in the face, to be brought down by that kind of cancer, even when I had purposely gone off the Pill to avoid it, and when I had purposely (and literally) cut off any chance of ever getting pregnant.

I’ve gotten over it, though.  It wasn’t long before the happy realization that I no longer had to plan my life around my periods over-rode any Twilight Zone-ques feeling of Karma.  I’ve never identified with my uterus except to resent it’s monthly bloodly and painful intrusions.  Having cancer was scary, but having children for the sake of avoiding cancer would have been stupid.  And, no doubt, if I had, that mini-me would still be likely to be sending her therapy bills to me.

And all is not lost.  As the percentage of women who choose not to have children grows, we might also see an increase in the percentage of people who understand:

It’s a start.




Top Ten Things Not to Do If You Are Going to Disneyland

If you’ve ever gone to Disneyland, this list of things not to do there is for you! If you’ve never gone to Disneyland, this list will validate why you’ve never gone 🙂 Enjoy, courtesy of John W. Howell.

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This list has as inspiration the idea of spring and trips to Disneyland and Disneyworld

a disneyland

Ten Things Not to do if You are Going to Disneyland

10 If you are going to Disneyland, do not tell the kids until you are there. If you do, at best there will be no hiccups, and you  will get there after what seems like an eternity. At worst, your fight has a detour to Fargo North Dakota because of weather, and the snow will melt in ten days. (And the kids will ask every three minutes when you are leaving for Disneyland)

9 If you are going to Disneyland, do not try to navigate the park without a guide-book. If you do, at best a three-day visit will seem like three years of waiting. At worst, you and all the other uninformed visitors will be arriving at the same rides at the same…

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Three Ghosts is now on sale!

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in the best way (whether you’re Irish or not): Indulge yourself with a FREE copy of Katie Sullivan’s latest story, Three Ghost, and while you’re at it, pick up a copy of her novel, Changelings: Into the Mist, on SALE! Then you can go and get yourself a nice Irish coffee to sip while reading 🙂

Katie Sullivan

Cover Art by Casey T. Malone Cover Art by Casey T. Malone

What do you do when the decisions you’ve made come back to haunt you? How do you make them right? Can you, when one wrong move will mean lives lost?

Deirdre O’Brien, an American political-activist living in Dublin, married the wrong man – and had to kill him to save the lives of thousands. Fifteen years later, he’s back from the dead, with a horrific plan to destroy the tenuous peace between Belfast, Dublin and London. To stop him, Dee will throw herself at a seedy underworld, where nothing is what it seems, and trust is a commodity too short in supply.

She only has three days – three days, and three ghosts. She will confront them, or risk becoming one herself.

The Race is On!

I first presented Three Ghosts as a serialized short story here at the blog, but as the story…

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A Different Kind of Book Review: Doll God by Luanne Castle #MondayBlogs #bookreview #poetry


Mary closed the slim volume of poetry and leaned back against the stiff cushions of her couch.  She never was one to read much poetry, except occasionally Emily Dickinson and Shakespeare, whose works had stayed with her all these years since high school.  What was it Dickinson once wrote in a letter?  “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.”  And that was how Mary felt after reading Doll God by Luanne Castle.

Mary gazed at the cover, an antique doll, face down amongst some weedy flowers, as if it had been tossed by a child and then forgotten.  Maggie, her cousin and a former English major, had given Mary the book that afternoon.  “Take your time with these poems,” she had cautioned.  “Some of them make you feel like you’re falling. There’s a sadness in them, but like a forlorn kind of sadness.  Like missing the childhood you can never get back, or that you never had.”

“Gee, thanks, Maggie.”  Mary had watched her cousin let herself out of the house, a knowing smile on her face.  And then a wink just before the door closed.  It was a dreary day, gray and wet and cold.  The perfect day for a pot of hot tea, a woolen lap blanket, and a book.  Not necessarily poetry, Mary had thought, but she picked up Doll God anyway.  The wonderful thing about poetry collections was that you could just pick up and start reading wherever you wanted, unlike a novel where you tended to start at the first page, not in the middle.  So Mary opened the book at a random page and began to read.

Now the room was dark except for the reading lamp.  Mary hadn’t even moved to close the drapes and she sat staring at her reflection in the picture window.

Of all the poems she had to read first: “Calculating Loss.”  It had given her chills at the realization, the recognition of the presence of loss.  A missing chair.  One less car in the garage.  A half-empty jar of pebbles that, to the poet, seemed overflowing.  Things missing should imply a vacuum, empty space.  But Mary thought about those first few horrible months after Christopher was killed.  How long it took her to remove his clothes from their walk-in closet.  And how she couldn’t bring herself to hang anything there for she felt there was no room.  The closet was full with her loss.

And then “Marriage Doll” and that exquisite image of the Hakate marriage doll with it’s hand upraised but empty, juxtaposed to a husband, flesh-and-bone, in the same pose but not empty-handed.  Marriage Doll: 1 of 2, the poet wrote.

And so many other poems that evoked feelings in Mary that she couldn’t quite articulate.  She didn’t feel sad after reading Doll God, but she felt changed somehow.  Like someone pointing out the homeless guy huddled in a doorway on a dark, cold, rainy night, and then telling her a story of the man’s childhood (“Vagrant”).  Like reading notes from someone’s diary about a day in October in the southwest and the shift in the habits of both wild and domestic creatures (“Sonoran October”).  She is changed.  She knows something, feels something new.  The words are in the poetry so she really doesn’t need to find her own.

From “Repetition”:

Daylight burns brighter, scrape

deteriorates into amputation until day

is here and there is no yesterday.

From “Calculating Loss”:

Every day the world subtracts from itself and nothing

is immune.

From “American Girl”:

I am the wait.

By the time Mary finished reading the poems, she did feel as if the top of her head had been taken off.  But, as if she were in a Frida Kahlo painting, she also felt images and words tumble from the half-empty but overflowing cup that was once her head.  She gazed at her reflection in the black glass of the picture window and saw dolls and children and feral cats staring back at her.  She felt cold and knew that no fire or freshly brewed pot of tea would warm her.  She had just read poetry.


And now, dear Reader, if you would like to have that Dickinsonian experience of reading poetry, do go now and purchase a copy of Luanne Castle’s poetry collection, Doll God.  And, while you’re at it, visit her blog at Writer Site where Luanne writes about poetry but also about memoir.  She is writing her own memoir, which I can’t wait to read once it’s published, and her blog often features book reviews and guest bloggers.  It’s never half-empty, but always overflowing. She also has a beautiful website to showcase her writing:

I know you will enjoy her works as much as I do.

Reblog: Top Ten Things Not to do If You have Spring Fever #MondayBlogs

Has Spring Fever finally come to your neck of the world? If yes, well hopefully you’re not already guilty of any of the mishaps on Monday’s list from John Howell. If not, then here’s a list to help you plan ahead 🙂

Fiction Favorites

Okay for the most of the United States I’m rushing this list a bit. I have always thought of spring as a matter of the mind and not necessarily how the weather is behaving (or not as the case may be). Spring here in South Texas has definitely arrived. I can tell because when I walk on the beach I’m almost run over by big ole pickups filled with overserved youngsters all yelling “woo woo” at the top of their lungs. Last year one even said to me “Hi old man.” She said it in a kindly manner so I didn’t take offense cause after all I am an old man. So on to the top ten things not to do if you have spring fever.

a spring feveruntitled

Ten Things not to do If You Have Spring Fever

10 If you have spring fever, do not fall in love with everyone you…

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Reblog: Hope

I can think of no one who inspires me more to embrace life, to find joy when I’m at my lowest, to know that when I can’t change the circumstance, I can still change my perspective. Through her example, she has taught me that even though I’ve gone through some rough times, I’ve gained more than I lost, and I wouldn’t change a thing. Read her post and see why she inspires so and notice how in both of her photos, she is absolutely gorgeous.

Small Talk Book Blitz Giveaway 3/10 – 4/12: Courtesy of ebook Review Gal

Susan Barton at eBook Review Gal is holding a giveaway to promote Robert Germaux’s novel Small Talk.

Here is a description of Small Talk from Amazon:

“A serial killer has the people of Pittsburgh on edge, and Detective Daniel Hayes and his hand-picked Special Assignment Squad are working feverishly to solve the case before more innocent lives are lost. But the killer proves to be a formidable foe, whose viciousness appears to be matched only by his ability to elude capture. Throughout “Small Talk,” the reader is given glimpses into the mind of this cunning and sadistic murderer, an individual who seeks a face-to-face confrontation with his pursuers, a confrontation Daniel is only too willing to provide.”

If you love entering giveaways and/or you love crime fiction, then this giveaway may just be for you.  To enter, click a Rafflecopter giveaway and enjoy.

To Read Helena Is to Love Helena #Mondayblogs

I first “met” Helena Hann-Basquiat through her guest post on Katie Sullivan’s blog, where she had a hilarious dialogue with a 1300-year-old Druid.  I was stunned by her dry humor which had a thread of worldweariness sewn through it.  That’s depth, my dear Reader.  From there I went to her blog, fell in love, made a few comments, and then was given the honor to read and comment on her then-current work in progress, Three Cigarettes.  Helena has published as Jessica B. Bell, a writer that would scare the pants off Stephen King, as well as one volume of her memoirs (check out my review here) as well as a long list of shorter works.  Helena is the epitome of prolific.

But Helena is a persona, a fictional character.  The genius behind Helena is a Canadian fellow named Ken.  Ken recently “came out” via the Sisterwives blog and revealed himself.  Or as much as he was comfortable sharing.  I still don’t know what his resting heart rate is or if he is lactose-intolerant.  Whether I should know, have a right to know, is a subject of infinite interest.  Indeed, how much can we readers expect authors to share about themselves?  If  you want some answers to that question, check out Ken’s discussion with Katie Cross:  A Question of Entitlement: What Do Authors Owe Readers?

Being that I am a writer too, I would argue that the reader has no entitlement to an author’s actual identity.  Unless that author actually reaches out to the reader, as Ken did with me.  I was given a choice.  I could have continued with Helena firmly ensconed in my mind as a large-breasted, drop-dead gorgeous woman who had lived through a world of hurt and learned to laugh it off.  And who also had a nurturing quality (evidenced by her relationship with her niece Penny) that had been missing in my life while I was growing up.  So it was very tempting to leave things be.  But I am nothing if not curious so I chose to know.

The only thing that really changed when I found out that she was a he was my respect for and awe of Ken’s work shot up about 1000 percent.  And then everything fell into place.  Of course, he chose a woman to be his persona.  Who better to tell stories of great pain and great joy and all that is in-between but a large-breasted, drop-dead gorgeous woman who had lived through a world of hurt and learned to laugh it off.  Helena was/is the perfect persona.  She embodies all that is wonderful about Ken and she gives him a safe place through which to tell sad and painful stories as well as tales of joy and humor.

Now, without further adieu, enjoy the following excerpt from Volume 2 of Memoirs of a Dilettante.  Then go and order the book through Pubslush.

The Disappearance of Amy LeFevre

I didn’t know Amy LeFevre – not really – but I’d seen her around town, riding her bike in her short shorts and Doc Martens, bruises up and down her legs like tattoos fading in the sun. If you really pressed her about the bruises (and so few ever bothered – – I only asked her once out of polite concern) she’d offer self-deprecatory excuses of clumsiness or claim she was anemic.

She wore those Docs so proudly; she’d had to go to the city to get them, and they seemed to be her declaration that she’d gotten out once, and she would get out again. They had steel toes and Amy had gotten in trouble on more than one occasion for using them against boys who just wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Amy had recently shaved her head, and the oh-so-clever boys in school and around the small-minded small town of Arcadia had taken to changing the words to that old Queen song to sing at her “I want to ride my bi-sexual, I want to ride my dyke!”[1] Amy was not a lesbian, not that it mattered to anyone. Closet homosexuality was not the secret that Amy kept, so their taunts didn’t bother her.

Amy’s father ran the hardware store in Arcadia, just as his father had before him, and he was a small, broken man with a broken marriage and a small house living in a small, broken town, and he was absolutely terrified of two small words: Home Depot.

By day he was congenial, and his customers all loved him and wished him well, and would join in his armchair economics lectures that he would launch into whenever the topic of the big box chains came up, which was nearly always. During business hours it was merely sympathizing and small town solidarity, and the conversations would always just be polite agreement that the winds are changing or some other homily. After hours, Amy’s dad would park himself at the bar, and after a couple of drinks, launch into accusations at fellow townsfolk who he knew, he just knew were doing their shopping at the Home Depot just outside of town and taking food right out of my mouth, goddammit!

This is the man that Amy had to deal with every night, and if Amy wore her shorts so short, well, maybe it was so that her father would have to constantly see the bruises, and maybe, just maybe he’d be ashamed and leave her alone. Or maybe she hoped that the townsfolk would put two and two together and say something, do something – but her cry for help went unanswered, even, I’m ashamed to say, by me. Maybe the reason why she shaved her head was so her father couldn’t grab her hair when she tried to scramble away from him when he came into her room at night stinking of Johnny Walker and the sickly sweet tobacco of those cheap cigars he liked to smoke.

One day, Amy just disappeared.

By the time they discovered her father’s body at the bottom of his basement stairs, Amy was long gone.

They found her bike at the Amtrak station in the next town ten miles away.

They never found Amy.

[1] It’s actually “I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike.”


If you want to read more, BECOME A FAN at PUBSLUSH and pre-order Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume Two and Penelope, Countess of Arcadia

Available now!  image06 JESSICA image07

The one, the only Helena Hann-Basquiat, everyone's favorite dilettanteThe enigmatic Helena Hann-Basquiat dabbles in whatever she can get her hands into just to say that she has.

Some people attribute the invention of the Ampersand to her, but she has never made that claim herself.

Last year, she published Memoirs of a Dilettante Volume One, and is about to release Volume Two, along with a Shakespearean style tragi-comedy, entitled Penelope, Countess of Arcadia.

Helena writes strange, dark fiction under the name Jessica B. Bell. VISCERA, a collection of strange tales, will be published by Sirens Call Publications later this year. Find more of her writing at or and Connect with her via Twitter @HHBasquiat, and keep up with her ever growing body of work at GOODREADS, or visit her AMAZON PAGE

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