FREE!!!

For a limited time Kindle Unlimited Members can read FRACTURED FACADE and THE VALENTINE'S DAY CURSE for free. Just click on the title!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Snow Mower

At least someone in this house enjoyed the recent snow blast. You can see by the chunks of ice stuck on her face, Bella has been digging for rocks. If it was up to her she'd stay out there all day until she was one matted mess. I let her defrost, then return outdoors for her leaping, burying pleasures. I have given up wiping puppy prints all over the house and figure the floors won't be clean until spring.


There was someone else in the house who, in the beginning, welcomed the snow...my husband. You see, for the last couple of weeks his toy has been waiting under the blue tarp on the back of that trailer. Just waiting patiently to be called to action.


Before it wound up here, it has spent many months at the shop getting ready for its debut. Countless hours, and countless dollars, have been spent modifying the John Deere mower into a powerful snow shoveling machine. When he first received the mower he forgot about an old Italian prophecy -- inherit a dead man's vehicle and it becomes your money pit. It doesn't matter if you inherit it, or buy it, it's still the same money drain. And he should have remembered that for all the time and money we've spent on the phantom problems of my dad's Olds.

When he first took the John Deere off of a friend's hands, he told me it only needed to be tuned up and spruced up as it sat still for so long. Otherwise, it's fine. Rather than detail every dollar, I'll just say parts could only be ordered through John Deere (even the parts list and manual had to be bought), and a welder even got involved helping my husband's dream to become a reality. Ka-ching! Ka-ching! Ka-ching!!!

Every time I rolled my eyes, I was assured this was going to work. By the way, for all the money he's spent he probably could have bought a new plow,  a couple of snow blowers, or, hired a local snow shoveling team to be on call all winter. But I digress. It was finally snowing!


My husband came home earlier than usual, stopping at Food Lion to stock up on provisions, two bottles of wine and treats for Bella. He almost made it to the door before he slipped on the ice, tumbled to the ground, shattering the wine bottles.




Luckily he wasn't hurt, but he was pissed, and now, soaking wet. Good thing he wouldn't be spending hours out there shoveling snow by hand in wet clothes!

The night before, he had tried firing up the toy, just in case, and discovered it was dead. Imagine that. So before using it, he had to hook it up to a portable battery. As it charged, the snow fell steadily. A big smile spread across his face when it kicked on, and he gave me two thumbs up. I was cooking dinner and asked him if he would be long. He said to continue cooking, he'd be 10-15 minutes. Bing, bang, boom.

I could hear the noise outside as I hovered over the warm stove. A half-hour later I went outside to tell him dinner was ready, and lo and behold, nothing was plowed! Bing, bang, boom. In fact, he never got to try the plow as the toy would not drive in the snow. Huh? Rocking back and forth, spinning wheels, smoke spewing, noise of a thousand blowers, there he sat, going nowhere, on a lawn mower with a snow blade on it.


When I saw the back wheels spinning, I suggested he use the portable plastic road strips I had bought him and my son for Christmas. They laughed when they saw them, but I told them both they would thank me when they were stuck in the snow. Unfortunately, my husband's  practical gift was at the shop in the back of the mini van. So much for them. He was determined to make this toy work and even began shoveling a path for the toy to drive through. Ummm, doesn't that defeat the purpose of not having to shovel?


I couldn't watch any more so I went inside and had dinner by myself. Men can be so stubborn. They don't need to look at directions when putting something together, and would rather drive around endlessly before asking for directions because they are lost. They think with perseverance it will all work out, eventually. He finally gave up an hour later when he got stuck in the middle of the road and had to push the toy back up the driveway. By the time he was finished, he successfully blocked the driveway so that it was impossible to exit now. Even VDOT leaves a smaller pile.

He had as much snow on him as there was in the driveway when he came in. He was more upset he didn't have the bottles of wine than he was about the snow mowing machine. After changing into dry clothes, getting warm, and having a hot meal he said that was enough and he'd figure something out tomorrow. When I went to let Bella out I noticed he had left the shed doors wide open so he had to get dressed again, go back out there, trudge through the snow, and close them.

Today was a new day, the snow had stopped falling, and he was determined to clear our driveway so he could get back to work. All it took was one phone call and a reinforcement arrived.


I thought it was overkill, but hey, what do I know...


Mission accomplished. We're free...


Now, who wants to bet me this very expensive toy doesn't even cut grass in the spring...












Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Valentine's Day Curse is Free

Just a quick post to let you know that my short story, The Valentine's Day Curse will be free on Amazon in all its stores from 2/11 through 2/15.




"When Lisa’s Valentine’s Day ritual is interrupted by a phone call, she is surprised it’s from someone she hadn’t heard from in many years. What could her ex, Joey, possibly want from her on what could have been their 25th wedding anniversary?

The Valentine’s Day Curse is a short story about stirred memories of unrequited love. For some people Valentine’s Day is not always a bed of roses."


I hope you enjoy this tale with a twist and that all your Valentine's Days are better than Joey's!

Just click on your country below for a direct link. Thanks for your support, and any reviews and/or recommendations to friends are always greatly appreciated!

Amazon US
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Monday, February 9, 2015

Seagulls in the Roanoke River

70 degrees in February? Now that I can live with! It was so beautiful in Roanoke yesterday I dragged my husband for a walk along the Roanoke River greenway in Salem. On the first leg of the walk we saw quite a few fishermen. None of them had caught anything but all of them said they had gotten nibbles.


On the second leg of the walk, across Lee Highway, I heard strange sounds that reminded me of Coney Island. It was the call of seagulls. Yes, seagulls in the river!


The first time I saw seagulls down here was about five years ago. There were about a dozen or so in a large puddle of water in the Lowe's parking lot on Main Street in Salem. I was quite shocked as I only knew seagulls to be near the sea, not in a puddle in a parking lot.

Apparently, some of the gulls found Spring Lake in Salem which is right across from the Lowe's. I also thought that was odd, but knowing how Brooklyn seagulls are...lazy, conniving, would rather eat a French fry than dive for fish...I wasn't surprised they were making a home there as the lake is right across the street from a Burger King. Geese and ducks already knew that's where they got a free meal so they took over the park, and made a mess of it with their droppings.

Yesterday, I was astonished at the number of gulls in the Roanoke river until I saw what was going on.


There were some people with a loaf of bread feeding the seagulls. There were so many of them that they pretty much took over the river, and in fact, were threatening any ducks that would go near the free food. When the family ran out of bread, the little ones took to throwing rocks at the birds instead. That will not deter a seagull. Knowing how Brooklyn seagulls are, rats of the sea with wings, I wouldn't be surprised if they take this river over.



The photos above were taken with my iPhone. I plan to go back with my camera some time, and although my husband says no, I bet the seagulls will still be in the Roanoke River.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Norfolk Southern Takes Its Toys Away From Roanoke



Since I became a resident of Roanoke almost twenty years ago I've witnessed her being slapped around quite a few times. I thought the last punch to her gut, Advance Auto leaving to head to Raleigh, couldn't be topped. I mean, Advance was born in Roanoke in 1932, our downtown museum was named after the founder, Art Taubman, and they had recently acquired Carquest. Expanding company = boon to the boondocks, no? Then, in a move that took everyone by surprise, including local government who were clueless anything was afloat, Advance decided to move the corporate office to Carquest's headquarters in Raleigh, rather than fold them into the belly of the valley. Do not the spoils of war go to the victor? There was some hubbub for a while, then the outrage seemed to just mosey on down the road.

Life went on in Roanoke. Sure there were a couple more blows, and not just in the city...the Allstate Roanoke County folly, the recent SalemYokahama 31 lay-off. The list goes on and I will link to it in a moment. Because at the head of the list is something actually worse than Advance's punch to Roanoke's gut. This was a harder punch in the gut, a kick in the ass, and a big ole spit in the face, from Norfolk Southern to Roanoke by deciding to eliminate their headquarters downtown and move 500 white collar positions either to Atlanta or Norfolk. You can read the details here.

In case you are unaware, Roanoke was built on rails. This town sprung forth from the rails. Its whole psyche is railroad-based. Even I, a New Yorker, who had never heard of Roanoke, wound up living here solely due to the lure of the train and my 3 year-old's desire to visit the transportation museum which had a train yard. We embrace the rails. We love the rails. And yet, in the two decades I've lived here we have had no passenger rails. Hard to believe, isn't it? Yet, there is light at the end of the tunnel. 2017 is the date when Amtrak will arrive in downtown Roanoke, and 2015 is the date when Norfolk Southern decided it was the time to abandon Roanoke. It's almost as if NS, who fought passenger service returning to Roanoke, is so annoyed at having to share their rails that they decided to pick up their toys and go home.

The history between Roanoke and Norfolk Southern cannot be covered in a short blog post. Here's a link to a WSLS on the History of NS. There's a video in the piece you can watch.  And here is a link to a Roanoke Time's NS Milestone List. And finally, a link to an editorial from yesterday's Roanoke Times. If you read the comments you'll see I chimed in. If you don't, this is what I posted:

"As long as Roanoke leaves little options for travelers to get in and out of here, easily and cost effectively, I doubt any large corporation will take this valley seriously to set up shop. Bottom line is the airport is too small and does not offer many cheap non-stop flights to major cities. Check the differences between Roanoke and Raleigh for a direct flight to NYC. BTW, I've always heard that it was Norfolk Southern who talked Roanoke out of expanding the airport. Anyone know if that is true? And yes, Amtrak will be a good thing, but no business wants to put their executives on a train to NYC for over 8 hours vs. a flight that should take 1 1/2 hours. As far as better-educated and well-trained workers...Roanoke already has them, but the businesses do not want to pay them what they are worth so folks are forced to look elsewhere. My 22 year old son relocated to Raleigh, best move ever."


Here is that link to this list of Closing and Layoffs. Notice Advance nor Allstate is not on the list, so who knows how many others are missing as well.

When I think back 20 years ago to my naive view of the Roanoke Valley, I laugh at myself. I had such high hopes. I thought I found it all. I ripped the roots out of concrete and planted them in clay dirt. With all the kicking they received, they never became strong roots. It didn't take long to break through the fake facade, but by then it was too late. I had given up everything, so I tried to make the best of a bad situation. I had no choice.

I've forgiven Roanoke many things, many, many, many things, but the one thing I can't forgive is breaking up my family and diminishing my kids' worth. No opportunities, no fair wages, no stay. I can't blame them. I support them. I thought I picked our forever place, but forever's over. If I could leave right this minute, right this second, I would. Well, I do leave, but I always have to come back at some point. I still have a business to run. I'm ready to sell, but my husband isn't. I figure I brought him here, so for now I have to deal with it. Eventually, I know that will change. What really needs to change are the priorities Roanoke's local leaders deem important to make this valley a thriving community.

Oh, Roanoke does a fine job hosting journalists in their effort to bolster the city's exposure. It works well, and at any given time you can go on social media and find a link to a travel blog, newspaper or magazine article. Roanoke is also good for a couple of Top Ten Destination/Best Blah Blah Blah mentions per year. I don't think anyone would argue any award Roanoke receives for quality of life. Mountain vistas, verdant valleys, the rolling river,  greenways, bicycle lanes, a quaint downtown, etc....what's not to like? Too bad lifestyle amenities do not equate to living expenses. And no matter what some people think, no corporation is going to determine Roanoke will be their headquarters based on greenways or bike lanes.

Carilion is the largest, by far, job creator in the valley. The city kisses their ass all the time, and it seems like they have placed all their eggs in Carilion's incubator. This rail town has become a medical municipality. I guess they're thankful they at least have them, but Roanoke really needs to start thinking bigger and better, offer more options, to keep our youth here after they graduate, and attract businesses. As I stated in the above comment, Roanoke has talent and expertise, but no one wants to pay for it. Oh, and boasting of two additional Walmarts and their job creations of $7.35/hourly positions is not the bar to aim for. Sigh...

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

My First (and Only?) $.99 Promo


In December I put both of my titles in Amazon's KDP Select program to see if I was "missing out" on anything. I was particularly interested in their lending program as both books would now be eligible to be borrowed. The royalty on borrows is not great, but hey, it's better than nothing.

So...how's it going? Thus far, I am extremely disappointed. Since I don't have the time, or desire to promote endlessly, my sales have been zilch and the borrows I can count on one hand, on one finger. I really hate being exclusive to one retailer but some authors swear it's worth it. Maybe if you're a Romance writer or someone who has a series of books it is, but thus far I'm not seeing the benefits.

I have not used any of the "perks" of being in this exclusive lonely club so figured I better before my 90 day period runs out so I could determine if there are any real benefits, or not. So, without further adieu I offer my novel, Fractured Facade, normally $4.99, at the discount price of $.99...that's less than a cup of coffee. This promo will run for one week, the maximum 7 days I'm allowed, starting today, 1/21, and runs through 1/28, and will be available on Amazon US and Amazon UK. Naturally, Kindle Unlimited readers can still borrow it for free.

I will probably post the above pic on Facebook and Twitter once a day until the promo runs out. I didn't bother trying to get listed on all those sites that bring thousands of readers. Pssst...I can't afford them, so I am depending upon good old word of mouth. If you are a new reader and decide to download it, I do hope you enjoy it, and perhaps take the time to leave a review. Telling a friend would be cool too. Thanks to all of you for your support!

P.S. I plan on giving away my short story, The Valentine's Day Curse, for the five free days I'm allotted, probably on Valentine's Day and before, so keep an eye out.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Country Dog in the Big City

Since my brother's destructo cats had gone to kitty heaven, my husband thought it would be fine to bring Bella with us on our visit to New York. This would be the first time she would be taking such a long a road trip. The longest she has ridden in a vehicle was about five minutes on her way to be groomed, or to the vet. Whereas my other dogs have loved to take a ride in the car, any time Bella goes in the car, she shakes uncontrollably. Besides her being a nervous Nelly, I was a little concerned at how she would do her business during the eight hours. Just putting a harness and leash on her puts her into freeze mode so I didn't know if she would understand the purpose of going for a walk. My husband kept telling me she'd be fine, so I relented.




We wouldn't be able to conduct our normal routine of stopping at Cracker Barrel for lunch, so I packed us a couple of sandwiches, a bag of treats for dog and human, and found a water bowl with a top on it for Bella. We took the mini-van and placed her in the back, blocking the front with a large cooler.


Before we even got on the highway, she squeezed her way around  the cooler and tried to get on Frank's lap as he was driving. Yeah, no! Instead of us crashing, I allowed her to sit on my lap, the entire time.

I consoled her by petting her and telling her everything was okay, and when she began looking out the window she finally stopped shaking.


Our first stop was at the West Virginia rest area and lo and behold, Bella actually walked on the leash and even did pee-pee. When we got back in the mini-van she wouldn't stay in the back so back she went on my lap. I knew she had to relieve herself when she started shaking, so we stopped two more times. We made it up to Brooklyn in record time.

When we got to the house she checked everything out and I introduced her to the backyard. She picked up on that's where she had to do her business very quickly. She really is a smart dog. The house is a two story and I was worried about her and the staircase which is steeper than most and has no rug. When I was in my room upstairs, I heard the unmistaken sound of her tumbling down the stairs. I rushed out to find her at the very bottom where my father had fallen and perished, and I had a sinking feeling in my stomach. Luckily, unlike dad, she got up and shook it off. She seemed fine, but whenever I went upstairs I took to carrying her.

Although we had brought her bed she didn't stay in it much,


instead, she preferred sleeping with us at night, and during the day lounging on top of the couch.


She found the window, and whenever we left she would sit in it waiting for us. My brother said she would howl the saddest howl he ever heard, and his girlfriend said it sounded like she was calling for Mommy. They said it would go on for an hour before she would stop. Now, if only they would have come downstairs and comforted her like my kids do when she does that, she would have stopped immediately. But they didn't, so she cried and cried and cried. Poor little baby thought we were leaving her in the big city.


It was funny watching her when she was in the yard. Every time a plane would pass overhead she would stop and look at it. Sounds from the neighbors garage door opening would cause her to jump and rush back to the door. She seemed amazed at the buildings all around her. She looked for rocks but found none. She did find a tree stump that she would stand on and look out into the neighbor's backyard. I was worried she would jump the concrete wall so she wasn't allowed outside by herself.


Except for barking at my brother every time he came downstairs or through the door, "Who are you???!!!" she took to the new environment. My brother asked if she ever slept as it seemed like she hadn't since we arrived. Too much excitement I guess. At one point we had friends over and were playing a game, drinking, eating, laughing, etc. Bella decided to jump up on a chair and just sit there with us. She has never done that at home. It was so cute!


When it was time to go home, she was ready, and this time she didn't shake when she went into the mini-van. We rigged the cooler so that she couldn't jump on it or squeeze her way up front. When she discovered the back window she stayed.


Eventually, the dog that barely slept, crept into a gift box that held my husband's fleece shirt and got comfy. She slept most of the way home.


All in all, she seemed to adapt very well to the big city. My husband said we could now take her on vacations. Ummm, no, we can't. If her crying for Mommy for an hour is any indication, I don't think she's the type of dog that could be left alone in a hotel room. However, I have no problem taking her to New York City, as long as my husband is with us. When I go alone, she's staying home!














Monday, January 5, 2015

Patti Smith in 2014 - I Danced, I Sang, I Cried

I really don't have much on my bucket list, but one item I did have on it was to see Patti Smith perform live again. I never thought it would happen, but I always held out hope. Those of you who know me, know what a huge fan I am, and the rest of you now know. I've been with her from the beginning, and the last time I went to see her I was 19 years old...May 20th, 1978 when she was performing at the Palladium in New York City.

Unfortunately, I never made it to the show. Instead, I spent the night in a Brooklyn police station after a friend and I got beat up and robbed the moment we stepped on an N train on our way into the city, by a gang that was hopped up and heading back from Coney Island to their stomping grounds in Sunset Park.

At the time I still had the wrinkled ticket wedged tight in my back black jean's pocket, and although I was bruised and beaten, I still wanted to go catch the show. It never happened. I always regretted it. Shortly soon after, Patti met Fred Sonic Smith, they married, she moved to Michigan, and they started a family. Patti put performing on hold and, like many other mothers, focused her life on the children.

After the death of her husband, and by the time Patti re-emerged back in New York City I had gotten married, moved to Virginia, and put my life on hold to raise my children. I still listened to her music, bought every new cd, read all her books and usually capped the year by listening to her on Sirius as she performed a New Year's Eve show at the Bowery Ballroom.

I had gotten used to being alone on New Year's Eve with Patti, me dancing and singing, while the other members of my family hid, or left. One year I heard two friends scream my name during a lull in between songs, and I felt, for a second, I was in New York City. So it was a great disappointment when I discovered Patti was no longer being broadcast live on Sirius. Being far away from my friends and family in New York, never getting invited to any parties in Roanoke, made each New Year's Eve in Virginia a depressing date. This past New Year's Eve looked to be the worst one yet as both of my children wouldn't be spending it with us.

And then my cousin came to my rescue. The only person I know who is a bigger Patti fan than I am, he asked me if I wanted to see Patti Smith with him at Webster Hall on Patti's birthday, December 30. YES! So I set about arranging things so we could run up to New York right after Christmas, and if all went well, even spend New Year's Eve there amongst friends. By the time he went to get the tickets Patti's birthday show was sold out, but she was also performing the night before so he got tickets for that night.

I then heard that another band that I loved from back in the day, Television, would be playing at Irving Plaza the night before Patti played. Since he had bought me Patti tickets for Christmas, I told my cousin I would buy Television tickets for his Christmas present. When I received a notice that Gogol Bordello was also going to be playing in New York City on January 2nd I thought I hit the rock 'n roll trifecta! I figured this musical holiday trip would be my live performance swan song.

We drove into the city to see Television and congrats to former mayor Bloomberg to making the city, especially the lower east side, a place I no longer recognized, and one unfriendly to car drivers. Every avenue and street caters to bicyclists. Parking spots are even rarer than they were, and the lanes barely fit a vehicle. We almost got creamed on E. Houston Street, before the show, and I was so shaken up I had heart palpitations. Thank God my husband was driving because if it was me we probably wouldn't have made it to the show.

I can't remember the last time I was at Irving Plaza, but it was a time when I was younger, thinner, could stand for hours in a hot crowded place, and didn't pay $8 for a 12 ounce can of Budweiser. We stood way in the back and I could barely see Tom Verlaine. Too many tall people were blocking my view and we were stuck under red spotlights that made me feel like I was a piece of chicken being kept warm while sitting on a counter. The show was good, but cut short after Verlaine's hand cramped up while playing Marquee Moon. I felt so bad for him. You could see he wanted to go on, but his 60-something year old hand was making it impossible. Before this happened I was mesmerized by the way his guitar sang. His voice did not sing as well and I thought he might be fighting off a cold or something. By the time we left all three of us were complaining about our aching feet, back, parched throat, etc. My husband was glad he was staying home the next night. After taking an hour to find a parking spot back at the house, waking up sore after a restless sleep, I felt like staying home the next night too. But I couldn't, so I pushed myself, and told my cousin we would be taking the train into the city instead of driving. I hate driving the mini van in Roanoke, there was no way I was attempting it in the city, and driving around hours looking for a spot in Brooklyn was insane.

Just the mere thought of taking the subway to see Patti brought back horrible memories. I was working myself up into a near panic attack just waiting on the platform. I kept telling myself I was being ridiculous, but every gangsta that stepped onto the train I imagined would pull out a straight-edged razor and threaten me with it. As my pepper spray was illegal in NYC, I had taken a Binaca spray in its place -- thank you Elaine from Seinfeld -- and I hoped I only would have to use it to kill bad breath. When we finally arrived, my heart jumped when I saw the marquee...

My cuz

I dressed smarter for this show by wearing comfortable shoes that had a sole, a very light-weight shirt, a jacket I could tie around my waist, and I smuggled in a bottle of water. We found a spot to the left of the stage much closer than I thought we would have gotten. There was only one tall guy in front of me so I was able to see unobstructed as long as I tilted to the right. The crowd was electric and everyone was so nice. Way different than the night before where I had this one loose cannon near me muttering, "I feel like I gotta hurt somebody. I'm gonna go off, I can feel it!" as he became more and more drunk. He must have smuggled in his own booze! In front of me at Webster Hall, was a dad my age with his two teen-aged children. The only bad thing about where we stood was someone was letting out silent but deadly farts the entire show. Disgusting!

Anyway, I was surprised when Michael Stipe stepped out on the stage before Patti.

The one "big head" in my way. Stipe complained it was cold, but having sweated like a roasted chicken the previous night I was happy it wasn't stifling.

He said she had asked him to open up by reading poetry or performing or something. It had been eight years since he performed on a stage and he said he was nervous. He told us how he played Webster when it was the Ritz and knew REM had "made it" when they opened for Gang of Four. When he stood on that stage at that time he thought the Ritz was huge. Then as REM got bigger and bigger whenever he came back to town and went to the Ritz he thought it was tiny. Now, once again, after not singing for so long, looking out over the audience, he thought it was huge. His voice has changed, but he sounded great. He performed six songs, accompanied on piano by Patti's daughter Jesse which included New York, New York. Anyone can sing that song, and if you're a New Yorker, especially someone who moved out of New York, it will bring tears to your eyes and chills down your spine. "These little town blues are melting away..."



And then Patti stepped on stage and I was transported back to the seventies.


Her voice, her mannerisms, her back-and-forth with the audience was everything I remembered seeing her the dozens of times. Lenny Kaye and Jay Dee Dougherty were still right there with her. The band was tight, she was loose, and I felt young again. I danced, I sang, I cried. It was beautiful. I couldn't believe she was going to be 68 in a couple of hours. I didn't want the night to end. The only "disappointment" was when she said they wouldn't be performing anything from Horses as November 10, 2015 was the 40th anniversary of the album and they planned to perform it live in New York City on that date. Yes, I want to go!



Right before she ended the show she gave what I would call a pep speech, and when she ended it with stating we shouldn't fear, or never have fear, or show no fear, or something to that effect, I felt like she was talking directly to me. Fear is stifling. Fear stops you from living life to the fullest. I want to make 2015 the year of no fear.



As if to put it to the test, we got back on the subway around midnight and the train that pulled in was an N train. Not only did we take it, but we had to switch trains on 59th Street in Brooklyn, the very station where I was beaten and mugged. I stood there waiting on the empty platform for the R to come, and guess what, I felt no fear...