Friday, May 23, 2014


When I come to the end of writing a story and I look back on it, realizing that a few hours ago this story did not exist, to go from a blank screen on my computer monitor to word-sketched scenes and characters—I am astonished. This feeling of gratefulness to be allowed that adventure is almost overwhelming. Top that off with the opportunity to have the story published, entertaining my readers and perhaps revealing an underlying truth, brings me to doing the happy dance.

I don’t have the date when the book will be published, but I have signed a release for Breath of Fresh Air Press to include the following fictional story in their Mixed Blessings Books series, coming out in the near future. Originally written in November, 2010, for’s weekly writing challenge, this story received an Editor’s Choice award. Later weekly challenges prompted two more stories set in this fictional town of Dry Gulp. I’ll be featuring those stories here in my little corner soon. Now for your reading pleasure and to whet your appetite for the entire Mixed Blessings series, I give you:


Rumors don’t come howlin’ through the window like a Santa Ana wind at four o’clock in the mornin’. Nope, more ‘n’ likely they come tantalizin’ like a breeze, lickin’ at yer ears, temptin’ ya to position yerself for a mite more o’ folks’ palavarin’.

I wish to high heaven I’d fastened the shutters snug agin’ my own meddlesomeness. If I’d’a done that, I mightn’t be in this here pickle, havin’ to make a life alterin’ decision.

I been owner o’ The Dry Gulp Saloon here nigh onto twenty years, offerin’ the best whiskey in town. And sasspariller fer the ladies. I ain’t opposed to females frequentin’ my establishment a’tall. But if it weren’t fer womenfolk I might’a never heard what I’m about to tell ya. So I’m a tad conflicted about allowin’ ‘em in.

Boy howdy, there’s this big outfit outside o’ town, The Cornerstone Ranch. It’s been there since before I come out west. Owner lives back east. I been out there, providin’ liquid sustenance at a barn dance, so I know the foreman. Clay seems like a good ol’ cowpoke, never done me no harm anywise. He’s shore made somethin’ out’a that spread. Ever’ fall his cowhands drive hundreds o’ head o’ cattle to the railroad, herds so big there don’t seem to be no end to ‘em. 
Must take in some purdy good money too ‘cause Clay and the boys drop more’n a bit o’ silver on this here countertop o’ mine.

I asked Clay once about his boss. He said he ain’t heard from the feller in years, figgers he done lost interest in the place. That don’t bother Clay none. Clay says, “Me and the boys’re doin’ mighty fine. Don’t need him messin’ things up. We been doin’ all the work all these years—I figger it’s MY place now. He ever shows up? Might jest be a show down in the streets, that’s all!”

I must’a looked a tetch pale faced ‘cause Clay grinned and clapped me on the back. “Don’tcha worry none, ol’ feller,” he said. “Mr. High Falutin’ Eastern Fancy Pants ain’t a’comin’! I’m shore he got better things to do than ride all this way on dusty trains and stagecoaches an’ all. You jest tend yer bar and no trouble’ll come to ya.” 

Well, I wadded my botherment like a hankeychief in my back pocket and got on with my saloon keepin’, like the man said.

I got me a little gal, Daisy Rose, borned to me and my wife seven years ago. My wife’s one o’ those ladies who come in fer my sasspariller. She ended up stayin’. I ain’t sorry Daisy Rose come along but like I said, I’m a mite conflicted.

I let Daisy Rose have the run o’ the place. She keeps me up on the doin’s ‘round here. They say womenfolk love bearin’ tales but I gotta ‘fess up, to my shame, my ears’re always flappin’ fer the tale to be told. So I ain’t never told Daisy not to eavesdrop.

One day Daisy tells me what she heard while she was doin’ her little chores, sweepin’ the storage room. She don’t know what it’s all about but it durn near made my blood freeze.

Seems a coupla Cornerstone cowboys was enjoyin’ a smoke out back. They’s laughin’ an’ talkin’ about how messengers from Mr. Fancy Pants been comin’ regular-like to the ranch. How the cowhands got orders from Clay to give ‘em a message to take back to him. As Daisy Rose prattled, a remembrance come to my mind of a coupla well-dressed strangers that’d partook of a glass of my finest. Later I seen ‘em boardin’ the stage, a little worse fer wear. Now’s I think on it, ‘twas evidence of a cowpuncher’s blows.

Daisy’s a’pullin’ on my vest, “Papa, does Mr. Fancy Pants have a son? Willy and Little George said when Mr. Fancy Pants’ boy gets here, they’re gonna throw him a party in the gully where that ol’ weepin’ willow grows. What kinda party is a lynchin’ party, Papa? Maybe Willy and Little George’ll invite me.”

Now I gotta decide if’n I oughta bear this tale to the sheriff an’ run the risk o’ Clay’s six-shooter finding a place to put a plug in me. Or am I gonna let Mr. Fancy Pants’ boy get hung so’s I can go on benefitin’ from the Cornerstone’s silver?

I wish to heaven I’d’a made Daisy Rose stay home with her mama.

(Photographs taken at The Rusty Wagon, a local eatery)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


New pages are turning! I’m anticipating adventure and exploration with a group of like-minded women writers this year. The following, a piece of creative fiction (originally submitted for the writing challenge in May 2010), seems appropriate for encouraging the members of that group now, and a good reminder for me. You don't have to be a writer for it to resonate with you as well. 

(Original Title: Text of Life)

Lord, I’m feeling really lonely. I want deeper friendships. I see the women at my church who have friends they go out to lunch with, have over to their homes, take trips with…they’re friendly towards me but there’s a sense of distance, like they don’t want to invite me in. But not just at church, in my neighborhood and at work as well. And I want to minister to them too. How can I do that if we don’t connect?

Have you shared your book with them?

My book? What do you mean my book? I’m not a writer!

Your life is being written moment by moment, child. What you’ve experienced from the day you were born until now is your book.

Hmm, I’ve never thought of it that way. But no, I haven’t really wanted to do that, share my book with anyone.

Why not?

It’s… well, for one thing, it’s too depressing.

How so?

Who wants to hear about my parents’ alcoholism, the abuse, my dabbling in the occult and my promiscuity? Before I met you, Lord, my life was a real mess, a downhill slide…hardly inspiring or uplifting. I’d rather talk about You, Lord.

My darling child, I do want you to talk about Me, and you must. But I have a question for you. Your life story is depressing for whom?

Why, for anyone I’d try to talk to, of course.

Delightful child, are you sure the real reason isn’t because you’re the one it’s too depressing for?

Whoa! You sure know how to ask the right questions, Lord!

I know the right answers too, daughter.

I’m listening, Lord!

The people in your sphere of influence may not read my Word, but they do read you. They will relate to you when you are honest about your past, when you don’t deny or discount it, or dismiss it as having no bearing on the present, or assume it will be depressing to them.

When they know what you’ve been through, they’ll be able to see the clearer how I’ve made all the difference. Even the women at church have secrets they hide because they think no one will understand. What would it mean to them to know someone like you who has been there?

If I’m going to be honest, Lord, I have to admit that I don’t want to know their stories. Whenever I hear them talking about their pasts I’m impatient for them to just move on…to get over it. Is that a lack of compassion on my part?

I’m aware of that in you, my daughter. And the answer is, yes. But it begins much closer to home.

Are you saying I haven’t been compassionate towards myself?

Now you’ve caught onto that twist in your plot! And here’s an even better twist: My compassion will flow through you to others, as you are willing to receive it for yourself.

Wow, Lord! I think I know why I’ve been afraid to open up like that. What if they turn their backs on me, see me as the scum I know I’ve been and decide I’m not worthy of their friendship?

Oh, I know, some may turn away—I don’t force anyone to do anything they don’t want to. But I have established a mandate for other believers to be supportive when you open the book of your heart. I assure you, there will be some who welcome you, who want to read your story. And I will lead you to them.

Precious child, take a look in My Book. This is something King David discovered. See here? “God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to His eyes.” You might have noticed that My Book is full of stories that could cause stomachs to churn and hair to curl or stand straight up on end. But David and many others recognized how important it was to record not only the good, but also the bad and the ugly. You’ve been able to relate to that, haven’t you?

Oh, yes, Lord! I have! I love your Word so much!

So, child of mine, how can I rewrite the text of your life, if you’re not willing to open the rough draft?

This will not be easy but I’m willing to submit my manuscript to you, Lord, by sharing it with those who desperately need to see it.

They will be blessed, as will you, my daughter!

(Scripture from 2 Samuel 22:21-25, in The Message Bible)