Writer’s Hedge



The following is a flash fiction story based on a prompt at a writers group meeting Saturday a week ago. The prompts were randomly generated around the table, each of us adding a word and then passing it along to the next writer. My list contained bra, airplane, hedgehog, author book signing, garbage disposal, Scotland.  I liked the idea of a hedge to The Question.

I have polished it a good bit, but it was very much fun to write a whole short story in 20 minutes from scratch. I’ll try this again some time. I wonder if it makes a difference to be in the presence of other writers?

Writer’s Hedge

Maxine adjusted her bra strap again. It cut into her sore shoulder, keeping her from relaxing into a nap on the airplane. Only a short trip from Dublin to Glasgow, but she needed to rest before the author book signing. Her hand was already sore from the Dublin signing, thank goodness for all her fans. That she could manage with a bit of tiger balm and an aspirin, but she’d wrenched her shoulder stuffing the remains of the hedgehog down the garbage disposal.

How the nasty animal had gotten into her hotel room, she had no idea, but it had frightened her so much that she smacked it with a frying pan, leaving a bloody mess on the tile floor. She couldn’t leave that for the cleaning crew, so she chopped it up as well as she could with the limited cutlery available and used the broom to push it down the sink.

Such a smell! She thought she would never get the blood off the floor. Thank goodness it wasn’t on the carpet. She could still hear the grinding noise…it was a wonder no one had come to check on her then. She’d plunged the broomstick at the sink over and over, and the grinding would endarken her nights for weeks. She grimaced to think of the sweet old lady persona she would present to her fans in Scotland.

She rolled her shoulder again, wincing in pain, and disturbing the woman next to her, trying to read. The woman gave her a cold glance, then stared back at her book.

Maxine wondered if human parts would fit down the disposal. No, it would take too long for her perpetrator to chop them up.  A bigger disposal might work, maybe one from some industrial kitchen, or slaughter house. She’d have to research it.

She rubbed her hand, working out the soreness, and it began to seep a bit of blood. She must have scratched herself in the confusion.  The motor of the plane grew louder, reminding her of the grinding, grinding, grinding. She’d use that in her next novel, wherever it took place. She wiped the blood with her thumb.

“You’re bleeding,” said the woman next to her. She handed over a napkin.

“It’s just a scratch,” Maxine said. “Thank you. That was very kind.”

The woman looked her over, clearly too interrupted to go back to reading. “So what do you do? First trip to Glasgow?”

“Yes, I’m going to a book signing. I’m an author.” Maxine said, pressing the napkin tight to her hand. “I write thrillers.”

“How interesting.” The woman’s face broadened into the smile as she asked The Question. “Where do you get your ideas?”

“Mostly while I’m in the kitchen.”

I’d love to know what you think. Share a comment below.




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Rape Culture

 screw it rape culture

f*ck it – an IT problem?

Penises don’t rape people. People rape people.

Rape is about the physical violation of a person, power over the person. It’s about dominance, punishment,  and humiliation. It’s a very personal one-on-one kind of terrorism, not always but mostly perpetrated (and penetrated) by men. Just like mass murderers and terrorists.

This is not bashing men. It’s bashing the culture with the  concept of rape as integral as marbling is to a rib eye.

The most colorful expression of rape I ever heard came from a man complaining about a waitress: “I’d like to jerk off in her ear.” It was not about sex. It was not about “getting some action.”

He expressed his frustration as a desire to rape her–at least her ear–a punishment for not meeting his expectations. She didn’t fill up his drink or bring the meal fast enough.

rape culture a fucking book

Read a f*cking book – erotica?

 Rape Culture Embedded in Language

This past weekend I finally saw how much rape is part of Western Culture,  using the word F*CK. Some people are working steadily to make the F-bomb just another word with no shock value. People who don’t use such language will still say “screw it.”

If we don’t like something, we want to physically violate it. Our very language uses f*ck  to vent our emotions–women as well as men. How far is that  from that to actually raping or killing someone? People who are peaceful, like me for example, are willing to imagine the violence, even if we mean it metaphorically. What about people with less impulse control?

I don’t want to f*ck (eeeewwww) or violate or kill Donald Trump, no matter how much I dislike him. Yet the thought crosses my mind that someone should “take him out with extreme prejudice.” That thought puts me in the same category as any terrorist or mass-murderer, at least according to the Good Shepherd.

Do we really have to say WTF?

Do we really?

Rape culture objectifies victims

Add this to the misogyny of the use of language (compare “sissy” to “buddy” as names for siblings) , and you have a language that is white cis-male dominated. The people who complain about “political correctness” are the ones who don’t want to show common courtesy or respect to non-white, non-male people. Some of them do not see non-white-males as people at all. Every rape victim is suspect, even after the conviction of  the perpetrator/penetrator of three felonies.  Rape culture portrays men as unable to resist women, and therefore, it is the woman’s problem. Even in school dress codes, girls get sent home so as not to “distract” boys.

So it is with f*ck. I am not shocked by the word. I have used it often in my life. The idea of rape that the word reinforces even in my mind offends me, whether in full Anglo-Saxon or euphemism. Until we can erase the idea of physical or mental violation of a person or idea that we don’t like, we will continue to have rapes and mass murders.

Can we change the rape culture embedded in our use of language? It will take more than “f*ck it” to change our minds.

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Roller coaster Year

turtle climbing out of the pond scum off the roller coaster

climbing out of the pond scum off the roller coaster

I’ve got the front row seat on my life’s roller coaster.

Losing my job last year was like riding a roller coaster, even though some of it was more like hiding under pond scum. Now I’m ready to bask in my life. This has been a most interesting year…as in the Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.” My life is pretty good, all things considered, though.

A year ago yesterday, I lost my full-time job, rather unexpectedly, going from $70k in 2014, to $48k in 2015 to about $28k this year. Of course this took away my health insurance, and any chance of paying for insurance even with ACA. I’ve done without before, and that eliminated my doctor’s visits and medications, which I don’t seem to need anyway.

I went back to teaching fourth grade grammar to college freshmen face-to-face, so that I am still “falling back on” the degree I earned in English 40 years ago. I made a little less teaching than I did on unemployment, but then it was only 10 hours a week. Thank goodness for U of Phoenix, where I have taught online for some 13 years.

Two weeks ago, I spent six minutes in a bankruptcy hearing, so that my plans to pay off my credit cards (but not student loans) came to fruition, although not in the way I envisioned. I’d planned to work 2-3 more years at my top earnings, getting a better deal on Social Security, and actually paying off the credit. Still, it’s working out. No credit. No hassle.

I am retired…at least, I’m getting Social Security…and still working part time. The chronic health issues with my legs seem to be clearing up, another year long battle. Like Janis, I’m  “just like a turtle, hiding underneath my horny shell.”

With all this “free” time, I thought I would be writing a lot, but that’s not the case, as my WIP is languishing in revision as I rethink where I want it to go. I’ve taken up painting again, just for fun, but mostly I’m watching a lot of Netflix, to the point where Netflix added a new category to my feed: Bingeworthy. Watching a series front to back in the space of a couple of weeks certainly gives one an understanding not only of episode arc, but character arc, season arc, and series arc. I’d like to think that  I’m researching story, but what I have been doing is hiding.

Now it’s time to climb up out of the pond scum, get off the roller coaster, and decide where I’m going to put my creative energies. If I can claim that I have just been tired, I think nap time is over (not that I won’t take a nap now and then) . It’s time to get a new perspective and to let the scum dry and flake off my life.  The pond is always there, but I don’t have to get back on the roller coaster.

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Lessons from Offline

offline - blank computer screen

No Internet! Offline! YIKES!

Offline. I didn’t realize how much of my life I live online, as much as I joke about logging into Reality once a day or so, until yesterday when (horror of horrors!!!)  my internet went down…not my router, but ATT’s connection to the internet.

I could not check into my online class. I ended up going to the local Barnes & Nobel (funny how their ATT wifi was working). but even then I could not grade papers.

I could not watch Netflix. I could not play CandyCrush, even on my phone. YIKES.

I could not figure out what to do. I was lost in my own house.

Finally,  I did some cooking, worked on some crafts, made an audio file and edited another one. All very productive stuff. Even ran the dishwasher. Tried to do some writing, but there was no internet for backup.

I really need to get a life offline. I’ll be at ConCarolinas next weekend, June 3-5, so I will be more or less in real time then. See you in NC.

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Return to DiLunna by Deborah Cidboy

TASKET: Return to DiLunna by Deborah Cidboy

TASKET: Return to DiLunna

Deborah Cidboy’s sequel to Tasket: The Passage, teenager Denny and his cross-universe friends have been summoned to DiLunna, a planet in danger of destruction. An evil sorcerer was recently released from a milliennium-old curse. They meet with the Queen and her healers, a group of very large spiders. This world features fairies, trolls and dwarfish miners with a unique form of reproduction.

The story starts a bit slowly with Denny and his magical friends escaping Henrietta, who has been hired to babysit Denny. While riding the rainbow Denny is injured, causing him amnesia. Once on DiLunna, the magical  spiders heal him, and he meets the queen, her entourage, and a baby fairy.   Tamara, a shapeshifter girl, is his path to trouble. The characters from the previous book are revealed along and along, so that this book does stand alone.

One thing I particularly liked about this book is that the “three man band” features teens who are not loyal friends. They are  forced to work together despite  their lack of trust. Building trust allows them to discover the cause of the collapse of the world and who is behind it. This is handled very nicely, without anyone withholding information that is known, only that what one person thinks he or she knows may not be the truth.

Tasket: The Passage by Deborah Cidboy

Tasket: The Passage

Deborah Cidboy tells the story from shifting points of view, making it very textured. Once the world is established, the pace picks up and the meanings of the various legends and traditions begin to make sense. A number of characters are not what they appear to be.  The teens must  facing an ancient evil to restore power from to  queen.

This book should appeal to middle grade and junior high readers, as well as adults. The plot is layered, the relationships platonic, and the setting complex. I received an electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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From an Acorn a Big Idea Grows

acorn and oak tree

Acorn with potiential tree inside

How can a teacher know what a student does not know ?
What can a student be expected to know?

Last night I was in a conference with an non-traditional college student, probably about 40 years old or so. The class the student is taking is for people who bombed the grammar part of the entrance test for a community college. No, this is not whining about how people don’t know grammar.

Acorn? Oak Trees?

The assignment was to do some brainstorming/prewriting on some writing prompts, and one of the prompts was “From tiny acorns giant oaks grow.”  The student is tentative, afraid of looking stupid since being out of school for many years. It’s a common concern. Figuring out how to write about this prompt was impossible.

As we talked, I realized that the student did not have a clear idea of what an acorn was, nor where they come from, or that oak trees grow from them, only that possibly, squirrels liked to eat them.  I asked her to walk outside with me to a place by the parking lot where I knew there was a young oak tree and a prodigious number of acorns.

I picked up an acorn from the ground and handed it to her. I pointed at the tree and explained that it was an oak, and that its seeds were acorns.  I asked if the student’s child had ever grown a lima bean for a science project, where they could watch the root come out and the leaves come up. I said that it works the same way.

We walked back into the adjunct office. The student stared at the acorn in wonderment. The acorn I picked up was very dry, and probably would not sprout even if it were planted and tended, but that was not the idea I was trying to implant.

Tree. Acorn. Dirt. Grow.

I talked about how children grow, not just from tiny babies but from invisible cells, and that their potential could grow too, if the conditions were right. We talked about how the acorn wouldn’t sprout without water and fertilizer, and then I asked what kind of fertilizer the student would find in a forest, where oak trees normally grow.

“Dirt?”  The student’s eyes were wide and somewhat fearful. The answer might be wrong.

“Yes,” I said, and talked a bit about how the old leaves and other stuff rotted to make dirt for the new seeds to grow in. The student smiled, and rather than the cliché of the light bulb, the whole aura of the student glowed. The brain, the student said, felt so much bigger. I told the student that once a mind is expanded, it can’t to back to where it was before–like an acorn that sprouts to grow into a giant oak.

I am not mocking the student, as I sometimes do with the funny typos and “spun” word synonyms that “clever” students use to conceal that they are copying from others.

How can an adult not know where acorns come from? What huge crack opened up to let this student fall through? What other morass of ignorance–not stupidity–are other students drowning in, not even knowing that they are drowning?


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Review: This Old World by Steve Wiegenstein

This Old World, a novel by Steve Wiegenstein

This Old World by Steve Wiegenstein

Weigenstein takes a look at the effects of war on community

Daybreak, a utopian community in Arkansas based on democracy and equality, is torn apart, like the nation during the American Civil War.  Charlotte Turner becomes the leader of the community when her husband and the older men leave the community to fight, some for the Union, some for the Confederacy.  The community is not healed when the surviving men return, as the men have been changed by their experiences as have the women and children they left behind.

Weigenstein develops the story by showing how the people try to reintegrate around the old conflicts before the war, and to heal the scars from during the war. Each person–Charlotte, Emily, Flynn, James–has relationships to rebuild, wounds to heal, and none of them is like they were before.  The devastation of the land by both sides and the neglect due to not having the manpower to manage the community adds more strain.

Then some people do not want the war to end, as they enjoy the excitement, the lack of rules, so the reader sees the birth of what eventually will become the Ku Klux Klan. Made up of bushwhackers, these are men who are not part of the community, but who are more interested in doing whatever they want, drinking, setting fires, lynching people they object to, such as formerly enslaved people and Native Americans.

Weigenstein writes from the history of his family and the area where the story takes place. He provides a few maps of the area to help the reader visualize the landscape, and he describes the way of life in sufficient detail to make it easy to visualize and be in the story.

I was given a galley proof of this book in exchange for an honest review. This Old World by Steven Weigenstein is available at amazon.com

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