Sunday, April 15, 2012

On Vampires...

Continuing the Dark Shadows Meme I started earlier:

I've been thinking about why I loved Caleb Morley and Barnabas Collins so much and other modern-day vampires not so much.

I've always been attracted to were-animals so I haven't really put vampires in any of my stories, except one slightly erotic paranormal short story I never finished - and the vampires in that story were female, southern and killing off Union boys.

So why Caleb Morley of Port Charles fame? That's easy--Michael Easton was (is) very hot and I loved the tattoo on his arm. One of the few younger men to whom I'm even a bit attracted even when he's no longer a vampire.

And then there's Barnabas. Ah. Barnabas...where do I begin:
Sympathetic vampire. It was a curse by a thwarted love that made him a blood-sucking immortal.
Not handsome in that Richard Burton bad skin type of "not handsome" - I can't explain it. Someone else please try.
A bit of a British demeanor with a hint of nobility.
Obviously intelligent.
And then there's the silver-headed cane...something about a man, carrying a cane.

I know Johnny Depp will no a marvelous job of portraying Barnabas. But Jonathan Frid did it live for 1000+ episodes. He IS Barnabas.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Paranormal in the Daylight

So I blogged about the soap opera, One Life to Live, going off the air. So I like soap operas. I like Italian operas, too –not German so much…but I digress.
One Life to Live had some unusual (for a soap in the 1970s/1980s) storylines: the lost underground city of Eterna and time travel to the wild west (the time travel plot was resurrected just a few years ago). But for all of those unusual diversions, OLTL was your normal angst-ridden, relationship battle-ground soap opera. In other words it was fun. But something was missing for me.
I love the paranormal. Poe had been one of the first “adult” writers I read. I wasn’t allowed to go to any horror movies while growing up. But I had a good friend, Susie Spence, who would go on Saturday and tell me the story, plot point by plot point on Monday. Of course back then neither one of us realized that there were things like “plot points”. We just enjoyed the twists and turns of the stories that would eventually lead to something frightening. And we loved frightening.
 In 1997, as an adult working from home, I found a soap opera with paranormal elements and I was thrilled. What made it even better was that it was a spin-off from another soap I’d watched for years, General Hospital. The new soap was Port Charles and, even though it used several well-known GH faces, there were new, memorable characters, like the vampire, Caleb Morley, played by Michael Easton.

However, Michael wasn’t the first to portray a vampire on a daytime serial. That distinction went to Jonathan Frid as, of course, Barnabas Collins, the sympathetic blood sucker of Dark Shadows.
I was in nursing school when the original Dark Shadows first aired in 1966. Back then we couldn’t have a television in our rooms, so I had to watch the show in between classes in the front lobby of the nurses’ residence. It was a popular show with some of us—not so popular with others. Back then it was a different type of soap opera, more werewolves than doctors, more coffins then unwanted babies. But there was drama and, of course, there was Barnabas, eerily sexy like a refined, English Bela Lugosi.

I still love anything paranormal/supernatural, in fact that’s what I usually end up writing…something weird with weird happenings and characters. I still love Dark Shadows, the original. As I watch the black and white episodes now, after years of watching computer-generated special effects, the show seems awkward, not quite put-together—sort of what you would have done for your high school drama class—if you didn’t have an advisor.
But in the late 1960s it was innovative, cool and a necessity to anyone who loved gothic, suspense and the weird…like me.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Short Story in Progress

It's Just Another Day

            Rachel handed the cabbie a fistful of dollars. "Keep the change," she mumbled as she fumbled with the door handle.
            "It shticks," the cabbie said in a deeply Middle Eastern accent.
            "Damn, I'm going to be late," she fussed as she wiggled the chrome handle around. First Jerry had to rant at her while she was trying to stuff her Cell phone into her purse, making her late for the early train. Then it seemed like everyone and their brother was trying to catch a cab downtown. She'd had to walk two blocks with one hand up, the heavy briefcase tugging on her already sore arm. The pain reminding her again of Jerry.
            "You think you're a big deal, doncha, Rachet?" he'd sneered at her, using the dreaded nickname. She'd turned away from him and he'd grabbed her arm, swinging her back around to face him. "Big deal!" he'd repeated, spitting into her face.
            "Jerry, I've got to go. I have a meeting this morning…"
            "I've got a meeting this morning," he mocked her.
            "Look at the want ads. For God's sake…"
            He'd slumped down on the sofa, the leather creaking under him. She tried to ignore him and headed for the door. She'd heard him crying and didn't turn around. She walked out the door, closing it softly behind her.
            "Finally," she said as she angled the handle to the right position and opened the cab door.
            "Shee," the cabbie said with a toothy smile. "Just a little shtick."
            Rachel nodded absently and was shutting the door when she heard it, a locomotive coming down the street. No not down the street – in the air.
            Instinctively she looked up and saw the plane. In the next second she saw the plane hit the tower and a fireball blossom out from the side of the structure. One second later she was back in the cab.
            "Uptown," she whispered.
            "Wha' was dat?" the cabbie asked, craning his neck to look up into the sky.
            "Uptown!" Rachel screamed at the cabbie. "One of the Towers has just been hit by a plane." Debris was already beginning to fall around them. People on the sidewalk were looking up to the burning floors high above them, cell phones glued to their ears.
Rachel banged on the plastic partition between her and the driver and yelled again. "Uptown! Now! Something’s happening.” 
            A chunk of something, desk, airplane, something crashed down alongside the cab and suddenly they were moving and moving fast.
            "Where…where…" The cabbie looked into his rearview mirror as he tried to maneuver around people standing in the street, staring at the Twin Towers.
            But Rachel was turned around, looking out of the back window, watching the fire, the destruction, people running and then the unthinkable, a second plane was heading into the second tower.
             "Oh, my God," she said as she watched it hit. "Oh, my God."
            "Wha…." The cabbie said.
            "Keep going. Another plane just hit the second tower."
            "Allah," the cabbie whispered.
            "Dear God," Rachel said, thinking of her coworkers waiting for her at Windows on the World. The breakfast meeting that would never happen. Her stomach turned over.
            Should she go to her office? Suddenly her cell phone rang. She picked it up and looked at the screen. Jerry. She let it go to voice mail. It rang again. Lena, the receptionist at the office. She went to answer it and hesitated. It continued to ring. Why didn't she answer it? Lena was probably calling everyone who was supposed to be at that breakfast meeting. Then the ringing stopped.
            She knew why she didn't want to talk to Jerry, who'd probably seen the horrible crashes from their Hoboken high rise condo, if he'd been looking outside. The ringing started again. On the screen was her boss's name.
Maybe he thinks I was in an elevator, on my way up to the restaurant. Maybe…maybe…
The ringing stopped.
            "You not answer your phone?" the cabbie asked. Rachel looked at his face. "You supposed to be in the tower. People worried about you."
            And then it swept over her. It was if the cabbie's words had caused an epiphany.
            "Wrong numbers," she said as she turned off her phone
     It seemed as if her brain was running at top speed, just like the cab. Fire trucks, police cars and ambulances passed them. Some people on the sidewalks looked stunned, transfixed as they stared down to where the two huge towers were smoldering.
     “Miss…miss…” The cabbie was trying to get her attention. Finally her plan came to her, sparkling and clear. This was her chance, her get-away. She had to take it.
     “Forty-eighth and 10th Avenue.” Rachel finally answered the cabbie. She pulled out two twenties and pushed them at him and then once again struggled with the “shticky” door handle. Thank God for the door handle, she thought. Thank God for the traffic and even, yes, thank God for Jerry making her late.
     She jumped out of the cab almost as soon as it stopped, ignoring the cabbie’s words of thanks. Standing in front of the high-rise, she again gave thanks that her parents were in Europe for the month, their apartment empty. She dug the keys out of her purse and walked to the entrance. Another piece of good luck – a new doorman. She nodded and walked inside as if she belonged there.
     She took the elevator up to the twentieth floor. She looked up and down the hall before getting out. There were only two other apartments on the floor, but she needed to be sure no one saw her.
     As far as anyone knew, she had made it to Windows on the World in time for the breakfast meeting. As far as anyone knew, she was in there when the plane…
     Suddenly she heard a rumbling sound and felt the apartment shake. She ran to the terrace that face south. The towers were no longer visible, only a huge dark cloud that seemed to be filling the lower part of the island, knocking out the sun, blocking the sky.
     The towers had fallen. She was officially dead. She smiled, thinking that her plan was working and then suddenly remembered her coworkers. She shrugged off the feeling. “Not that I liked any of them that much,” she said out loud. Not even Sanders, her boss, the one who’d been pressuring her to leave her husband.
     She dropped her large briefcase and purse on the sofa, sat down and picked up the remote, clicking on the TV.
     Katie and Matt were still on and there were pictures of the planes then pictures of both towers collapsing.
     Twenty floors up she could hear the sirens going down 9th Avenue to the Financial District. Her Cell phone chirped again.
She looked at the number: Jerry – again.  She took the damnable thing into the kitchen and laid it on the wooden cutting board. Then she pulled a mallet from her mother’s cache of kitchen tools and slammed it, hard. Pieces of plastic and innards flew around the kitchen and Rachel began to giggle.
She was finally free. Dead to the world and free.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Excerpt: The Last RN

I could smell death even though I was still standing on the narrow stoop of the small Cape Cod. I hadn’t yet knocked and the smell, the cloying, sickening odor of someone dying of cancer, was almost overwhelming.
                I’d been a nurse for more than ten years and I’d smelled impending death before, but never like this – always in a hospital room or, more recently as a visiting nurse, in the sick room of a patient dying at home – never while I stood outside, hand raised ready to knock.
                In the few seconds it took for me to knock and the door to be opened, I wondered why I was standing there. What was I doing? Why, knowing what I might see inside, had I agreed to come to this house?
                I was the visiting nurse liaison for the local hospital. I interviewed patients before their discharge and set up home care services. I was also a member of the Cancer Committee, started by a social worker and the local oncologist. Both had told me I was the perfect choice to make this home visit.
                The social worker had received a call from a woman’s family. The family could no longer care for her at home and wanted her placed in the county nursing home. But the woman had not seen a doctor in a decade. Since she was virtually dying of cancer, the oncologist had agreed to be her doctor of record; however, the nursing home needed more – they needed a physical work-up and to get that, the woman had to be admitted to the hospital.
                But she needed convincing. Her husband and son had been trying to get her to the hospital but she was refusing. She didn’t want strangers looking at her. She had told her family she didn’t want “to be on display.” 
                She didn’t want to be seen because she no longer had a face.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Valentine

This is a story I wrote several years ago. It's my Valentine to my friends,
especially my friends with cats as family members.

Murray's Choice

            “You should get a kitten,” my daughter said as she pushed another cardboard box in the back of her little hatchback.
            “A kitten?”
Donna still looked like my little girl to me – all curly red hair and freckles. But she really was a young woman going out into the world – leaving for college two hundred miles away from me.
“Yeah, a kitten,” Donna repeated. Her departure was just moments away and the pull at my heart was not getting any easier.
            “I mean, Mom, Dad’s gone and you had to put Snuggles down…”
Snuggles, an old tabby rescued, as a kitten from the local shelter, had been her cat. 
            Now I could see where this was going.  Following her father’s death when she was twelve, I had made my daughter the center of my life. Now she was going off to college and even the family cat was gone.
            “I’ll be fine,” I assured her, not really believing it myself. “I have my job. Aunt Sylvie and Uncle Ed are nearby…”
            “You already spend too much time at the hospital,” Donna said. I had to admit that being the nursing supervisor was a time-consuming job. “And,” she continued, “you really should start to date again.”
            In the six years since Karl’s death I had made a few small stabs at the dating game, but was not impressed with what I’d found. 
            I shrugged. “Maybe,” I said.
            “Think about it, Mom.  Save a little kitten from the shelter.” She really knew how to get to me.
            “I’ll think about it,” I said, remembering how comforting it was to have a purring Snuggles curled up in my lap.
            A while later she was gone and I was alone. I called the shelter.

            That was how Murray, a gray and white kitten, came into my life. By spring Murray had grown into a large, happy cat with just one problem: Murray did not like any men.
            I’d found out Murray’s distinct dislike of the human male the day I had to call in a plumber to fix a leak under my kitchen sink. The plumber was looking at the leaking pipe. I was in living room, reading. I had just come to an exciting part of the book when I heard an ear-shattering scream, a clunk and extreme swearing.
Within seconds the plumber was suddenly packing up his tools to leave, saying in no uncertain terms that he was not working for a woman who had a wild animal as a pet.  Something had hissed at him and jumped on his back, claws digging in, causing him to raise his head and bang it on the underside of the sink.
            The “wild animal” was sitting on the back of my sofa, ears back and tail straight out watching narrow-eyed as the plumber walked out the door. “Bad cat,” I said to the offender who purred to be petted.
            Ed, my brother-in-law, fared no better with Murray. If Ed visited with my sister, Sylvie, Murray would tolerate him from a distance. But if poor Ed came alone – like he did to fix the leaking pipe the plumber had abandoned – he was greeted with hisses and Murray backing away, head down and rump up. “Something’s wrong with that cat,” Ed would say, shaking his head.
            I finally had to accept that I was living with a very jealous male – one with claws. With me Murray was a calm, loving animal, always ready to curl up in my lap or nap against me.  I really looked forward to his green eyes looking up at me with love every evening when I came home.
            After  several months I’d almost forgotten about Murray’s behavior…that is until the evening I had my first date in years.
 John, a divorced friend of Ed’s, asked me out for dinner, offering to pick me up at home. He seemed like a nice guy. Maybe this would work, I thought. I had forgotten about Murray.
            When the doorbell rang, Murray was nowhere to be found. I walked down to the foyer of my bi-level and opened the door. John never made it up the stairs to the living room. Murray, lurking on the landing above the entranceway, whacked at my date’s head with claws out.
            “What was that?” John exclaimed, barely missing the plumber’s fate.
            “Just my cat,” I answered.
            “Never did like cats,” John muttered. Dinner was our first and last date.

            “You need an animal therapist,” Sylvie said after hearing about my bad first date.
            “Like a cat whisper,” I laughed.
            “Yeah,” she said seriously. “I think there’s one at the vet’s office. Don’t worry. It’s a woman.”

            I made the appointment and with Murray tucked safely into his carrier went to the office. The receptionist ushered us into one of the rooms. The office was large, with several veterinarians and I always requested one of the female ones for Murray. Unfortunately this time a man walked into the examining room.
            “I…I’m sorry,”  I stammered, suddenly embarrassed. Was it because he was a man and I was worried about Murray’s reaction? Or was it his handsome face with the silvery mustache? Maybe it was the bright blue eyes that seemed to smile at me?
            He looked at me and then looked at the carrier. I had been opening it when he came in. I stopped, afraid of the wild animal inside. “I’m Patrick Ross. I just joined the practice. I’m an animal behaviorist.”
            “I thought you were a woman…” I stammered again and he laughed.
            “You had an appointment with Gretchen. She had a family emergency and I’m filling in.” He turned the carrier around to look in the opening and I braced myself, imagining flying claws. “Just what seems to be this handsome young man’s problem?”
            As he went to open the door to let the tiger out, I put my hand on his to stop him and immediately noticed no wedding band. Again embarrassed, I jerked my hand away and said. “It’s just that…that…Murray…”
            Too late. Patrick Ross had opened the carrier and was gently taking out a docile large gray and white cat. Where was my cat? What happened to my Murray?
            “So, you don’t like other men around your Momma,” Patrick was saying while holding Murray to his chest and scratching his ears. Murray’s rumbling purr was loud and I felt like a fool.
            “Not until now,” I said to save face.
            “Did his bad behavior happen at home?” Patrick asked, those blue eyes holding mine.
            “Hmmm…yes,” I said.
            He held Murray up and gazed into his face. “Could be territorial instincts,” he said. He looked at me. “Maybe we need to do this on his own turf.”
            “Okay,” I mumbled.
            “I can come over later tonight and see how he acts with me there. Would that be all right?”
            Come over anytime, I thought as I looked at that ruggedly handsome face. But I said, “Yes. That’s fine.”
            That night when I opened the door to Patrick, Murray was in the foyer ready to greet the guest. My big bad cat rubbed Patrick’s legs and purred loudly.
Patrick beamed at me. “Seems like he doesn’t have a problem with me,” he said smiling at me. “Maybe he just has good taste,” Patrick laughed.
            I started to laugh, too. “Would you like some coffee? And I just made a cake.” I said.
            “Homemade cake? I haven’t had homemade cake since…well, since my wife died last year. I’d love some.”
            Patrick followed me into the kitchen. We sat  at the kitchen table for more than an hour with coffee, cake and conversation until I thought of something.
            “I wonder where Murray is,” I said.
            Patrick laughed, “On my lap, sound asleep.”
            Murray had made his choice and so had I.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


...why do they come in rabid dogs...or a rabid bats?

They always bum me out, especially  when I get a couple at once. Prozac, anyone? No - not on that...yet.
So I'm rethinking one novel that is completed and have to finish editing another one. Oh, yeah - I'm also editing My Guy's novel - well, the latest one. He has seven or eight completed manuscripts. I've lost count. He's retired.
And that's what I'll be soon...retired except for writing full time.
And getting more rejections...unless...
Unless I go Indie (the boutique name for self-publishing).
In fact, one of my manuscripts has to be self-pubbed. It would be useless otherwise - it has a 2012-prophecy theme. That one was rejected. A short story also got the thumbs down.
But I have several other projects I'm working on.
And I did get an acceptance from Mill Park Publishing for an essay on my two wedding dresses.
So maybe I don't really suck at writing.
Maybe some editors just suck at reading....

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Environment of a Writer

Anyone coming into my apartment for the first time will notice one thing - well, maybe two. First - books, books, books. My shrink once said I use them as a wall to keep people out. So? I love books. Some people...not so much.
The second thing would be the cats - not a herd -only three and one great big fluffy yellow one usually lounging on the little dining room table behind my desk - so he can be near me. Another one lies on the back of the sofa against my desk, his foreleg and paw next to the mouse (not a real one - computer adjunct mouse). The third lies at my feet. They're my muses - well, at least they think they are.

My "dining room table" is stacked with papers and a notebook with my latest book, along with the big fluffy cat because I don't "dine". You see, it's just me and I eat while I read emails or blogs or research, so I'm eating at my desk. Yeah, I know - not that healthy. But the cats eat well.

My young friend, Olivia, was so happy when I got a small desk to use in my small dining room and got my laptop off the "dining room table". I guess in her mind, I was moving toward being "normal". Hey, Liv - I'm a writer, I'm not normal. I couldn't write in the second bedroom where I'd set up my desktop computer. I felt like I was locked away in a back room. I wanted to be in a more open space - hence the move to the dining/living room area where I can see the action outside my patio door.

This is a writer's environment - not a big mess but definitely not OCD material either. If I'm researching, I want those books and notes at my finger tips. I'm usually reading several books at once, so they're also nearby. Thank Goddess for the Kindle or I would have even more books.

I'm thinking about this, because, you see, I will be marrying another writer next year - another lover of books, another person who goes from one thing to another, someone else who has a lot of interests. Our biggest task will be to combine all of that.

It should be fun.