Monday, October 26, 2015

Liar, Liar

The flashing lights sprayed blue and red bruises around our living room. I huddled behind the couch in my nightgown. A man and woman in crisp blue uniforms hefted a black bag onto a stretcher, pushed levers, and lifted the bed like Mom did with her ironing board. Blood smeared the lady’s name tag, but I’d seen it when she came in. It said Glenda. The name of the good witch. The good witch come to clean up after the bad.

Two men in regular clothes stood in the kitchen doorway writing in little notebooks. One pointed to a dark stain on the recliner. His mouth moved, but I couldn’t hear what he said. The hoarse cackle still filled my head and drowned out everything.

A lady rushed in and scanned the room. She spotted me. Her jaw dropped before she caught herself and closed it. She started toward me, crouching down and holding out a hand while whispering hushing sounds—like when you’re trying to catch a scared animal. That’s how they always treated me. Like a scared, stupid animal.

She knelt and said some stuff I still couldn’t hear. Her hand took mine, and she tried to pull me up. My legs wouldn’t work. I tipped over. She wasn’t a big lady, but she scooped me up and carried me out to a car, still shushing.

I don’t remember much of the ride or being brought into the police station. They sat me in a gray little room with a table and a paper cup of apple juice. I felt a little better. Nothing could hide there.

One of the regular-clothes men came in and pulled a chair closer. He sat and bent down to catch my eye. The cackle had faded.

His voice was deep and soft. “Your name is Lizzie, right?”

I nodded.

“Can you tell me what happened, Lizzie?”

I swallowed. “The bad witch came again.”

His face turned mad, and he shook his head. “Lizzie, we don’t have time for games. You need to tell us what happened.”

“It’s not a game. She…she came again a-a-and killed my mom.”

The muscle in his jaw tensed. “Fine. I’ll play along. Who is the witch? How’d she kill her?”

“I-I don’t know who she is. She just comes…when I get mad. She has long talons on her hands. She,” I sniffled back a sob, “she stuck them in my mom’s neck.”

He sat back and sighed. “Lizzie, we know you did it. You’ll be in less trouble if you just tell the truth and explain what happened.”

Like it had before, my chest tightened as if someone gave me a big bear hug. I closed my eyes and tried to will it away, but my skin flushed hot. I told myself she wouldn’t come now—there was no way she could get in without everyone seeing. She only came when she couldn’t get caught.

Even the witch blames it all on me. After she killed Mom, I asked her why.

The witch cackled. “You wished she would die, didn’t you?”

I had…but I didn’t mean it. I couldn’t help being angry when Mom accused me of lying about what happened when Mrs. Jackson, my teacher, died. Mom said I had to quit making stuff up so they could catch the real killer. I told her I wasn’t making it up. Being mad just happens. I can’t help it.

The regular-clothes man slammed a hand on the table and made me jump.

“Listen, I have a lot of work to do. If you aren’t going to tell the truth, you’ll just go straight to jail.”

I wanted to yell but kept my voice quiet. “I’m not lying. Don’t call me a liar.”

“Don’t lie, and I won’t have to.”

My throat closed up. The anger went from calm to boiling. I shook my head and told it to go away…but it never listened anymore. Just like the witch.

The last thing I remember is her head rising behind the man, her hair covered in moss and green slime, wrinkled hands coming up, talons curling in toward his neck, slicing through the skin. The cackle had returned.
Now I sit in a cold room made of cushioned walls.

I shudder and scrunch my shoulders up over my ears as best I can with the jacket on, but the noise comes from inside me, and I can’t shut it out. How she makes me hear it when she’s not even around puzzles me—but then again, all of it does.

Dried blood covers my face and hair, and little pieces flake off when I move. I don’t know how so much blood got on me. I wasn’t close enough. Another puzzle.

More regular-clothes men had come into the little gray room. I huddled in the corner. The original regular-clothes man sprawled on the floor, a pool of red-black spreading under him. They had pointed guns at me and yelled and ran around acting crazy. A lady put a white jacket on me that wraps my arms around my back, and they led me down a bunch of hallways until we got to this room.

It’s not fair. They all keep calling me a liar.

The door opens, and a man in a white uniform starts in.

“Damn, I forgot the sedative.” He turns back, tells two men in white doctor coats he’ll return in a minute, and rushes off.

The white coats stand just outside the cushion room in a bare, gray hallway.

One of the white-coat men says to the other, “It’s a severe psychosis. She seems to really believe someone else is doing it. But all the evidence points to her.”

“Well,” the other says, “some kids are just great liars.”

The anger swells up faster every time. Now, it comes in an instant.

The thing with moss and green slime appears behind the white-coat men in the hallway. She slinks toward them.

I try to yell, to warn them, but only a hoarse cackle comes out.

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick at

Sunday, October 18, 2015

I'm Goin' Away

*trigger warning--child sexual abuse
I reckoned Daddy would be mad.

I sat in the bathroom on the edge of the tub, lookin’ at the shiny door handle. The little ridge in the middle pointed sideways. That made me feel funny, weak-like and soggy. My fingers itched to turn it back upright. I just stared and kept my hands in my lap. The old house creaked while it settled, and I thought how thankful I’d be not to hear those sounds no more. I reckoned there was a heap of things I’d be thankful to miss.


We lived on Apple Lane, and our creaky house set down by the tracks. That was silly, ‘cause there weren’t no apple trees on our street, only peaches. I lay in bed at night, listenin’ to the trains. They’d scream afore they got to the crossin’. They’d chug and clang past the house, rattlin’ the wavy glass in the window frames. It took them forever to get by, car after car filled with black dusty coal. Teacher said coal turns into diamonds, but I didn’t believe her. I never found no diamonds.

I hated them trains. Their screams reminded me of the orange cat Daddy caught shittin’ under the porch.

“Cats is about as handy as a woman. All they’s good at is naggin’ and shittin’ and fuckin’,” he said. Daddy had lots of ideas ‘bout women.

He took its tail and swung it round and round, laughin’ at the way its hair puffed up. It screamed, the sound windin’ up and fadin’ out. Just like them trains. Acourse, they wasn’t that much alike, specially not when the cat stopped sudden-like against the tree. The bones are still out back, behind Daddy’s old Ford. They turned white and then gray, and I checked every week to make sure they was still there.

After that, I always pictured that cat wailin’ and swingin’ when the trains screamed. It gave me goose pimples, and I had to shut my hands over my ears.


As I sat in the bathroom, another creak killed the quiet, and I closed my eyes. Mayhap the wind was comin’ up. I held my breath, so’s I could hear the wind, but it wasn’t howlin’. I opened my eyes and checked the door handle again. It still pointed sideways. I reached out and tried to turn it, real gentle-like. Smooth, cold, slippery. It wouldn’t turn. Down on the floor, the strip of light under the door stayed solid, no shadows breakin’ it up.

Creak. I shut my hands over my ears, closed my eyes again.


We wasn’t allowed to lock doors. I don’t mean the front door—that one we locked, acourse. But unless you wanted Daddy to tell you to fetch a switch, and make your butt burn and throb and turn red, you sure didn’t lock no other doors.

Daddy said, “Locked doors mean you don’t trust folks. I reckon you ought trust your family.” He talked ‘bout family a lot.

So we left ‘em open. That’s how Sugarman got in.

At night, after the train screamed, the door swung open real slow. I lay in bed with my ears shut but my eyes open, tryin’ to see who it was. I couldn’t see nothin’ but dark, just like I had my eyes closed. Then a weight come down, makin’ the mattress sag so’s I’d start slidin’ to the edge. Sugarman’s hands caught me, holdin’ me round my belly. I tried to lock my legs together and stayed real still. Acourse, that didn’t help none. Sugarman was real strong.

“Gimme some sugar,” he said. He always wanted sugar.

His breath covered me, sour and sweet, like when the peaches fell off the tree in the backyard and rotted into the black dirt. I hated that smell almost as much as I hated them trains. When the wind was just right, it came in my window with the screamin’ of the trains, so thick I could almost see it.

Sugarman put his slick lips on my mouth. I tried my best to keep my lips shut, but he squeezed my cheeks hard. It made my teeth dig into ‘em, and I had to open. His fat tongue filled my mouth, and it tasted even worse than the peaches smelled. I wished my mind would go away. I wanted to shut my ears and my eyes and everything else. I didn’t want to taste that tongue, or feel the draft on my legs when he pushed my nightdress up. If my mind could’ve gone away, it wouldn’t have mattered what Sugarman did.


Mama died a year ago. She stayed in bed for months afore she went. She said she had the cancer. It made her get real skinny. I wanted to sit with her but hated lookin’ at her, so I scrunched my eyes into little slits so only a strip of light come through my eyelashes. She was just a pale blur against the blue flowered sheets. It reminded me of the time we went on a picnic, and she chased me through the field until we fell down and lay on the blossoms, laughin’ in the sun ‘til we couldn’t breathe. But she wasn’t laughin’ in her bed. She hadn’t laughed in a real long time.

“I’m gonna die, Punkin,” she said.

“What’s that like, Mama? What happens when you die?”

“Your mind just goes away, like sleepin’, but you don’t wake up. It makes the pain go away.” She smiled, a blurry, tired smile.

I wanted to know more but was scared to ask. I hoped the goin’ away was like when I turned the TV off and the light shrunk to a bright dot and winked out. Or maybe like water swirlin’ down a drain, without the creepy gurgle sound. I hoped it wasn’t a slow thing, like the peaches rottin’ in the yard, wrinkled and crawlin’ with bugs. Anything but that.

She went to sleep after that, and I reckon her mind went away.


I thought a heap about makin’ my mind go away once Sugarman started comin’ in. I knew how to make it go away, ‘cause I saw ‘em do the hogs and chickens. They screamed, too, but without the fadin’. Their screams turned to hissin’ gurgles. I wondered if they had pain and if it went away. They didn’t have much mind, but I reckoned it went away just the same.

I'd took the butcher knife out the shed and went to the bathroom with it.

I'd locked the door and sat lookin’ at the knife for a spell. My reflection stared back at me. I didn’t like that—it made a big lump in my throat—so I stopped lookin’ and left the blade in my lap. Instead, I watched the door handle, listenin’ and waitin’, with the cold porcelain sendin’ chills deep into my bones. I thought about Daddy and everything looked red of a sudden. It got me awful riled up. I reckoned it was Daddy’s fault that Sugarman got in. If Daddy woulda let me lock the door, Sugarman wouldn’t have come, and I wouldn’t need to make my mind go away.


The strip of light under the door grew brighter as the sun fell. It was gettin’ to be time. Time’s a funny thing, too. It goes faster just when a body wants it to slow down.

I breathed deep, tryin’ to make my heart quit thumpin’. It sounded funny with my ears shut, like the wind got in my head while a horse thundered in my chest. I took my hands off my ears and picked up the knife. It was heavier and more real, like it might come alive. My fingers held it real tight as I slid down to the floor and waited.


When the front door slammed, I took the knife to my neck, just like they did with the hogs.

Everything turned red for real.

Daddy called my name. Footsteps rumbled down the hall. The strip of light under the door broke up and disappeared like when the sun goes behind clouds. The door handle jiggled. I dropped the knife.

“Why’s this damn door locked? You in there, Punkin?”

The red squirted and dripped. Daddy banged on the wood, but it sounded far-off, a rumble in my bones more than my ears. In between the poundin’, a train screamed. I wished my mind would go away afore Daddy got in. He hit the door harder, and it flew open. His eyes opened big, as if he seen a ghost.

“No more Sugarman, Daddy.” My voice sounded funny and made me want to laugh.

But when Daddy leaned over me, I smelled Sugarman’s breath. My laugh came out a whistlin’ scream, like the trains, windin’ up and fadin’ away.

*This piece is not intended to endorse or condone suicide. It was written as a cathartic, therapeutic piece of fiction. If you need someone to listen, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-Talk (8255) or visit

Image courtesy of Sura Nualpradid at

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Women Writers Coming Out

This is such an awesome post that I simply have to share. I want all women writers (and more than a few men) to read it, because I think it's the number one hurdle for us.

I wrote something relating to this a few weeks ago, regarding my own path to writing a novel, the fear, doubt, and lack of confidence I struggled with for years (and still battle,) and the way girls/women are trained not believe in our own value and skill. I've had to unlearn a lot of that to find my own bad girl. She's coming out. ;)

Women writers must learn to see their own worth outside of wife/mom/family/friend roles and speak up. We owe that to ourselves (and our families,) and we deserve that voice.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

I Got Mine--Screw You

All. the. books. Always. For everyone.

That's the purpose of a free exchange of ideas, and it's the ideal upon which libraries are based. Allowing any person to limit that exchange is ALWAYS dangerous and backwards.

Slate offered an article this week that claims Banned Books Weeks is a "crock" because there's no such thing as banned books anymore. (

"It's not as bad as it used to be."

As if that's a good stopping point in any fight against bad things.

There ARE still banned books, and many attempts to ban them, and we must continue the fight to keep all books available to those who want to read them. That's especially true for libraries because they often serve those who could not otherwise access them.

It's a shame Slate writer Ruth Graham doesn't recognize or appreciate that.

It's a sign of being out of touch with the reality that not everyone has digital access and brick-and-mortar stores are disappearing. Many cannot afford to buy a book, and many cannot drive to the next town. And they certainly shouldn't have to just because self-righteous people want to impose their values and beliefs on everyone.

It's a sign of elitism. It's a sign of complacency despite glaring evidence that unless we maintain vigilance against censorship, it will gain ground--because there are still people who WANT books banned, even if they're the extremist minority. It's a sign of the gross tendency for people who have a right or privilege to ignore those who don't and not be willing to fight for them. "I got mine--screw you."

#‎BannedBooksWeek‬ is a thing because it needs to be. Because even one banned book is too many. Because, sadly, it's one fight that will never be "over."


Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Caskets -- When Doves Fly Excerpt

In case you missed it, here's one of my favorite scenes from When Doves Fly, my debut #histfic novel set in a Colorado gold rush town in the 1870s.

If you want more, it's available on Amazon in ebook and print!

*  *  *  *  *
The caskets lay side by side. Charlotte stood in the parlor doorway, a doll dangling from one hand. She had tried to make herself enter, but her feet wouldn’t move. The black crepe over the windows rippled like ghostly shadows. A glimpse of pallid skin peeked from each coffin.
What if they wake? Maggie, their cook, said people sometimes came back to life to claw their way out of their caskets.
Charlotte wanted to touch them, to check for life, but a vague fear stopped her. She stayed rooted, cold bare toes on the threshold, eyes fixed on the open boxes, waiting for the children to move.
If only Mother would come down. Then I could go in.
Charlotte had tried to rouse her mother, but her parents’ door remained locked, and no one answered. Only weak cries had come from the room in the two days since Peter and Cecilia died.
Mother had fallen sick, too, but the cholera kept her bedridden for just a day. She’d devoted the next two days to nursing Peter and Cecilia—Charlotte had felt fine. In her delirium, Mother blamed herself for taking the children to the fair, but Charlotte had been the one who pestered until she agreed.
If I hadn’t, Peter and Sissy wouldn’t be in caskets. Once a middle child, now an only.
After they died, Mother locked her door, and Charlotte hadn’t seen her since. Maggie had arranged the wake and the coming funeral but went home sick—was it only the day before?—after assuring Charlotte that Papa would return home from his business trip any time. Charlotte waited all night, but Papa hadn’t come.
Something moved in Peter’s coffin. Charlotte’s eyes widened, and she squeezed Dolly’s arm. A fly drifted from the casket and landed again. She relaxed and released her breath. And waited.
The back door banged open. Charlotte didn’t move—she couldn’t. Her limbs had turned to stone.
“Eliza!” Papa’s voice rang in the silence. “Maggie?” Footsteps clattered on the wood floor until he reached the hall rug. “Charlotte! Where’s your mother? Why are the drapes …?”
His hand fell on her shoulder.
She tried to speak, but her cracked lips only trembled.
A sick moan came from him, and he pushed past her into the room with the caskets and flies. He bent over the bodies and groaned.
“No, no, no,” he chanted. “Peter … Sissy … not both ….”
Tears stung Charlotte’s eyes.
Papa whirled on her. “Where is your mother?” More a roar than a question.
Her body shook. Why is he angry with me?
He ran past her and thundered up the stairs. Banging on a door. “Eliza … Eliza!” More heavy footsteps, and he jerked Charlotte by the arm. “Is your mother sick? Where is Maggie? Or Cooper?” He bent, eyes wild, and shook her until her teeth chattered. “Charlotte, answer me!”
Sound came from her mouth, but no words.
Shoving her aside, he raced upstairs. Yelling and rattling the door as Charlotte collapsed in the parlor doorway.
The hall remained quiet. She fell asleep crying, clutching Dolly close.