Saturday, December 9, 2017

Bigly, Badly Big

The Bigly, the Badly Big, the Few.

We didn't:
                Mix up our facts
to counter attacks,
               Claim sorted details
sordid allusions,
               Stoop to gaslight
even when right,
              Or call out mansplain
to flex our might.

We didn't:             
                Strawman evidence
to get our two cents,
               Gild our grit
to prove we were fit,
               Pimp pride
to improve our own ride,
              Or give in
when first heard
                          was first served.

We kept:
              What tested true
like being kind,
              Trusting time would find,
Karma soon behind,
              Cleaning the mess
we could confess,
             Knowing joyful persistence
a better resistance.

We kept:
              Keeping on
being bigger,
              Working around
to gain common ground,
              Saving all agreed
and disagreed.

We stayed:
                  Sleeping well
through the night,
                  Without losing
our light.

We were:
               Too big,
too bad,
               Too beautifully ugly
to washout,
               In the absurd

Were we,
               too few?
Alone on some big, bad steps in DC.



Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Christmas Romance Teaser

Happy Holidays! Here is a teaser from my story, Peaches for Honey, about one special Christmas in the Marktplatz of Fredericksburg, Texas as featured in Affinity Rainbow Publications' Christmas Medley (Out now in all eBook formats).
Elysia Cisneros was still somewhat shocked, even after nearly twenty years, when her staunchly Catholic father encouraged her lesbian dating life. 
“Elysia Honey, I hardly ever hear of you talk of any romantic potential with much enthusiasm.” He stood with his ranch boots firmly planted in the restaurant’s kitchen, arms crossed, cowboy hat on the counter behind him.
Ely produced a smile for him and gave a small shrug. “I just haven’t found anyone worth that kind of enthusiasm, Dad.” She turned her back to him to finish wrapping up the holiday cakes that Jack and Vanessa had prepped for her to use in welcoming the B&B’s guests next week.
Her dad cleared his throat and harrumphed softly, a nervous habit, and Ely knew she wouldn’t like what he said next. “Are you sure?”
“What do you mean, am I sure?” Her fingers tightened on the plastic wrap.
“I just mean, are you sure that you haven’t dated anyone worth that sort of enthusiasm, or are you just protecting your heart because you can’t forgive Georgia Delaney?”
Ely spun to glare at him, if for no other reason than for speaking the name that should not be mentioned, but he was staring earnestly at the floor with his hat now in hand. 
“I don’t mean to upset you, Honey. I just worry about my only little girl. I want you to be happy.”
“I am happy.” Ely gesticulated at everything around her. “I have all of this. A thriving business that I created with my best friend in my hometown where I’m surrounded by my loving family.” 
He met her eyes, nodded, and smiled. “That’s true, but I wish you the same deep and abiding love your mother and I have as well.”
Ely sighed. “I know you do, Dad, but I don’t think everyone gets that sort of love in a lifetime.” She shrugged. Twenty years ago, with Georgia Delaney, she had believed she would be one of the lucky ones, but now she wasn’t so sure. 
Her father suddenly grinned so widely that his tanned leather face blossomed into a thousand happy lines. “Well, your Abuela feels that you are, and you know how it is when she gets a feeling.”
Ely couldn’t help but laugh, “She is always, always, eerily right somehow.”
“Exactly.” He leaned over and kissed the top of her head. “All I ask is that you keep an open mind, my Honey.” He headed for the back door. “I’ll see you later.”
“I promise I’ll try, Dad. I love you,” she called after him.
He turned toward her before stepping out the door. “I love you, too.”
The door swung shut behind him, leaving the kitchen empty and silent.
Ely took a deep breath and, to get into the holiday spirit, started humming Christmas carols to herself as she worked to finish wrapping and storing the cakes. She wasn’t thinking of anything, just enjoying the certainty of her task and the peace of an empty kitchen after all the administrative hustle and bustle of the week. Then her memories of a love she had once believed was deep and abiding smacked her subconscious silly.
She stopped humming “Deck the Halls” in the middle of the second verse. The smell of baked bread, cinnamon, and candied peaches rising above the holiday cakes in front of her turned cloying. She always avoided that Christmas carol. There was no reason to hum it now. She usually turned off the radio, or walked away from choirs singing it, unwilling to hear it and remember the golden hair and warm kiss of peppermint hot chocolate that had once gone with it. Taking a ragged breath, she tried to sidestep the bittersweet memories, but got lost in them once again anyway. . .

“I’ve always loved this one,” Georgia Delany had said as the radio beside her played a gentle instrumental version of “Deck the Halls.” Her blonde hair was a deep gold in the fading sunlight. They were snuggled up on a fleece blanket, their backs against the wide, bracing trunk of their tree. The old live oak’s limbs were bare and black above them. Stars started to show between the branches in the deeper, velvety blue fingers of twilight spreading overhead.
Elysia was eighteen and her whole world revolved around the beautiful girl beside her. First her best-friend and then, as they discovered together, so much more. They were inseparable.
“I’ve always loved you,” Georgia admitted.
Georgia kissed her, tasting of the peppermint hot chocolate they shared. A feeling of pure joy pierced Ely’s heart. Georgia’s elegant but always lightly calloused hands caressed her face. She leaned into the touch and just the feel of that love seared her vision with a thousand sparkling lights. The falling night brought a chill air that neither of them noticed as they made love beneath their favorite oak on the hill near the old balanced rock site. They had missed Fredericksburg’s tree lighting, but still managed to make it into town to wander the Marktplatz and watch the children harry Santa Claus. 

Ely hadn’t known then, but the sweetness of that day would become even more heavy and golden because it was the last Christmas she would spend loved by Georgia Delaney. Ely’s whole world would turn dark the following Christmas. Cold grief and fear would cleave her heart, as she hid alone, curled up as far under her parent’s Christmas tree as she could get, while everyone else went to town. After the Thanksgiving break of her freshman year at Southern Methodist University, Georgia would never return home to Fredericksburg again.
Ely gave a ragged sigh and shook her head, hoping to clear it of the girl who got away. Or was she herself the girl who got away? It probably didn’t matter, it hurt the same either way, and still so sharply. She rubbed her chest and turned on her heel. Her clogs squeaked against the restaurant’s kitchen floor. She had to pull her step short so she wouldn’t collide with Jack’s sous chef, Vanessa O’Bannon.
Vanessa’s eyebrows drew in to form a vague frown. “What are you still doing here, Ely?”
“Yeah, what are you doing in my kitchen?” Ely’s best-friend, business partner, and executive chef, Jack Waller, boomed from behind Vanessa. He crossed his skinny arms and gave her a mock glare.
Ely wiped her hands on her jeans and gave another long sigh.
“That kind of sigh can only mean one thing,” Jack proclaimed with a smug look born of knowing her too well. “Oh yeah, what’s that?” Ely crossed her arms.
“Either you’re mourning Van’s move again or the untimely death of your dating life.” Despite his baseball hat, a shock of blonde bangs played loose over his forehead, and he gave her a dazzling grin with one blue eye sparking beneath the blonde fringe.
She shook her head and felt a smile overtake her own face. “I will miss Van.”
Jack nodded. “No doubt, but Katy is ready to be a sous chef and we will be fine.”
“I know.” Ely directed her smile at Van. “But I will still miss her.”
Van squeezed her shoulder. “As I will both of you, but Jack is right, tonight is not the time to mourn anything.”
“Exactly. You need to get your ass in gear and go represent our interests with all those lovely, lucrative tourists.” Jack poked one finger in the air and struck a pose she knew was intended to elicit her mirth.
“I know.” And Ely did know that it was important for someone from the Camphouse B&B and the Lavender Restaurant to be seen at these events. She even served on the Chamber of Commerce’s event committees and made sure their businesses were obviously touted as sponsors. Her usual urge to socialize and bask in the communal glow was just uncharacteristically flagging this holiday season.
For one microsecond, a look of concern filled Jack’s features, and then his teasing grin flashed back. “Good.  Now get your fine Latina rear out of that ratty flannel and into something better looking, and get down to the parade.”
“What?  I can’t go like this?”  Ely looked down at the frayed jeans she’d coopted from her older brother and cut to size a decade ago, and the nearly sage instead of olive plaid of her favorite flannel shirt.
Van mimed a look of horror and visibly cringed. “Funny. Ha. No.  I know the odds are small, but there is at least a one-percent chance you might run into some spectacularly beautiful lesbian you would like to seduce.”
“At Fredericksburg’s light parade? Really?” Ely’s skepticism coated her voice in disbelief.
“Hey, you never know,” Van replied.
“And if this miracle does occur, then she’ll be here for all of thirty-six or so hours—which means I can basically ask her if she’d be interested in a five-minute fling,” Ely reasoned.
“Of flaming hot lesbian love,” Jack interjected.
“I don’t see a problem with that approach,” Van added.
Jack pointed one finger in the air. “It has definite possibilities.” Ely shook her head. “Or not, you nut-balls.” “You love us.” Jack chucked her chin.
“I do.”
“And we’re right,” Van sang.
“Go flirt already. You have to make the magic happen,” Jack pushed her toward the door.

Determined to give a joyful evening its best shot, Ely slid on her tightest, black, skinny jeans and a fitted, red, cashmere sweater. She plucked the black cowboy boots with the red and green Christmas cactus embroidered on the sides from her closet. Jack had gifted them to her last
Christmas, claiming, “Kitsch is the next great fashion fad.” They still made her smile. There was a definite upside to being the old fag hag to a sweet shopping Mary.  She slipped them on, the leather still shiny, but supple enough to glide smoothly over her bamboo, reindeer socks.
A pair of dangling, silver-star earrings, and a little frizz-control mousse to soften her dark curls into more enticing ringlets, completed her primping. She surveyed the total effect in the mirror and gave herself a half-shrug and a grin. 
“Not too bad, Ely. Maybe Jack is right and forty is the new thirty.”
She walked up the long pink-granite gravel drive from her cabin, past the rental cottages, and back up to the old limestone millhouse housing the Camphouse Bed and Breakfast’s single rooms, lobby, and office. The smell of cedar was sharp in the crisp cool air, and the winter sun angled low and lit Triebs Creek in flashes of silver and gold. The creek burbled over rocks and wandered on behind the millhouse and the large cedar and limestone barn that Jack had converted into their restaurant, The Lavender. As she walked, Ely felt a surge of pride at all they had accomplished over the last twelve years. When she had first bought the old Triebs Creek mill, eleven miles north of Fredericksburg, it was a gamble whether she could convert it into any place guests would call a haven, and seek it out beyond the township’s borders. The Vista Ranch, next door sold off five-hundred acres that became a professional golf course, and Ely had become more certain guests would appear. Once the course opened, Jack added the five-star dinning, a shuttle service to the lavender farms and vineyards, and on-call masseuses. Suddenly, the Camphouse B&B and Jack’s Lavender Restaurant were in high demand among golfers and the less athletically inclined spouses of avid golfers. Now they were almost always fully booked. 
Ely went around to the backside of the restaurant, pleased to find her Ford F-150 loaded up and ready to go. Jack or Van had already packed the back full of boxes. She was supposed to take the salted-caramel pecan sandies to the booth they shared with the Historical Society in the Christmas Marktplatz. Ely pulled the cover over the boxes and tied it down. She opened the door and found her keys on the seat along with a post-it note. Jack’s handwriting scrawled in purple ink, his favorite color: Bring me fruit cake. He was a massive fan of the Eberle Bakery’s cupcake-sized fruit cakes, probably because they were soaked in Bourbon for six weeks before serving at the Marktplatz.

By the time she made her way to the center of town, the sun was definitely eyeing the horizon. She quickly found an empty vendor-parking spot in the guarded lot behind Fredericksburg’s old, octagonal, Vereins Kirche, or Society Church building. She spared a loving glance to the old white building with its sage-colored shutters and roof. It was a replica, built for the 1936 Texas Centennial celebrations. The original 1847 building had once served the residents of town as an all-in-one church, school, fortress, meeting hall, and polling place.  Now it housed the Vereins Kirche Museum and preserved their town’s history, and it still served as a focal point to many social gatherings. A abundance of bright red and peppermint poinsettias, dappled in Christmas lights, corseted the building. Boughs of juniper and pine, tied together with red velvet bows, graced the top of each window, and plump globs of mistletoe hung suggestively above the doors, giving the building a festive dress for the evening. Ely smiled at it and then hustled out of the truck. She decided to check in with the folks at the booth before hauling more than one armload of boxed cookies into their midst, so she made her way around the growing crowd toward the Marktplatz.
 Children darted in front of her, laughing. A harried mom trailed behind them, offering her
an apologetic smile. Ely smiled back. Smells of cinnamon and roasted nuts wafted towards her.
She found herself humming again, but the song was “We Three Kings” this time.
She found she was finally enjoying herself and then a blonde head, in a French braid, bobbed within the crowd ahead. The languid pattern of the walk was so like the step of Georgia
Delaney that Ely froze in place. Her heart thumped erratically, and she shook her head. It couldn’t be. ..

Check out the book for the rest of the story, and 11 other fabulous tales of merry magic and romance. Cheers!
For more Merry Magic, check out the stories in Affinity Rainbow Publications' Christmas Medley

Monday, December 4, 2017

The Scene that Playing with Matches lost to Hurricane Harvey

The good often comes with the bad and vice versa. My newest novel was published on November 14th and we were flooded out of our house on August 28th. Writing and editing the novel mostly occurred before Hurricane Harvey impacted Houston...but not all of it.
I was traveling for work and fun in the weeks prior to Harvey and trading rewrites with #AffinityRainbowPublications' editors (and my amazing mentor Erin O'Reilly) so I e-mailed myself a scene intending to slip it in before the final edits. Harvey had other plans. I spent my first full night home after those travels putting pets, furniture, important paperwork, and survival rations upstairs instead. Things get lost in such circumstances.
So now we're back in our house, putting our lives back to normal, and I finally found the lost scene. I think it would have added something special to the book, but maybe not. Maybe fate stepped in for a reason. What do you think?

Gus flopped over in bed and picked up the phone on its fifth ring. "Hello."
Her sister's voice rang a little too joyously, "Happy, Happy Birthday, Sissy."
"Thanks, June. What time is is anyway?"
"I'm surprised you even have to ask."
Gus groaned. Of course her sister called to tell her happy birthday at
the same time every year, the exact minute she was born six forty
five in the morning, Eastern Standard Time.
June laughed. "So how goes the dating?"
Gus grumbled and shifted in bed, trying to clear her head enough to
speak with some articulation, but June rushed into the silence, "Oh, I,
uh, oh, I didn't wake you up when you had a guest. Did I?"
That set Gus laughing. "No. No. Fat chance."
"Well, given your tone of defeat young lady, I'd almost rather I had.
So the dating is going that well, huh?"
Gus grumbled, her tongue still thick with sleep and fatigue.
"Well, I know the right woman is out there for you," June said with a
pregnant pause at the end of her sentence.
"But?" Gus prompted.
"But nothing. I didn't say but," June protested, her voice hitting
false echoes of merriness.
"It was implied in your tone."
"So what being a psychologist makes you a mind reader or something."
"Sometimes I can predict behavior before it occurs, yes, but in this
case I think it is being your sister that does it. I can hear you
thinking it almost."
"But," June started and then they both laughed before she could continue,"but maybe you're being too
"I don't want someone who has never had baggage. Just someone mature
enough to have dealt with it already. Someone without any deep, dark
secrets or unsettled regrets or haunting ambitions."
"Hmm." The sceptism was clear in June's murmaration. "Honey, we all
have baggage still even if we dealt with some of it before. Even you
have baggage still."
Gus felt it too, she had to admit, but she couldn't name her own.
Maybe it was something too small to see for herself, so she challenged
June,"Like what?"
"You're scrappy."
"I'm scrappy? How on earth is that baggage?"
June sighed. "It's in everything you do. You were stuck in the middle
in our family and you had to fight for time and attention. You're
small and pert and pretty and you still have to fight to get people to
take you seriously even though you're a doctor. I don't think you can
help it. It's just a chip on your shoulder. You think you have to
fight for almost everything still."
"I don't think I have to fight for my family's love and attention."
"Granted, but you had a few decades to deal with that particular
aspect of your baggage already. What about romantic love? If someone
showed interest in you my dear sister, can you honestly say that you
would take that interest seriously if you didn't have to fight for it
first? Or would you just assume they gave it because they wanted some
thing from you?"
"What do I have that anyone would want?" Gus looked around the tiny
bedroom of her rented apartment. The hundred year old walls flaked
flat paint that probably had lead in it.
"What you have always had in spades, baby girl, lots of truly
compassionate, beautiful empathy. I'm no psychologist, but I'm sure
you feel like it is a limited and tested commodity. I know I do for
Gus shrugged even though June couldn't see her. "Maybe."
"Maybe." June echoed before adding, "I understand why you might guard
your heart, why you'd want someone already beyond their baggage. I
just think that might be a little too much to hold out for and one of
these days I'd really like my call to interrupt some sexy morning
They broke into laughter again, and as June bid her a happy birthday
one more time before hanging up, Gus made a wish closely mirroring her
sister's corny sentiment. Sexy morning gymnastics would be a great birthday present.

I'm a little sad the scene didn't make it in, but the two 5-star reviews the book has since garnered on Amazon make me think all is well that ends well. I feel extremely lucky just to be at home again and blessed that my entire family is safe, even our pet fish. Our neighborhood is rebuilding, and the reason I wrote Playing With Matches in the first place seems more true than ever: continuously challenging our own preconceptions helps us build many resilient and worthwhile relationships, including a lasting love.

Harvey arrives on our doorstep, enters the house an hour after this photo, and we spend 24 hours sheltering upstairs in the dark with the Coast Guard circling.

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