‘Mystic Desire’: A Review

I signed on with Black Velvet Seductions (a romance publishing company) a couple of months back…

 Of course, the first thing you do when you land a gig with a new publisher is get to know your co-workers. (Seriously, I wasn’t born yesterday. That’s just common sense. If our publisher sinks, we all go down. If we all work to promote our publisher, we all win!)

So I picked up a copy of ‘Mystic Desire’, an anthology of supernatural tales that features most of BVS’ authors.


Just… wow

Okay, some of these stories REALLY made me blush. But the diversity of subject matter/writing styles makes this book an EPIC collection!!!

So here, my dear readers, is my story-by-story review of ‘Mystic Desire’…

The Sweetest Magic of All by Alice Renaud – Witches are the backbone of many supernatural tales; everyone knows this. So to tackle such tried-and-true subject matter leaves one at risk of seeming trite… but Alice Renaud is anything but trite! Her heroine Sapphire is a genuinely sweet, vulnerable character, and her saga is truly one to savor.

Bewitching the Wolf by Zia Westfield – Like witches, werewolves are also the stock of supernatural fiction. If you’re gonna tackle the werewolf myth, you’d better know what you’re doing. Zia Westfield knows exactly what she’s doing! (I especially enjoyed her character Oggie, the drunken leprechaun. Very often, it’s the supporting cast that makes the story.)

An Awareness of Evil by Dee S. Knight – Psychics. A modern addition to supernatural archetypes, and a powerful one. This story would make a great ‘true crime’ TV special! Its twist ending is straight-up Alfred Hitchcock.

Love that Binds by Carol Schoenig – Sometimes it’s the unanswered questions that are the most intriguing. Is Ianthee a witch? Is she not? Honestly, do we really need to answer that question? The over-arching air of un-explained mystery really makes this one stand out.

Dream Catcher by Callie Carmen – This tale shines by virtue of its very unique subject matter: The Native American ‘dream catcher’ myth. Normally when you think ‘supernatural fiction’, you think werewolves, vampires, etc… but Callie took a completely different tack on the genre, and she nailed it. What really makes Callie’s tale stand out – even more so than her subject matter – is her writing style. Supernatural stories usually do – and should – have an ethereal, dream-like feel about them; they come across as kind of off-kilter. ‘Dream Catcher’, on the other hand, feels very, very real… like this is a story that might actually have happened.  

Life Saving by Anne Krist – I have to admit, this story was my favorite. Not because Anne is any more – or less – talented than the other BVS writers, but because her story was reminiscent of another writer whose work I have always held near and dear. Her tale is straight outta Ray Bradbury’s playbook! (And anyone who knows me knows that’s high praise!)

Unconditional Lust by Breanna Hayse – This one vividly captures the tension of sailing the high seas, and the fear of being pulled into the depths by unseen monsters. Except these monsters have an agenda, and they’re here to tell you that there are worse fates to suffer than death…

The Mortal Vampire by Suzanne Smith – What can I say? Real vampires are not supposed to ‘sparkle’! Suzanne’s vampire doesn’t sparkle; he’s terrifying, and intense. Suzanne’s writing is right up there with Anne Rice and Bram Stoker’s, in my book.

Love from the Mist by Patricia Elliot – Water Sprites? Who thinks of a water sprite when asked to write a supernatural tale? Patricia did, apparently, and thus her contribution is truly unique. Her tale begins with a pulse-pounding action scene, and ends on a sweet note. It’s a breath-taking narrative, one that earns ‘bonus points’ by virtue of its sheer originality.

Love’s Ghost by R.M. Olivia – The sad, mournful characters really brought this story to life; it has echoes of Edgar Allan Poe all over it. (And I don’t compare writers to Poe lightly; you gotta earn that praise from me!)

Love Knows No Apocalypse by Patricia Elliott – George Romero, eat your heart out! This one’s an imaginative, character-driven story set in a familiar dystopian setting. It’s challenging to bring your leading lady to life when her supporting cast consists of brain-munching zombies, but Patricia figured out how. She’s quite an original voice on the modern writing scene!

Calling All Angels by Lora Logan – A tale of celestial beings set in a deceptively picturesque setting… and therein lies the story’s brilliance; it’s the odd juxtaposition of characters and scenery that makes the story shine. (‘Calling All Angels’ reminded me of the years during which I lived in New York’s Adirondack Mountains.)

The Anniversary by Richard Savage – Certainly the most edgy tale in the entire collection. It made me uncomfortable, and yet totally captured my interest! Richard delves deep into the admittedly-skewed psychology of his characters, and succeeds in telling a very, very unnerving story! I really liked that he didn’t reveal what was really going on until the very, very end; that lingering plot-tease kept me on the edge of my seat.

Through the Veil by Jan Selbourne – Is this a ghost story? Historical fiction? Hell, do we really need to answer those questions? Sometimes using deliberate ambiguity is the best way to tell a story. One doesn’t always need to have one’s curiosity satisfied; sometimes, ya just gotta meet the story on its own terms!

And that’s my review. S’all I have to say. But I will end my review with this comment: Many of the world’s publishing companies have guidelines that are so strict that they leave no room for individual creativity; their books are so market-driven that they’re… sterile.

Stifling, market-driven guidelines suppress individual creativity, and inevitably make for forgettable fiction.

Black Velvet Seductions…? Here are their guidelines: Gotta be a love story. Gotta have a happy ending. No perverts, please, and other’n that…


Those broad guidelines are, in my opinion, why Black Velvet Seductions produces excellent literature. I am grateful beyond words to have been invited into their circle. Thank all of you wonderful writers for taking me on board; I am honored to work alongside such fine storytellers.

Here’s to a bright future for us all!

To order ‘Mystic Desire’, use this link for Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Mystic-Desire-Breanna-Hayse-ebook/dp/B07WPQX7HQ/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=mystic+desire&qid=1598052789&sr=8-1

Or this one for Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/mystic-desire-alice-renaud/1133817315?ean=9781912768578

‘Hindsight’, by Daniel Evans Jost

So content was I in UV showers

On a desert ripe from salt

Neon smiles and shrouds of fertility

Then it all froze to a halt

I saw hail from clouds eons away

Yet drunk was I from sin galore

So drunk I was deaf to his supreme edict

Till He was crunching down my door

First came denial, then came dread

Knowledge was the first to go

Then kindness, then empathy and finally logic

Oh wait, they were already on Skid Row

He gave me safe passage to El Dorado

For not so hefty a price

Seven euphorias now shape reality

But everything else is a vice

Before the numbers were used for counting

And the air made fresh by trees

Now reality is run by cyberspace

And the outside made of fantasies

Looking back I remember that wish

To pause and think with sight so clear

And so He indulged my ignorance

Now all I see… vivid fear

‘One Step Beyond’, by Daniel Evans Jost

I dreamt I laid in fields of ash

My centerpiece had burnt and gone

Yet no slumber could ever predict

The day I woke one step beyond

I dreamt of floating in a body of tears

Though small, one can drown in the pond

Then I felt air pockets tickle my gills

The perks of waking one step beyond

A group of nightcrawlers launched an attack

My serotonin they aimed to abscond

They crumbled to dust when the stars exploded

Nirvana had called one step beyond

My instincts chained down by fleeting fear

Locked by distortion of right or wrong

A chorus erupted and the binds vanished

The song notes paved one step beyond

Sound came from an ethereal body

Who’s vibrations outshone the sun

Now our souls interlock indefinitely

All I gave was one step beyond

I once was paralyzed by thought Like twin suns crashing into a fawn

Now I bring the color in spectrums

Because I dared one step beyond

Livin’ La Vida Writer…

The dictionary defines the word ‘writer’ thus: ‘a person engaged in writing books, articles, stories, etc., especially as an occupation or profession; an author or journalist.’ That’s great, except that such a definition fails to capture the reality behind the noun, which is this: Writers are a breed apart…

Our own specie, if you will.

I began writing as a teenager; the genesis of my ‘writer’ days over-lapped the peak of my ‘artist’ days. (I made decent money in my teens by painting portraits, and making drawings for local advertising companies.) By the time I hit my twenties, I was completely hooked on the written word; my small-press debut novel was released in 2004, when I was twenty-six.

That novel did well enough to merit a follow-up release in 2005, and another in 2006.

It was around 2005 that I first began to falter. I was working as a kitchen designer, a job that requires insanely long hours and causes a fair amount of stress. I was also stuck on a chemical hamster-wheel: Alcohol to ‘come down’ in the evenings so that I could write, and coffee to perk back up the next day… followed by more alcohol, and then even more coffee… Sleep? Nah, I didn’t have time for that!

I survived my exhausting lifestyle only because I was young. If I tried that mess now, I’d end up with a heart attack. Or maybe in rehab. Or perhaps both. In any case, it would be sixteen years before I returned to the literary scene, driven more by compulsion than choice. See, the truth is this…

Writers ain’t happy unless they’re writing! Period.

It’s a balancing act. Being a writer is a lifestyle, and thus requires major life alterations in order to ideally suit the writer’s needs. So, my dear reader, I would like to share some tips that I’ve learned over the last twenty-plus years. Just a few thoughts on how to maintain a sustainable existence as an author without crashing and burning…

Tip #1: Choose your day job carefully.

The brutal reality is that most writers will not make a living with their writing. We’d all like to think that we’ll become J.K. Rowling someday, but there are simply too many of us for the reading public to make rich. Seriously, you can only expect readers to ‘pony up’ but so much, you know?

A good day job for a writer is this: A job that stays as close to forty hours a week as possible, pays reasonably well (to avoid the necessity of a second job), and above all else does not cause excessive stress! Some occupations require being on the phone even during ‘off hours’, or working odd/excessive hours. This is bad. Even if one has to spend a few years training (or studying) to acquire the ideal job, it’s worth the effort. (Notice that there are very few ER nurses or restaurant managers that moonlight as writers…)

Once the right occupation has been procured, the job will also serve as a welcome counter-balance. Writing is exhilarating, but it can also be mentally exhausting (especially when it’s combined with editing and marketing). I love my day job for that reason; it lets me re-charge my creative batteries by focusing on something else that I really enjoy doing.

Tip #2: Choose your spouse carefully.

Some people are already married when they decide to try their hand at writing. If that’s the case, you just gotta work with whatcha got. (I’m old-fashioned in my thinking when it comes to marriage: A deal’s a deal. You give your word, you keep it. If you said ‘I do’, then… well, do!)

I suspect that’s not most of us, though. Writing is like smoking, or drinking; most of us started pretty young.

A writer’s spouse should be about as easy-going as it’s possible for a person to be; a needy ‘prima donna’ is the last thing a writer needs! Mind you, there’s no excuse for completely ignoring one’s mate… but the reality is that writers are simply not as available as most people. An ideal spouse should be relaxed, fairly self-contained, and have a decent circle of friends to provide company when his/her partner is glued to the laptop.

Tip #3: Network with other writers.

I have two pet sugar gliders. Without each others’ company, they will become upset, depressed, and neurotic. Writers ain’t so different. We’re nutty enough without adding unnecessary isolation to the mix!

‘Nuff said…

Tip #4: Mind your chemicals.

Writing and booze go together like peanut butter and jelly, but that can get you into trouble. Getting sloppy won’t improve your work at all. It’ll also cause friction with other writers, and annoy your spouse. Worse, being constantly hung over will jeopardize your day job… you know, the one that feeds you while you bang away at the keyboard.

Over-drinking is an easy trap to fall into, because most writers – published or unpublished – are so adept at their craft that they can still type and compose stories even while completely shit-hammered. I call it ‘The Hemingway Syndrome’… but remember, Andy Rooney was still talking trash about Obnoxious Ernest well into the 1990’s. Nobody wants to be remembered like that.

If you can’t bring yourself to quit drinking, at least keep it down to a dull roar. Light beer has hardly any alcohol at all, and so do many fruity wines. Sipping on those instead of chugging hard liquor is definitely a good idea! Take it from someone who learned the hard way.

Tip #5: Mind your marketing.

It’s tempting to put all of one’s focus into writing, to the detriment of making sure that people have the opportunity to actually read what you’re writing. A story unread is just a stack of paper, or a random digital file.

Even if it means having less new material, marketing is worth the effort. It’s better to have five books out there that people actually read, than fifteen that are nothing more than Amazon listings.

Tip#6: Take time off.

This one I struggle with, because I’m a workaholic. I try to spend one afternoon a week with friends, and Sundays are reserved for the twin bedrocks of any stable life: God and family. There’s no point in being brilliant if it causes one to completely tank. ‘It’s better to burn out than fade away’ may sound romantic, but it’s also the reason that there will never be another Nirvana album.

Pace yourself!

Tip #7: LISTEN!!!

This is the most important point of all. Listen when your spouse complains, rather than waiting to be served divorce papers. Listen to your beta readers, rather than waiting to discover the same criticisms inserted into damning Amazon reviews. Listen to the advice of marketing personnel, rather than spinning your wheels generating no interest at all. Listen to your body, when it tells you you’ve had enough to drink.

So there… that’s all I got. If I happen to stumble across any more wisdom (or, which is more likely, borrow some from somebody else), I’ll pass it along. Cheers!

Sam: A Tale

Author’s Note: This story is a work of horror, and as such contains content that some readers may find offensive. Reader discretion is advised.

I fought my restraints, wincing with pain…

I’d mustered far more strength the day before!

My right arm was free; why could I not rip my bonds away? Wasn’t duct tape meant to simply be torn apart?

Not this much duct tape, apparently…

I eyed the pile of empty cardboard spools scattered in a corner of my basement, wondering how long my current situation had taken to plan.  Days? Weeks? Or had all this simply been a matter of impulse, born of a random trip to the hardware store?

Would I ever know?

I eyed my wrist, shaking terribly as my vision went blurry; I needed a drink, and sooner rather than later.  Knowing that I was a mere floor away from my liquor cabinet was driving me slowly insane.

So was the thirst.  And the hunger.  And the stifling, maddening sense of growing claustrophobia; I felt like a fly wrapped a spider’s web.  I held my wrist before my face, sweating bullets as the colors in the room grew brighter, more surreal…

I could eat, if only I possessed the courage; my own arm was within easy reach of my hungry mouth.  My flesh was firm, meaty, strengthened by years of manual labor; it could ease my hunger, and my blood could slake my own thirst. 

But could I withstand the pain?

My stomach lurched with gnawing hunger as my temples throbbed in agony.  I didn’t have a drink available, at least not one with alcohol in it.  But I could feed, if I so dared, and I could also whet the dryness of my parched throat.

Closing my eyes, I buried my eyeteeth into my shaking wrist…

“For the love of Pete,” I snarled, “will you just SHUT UP already?!”

My wife dodged the beer bottle that I flung at her, her green eyes full of fear. 

I didn’t really mean to hit her, mind you; I just didn’t like her nagging me during a football game, you know? And I mean American football, not that lame soccer crap that my wife watches on our ‘telly’ when I’m not around. 

Molly’s a ‘good girl’ and all that, but her favorite sport just bores me to tears.

I think that’s where our marriage stumbles a bit.  Molly’s Irish; she’s got the red hair, freckles, and flat chest to prove it.  So she’s accustomed to useless men, shiftless clowns who spend years on end being ‘laid off’.

She’s not used to a hard-working guy like me; she’s not used to someone who’s earned the right not to be bossed around.

So she tries bossing me around…

And I ain’t having it.

“I didn’t mean to upset you,” whimpered Molly, picking the dripping beer bottle up from the carpet.  “I was just reminding you to pay the garbage bill, ‘cos you forgot last month and they stopped service.”

I handle the bills around here!” I snapped.  “You can’t balance a checkbook to save your life, and you know it! So lemme alone already, wouldja?”

“O… Okay,” stammered Molly.  “Would you like another beer?”

Duh!” I snapped, settling into my recliner. 

Molly brought me another beer, already opened; I took a gulp as she disappeared back into the kitchen, watching eagerly as the Redskins and Panthers re-formed their starting lines.

The game was a complete blowout; the score wasn’t even close.  I lost interest well before the end, so I turned off the TV and opened a novel.

I must have dozed off in my chair; I awoke abruptly around midnight, yawning.  I felt little sheepish as I stretched myself awake; I had to work the next morning, and I was still half-drunk. 

I climbed groggily out of my chair, hoping that Molly was in bed; if she wasn’t, she’d grill me like a drill sergeant.  Did I have clean clothes for tomorrow? Did I remember to set my alarm? Did I need my jacket laid out? Did I check the weather for tomorrow…?

The woman treated me like a kindergartner! Her Irish brogue, once so soothing to me, had become nails on a blackboard.  All I ever wanted her to do, these days, was to shut her pretty mouth…

Unfortunately, that wasn’t gonna happen.

I sighed as I opened the bedroom door.  Molly was lying asleep, half-covered by a blanket. 

I tried climbing quietly into bed beside her…

“Did you set your alarm?” asked Molly, her Irish lilt piercing the darkness.  “And lay out your clothes?”

“Will you quit treating me like a kid?” I snarled.  “Lay off already!”

“I’m sorry,” said Molly humbly.  “I just want you to be rested and ready for work.”

“I learned how to get myself off to work well before I met you!” I yelled.  “So shut up already!!!”

“I’m sorry…” whined Molly.

“I know you are…” I said, flopping into bed and leaning over her.  “Are you willing to show me how sorry you are?”

Molly gave me a hesitant kiss…

I didn’t climb out of bed until I was completely finished with her, and I threw her discarded underwear back onto the bed. 

“You wanna beer?” I asked. 

“You know I don’t drink…” said Molly, staring at the ceiling with a blank expression.

“Some Irish girl you are,” I said sarcastically. “Water it is, then”.

I stumbled down the hallway, and clicked on the kitchen light.

Molly was standing at the sink…

I looked back down the hallway; hadn’t I just left her in the bedroom?

Then I looked back at her.

Molly?” I whispered.

She turned to face me, her eyes jaunty, saucy even. 

“Yes, love?” Molly giggled playfully.

“Were… weren’t you just in the bedroom?”

“Maybe,” she winked, giving her rear end a flirty shake.  “I’m allowed to climb out of me own bed, right?”

“Y… Yeah…” I stammered, pulling a beer and a bottled water from the fridge.  “I just… I didn’t see you come in here.”

“Probably ‘cuz you drank too much!” laughed Molly.

I backed slowly away from her, and walked down the hallway.  Molly didn’t follow me; she just stayed in the kitchen, humming to herself as she washed the dishes.

I clicked on the bedroom light…

Molly was lying in bed; she squinted as I turned on the light. 

“Did you get me a water?” she asked sleepily.

“Were you just in the kitchen?” I demanded.

“What?” yawned Molly.  “No, I’ve been here in bed.  Why?”

“I JUST SAW YOU IN THE KITCHEN!!!” I roared, my hair standing up the back of my neck. 

“I wasn’t IN the kitchen!!!” wailed Molly.  “I swear!”

“Quit yelling at me!” I warned.  “I ain’t having that!”

“I’m sorry…” said Molly contritely, looking at the wall.  “Just lay back down with me, huh?”

Shaking like a leaf, I climbed into bed as Molly took her water from my shaking hands.

My mind was racing as I took a gulp of my beer.  Had I blacked out? Drank so much that I’d forgotten some interaction, a passing-by of my wife in the hallway?

Sleep… came hard that night.

Three days later…

I motioned the tow truck into my driveway, guiding the driver backwards as he dropped off my Chevy Lumina. 

As I paid the driver, Molly came outside. 

“What’s goin’ on?” she asked.

“Nothing,” I said dismissively.  “Get back inside.”


“Shut up, and get back inside!” I ordered.

The tow truck driver gave me a funny look as Molly obeyed my command, but he wrote out his receipt without commentary.

I stormed into the kitchen as the driver pulled away, rudely interrupting Molly’s dinner preparations. 

“What were you doing out there?!” I demanded. 

“I just… I just wanted to know what was goin’ on,” said Molly, adjusting her apron as she looked down at the floor.

“You were questioning me in front of other people?!” I raged.  “Really?”

“Well, me father was a mechanic!” said Molly, showing a rare spark of spunk.  “And I told you the alternator was goin’ out! If you’d fixed it when I’d first mentioned it, you’d have saved us a towin’ bill!”

“What did you say?” I whispered dangerously.

“I… I…” stammered Molly, “you just mighta listened to me, is all…”

“Listen to THIS!!!” I snapped.

I slapped Molly across the side of her pretty face, as hard as I could. 

She fell onto the floor, looking up at me with terror-stricken green eyes…

(I would NEVER hit my wife with a closed fist, you know? That’s only something a guy does to other men.  But sometimes, a woman’s just gotta be put in her place; sometimes, a man’s just gotta show her who’s the boss.  You fellas know what I’m talking about, right?)

Molly rose from the floor, holding her reddening cheek. 

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, looking at the floor.  “I’ll let you handle the car issues from now on.  I… I deserved that.”

“Yeah,” I said coldly.  “You did.”

I turned, and walked out to the garage. 

I’d hoped that replacing the alternator would be an easy fix, like it was on my old Impala: Remove two bolts, add the new part, and re-adjust the belt.  I was praying that the repair wouldn’t be as hard as it was on my wife’s long-scrapped Nissan: Un-bolt the entire engine, dismantle the exhaust manifold, and then replace the part…

I lifted the hood of our old Chevy, expecting the worst…

I was distracted by a giggle, coming from a corner of the garage.

I lowered the hood, looking toward the garage door…

Molly was standing in front of it.

“What the hell?” I demanded.  “Weren’t you just in the kitchen? How did you get out here?!”

“What?” smiled Molly, her cheeks glowing as though I’d never hit her.  “I’m not allowed inside the garage?”

“No, you’re fine…” I said, gulping.  “I just didn’t see you come out here, is all.”

“Well,” laughed Molly, “I’ll file a flight plan next time I change rooms! Is spaghetti okay for dinner?”

“Yes…” I said, backing away as Molly walked towards me.

“And would you…” asked Molly, shaking her hips seductively, “like to have a good time with me after dinner?”

“Y… Yes…” I stammered.

“Good!” laughed Molly.  “I’ll see you soon.  Dinner in ten minutes!”

I watched, unnerved, as Molly un-tied her apron and dropped it onto the garage floor.  She hummed an eerie tune as she left the garage, leaving me alone with my uneasy thoughts.

It took all of my will to walk back inside…

Molly was scooping spaghetti onto our plates as I took a seat at the table.  She wore her apron yet, and was chatting away as though I hadn’t just given her a well-earned slap.

Something wasn’t sitting well; something was off.  Molly was acting far too chipper for the occasion…

I needed a momentary escape.

I excused myself from the table, giving Molly a lame excuse about having forgotten to lock the garage door.

My blood ran cold as I entered the garage; I saw Molly’s discarded apron lying on the floor.  Hadn’t she tossed it carelessly away, before heading back to the kitchen?

And yet she’d been wearing the exact same apron when I’d entered the kitchen.  Had my alcoholism finally gotten out of control, I wondered? Were my memories getting all mixed up? Was I suffering from ‘delirium tremens’?

I was careful to avoid touching Molly as I stumbled into bed that night.  My habit was usually to read for a while before trying to sleep, but tonight I was just too drunk.

“Did you set your alarm?” yawned Molly.  “You gotta go in early tomorrow, you know.”

Piss off!” I snarled.

I lay there for a moment, thinking about how unnerved I was…

“I’m sorry,” I murmured contritely.

I woke up in the middle of the night…

After the day I’d had, I would like to say that I’d enjoyed some illuminating dream, or at least a memorable nightmare of some kind. 

But I hadn’t…

I just had to pee.

I stumbled down the hallway, annoyed by the lack of light.  (And also by the knowledge that I’d never find the hallway light switch in the darkness…)

I fell into the bathroom, finding the switch despite my assumption that I wouldn’t.

I moaned as I relieved myself, grateful that I’d awakened before soiling the bed.  (Over-consumption had oft been responsible for the ruination of my sleeping place!) I was so wobbly that my aim was off; I sprayed a few drops into the basket of magazines next to the toilet.

I pulled my boxer shorts back up at last, and turned off the bathroom light before heading back to the bedroom.

The kitchen light was on…

I approached the room warily, blinking as I stepped into the garish glow. 

Molly was standing at the sink, washing the dishes; she turned to face me, smiling as though she hadn’t a care in the world.  Her eyes weren’t blacked anymore; they looked as though my after-dinner discipline had never even happened.

Molly was wearing an attractive pair of printed bikini panties.  (That was strange; I seemed to recall that she’d gone to bed wearing her favorite frumpy pajamas.) Her hair was also stylishly bobbed… but I remembered dully that Molly always wore her fiery hair down to her tiny waist.

“WHO ARE YOU?!” I shouted.

Molly smiled wickedly, shaking the red curls away from her porcelain face.  “Whatever do you mean?” she asked innocently.

“Did you suddenly learn to walk through walls?” I whispered, unnerved.  “Cut your hair in seconds? Who are you, woman?”

“You… you’re scaring me!” whimpered Molly, wide-eyed.  “I don’t know what you’re talking about!”

I was about to relent, about to back off.  I mean, my words were crazy, right? I was about to shrug off my irrational fears, and walk away…

And then I heard a loud snore coming from the bedroom. 

Molly stared at me, wide-eyed, as more snores continued to drift down the hallway.  I could feel my heart pounding in my chest now; my temples were throbbing, and I was shaking with sudden terror.

“Who…” I whispered, trying to sound assertive, “ARE you? And why do you look like my Molly?”

 “Oh!” laughed the now un-masked un-Molly.  “You’re sooooo…”

My guess is that she was about to say ‘paranoid’, but I never gave her the chance; I threw my arm around the back of her neck, and wrapped her hair around my fist.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!” wailed Molly.

“Shut up!!!” I growled, slapping her.

She flailed against my assault, but alas… men are simply bigger and stronger than women, which is why I always availed myself the luxury of dismissing the complaints of the Feminist Movement.  I dragged Molly down the hallway by her hair, ignoring her screams of protest as I fumbled for the bedroom light.

I flipped the light switch up, and threw my wife onto the bed.

Panty-clad, bobbed-hair Molly rose slowly to her knees… only to face the pajama-clad, long-haired Molly.

“What…” I grated, “is going on here? Do you two know each other?!”

My wife and her doppelganger stared each other in their identical green eyes, each unsure as to how to answer…

“WELL?!” I shouted.

“I… I don’t know!!!” whimpered pajama-clad Molly.

“What’s your NAME?!” I demanded, giving the panty-clad Molly’s hair a cruel yank. 

“SAM!!!” cried the panty-clad Molly.  “My… my name is Sam.”

“What the hell kinda name is that?” I demanded.  “Is it short for ‘Samantha’?”

“Something like that…” smiled the panty-clad Molly, with eerie calmness.  “Sure, Samantha.”

Please stop!” moaned pajama-clad Molly.

“Oh, quit whining!!!” sneered the panty-clad Molly witheringly.  “You’re such a spineless wimp!!! Seriously, stand up to him already!”

“What did you say?” I whispered, raising my hand.

“You heard me…” replied Sam coolly, as Molly stepped around me.

“Yeah, well,” I snarled, “I’M gonna…”

The ‘kick your ass’ never escaped my lips; my intended threat suffered an interjection from a blow, delivered decisively against the back of my head. 

They left me a notebook.  Or she left me a notebook.  Or maybe no one did, and I’ve just lost my ability to keep my thoughts and memories straight.

I also had a pen, and a free right arm.  (The rest of my body was wrapped in too much duct tape for my right arm to tear away.)

I was always too avid a reader to shy away from the chance to actually write something now.  Was this Molly’s revenge? Enticing to me to author a memoir at which she could laugh for the rest of her life?

I can barely read my words now, I wrote.  My hand is shaking too badly, and my blood is obscuring the pages.  I’m also out of my mind with hunger, which makes my thoughts even loonier. 

I tried to keep my grip on reality; Sam was a hallucination, nothing more, and Molly attacked me out of mere panic…

I turned the notebook page dully, doubting that I could write much longer…

Something slipped from between the leaves, a piece of yellowed paper.

It was a page, I realized dully, torn from the Gaelic-English dictionary that Molly had given to me as a wedding gift.  She’d hoped that I would learn her native Irish tongue (which of course I never did). 

I could barely read the page, but one thing stood out.  A single word was highlighted: Samhnach.

I had to blink a couple of times before I could read the attached definition, and its very simplicity chilled me to the bone…


What had that fiery-headed phantasm said? What evil words had my Molly’s hellish doppelganger spoken?

My name is Sam…

God DAMN it all!

What the hell kinda name is that?’ I’d demanded, like a complete oaf.  ‘Is it short for ‘Samantha’?

I will perish haunted by the defiant expression in Angry Samhnach’s eyes, an expression that reflected all the years of suppressed rage that had conjured her to unholy life…

What the hell kinda name is that? Is it short for ‘Samantha’?

How Samhnach must have laughed inside as she answered my question!

Something like that… 

Regarding Fiction…

‘Foolish boy. Don’t you know anything about Fantasia? It’s the world of human fantasy. Every part, every creature of it, is a piece of the dreams and hopes of mankind. Therefore, it has no boundaries.’

– G’mork (from the film The Neverending Story)

The psychology of fiction fascinates me…

Why do humans so love stories? Why do we revel in made-up narratives that – at least visibly – have zero impact upon our actual existence? Why do we so often dwell on fantasies instead of our waking lives?

The answer, I think, is quite simple: We love stories for the same reason we love Nitrus Oxide. ‘Goofy Gas’ takes the pain out of dental surgery, and Fiction takes the pain out of living. Only humans, out of all Creation, possess the ability to maintain a non-existent world buried within the consciousness; only humans possess the ability to flee inward instead of outward. (Side note: That probably explains why I’ve never met a writer – including myself – who wasn’t somehow cracked in the grape. We actually live in a place that was meant simply to be a temporary refuge. ‘Course, if we didn’t do that then there wouldn’t be any books for everyone else to read…)

Life is messy. It doesn’t often make sense, and its ever-varying, mad-cap scenarios seldom resolve themselves into an ending wrapped tidily with a little bow; stories, on the other hand, do. They have to… ‘cuz if you’re dumb enough to submit a manuscript that makes no sense and has an unresolved ending, you’ll get that lovely email that all writers dread: Thank you for considering SuchandSuch Publishing for your book. However, this is not the story that we are seeking at this time. We wish you the best of luck with your manuscript…

But what if our stories really did mimic real life? Can you imagine a fantasy novel? ‘Otis Graybeard waved his arms, chanting a spell… but nothing happened, and his friends threw stuff at him and called him a dumb-ass. The end.’ How about a science fiction novel? ‘Zulian Supernova climbed into his homemade rocket, bound for Venus. Then it exploded in his backyard, blowing Zulian to smithereens and taking out half the neighborhood. The end.’

What if the most popular literary genre – romance – was starkly realistic? ‘Sally was madly in love with Lorenzo St. Germaine, who was brutally handsome and filthy rich… but Lorenzo wouldn’t give her the time of day, so Sally married the garbage man instead. The end.’

Even soldiers in a war zone get pulled away from the front lines once in a while, so they can re-charge their batteries with ‘Rest and Relaxation’. The human mind cannot tolerate constant, inescapable stress.

The military has R&R…

The rest of us have stories.

The People of the Lie

The sun had not yet shown its face; perhaps it never again would…

Standing ominously against the dreary backdrop of the Chicago skyline was an imposing old building, one that would appear abandoned if not for the gaudy posters plastered across its darkened windows. Each garish printing promised some upcoming concert or play, and every foretelling was a bloodbath of color bled pathetically across the glass.

Only the posters betrayed any hint of perennial life in this run-down palace of an event center; otherwise, this wreck of a building just blended seamlessly into the seedy Chicago city-scape.

Homeless people lounged restlessly beneath the shelter of the front awning, arranging their blankets and cardboard boxes to suit their individual needs. This, it would seem, was the ‘norm’ in this area; the Homeless sleepily arranged their cardboard homeless homes, too outcast to even attract even the notice of the local gang-bangers.

Only one random vagabond rose from his tattered blanket, taking a swig from his pint of cheap liquor as he tottered down the stairs toward the street in front of the event center…

He stopped before a telephone pole, eyeing the cheaply-printed placard nailed to its oaken surface.

Have you seen this man? read the sign.

Upon the printed request was a picture a somewhat corpulent man, balding, and with hair coming out of his ears. Underneath his photo read ‘Last seen at Goldthwaite Center. The bottom of the paper had a printed phone number, posted by the local detective investigating the disappearance.

The homeless man wiped his bearded face, looking up and down the street. Each telephone pole had the same placard stapled to it; this, it seemed, was the Chicago Police Department’s idea of an ‘investigation’.

Maybe the homeless man just wanted some toilet paper. Or maybe he just happened to have some luckily-scored marijuana, but no rolling papers. Or maybe he just needed to cover up some of the tears in his cardboard box.

At the end of the day…

At the end of the day, it was anyone’s guess as to why he went up and down the street, pulling each sign down and stuffing each one into the pockets of his filthy coat.  

At the end of the day, it didn’t matter whether the signs remained posted, or were torn down. The day was still just as bleak, and the theater just as run-down…

And the missing man was still just as missing.

Bobby McGee loved rock n’ roll.

Of course he loved rock music! His mother had named him after Janis Joplin’s iconic song; how much more ‘rock n’ roll’ could a man possibly get? (Granted, Bobby McGee had originally been a woman named ‘Roberta’, since the song had originally been written by the country music icon Roger Miller… but then, Bobby’s mother hadn’t known that at the time of his birth; she was only seventeen at the time, after all.)

Bobby had spent the last twenty years of his life seeking out great concerts wherever he could find them, from Styx to Megadeth, and from Kansas to Godsmack; he was the eternal ‘fan boy’ of all things Raucous and Rebellious. In fact, Bobby might even have been a groupie if not for the fact that he was hairy, short, balding…

And the wrong gender.

Bobby stood in front of his designated seat, straining his neck to watch his new favorite front-man shredding away on his guitar.

Bobby bobbed his head to the music, smiling away as he adjusted his ‘hi-fi’ earplugs. The drummer was pounding the kick drum so hard that Bobby could hardly read the band name printed on it: Death by Volume. This band had sold twenty million albums (or digital downloads thereof) in a mere four years; Bobby mentally recited these numbers with a sense of awe that bordered on reverence. This was the highest-grossing tour of all time, shattering the records set by both Michael Jackson and Guns n’ Roses combined.

Truly, this was an epic evening! He was lucky, Bobby thought, to have scored a ticket.

He pumped his fist vigorously to the savage music, glorying in the sonic hedonism of it all. Above all else, Bobby always looked forward to the next guitar solo; the guitarist/vocalist, Steve Valmer, was his favorite ever! Steve always shredded along at a lightning pace, making it all look so easy as his fingers flew up and down the polished mahogany neck of his ‘axe’. Strobe lights, pyrotechnics, and endless clouds of dry-ice smoke only added to surreal aura of the display

Bobby lowered his fist as the music died for a few minutes.

“HOW’S EVERYBODY DOING TONIGHT?!” roared Steve Valmer into the microphone, pulling his long, blonde hair away from his face. “Y’ALL FEELING ALRIGHT?!”

Bobby roared along with the crowd; his parched throat was aching already, but he didn’t mind.

There was nowhere he’d rather be… than right here!

“I wish my wife was here with me tonight,” said Steve. “But she’s in Brazil right now, shooting a movie. Speaking of which, we’re filming here this evening. So everybody shout with me, ‘HI SADIE’!!!”

Bobby joined the crowd in the deafening greeting, feeling a quiet stirring of envy.

Steve Valmer had married the veteran actress Sadie Lee years before; the couple had two children. Sadie had always been Bobby’s secret crush; redheaded, slender, and beautiful, she’d starred in the Bobby’s favorite film, a psychological thriller called I Have Not Forgotten.

“So…” continued Steve, “our children, Todd and Brielle, are backstage. I asked them if they wanted to come watch Daddy play, and they asked ‘do we have to…?’”

Bobby laughed along with the rest of audience, licking his lips as Steve segued into the band introductions.

Bobby hated to miss any part of the show, but he couldn’t stand his dry throat anymore!

As fast as his chubby legs could carry him, Bobby sprinted up the stadium steps, towards the elevated mezzanine above. It was quieter up here, far removed from the roar of the arena below. The mezzanine consisted of a few merchandise booths, and a lot of bars.

“Tall Budweiser, please…” Bobby panted to the nearest bartender.

Taking the double-deuce can (and paying way too much for it), Bobby turned and half-jogged back towards the steps.

He slowed a bit, ready to begin his downward trek when someone stepped out from behind the nearest merchandise booth.

“I’M sorry!” said Bobby, plowing into the slender woman. “I didn’t see you!”

“It’s okay…” mumbled the woman, adjusting her dark sunglasses and setting her baseball cap back on straight. “I should have watched where I was going.”

Bobby took a step back, eyeing the woman as he clutched his beer can. There was something very, very familiar about her…

“Sadie?” he whispered. “Sadie Lee?”

“Maybe…” said the woman coolly, lowering her glasses and looking back at Bobby with brilliant, bright-blue eyes. “Who’s asking?”

“I… I’m just a fan! gushed Bobby. “I’ll bet I’ve seen I Have Not Forgotten fifty times!”

“I’m flattered,” said Sadie, smiling. “Usually with guys your age it’s The Crow, or Natural Born Killers.”

“May I have an autograph?” asked Bobby.

“You got a pen?”

“Oh… no…” said Bobby sheepishly. “I can get one from the bartender, though.”

“That won’t be necessary,” said Sadie. “I’ll tell you what: If you promise not to tell anyone I’m here, you can watch the show with me from my private box. I’m not exactly in the mood to be mobbed, you know?”

“Of course! yelped Bobby stunned. “I… I thought you were in Brazil?”

“So I’m told,” said Sadie evenly, motioning with her head. “C’mon, follow me.”

Bobby followed Sadie up the stairs into the VIP section, trying hard not to stare at her rear end. It was hard not to; Sadie was wearing ‘painted-on’ blue jeans, and besides…

It was Sadie Lee’s behind, after all.

I can’t believe this is happening, thought Bobby as he took a draught of beer en route.

Sadie nodded at the two black-clad security guards flanking the door of her private box, and opened the door.

“After you,” she said affably, holding the door open.

Bobby followed Sadie into the booth as one of the guards pulled the door shut behind them.

“Have a seat,” offered Sadie, motioning to one of the over-stuffed chairs.

Bobby sat down in the daze, no longer interested in the concert… and quite unable to break his gaze away from his teenage crush.

“You look as though you’ve just found Jimmy Hoffa!” teased Sadie, baring her sparkling eyes as she set her glasses on the sideboard.

Bobby watched in amazement as Sadie took off her baseball cap, letting her fiery red locks spill down to her shoulder blades.

He took another gulp of beer, bug-eyed…

“Cat got your tongue?” teased Sadie, reaching for a volume knob mounted on the wall. “That’s a cliché, I know, but it always comes to mind when I meet a tongue-tied fan. Here, let’s turn the noise down so we can talk; I’ve heard this performance a hundred times before, anyway.”

Bobby tried to muster the courage to speak; all he could manage was ‘uh…’

“Oh, you guys are all the same!” giggled Sadie, actually slapping Bobby on the knee. “I’m not Queen Elizabeth, man, and even she poops and pees like everyone else! Here, let’s do this like normal people…”

Sadie held out her slender hand, smiling. “I’m Sadie Claire LeFountain, publicly known as Sadie Lee. And you are…?”

Bobby mustered every ounce of his courage…

“I’m… I’m Robert,” he stuttered. “Robert Evan McGee, but my friends call me Bobby.”

“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose…” said Sadie, quoting Janis Joplin as she shook Bobby’s hand and sat down. “There, was that so hard? So do you live in Chicago, Bobby McGee?”

“No, ma’am,” replied Bobby politely.

“You can drop the ‘ma’am’!” interjected Sadie firmly. “‘Sadie’ will do just fine, thank you.”

“Sorry, uh… Sadie,” amended Bobby. “No, I’m from Georgia originally, but now I live in Montana; I manage a hardware store there. I had to take a road-trip to get here, because the closest show to me was in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and it sold out before I could get a ticket.”

A ticket?” asked Sadie, raising a pretty, perfectly-groomed eyebrow. “No girlfriend?”

“No…” blushed Bobby. “I… I’m not good with the ladies, I’m afraid.”

“And yet here you are with me!” giggled Sadie. “Score! What makes finding a girlfriend so hard for you, Bobby McGee?”

“I… well, I don’t meet many women in my line of work, at least not single ones,” blushed Bobby. “They all just come in with their husbands.”

“So you don’t meet women at work. Where do you hang out when you’re not working?” quizzed Sadie.

“Well… I spend my weekends at the Comic Shack, playing Magic, the Gathering…” moaned Bobby, hanging his head.

“Wow!” laughed Sadie. “That’s a crying shame, Bobby McGee. If it makes you feel any better, I find you quite charming.”

“Really?!” chirped Bobby, taking a slug of beer.

“Balding head, beer breath, and all!” chirped Sadie. “Do you know what the curse of being a celebrity is?”

“Nope,” said Bobby.

“It’s always wondering…” said Sadie, her brow furrowing, “who really loves you, and who just wants to use you. It gets harder as you get older. I was twenty-five when I shot I have Not Forgotten; now, I’m two decades older. Oh, I work out and my dieticians monitor every bite I eat; I’m aging better than any middle-class girl ever could… but in the end, will I just be put out to pasture for being too old? Not every girl’s a Meryl Streep, you know.”

“Well…” said Bobby, “would it matter? I mean, you’ve made more great movies than most actresses out there, and I’m sure you never have to worry about money. I mean, why worry about your future when you’ve had such a great past?”

“The Celts believed…” mused Sadie, leaning forward and resting her chin in her hand, “that the gods needed belief – and adoration – to continue their existence. Without such, they had no sustenance, no life-force. The Irish who refused to succumb to Christianity came to believe that the gods – and the faerie-folk with them – disappeared from the world of men, unable to survive the slow decline of worship.”

“I don’t follow…” said Bobby, chugging the last of his beer and setting down the empty can.

“I mean…” said Sadie patiently, “that when one’s entire adult life is judged as a success or failure based on the opinions of others, what happens when the limelight fades? Can one really go on living, or would Existence just then become a mockery of Life? I suspect that one’s breath might then become a mere clock, ticking away toward the end.”

“I suppose I don’t know,” said Bobby tactfully. “I’m just a hardware store manager.”

“And so you are,” said Sadie, wiping away a tear. “Would you care for a drink, Bobby McGee? A nightcap with your old crush, as we watch the last of my husband’s concert? I can get anything you like, and I do mean anything!”

“Aged Scotch?” asked Bobby hopefully. (He was oh-so-fond of well-crafted, aged Scotch whisky, but alas… the expense!)

Sadie smiled as she leaned forward and tapped the intercom button on the sideboard. “Two doubles of Clan McCutcheon!” she ordered. “Served neat, please.”

Bobby’s eye bulged out at that; he couldn’t believe that he’d actually heard someone ordering such an insanely-priced beverage so casually. 

Sadie seemed rather contemplative as she waited for the whisky to arrive, so Bobby let her be as he watched the concert winding down. (He did give her the occasional side glance, though, and he was pretty sure that she caught him at it.)

A tuxedo-clad waiter arrived in short order, demurely delivering two tumblers of whisky. Bobby took his with shaking hands, still feeling more than a little dumbstruck by his current situation.

“I told you I could get anything!” said Sadie smugly, raising her glass. “Cheers, my new friend!”

Bobby clinked his glass against Sadie’s, and took an appreciative sip.

“Wow…” he breathed, “I could never afford this!”

“Enjoy your taste of the good life,” said Sadie with a wink. “The spotlight burns out pretty fast, I’m afraid.”

Bobby took another sip as Sadie turned up the volume switch, and rested her chin once more upon her slender hand.

Sadie was obviously intent on enjoying the rest of the concert, so Bobby lapsed into silence. (He was more interested in Sadie than he was the concert, but he tried to be discreet about his staring…)

Sadie’s lingering smirk told him that he wasn’t quite as successful as he wanted to be.

Bobby sipped away at his insanely-priced whisky as the concert rolled towards its spectacular finish.

Steve Valmer played through the finale, exited the stage, and waited as the audience demanded one more song…

Only when the curtain call was finished did the lights finally come back up. Bobby set down his empty tumbler with regret, wishing that he’d asked the waiter to leave the bottle. (Not, of course, that the waiter had actually brought the bottle; Bobby grinned at the ridiculous thought that the bartender probably guarded such beverages with a shotgun.)

“Well, I suppose that’s that…” said Sadie flatly, rising.

She took a few steps back from Bobby, and extended her hand. “It was lovely meeting you, my new friend,” she said brightly.

Bobby rose to shake her hand…

And fell flat onto his face.

“Are you okay?” asked Sadie, with a concerned expression.

Bobby rolled onto his back, eyeing Sadie with slightly-crossed eyes. Her face was blurred now, as grotesque now as it had earlier been beautiful.

“I don’t feel so good…” moaned Bobby.

Sadie knelt over him, brushing her crimson locks away from her porcelain face. “Did you drink too much, honey?” she cooed.

“I don’t think so…” slurred Bobby. “Can you help me up?”

Sadie rose, laughing. “Having trouble walking, are you?”

“Y… Yeah…” moaned Bobby, his head spinning.

“But we had such a lovely time!” giggled Sadie. “You can’t pass out on me, like some random drunk! What kinda date is that?”

“Sorry…” moaned Bobby, his head flopping sideways. “What’s happen… happ… ha…”

Sadie knelt over him, her sky-blue eyes suddenly growing very, very cold.

“You wanna know what’s happening?” she whispered. “Do you really?

“Y… Ye… uhhh…” slurred Bobby.

“I poisoned you,” said Sadie, with no hint of emotion whatsoever.

Huuuhhhh…?” wheezed Bobby.

“Shut the hell up!” ordered Sadie. “You’re dying; you can’t talk anymore. Let me tell you something, my adored fan…”

Bobby stared in comatose horror as Sadie rose again, looking scornfully down at him.

“You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Sadie. “I’m supposed to be shooting a movie in Brazil. That movie’s finished already; it comes out next month. I didn’t like being naked for half the damn thing, but that’s how my world works; you either peddle your ass, or you’re brushed aside. There is very little difference, in the end, between an actress and a prostitute.”

Sadie took a sip of her whisky, and set the tumbler back down.

“In my world…” she continued, “you do as you’re told. I’m supposed to gloriously re-unite with my husband and children in two weeks, and it’ll make headlines; I can’t risk you blowing our fairy-tale reunion scam. People magazine will run a cover story, in which I’ll give an interview about hard it is to balance being both a mother and an actress. My husband will appear on the cover of Rolling Stone, his career pushed forward by the publicity from People. The truth is that I cheat on my husband all the time and nannies are raising my kids, but that’s how it goes; it’s all a game, nothing more. Do you see?”

Uhhhhh….” gurgled Bobby.

“The truth,” smiled Sadie, “is that I don’t give a rip about my ‘husband’, nor does he about me. We do what we want, whenever we want, and we answer to no one except our own. The only sin we could ever commit is disappointing our handlers, our producers and financiers. As long as we toe that line, we can do whatever else we want. We’re above social expectations, above accountability… even above the law.”

Thpb…” drooled Bobby.

“We are what everyone longs to be, the New Gods and Goddesses,” intoned Sadie. “Our handlers raise us up, the media heaps praise upon us, and thus we are worshipped. It’s all a charade, a grotesque masquerade; we are the modern Iscariots, the People of the Lie.”

Bobby burped, only dimly noticing that he’d wet his pants.

“It’s all right in front of you,” whispered Sadie, kneeling again. “We’re a complete farce, right out in the open, and hidden in plain sight. We speak in code, and laugh at your kind because you can’t figure out that code.”

Bobby’s vision began to narrow…

“For instance,” smirked Sadie, “‘Served neat’ is code for ‘add a dash of cyanide’. Wanna know another code phrase?”

Bobby puked a little as Sadie rose, and began choking on his vomit as she tapped the intercom button on the sideboard.

“Hello?” she said calmly. “I need a custodian, please. Could you send up Todd?”

Letting the intercom button go, Sadie turned to Bobby.

“‘Tod’ is the German word for ‘death’,” explained Sadie affably. “Get it? It means I just killed someone – again – and I need the body carted off. The custodian will arrive with a covered trash can, stuff your carcass into it, and no one will ever know what became of you. Isn’t that oh so clever?”

Bobby felt his breath slowing down, and his heart beginning to falter…

Sadie knelt over him one last time, and kissed his forehead gently.

“Thank you for watching my movies,” she whispered. “It was truly lovely meeting you, my much-appreciated fan. May there be many more just like you.”

Bobby’s eyes rolled back in his head as Sadie rose; he never saw the door open, or the janitor coming in…

He didn’t feel his neck breaking as the custodian forced him into the narrow trash can, and he felt no trace of shame as his urine was unceremoniously mopped off the floor.

When the mess was finally tidied up, all that had once been Bobby McGee was pushed downstairs with the rest of the refuse.

The sun not yet shown its face; perhaps it never would.

The nameless vagrant finished rolling up his pinch of marijuana, and raised it to his withered mouth. He took an appreciative puff as he lit up his treat, and held his breath to let the much-appreciated drug take effect.

The transient choked a little as he finally released the first cloud of rancid smoke; he leaned against the cold brick wall, already feeling his senses going numb.

As the vagrant took yet another puff, one of his impromptu rolling-papers blew away, idly snatched up by a passing breeze. Only the wind knew what the cheaply-printed placard read, and the wind would never betray the answer to its question…

Have you seen this man?

Regarding Dreams…

Shame on the night/ for what I’ve done, and things I’ve seen/ for giving me the strangest dreams/ but you never ever tell me what they mean, and oh!/ shame on the night…

Ronnie James Dio (from the song ‘Shame on the Night’)

Dreams define who we are…

But the irony is, we never ADMIT that they do! Most people hold the memory of their dreams close to the chest, sharing them with no one. We almost never talk about them or reveal their contents, not even to our closest friends.

But still they haunt us, plaguing not only our nights but our waking hours as well. Dreams bring our fears to life, and tap into our most cherished fantasies. They are a blessing, for they bring us relief from the curse that is Living…

And yet they’re also a curse unto themselves, in that they confront us with the very things from which we seek relief. Dreams are spawned by terrors of which we dare not even speak, lest through having been given utterance they be brought to unholy life.

I… hate dreams.

And I also LOVE them, because they’ve defined my world since before I was old enough to understand the difference between Reality and Fantasy.

Dreams differ from person to person. According to my sleep specialist (poor, overworked bastard) your average person is a ‘passive dreamer’. In other words, to most people a dream is like a movie. You are a spectator watching a play, and nothing more.

But some people – not very many – are ‘cognitive dreamers’. Cognitive dreamers can make decisions, speak, and act during a dream, oftentimes even altering their outcomes.

That’s me. Always has been.

The problem with being a ‘cognitive dreamer’ is this: It’s a psychological problem. ‘Cognitive dreaming’ means that one’s brain is still mostly awake it’s SUPPOSED to be resting!

This… is bad. Very, VERY bad!

It’s especially troubling to me, because oftentimes my humdrum day segue-ways directly into a dream. So my mind actually creates memories of interactions with friends, co-workers, and family members that aren’t real. That’s embarrassing. Sometimes I’ll try to continue a conversation with someone, only to have them look at me in confusion… because that conversation never actually happened.

What REALLY disturbs me are my recurring nightmares. When I was a little, maybe four or five, I lived in an apartment building that was barely a hundred yards from the Atlantic Ocean. I fell asleep to the sound of the breakers crashing onto the sandy shore, night after night…

Picturesque, huh? One would like to think so, anyway.

To this day (and I’m in my forties) I suffer from the same nightmare that I did back then: The ocean rising above its borders, and flooding my home. And with the flooding comes the SHARKS, who chase me from room to room eagerly seeking my bloody demise.

Another recurring nightmare that plagues me is this one: I’m looking in a mirror, and I see something in the mirror that I KNOW isn’t real. Am I going crazy, I wonder? Or is the mirror actually an occultic doorway into worlds that I don’t understand, and probably don’t WANT to?!

Trust me, those two nightmares are only the tip of the iceberg…

At the end of the day, I have to believe that God wired my brain the way He did for a reason. I resent the perpetual insomnia, for sure, and the crazy dreams. But what if my brain was ‘normal’…? Would I still be a writer? An artist? Or would I just be another drone, dutifully contributing to society but having nothing UNIQUE to offer it?

I’ll never know the answer to that question, at least in this life, because I’m ME and not someone else… so my maudlin night terrors will continue to define my reality, as they always have. I’ll never get a glimpse of the ‘other side’, because I was never hard-wired to SEE the other side.

Maybe that’s okay… or maybe it ain’t. Either way, I have no frame of reference.

But I DO trust that God knows what He’s doing. If my head’s a jumbled mess (and it is), then it’s that way for a reason. I don’t know what that reason is…

And you know what?

I don’t HAVE to! ‘Nuff said…


So sorry I haven’t been all that active here lately…

I have a novel under contract with a major publisher, and I’ve been exhausting myself promoting elsewhere.

BUT… do please go to FaceBook, and friend Virginia Wallace (location: Lake Placid, NY). That’s me! And as soon as FaceBook un-blocks me for some vague accusation of ‘spamming’, I will link my FB page to this blog!

Thanks for reading, y’all!

Regarding Health, and Fun…

Has anyone (besides me) noticed that there is an inversely proportionate relationship between how good something is for you, and how much fun it is…?

While wine is my usual dinnertime drink, I do LOVE me some whisky! (I AM Southern, after all.) Scotches get warmed up in a microwaved coffee mug (the mug, not the scotch) and bourbons go over ice… and I serve myself both ‘straight up’. I mean, who ruins perfectly good whisky with Coke?! BLECH!!!

Straight ‘brown liquor’ is the worst thing in the world for one’s liver, I’m told. May as well drink formaldehyde.

I also love Kentucky Fried Chicken. (Again… Southern.) Their chicken is deep-fried, and their gravy is even worse… it’s made from the selfsame grease scraped from the drain underneath the chicken-frying griddle. But I LOVE their chicken, and their gravy, and also their coleslaw. Their corn ain’t exactly healthy, either… it comes to your plate absolutely SLABBERED in hi-test butter!

I also love red meat. A ribeye steak is my absolute FAVORITE!!! Aaaaand your average cardiologist would totally chew me out for that. Cholesterol, much?

I’m also addicted to comic books. ‘Brain candy’, my first-grade teacher once told me after she confiscated an issue of ‘Batman’ that she caught me reading in class.

My stepfather used to scornfully call my mother’s romance novels ‘Housewife Porn’.

I am now under contract by a major publisher for… yep, a romance novel.


So here’s to what’s NOT good for you!

*raises whisky tumbler*