Tales of Survival (or G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. is over)

So my first official involvement with G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. (or the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen) has come to an end.

First off, as some of you might be asking, “What in the ever-loving hell is G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S.?” Well, it’s the brainchild of actor/lunatic Misha Collins of Supernatural fame. The idea is for teams to compete in a scavenger hunt that’s comprised of both finding items, creating items, or committing random acts of kindness, many with a very silly/absurdist bent to them. Ultimately, the idea is to stretch your boundaries, step out of your comfort zone, recapture childlike joys, and maybe make some new friends along the way.

When all is said and done, I’m of… mixed emotions.

The positives:

My team, Inevitable Innuendo, was absolutely spectacular and I got to know several people I wouldn’t have, otherwise.

I got to enjoy the week with my daughter, since she was also a team member.

I discovered I have a far higher tolerance for personal silliness than I might have imagined.

I learned something about the depths of creativity (and sheer abandon) that seemingly normal people have. (And I mean that in an incredibly complimentary way.)

I saw a lot of people really going to Herculean effort to help each other out (like the amazing lady who created TWENTY papier mâché heads and took them to a meet up for pictures with actor Osric Chau).


The negatives (and it really boils down to only one):

I wasn’t really crazy about a lot of the items on the list. I get that a good deal of my dislike stems from my own nature, which is introverted and more than a little cynical to begin with, but that first day, as I scanned the List, I had a sick feeling that several items had the potential to go somewhat pear-shaped.

And boy, did they.

The one that’s received the most publicity was the item requesting a published Science Fiction author to create a 140-word story starring Misha and the Queen of England. Now, let me be clear—many GISHERS who made the request did so in an incredibly polite fashion and many authors who were unable to comply, replied in kind.


Some requests were framed in less than polite fashion (dudes—don’t demand); some responses to an author’s polite decline were met with less than gracious responses (dudes—they said no, it’s not a personal indictment, move on); and in some ways, worst of all, some authors, even when presented with a polite request, responded in such rude, overbearing, condescending, and downright mean fashion, it made me embarrassed for my profession. Because seriously, there is no call to tell someone, who is contacting you because they are presumably a fan of your work, to “kindly go die in a fire.” (Yes, that was a direct quote from a response to an incredibly polite request.)

All I can say is, if Neil Fucking Gaiman can decline politely, then so can you.

Side note: I found it particularly fascinating that the lesser-known the writer, the more vitriolic the response seemed to be and the more resentful that they were being asked to “write for free,” with additional snarking about the disrespect Misha was showing towards authors and forgetting that we’re professionals, too, and hey, would he consent to starring in multiple short films without pay? Guys, guys, guys… this wasn’t exactly a Harlan Ellison moment—

Also, I found it ironic that most of the vitriolic responses consisted of far more than 140 words. Just sayin’.

Obviously, this is the item that stood out to me the most because of my personal investment in it, but there were others that I felt skirted some very sketchy territory for me, in that they posed a potential professional issue for someone by intruding on a workplace, or caused disruption to someone’s personal space. Again, could just be me, though.

I’m also seeing a fair bit of resentment for the celebrity participants. This mystifies me as in the rules, it was clearly stated if a celebrity team won, a non-celebrity team would also be chosen for the Grand Prize. How is this a bad thing? It means you get double the fun if you’re the winning non-celebrity team. And why should someone be excluded from the event just because they happen to be well-known?

It’s this sort of behavior that tends to make me froth at the mouth and want to back slowly away.

Actually, too, now that I think about it, there was one other thing that bothered me about the List and perhaps, about the intent of G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. to begin with—the idea is that we’re supposed to push our personal boundaries and step out of our comfort zones, yada, yada. See, to me, this list represents someone else’s idea of Comfort Zone (and let’s face it, Misha has no personal boundaries, so…). I mean, every time I step onto a ballroom floor, I’m stepping out of my comfort zone. Every time I go to an event where I have to meet strangers, I’m stepping out of my comfort zone. Hell, every time I submit a new manuscript or story, I’m stepping out of my comfort zone. Who the hell is anyone to tell me that’s not enough pushing the envelope?

Now, I will fully admit, I have a knee-jerk reaction when someone tells me I must do something, which generally involves hissing and spitting and backing away like a cornered badger. But despite the occasional flashes of resentment, I acknowledge that there are always new boundaries to conquer and that even repeated stepping out of a comfort zone can, in and of itself, take on the feel of a comfort zone. (Devil you know and all that…) Which is probably why in the end, G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. is a good thing for someone like me.

Now, reading over this, I realize I must sound like a total Negative Nelly and that’s actually not my intent at all. As I said, my emotions were mixed and I suspect  a good deal of that has to do with the timing of this year’s event which, from my perspective,  was not good, seeing as it came directly in the wake of a ballroom competition, meaning I was already physically and mentally exhausted going in. Plus for this classic introvert, my people tolerance, after having to be “on” for nearly four days straight, was more than a little tapped out. Generally, post-ballroom, I strip off the makeup and fancy dresses, put on my pajamas and avoid people for at least a week. I didn’t get to do that this week, so I felt stretched pretty thin and rubbed more than a little raw. Also, I felt as if I wasn’t capable of contributing as much as I could have to my team, which makes me feel twitchy and uncomfortable, as I hate letting people down.

Especially the people on my team who were the most amazing, creative, lunatic lot I’ve ever had the privilege of working with. The extent to which these individuals were willing to push themselves makes me wish I’d done better for them and yes, will bring me back next year because if there’s anything I hate, it’s not feeling as if I gave it my best effort.

To Team Inevitable Innuendo—I Heart You Guys mightily.

148- Parental Advisory Album

#PsychOUT (Or a love letter to Psych)

July 4th, 2006—my debut novel Adiós to My Old Life is published.

July 7th, 2006—a quirky little series called psych premieres on USA Network.

Serendipitous? Or mere coincidence? Dare I say, I’ve heard it both ways? (Okay, we’ll go with coincidence, but I couldn’t resist.)

Tonight, we say goodbye to psych after 8 seasons, more than 100 episodes, and one epic musical. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating, only once before have I found myself so captivated by a television show that I’ve allowed myself to become part of the online community. This is a big deal for me since I tend to shy away from most fandoms, finding them a bit too intense and tunnel-visioned for my taste. It’s difficult for me to be a vocal fan of a show because as a storyteller myself, I can’t help but but offer criticism as well as praise—and the more I love something, the more apt I am to be critical of it. (If I don’t love it, I just don’t give enough of a rat’s patoot.)

But perhaps it’s because psych in and of itself was quirky and welcoming and offered such a broad spectrum of storytelling that the fans it drew were equally quirky and welcoming and from across such a broad spectrum. In short, it was a show that offered something for everyone. I think if you asked faithful #Psych-Os what their favorite episode is, you’d have as many differing opinions as there are episodes. Except for maybe the finale—I suspect no one’s ever going to want to claim that one as a favorite simply because of what it represents.

Over 8 seasons/years, the show evolved along with the players—sometimes for the good, sometimes for the not-so-good, but it always kept us watching and curious and coming back for more. Until tonight. Tonight we say goodbye to Shawn/James, Gus/Dulé, Juliet/Maggie, Carlton/Tim, Karen/Kirsten, and Henry/Corbin (with a special shout-out to Woody/Kurt, because, yeah…) and wish them well—both the characters and their real-life counterparts. We get one last opportunity to say “Suck it!” before we wave them off into their proverbial sunset.

For me, the last eight years have brought so much—both professional and personal—but one of the greatest gifts of the past eight years however, have been the friendships forged in the common love for this quirky, ridiculous, smart, clever, sometimes maddening show, including with many of you directly involved with the show. Some of those friendships have transcended cyberspace to become tangible real-life things, but just because I haven’t met all of you yet, doesn’t mean that the friendships are any less valid or real to me. Just ask the people I met online more than fifteen years ago because of another little show called Buffy. (Just sayin’.)

psych may be coming to an end, but by no means is it the end of psych.

And to bring this back around to the opening of my little missive, in 2006 I started on an unexpected journey—no, not just watching psych, although yes, that was unexpected and a hell of a journey, but rather, with young adult literature. Now, eight years later, that journey also comes to an end as I move on into writing new and different things.

Serendipitous? Or mere coincidence?

Dare I say, I’ve heard it both ways?

To the cast and creators of psych—I humbly thank you all for the many, many laughs and tears and hours of entertainment. I wish you all the very, very best going forward.


Welcome 2014…Welcome Back, Me.

For all that I blather on social media & talk about things that are important to me, I do tend to keep rather a lot to myself (seriously) especially if it means exposing my deepest desires. But with it being New Year’s and all, I figure I’ll let y’all in on one decision I made that’s incredibly important to me.

I came to the decision that this coming year, I’m not going to take on any writing projects simply for the sake of making a sale (a la the Harlequin novellas). I also have decided that for the foreseeable future, I will no longer be writing young adult literature. I enjoyed my time in that sandbox and I learned a lot, but it was always more… convenient and never where my heart truly lay. Frankly, the more time went on, the more it seemed it was impeding my ability to move into the genres in which I really wanted to be writing and the more my resentment against it grew. Not a good situation to be in, for a lot of reasons.

What has been an interesting by-product, however, is that the more time that has elapsed, the more the genres in which I want to be writing have evolved. Originally, I’d thought romantic women’s fiction was my niche, but as it turns out, looks like spec fiction is where my interests (and the Lizard Brain) are leading me. Still character-driven, because that really is where my strengths lie, but with a definite bent toward Other.

Go figure. Although I suppose it shouldn’t come as such a surprise, given the nature of the stories I gravitate toward in film and television. I guess I just thought I didn’t have the chops to pull it off. Not that romance or WF is easy—just the cadence and rhythm just came a little more naturally. With spec fic, I have to really push myself waaaaaay beyond my comfort zone. Luckily, I have a tribe more than willing to give me the occasional (or more than occasional) shove when necessary. (And feed me the good booze, also when necessary, because they’re lovely that way.)

The other by-product of this decision (and one of the best ones, as far as I’m concerned) is that I get to be “me” again. In other words, Caridad Ferrer gets to bite the dust, thank GOD. Like writing YA, Caridad Ferrer was never a persona I wanted to take on but rather, was required to for what are blatantly stupid reasons and as many of you know, has brought me pretty much nothing but grief in the long run. To be able to say sayanora to the bitch is frankly, a relief.

So… welcome 2014.

Welcome back, me.

For Halloween—a couple of chapters of HAUNTED

For someone who doesn’t much care for Halloween—blame my brother, he instilled in me massive anxiety about being outside in the dark and fearing people in masks—I actually rather like spooky/creepy/psychologically thriller-y type stories and have always longed to write one.

A couple of years ago, I got started on what turned out to be a ghost story with a science fiction twist that sadly was set aside. Then, when I was invited to read at the SFWA Pacific Northwest Reading Series back in August, I had to find something to read that was, yanno, science fiction or fantasy related and well, this one came out of mothballs and I realized, hey! Doesn’t suck. (Quit looking at me like that, y’all. You know how I am.)

Anyhow, here are the opening scenes/chapters from that story, Haunted. (What I read at the series, for those keeping score comes directly after this segment.)





“Tuck, I’ve been thinking.”

“Now, Matt, how many times do I have to remind you of the dangers of that sort of thing?”

“Dick.”  Matthew stared moodily into the depths of his punch.  Green.  Who the hell served slimy green punch?  And he didn’t even want to know what the science eggheads had done to make it bubble like that.  He’d lay money it wasn’t Sprite.  He’d also lay money it wasn’t anything he wanted burning a trail down his esophagus. 

“Dude, tell me something I don’t know.” 

With a grin that matched the one on his leering jack-o-lantern mug Tuck downed the contents, clearly unconcerned with any potential damage to his esophagus.  Probably because it was his liver that was in greater danger, Matthew thought as he watched Tuck ladle up another mugful of the green slime before subtly pouring a generous slug from his monogrammed silver flask.  Normally it lived in the inside breast pocket of his uniform blazer; tonight, though, in honor of the party, he had it stashed within the deep sleeves of his monk’s habit.  Tuck thought the juxtaposition of costume and booze was hilarious, Matthew just thought it was stupid.  How the jackass never got busted was completely beyond him—not that he cared, so long as Tuck’s inebriated bullshit schemes didn’t get him in trouble. 

Whatever.  Not like any of it would matter soon.  He meditatively ran his thumb over the ridged outline of the hissing cat glaring up at him from his mug. Slowly, his thumb rubbed the surface, the noise and chaos of the party fading into a distant hum, like hearing it from the far end of a tunnel.  The only thing that felt real was the steady glow of the cat’s eyes, a knowing expression in the yellow depths as he stroked the beast’s tail, over and over.

“Hey, now, none of that tonight, man.”  Tuck’s voice broke in, snapping him from the spell.  “It’s Halloween, it’s a Friday night and we’re off the clock for the next forty-eight.  Come on, dude.  You’re so tight, you could mine diamonds from your ass.”

“Fuck you,” Matthew replied, although without any real heat.  Tuck was Tuck and it wasn’t like he was going to change any time soon.  That was the problem.  None of this was going to change, which was why it was up to him to make the first move.

“All right, I give.  And I’m letting you know right now, I’m pissed because you’re making me do the concerned friend shtick.”  Tuck dropped into the chair beside Matthew’s, adjusting the folds of the monk’s habit.  “What the hell’s the matter with you?”

Even though for once it looked as if he had Tucker’s undivided attention and he’d been planning on telling him all along anyhow, Matthew now found himself hesitating.  Maybe it would be better to just give Tuck some BS excuse and keep his plans to himself.  It wasn’t as if Tucker honestly cared all that much.  In the nearly four years they’d both been students and roomies at Mount Storm King Academy, the only things Matthew had ever known Tucker Harris to give a rat’s ass about were chicks, booze, and baseball.  The last was the main reason they’d even bonded in the first place, since Matthew only drank the occasional beer and his taste in girls tended away from the bleached, siliconed, and older variety.  Rumor had it, Tuck had even gone horizontal with one of the professor’s wives the year before.  Rumor because Matthew really didn’t want to know for sure—that history unit on Watergate and the concept of plausible deniability had made a serious impression.  So yeah, conversations between he and Tuck tended to veer toward nothing deeper than the Seattle Mariners chances during any given season and maybe the occasional homework assignment.  But if there was anything Tuck excelled at, beyond pitching a wicked curve, it was loyalty.  That was really why they’d remained friends their entire stint at Storm King—Matthew knew Tuck would have his back and vice-versa.

“Dude, come on.  What gives?”

“I’m leaving school.”

“Of course you are.  We all are.”  Tuck’s voice took on an exaggerated drawl, like Matthew was just too stupid for the big words.  “It’s senior year and we’re youth in full flower and come May, we’ll be set free to make our mark on the world.”

“Bite me.”

Tuck sat back in his chair, chuckling.  “Dude, fucking chill.  Of course you’re leaving.  We’re all leaving, except for maybe Shaughnessey, who’s dumber than a box of rocks.  But the rest of us, man—we’re golden.  We graduate and because it’s from here, we don’t have to waste time with any college bullshit.  We get to go right out into the world and make our mark.  And with any luck, a lot of cash.”

“That’s just the point, Tuck—”  Matthew’s grip tightened on the mug’s handle.  “I told you, I’ve been thinking.  That maybe this isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  I want to sleep in my own bed and raid my mom’s fridge in the middle of the night and graduate from a regular high school.  I want to go out on a date with a girl who’s… normal and not one of these soulless automatons who’s got her whole life so mapped out, there’s no room for—”

“For what, Matt?” Tuck broke in, clearly impatient.  “Prom?  Going steady?”  His voice took on a mocking lilt.  “Sharing a malt with two straws before driving out to Lover’s Lane?  God, who are you trying to bullshit?  There’s no way you could be happy with any of that pedestrian crap after what you’ve experienced here.”

“You don’t know that.”  Matthew stood, slamming the mug down on a nearby table.  Catching a few curious glances aimed their way, he struggled to keep his voice quiet.  “You don’t know shit about what I really think.”

Tucker shrugged as he took a long drink and wiped his mouth on the sleeve of his monk’s habit.  “I know you.  Better than you know yourself.  And I know you’re not going anywhere.”  He spoke with the same eerie calm that came over him on the pitcher’s mound when facing an especially tough hitter.  “You can’t.”  

“Watch me.”  Matthew turned to leave.

“Matt.”  Tuck’s voice stopped him a few steps from the gym doors.  Slowly, he turned to find Tuck standing just a few feet away, the eerie stillness still surrounding him.  “Ordinary doesn’t cut it for people like us.”

“Maybe not.”  Matthew met Tuck’s gaze head on.  “But how do I know if I don’t even try?”



The wipers swept across the windshield, a rhythmic counterpart to the steady hum of the tires on the wet asphalt, the two combining in a chorus of “Home soon, home soon, home soon…”   He’d gotten lucky, pushing the 350Z hard enough through the Peninsula to catch the seven o’clock ferry out of Kingston.  Not much longer now and he’d be home.  Maybe even in time to help his mom hand out candy to trick-or-treaters.  Wonder if there were still as many kids around the neighborhood as when he’d been younger?  That was another one of the thousands of things he had no clue about.  He’d been so swamped in life at Mount Storm King, it was like the rest of the world had come to a standstill.  Or more accurately, didn’t matter.  The sacred mantra at Storm King.  What they were doing there mattered.  More than anything or anyone.  It’d been okay, initially—who didn’t like feeling like they were the center of the universe, right?  But more and more, something about that just didn’t sit right.

He’d planned on staying until Christmas break, but that conversation with Tuck had made it crystal there was no point.  Not after three years.  Three years spent toeing the line.  Three years spent becoming the ideal student, the one held up as a shining example, the one who not only did everything right, but did it better than anyone else.  But as his gifts strengthened, bringing him to the attention of the higher ups and generating talk of an “exceptionally promising future,” that’s when he’d started questioning that carefully mapped out future.  A future he wasn’t even sure he wanted any more.

Only real way to know for sure, he figured, was to take time to be ordinary.  He wanted it so bad, he could practically taste it. 

Home soon… home soon… home soon…

The dark curving road narrowed, the surroundings closing in on him like a snake winding around its prey.  He stretched and rolled his head on his neck, shaking off the prickling sensation crawling up his spine.  Tightening his hands on the steering wheel, he leaned on the accelerator, knowing he was going too fast, but he knew these roads.  This was home, man.  He was almost home.

Rounding a curve, his headlights swept across the landscape, briefly illuminating a grinning jack-o-lantern and above it, a small, pale face with wide eyes that almost seemed to glow in the glare from his lights.  Those glowing eyes the last thing he saw before hitting the brakes and wrenching the wheel to the side, the big tires shuddering beneath his feet as they fought for purchase on the slick road.  He felt himself slammed against the car door, his head ringing, a force like nothing he’d never felt crushing his chest and pinning him to the seat.  A high-pitched squeal, like a scream from a horror movie pierced the sudden silence as he clawed at nothingness, trying to find something to grab, to hold onto, but everything stayed just out of reach, taunting him, like the bottom dropping out of a sinker, his bat slicing past it, hitting nothing but air. Olympic NP 001

No!”  His voice felt like it was being ripped straight from his gut, floating out into the night, hanging there as lights streaked past in white-hot slow motion arcs before exploding.  Leaving behind an eerie vacuum of silence that he had to try to break because it felt wrong—

” I’m sorry, Matt.”

“Tucker?”  It was his voice, but not—muffled and thick, his tongue too big for his mouth. 

“I’m sorry…”  What was Tucker doing here?  This wasn’t his home.  It was Matthew’s home.  Tucker was more at home at Mount Storm King.  Always had been.  He fit there.  Better than Matthew ever had.  Maybe he should’ve told him that before he left.  He could tell him now though.  He just… had… to…

“Get me out, ‘kay?”  He gritted his teeth against a sharp, blinding pain as he felt his arm roughly yanked from where it’d been pinned.  He couldn’t see who was moving him, but he could feel cool metal against his palm, his fingers instinctively curling around the relief it provided from the searing heat knifing through his chest and the sharper pinprick of pain in his arm. 

“I’m so fucking sorry, Matt.  But you did this to yourself.”

He really didn’t need this smug shit from Tucker right now.  Matthew knew he was driving too fast.  Too fast… and there was that small pale face with the big eyes, just like the cat on his mug… Then everything spun and lights and the rain… so hot on his face.  No… no… that was wrong, too.  It was Halloween.  The rain should be cold.  Why was it hot?

Tuck’s face was very close.  “You shouldn’t have left, Matt.”

Matthew squinted, trying to bring Tuck into focus, but he was so damned fuzzy and now he was getting smaller and smaller, disappearing into the dark, like Alice falling down the rabbit hole.  He laughed out loud then, imagining big, bulky Tucker dressed in some frilly blue dress and chasing a rabbit down a hole, exploding fireworks trailing behind.  He laughed again, except it sounded more like a cough and hurt like a mother, a deep burning pain that brought tears to his eyes.

“Tuck, man… it hurts.  Come on, now… get me out.”

But there was nothing there but darkness and pain and a shrill wail echoing throughout the suddenly empty space.


“Come on kid… hang in there… we’ve got you…”

Matthew blinked up at the looming figure, so close that he shouldn’t have felt the rain any longer, but the hot sensation continued to trickle down his face and into his eyes, washing everything in red.  Red rain.  Heh.  His mom loved that song.  She loved Peter Gabriel, shooting him evil glares when he claimed the dude was stuck in a time warp and out of touch with the real world.  Not like what he and Tucker liked.  Metallica, Pearl Jam, Nine Inch Nails.  Those guys knew what it was about, man.

“C’mon, kid, stay with me.  Can you tell me your name?”

“Matt… Matthew.”  He reached for the light dancing in front of his eyes.  Tried to trap it.  “Want… music…”

“Okay, Matthew.  You promise to stay with me and I’ll do my best to get you some music.  Who do you like?”

“My mom likes…”  He coughed, feeling more rain spilling down his chin.  “Peter Gabriel.”

“Yeah?  How about you?”

“La-lame.” But right now, he really wouldn’t mind it.

The light kept waving back and forth, like fireflies.  There shouldn’t be fireflies.  It wasn’t summer.  And Seattle didn’t have fireflies.  He’d only seen them once before during a baseball tourney back east.  They’d hovered over the infield like live Christmas lights.

“I need a backboard and C-collar, stat!  Definite head trauma—pupils blown, pulse weak and thready… I’m not sure how much longer I can keep him!”

The fireflies were too bright.  He’d close his eyes… just for a minute…

“Come on, Matthew, stay with me.  Let me know can you hear me.”

He blinked, then immediately closed his eyes again at the blinding brightness.  Too bright, man. 

“No, no, no, Matthew… open your eyes again.  Keep them open.”

No… no… he couldn’t take it—the pounding against his skull, duking it out with other voices and intensely bright lights and it was all just too much.  Too much and he wanted out.  Wanted the kind of quiet he liked best—late at night in his room, staring out the window at the night sky.  Out of the corner of his eye, Matthew noticed a clear blue expanse, beckoning.  Yeah… now that’s what he was talking about.  Deep and soft and warm, like the one time he’d gone scuba diving in Hawaii, gliding through the depths, weightless, surrounded by a whole world, yet somehow held apart from it.  Almost as good as the night sky.  He reached out, felt himself lifted, drawn towards the endless expanse.  Looking back over his shoulder, he saw a group of people clustered around a table, frantically gesturing and yelling, even though he couldn’t hear anything, couldn’t feel anything other than sorry that they were so stressed they couldn’t even notice what was waiting for them.  What lay just beyond their reach.

All of a sudden, pain radiated out from his chest, arms and legs tingling as if he’d been hit with a live wire.  Glancing around, he noticed a cluster of stars just behind him.  For what seemed like forever, he stared at them, trying to figure out what constellation it was… it wasn’t like anything he’d ever seen before.  It was beautiful.  The most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.

He stood absolutely still as it throbbed, dimming and brightening with the rhythm of a beating heart, then reached out and wrapped itself around him like a blanket, little sparks of sensation sinking into his skin, canceling out the pain and cold.  A moment later, it unwound itself and began trailing away in a determined shower of sparks, pausing only to swirl around him once more.  Curious, he followed, feeling himself growing lighter with each step.  Only once did he pause, glancing back over his shoulder, seeing more figures gathered around the table and spilling out into the hallways.  He took a step back, one hand reaching out—


Pain shot through him,  a harsh breath burning through his lungs.  Panicked, he looked for the stars, trying to figure out where they’d gone, wanting them to take the pain away.  He ran, taking corners and running up endless flights of stairs, wanting the pain to stop… now—whatever it took.

The pain shrieked through him, driving him to his knees and forcing him into a tight ball.  He squeezed his eyes shut as he crossed his arms over his head, folding his arms tight over his ears.  Trying to block it all out.  If he opened his eyes, he’d be home.  Home.  Please… he just wanted to go home.


The sound of his name prompted him to cautiously open his eyes, blinking slowly as he took in his new surroundings.  It was a large, light room—or would be if the blinds were open.  Instead, the room had that hazy dim glow indicating that daytime waited on the other side of the window. 

When had daytime arrived?

And why was he standing by a baby’s crib?

As if sensing his presence, the baby opened its eyes, their eerie dark green glowing the same way the room did—like there was light and life just waiting to be welcomed in.



The baby blinked solemnly.

You’re Matthew.


The baby yawned.  Will you be here when I wake up?

“I… I don’t know.”  Matthew looked around, noticed the sleeping woman in a nearby bed, an exhausted looking guy in what looked like a EMT uniform slumped in a chair, holding a teddy bear with a pink ribbon wound around its neck.  “I don’t think I’m supposed to be here.”

Please don’t leave.  I like you.

He stared down at the baby, at her chest rising and falling slowly, a tiny hand opening and closing against her cheek.  He was an only kid—he’d never been this close to a baby.  Reaching out, he ran a curious fingertip across the tiny hand, snatching it back as it disappeared into her skin, a hot flare of sensation shooting up his arm.


The baby’s eyes opened.  You know my name, too.

“Yeah.”  How he knew that, though, was kind of taking a back seat to what he suspected was turning into a way bigger issue.  Carefully, he touched his finger to the blanket wrapped around Emily’s small body, the hot tingling running up his arm again as his finger appeared to dissolve into nothingness. 

“Why did you call me?”

Those eyes kept staring, intent on him and yet at the same time, focused inward in a way he knew.  Way too well.  A way that sent a current of fear through him as he repeated, “Emily, why did you call me?”

She blinked, the intent focus of her gaze never wavering.

Because I could.


Haunted ©2013 Barbara Caridad Ferrer

Reacquainting myself

One of these days, I’m going to  believe I’m actually pretty good at this writing gig.

Where I left off in Dorian:

Faubourg Marigny


A mournful blues slide greeted Alex as she made her way up Ma Mère’s curving wrought-iron steps to the intimate rooftop patio where Mac sat on a small raised platform, head bent over his beloved Gretsch. The hands that during the week dissected bodies with cool efficiency, attempting to draw from them the secrets of their demise, now caressed the strings of the vintage guitar, drawing from them an aching pathos and sorrow that resonated down to a body’s bones. A true bluesman. All it had taken was a few notes from his guitar that first day, and Alex had understood here lay the real Mac. Had understood that his invitation to “come hear me play for a spell,” amounted to far more than casual politesse.

That first Sunday, so long ago now, had been the real beginning of their friendship.

“Well if it isn’t the good doctor herself.”

Hell. And here she’d simply been looking for an afternoon immersed in good food, good music, and good company. Hoping to banish, if only temporarily, those haunting images of mournful gazes and the lingering headache with its relentless, agonizing heartbeat. Wanted to forget she’d imagined whispered entreaties to dare—to open herself.

She didn’t want to open herself, dammit.

Any more than she wanted to acknowledge the greeting, delivered in its typically mocking drawl.

However, it was difficult to ignore a lifetime’s worth of good manners—much as she might want to.

“Afternoon, Gabriel.”

Curly wrought iron scraped across the weathered brick pavers as he shoved a chair away from the table, the invitation clear. Alex stared from the empty chair to Gabriel’s seemingly disinterested expression, debating. On the one hand, she could simply acknowledge the summons with a “No , thank you,” and the polite dismissive nod learned at Nana Louisette’s knee. On the other, if she declined the invitation, she stood to get an earful from Mac regarding her chronic muleheadedness, as well as giving Gabriel further fodder in their not-always silent battle of wills.

“Bloody Mary, please,” she said to the hostess who’d returned when it became clear Alex wasn’t following.  She dropped into the wrought iron chair, shifting to allow for a better view of the stage. That it kept Gabriel safely contained at the edges of her peripheral vision was just an added bonus.

“Now that’s a bit rude, Doctor.”

“You’re the one who asked me to join you. Should’ve been prepared.” She took a slow, deliberate sip of the potent red cocktail that had appeared with the preternatual efficiency for which Mère’s bartenders were famed, then sighed.

“I’m sorry.” She pushed the drink away, not even sure why she’d ordered the damned thing in the first place. For God’s sake, she didn’t even much care for Bloody Marys,.


Mac’s taunt echoed in her head as she turned the chair back toward the table—enough to keep the stage in her line of sight yet bringing her back within the realm of decent manners. “That was rude.” Knowing damned well even though alcohol had never seized hold of him same way the smack had, Gabriel still viewed anything harder than a beer as something to be treated with respect and generally avoided.

He shrugged and gestured at a passing waitress, lifting his bottle along with two fingers. “I take it’s been a difficult morning?” His voice was surprisingly neutral.

“No more so than usual.”

“Isn’t there some rule where Sundays shouldn’t be difficult?”

“If there is, my family didn’t get the memo.”

As soon as the words left her mouth she regretted them, fully expecting some scathing retort, likely involving silver spoons and apron strings. Then she’d snipe back, something completely inappropriate and ugly, and so it would go until she’d up and leave, only to return home cloaked in the nausea and vague sense of unease that had dogged her ever since this morning’s bizarre episode.

Episode—that’s how she’d chosen to denote it. A brief, surreal moment brought on by too little sleep and not enough coffee.

Or booze.

Again, however, Gabriel surprised her, merely tapping the neck of his fresh Abita against hers with a murmured “Santé,” and relaxing back in his chair to listen to Mac finish out his set.

A good part of Alex remained tense, unable to completely shake the feeling he was just trying to lull her into a false sense of security because… well, because. It would be just like him, wouldn’t it? Almost against her will, though, she relaxed, soothed as always by the music and the beauty that was Ma Mère’s. The smoky aromas of blackening spices butting up against the cool, loamy scent of weathered brick all wrapped in the steady hum of an early Sunday afternoon. Quiet, compared to the tourist traps down in the Quarter, but that’s just how the regulars around here liked it. Not to say it didn’t have its noisy, raucous moments—catch it on any given autumn Sunday when the Saints played—but even so, Mère’s belonged to the locals and those they trusted to keep the secret of the best brunch and blues in New Orleans.

Initially, it had been the latter, by way of Mac and his weekend hobby, that had drawn Alex to the venerable Marigny landmark. Still relatively early in the post-Katrina recovery, he’d suggested she drop on by. Listen to him play his guitar and if she had a mind to, maybe even lend a hand because at Mère’s, in those days, they’d needed all the help they could get.  It’d been that rarity: never once closing because of the storm, surviving on generators, charcoal grills, and a wing and a prayer. A loosely organized host of volunteers had cooked, cleaned, and procured supplies from God-only-knows where—best not ask what you really didn’t want to know—while overseeing it all had been Mama  Earlene and Lucille, her trusty twelve-gauge.

She’d offer food and drink to any who needed, take what payment could be offered and if none could, simply scribbled out an I.O.U., assuring the customer she was confident the debt would be paid. Even now, five years on, folks regularly eased in through the palm-shrouded entry, bearing their tattered half of a ticket along with payment, while at least once a week an envelope would drop through the mail slot,  bearing postmarks from as nearby as Slidell or as far away as California. There was even the memorable instance  of a case of fresh-smoked salmon from Alaska that had landed on the doorstep with a simple “Thank you, Mama” scrawled on the side.

One gesture of generosity in exchange for another—one that may well have saved a life.

That was the thing—people remembered.

Even if they no longer lived here—forced out by circumstances beyond their control—they remembered their city and the people in it.

This city, it had a way of holding a body’s heart. And Mère’s itself embodied the very heart of the New Orleans Alex had never been able to escape, no matter how far she’d run.

“Well, now… look at the two of you, playing nice in my little corner of the sandbox.”

“Fuck you,” Gabriel retorted, but there was no real heat behind it. He raised his hand again to summon the waitress while Mac pulled a chair up to the table and drained what was left of Alex’s Turbodog.

“Didn’t mess around, did you, girl?”

Alex shrugged. “Gabriel ordered.”

Mac’s sandy brows rose. “You let Gabe order for you?”

“I don’t let Gabriel do anything—he simply did and I felt it bad manners to argue.”

“As if niceties and proper behavior have ever stopped you before.”

“Just trying to take your repeated suggestions to heart.”

Mac made some unintelligible noise deep in his throat, before turning his attention to the newly-arrived waitress. “Three more Turbodogs, darlin’, along with the large bucket of Frenchman’s wings and a couple baskets of sweet potato fries.”

Alex felt her arteries hardening while Gabriel grumbled, “Why yes, Mac, you presumptuous son of a bitch, wings and fries would be great, thanks ever so for asking.”

Mac snorted. “Pot, meet kettle or was that some other Alex Lacorbiere telling me you’d ordered beer for her without so much as a by your leave? Besides, y’all had your chance to order whatever the hell you wanted while I was up working my fingers to the bone.”

“What can I say? You played such an engrossing set we forgot about eating.” Alex said with only minimal acid.

“And I remain stunned y’all quit arguing with each other long enough to actually listen.”

Gabriel leaned back in his chair the fingers of one hand restlessly playing with a worn silver lighter, sparking a flame and flipping the cap closed several times in quick succession. Remnants of yet another vice left abandoned in the ashes of his past, Alex knew, yet some habits remained deeply ingrained.

“Again, weren’t you the one chastising us to get along and all that Rodney King peacemaking bullshit?”

“Yeah—just never imagined either of you stubborn mules would actually listen.”

“The credit for this one actually goes to Gabriel,” Alex found herself saying, though for the life of her, she couldn’t figure why, exactly. “I would’ve been perfectly happy to find a remote corner where I could hide for a few hours and lose myself in the music.”

A knowing eyebrow rose. “And what kind of fresh hell did Miz Louisette inflict today?”

“Nothing fresh—merely more of the usual. Gossiping about who at church has had what done, being barely civil to Teddy Beckett because she can’t stand the man and wants to make certain he knows it, although I got the distinct impression he could give less of a shit. Oh,” she added as an afterthought, “and giving me hell about not wearing stockings to church.”

No need to go into the episode. Especially not in front of Gabriel. Not as if it was pertinent to the discussion at hand and besides, it was nothing more than an anomaly. Brought on by that lack of coffee. And booze. God only knew, that fresh beer couldn’t arrive soon enough.

“She’s lucky you put on a skirt.”  Mac’s glance took in Alex’s battered jeans and the worn to butter-softness Oxford button-down that had belonged to Daddy and that she’d pilfered from the bag intended for the Saint Vincent de Paul charity drive.

“Choose your battles.” Oddly restless, she stood and wandered to the rooftop’s edge, hoping for the warm spring breeze to sweep away the vestiges of the headache that the brief memory of this morning had resurrected.Gretsch-610x250

From A Tempestuous Noise by Barbara Caridad Ferrer ©2013

Where it began (Dorian)

After more than six weeks of semi-voluntary writing hiatus, I’m finally ready to get back to it. I’ve got several projects I could work on, but the one that seems to be poking its head up out of the ground most often is Dorian. I’m pleased, actually, because I love this project and I’d feared I’d come to such a screeching halt (multiple times) that I’d never actually finish it, which made me sad.

So sometime this week I’ll be opening the most current file (I can practically hear Lovely Agent cheering) and assembling my notes and trying to decide if what I have is really as good as I recall and if it inspires me to go forward.

In the meantime, this is what was once the original opening to the story, scribbled in a notebook in the wee hours of September 12, 2011. The fact that it still makes me shiver is a good sign, I think, because even though it’s no longer part of the story (it was a darling that needed to be killed), it did set the tone for everything that’s followed.


“Don’t look back, somethin’ might be gainin’ on you.” ~Satchel Paige

palm tree bent hurricane EDITED*304


New Orleans, Louisiana

August 28, 2005

His entire life he’d heeded those words.  His daddy’s mantra, borrowed from the great Satchel.  “That’s as good advice as any given by a man, no matter what color his skin is.”  So no, he’d never looked back.  Always looked forward.  Always forged ahead.  But the joke was on him now.  Because that thing that was gaining was coming from ahead, rushing headlong towards them with speed and fury and an unforgiving wrath that roared and howled at the injustice, but refused to let up, to divert its course.  Oddly, he wasn’t frightened.  God knows, he should’ve been.  Even old timers had the sense to be good and scared of the fearsome beast that snarled and spit and breathed righteous fire.  But not him.

No, if anything, he was hopeful.  Hope.  A simple word holding so much weight.  There was hope it would all be swept away—the dirt and filth. The lack of decency and morals and basic humanity.  Hope that the demons and monsters would be swallowed whole and erased—leaving nothing in their wake but perhaps the merest spun sugar dust sparkling in air washed clean and new.  Evidence that once, they’d been good.

Despite appearances to the contrary, they’d all been good.

Once upon a time.

It had all once been so very, very good.

Home (A little piece of flash fiction)

Inspired by a discussion on Twitter today about the word “gams.” It inspired this little quick vintage-styled piece.


It was Hawaii. Swaying palm trees and beaches and the ocean and warm tropical breezes that were incongruous with what November should be. It was the strange plinking sounds of ukuleles and dusky-skinned girls with straight dark hair who said aloha and called him a haole, in sweet, lilting voices.

But that night at the USO, thousands of miles from Illinois with its frigid air and barren fields buried under massive drifts of snow it was a girl who looked like home who captured Skip’s attention.

All peaches-and-cream skin, honey-blonde hair caught up in a net, and wearing a cherry-red dress that perfectly matched the lips that were turned up in a perpetual grin.


Hot damn, that dress was something else. Not because it was particularly racy or showed anything it shouldn’t. Outside of the color his Grandma would sniff wasn’t appropriate for anything outside a bordello, it was a perfectly respectable dress. Hell, she was even wearing a small, enameled flag pin at her collar. Couldn’t get more respectable than that, no sir.

But there was just something about that dress, mister…  The skirt swirling as she danced, riding up and giving peekaboo glimpses of legs left bare, all the patriotic girls having sacrificed their silk stockings for the war effort. Unlike all the other girls in the canteen, however, her legs were truly bare—she’d eschewed drawing lines up the backs of her legs to give the illusion of seams. And maybe because her legs were so defiantly bare—maybe because she danced tirelessly, with flyboys and squibs alike, showing no preference—he was able to look his fill at what he could only deem the finest pair of gams he’d ever seen in all his nineteen years, and that included the burlesque dancers at that club he and his buddies had visited the night before they shipped out and found themselves here.

In Hawaii.

Where he found himself the night before he was due to ship out again, this time for God only knew where and not knowing when—or even if—he’d ever make it back, and looking at a girl who looked just like home.

More workings of Barb’s mind (2004 edition)

Sorting through notes and WIPs and trying to reorganize into something that makes sense, I keep coming across idea notes for potential projects. As is my habit, I jot things down as they occur, then set it aside for a later day.

Thought y’all might enjoy the peek into the mushy gray matter. These are notes for a story idea that clearly had its roots in chick lit, back before it became a dirty term. Until today, I hadn’t opened the file since 2004, so not exactly a barn burner of an idea. At least not one that set the lizard brain on fire.

Revenge of the Brat Pack (NOTES)

A woman pushing forty, who had initially imagined that her life would be like a combination of the influential John Hughes/Brat Pack films of her youth

Title each chapter after a different film or divide into sub-sections, referencing a different part of her life.  (Depends on how many films you use.)  Story catalyst is invitation to high school/college (which one?) reunion.  If college, perhaps she went to a college a lot of her high school classmates went to—she’s from Miami, which in the early eighties wasn’t as trendy and desirable as it is now, but had big dreams of getting out ala Andi in Pretty in Pink—hence the influence of those films.  Perhaps wanted to go to school in Chicago, because so many of the films she admired made it seem so clean and fun.  Or perhaps D.C. (St. Elmo’s Fire.)  Plus, it was different.  Those cities had seasons.  They lacked palm trees.  People bought warmer clothes and coats for back-to-school.  They fit the profile of every McDonald’s commercial of every ABC  Afterschool Special she ever watched.

Introduce each section with a blurb about the film saying what year it came out, who starred in it and a brief description of the movie.  And add the Siskel and Ebert review if you can find it.  Then memorable scene & quote from each film, i.e.

Memorable Scene: Ferris croons Danke Schoen and belts Twist and Shout from atop Polish Heritage Festival Float.

Memorable Quote:

“I did have a test today. That wasn’t bullshit. It’s on European Socialism. I mean, really, what’s the point? I’m not European, I don’t plan on being European, so who gives a crap if they’re socialist? They could be fascist anarchists, that still wouldn’t change the fact that I don’t own a car. Not that I condone fascism, or any ism for that matter. Isms in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an ism, he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon: ‘I don’t believe in Beatles, I just believe in me.’ A good point there. Of course he was the Walrus. I could be the Walrus, I’d still have to bum rides off of people.”

Film suggestions-

Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Risky Business

Sixteen Candles

Weird Science

Breakfast Club

Ferris Beuller’s Day Off

Some Kind of Wonderful

Pretty in Pink

St. Elmos Fire

She’s Having a Baby

Dirty Dancing

Revenge of the Nerds

Lost Boys

Opening scene:


This is what my life has come to

A bus full of little girls, all under the age of eleven, chanting.


So not what I expected.

Vintage Hollywood (A Wee Drabble of sorts)

Subtitled: what happens when Barb is operating on 2.5 hours of sleep and sees a photograph that captures her fancy. The photograph in question:

Vintage Hollywood

All credit to Arlene Wszalek (@Wzzy) who had posted a lovely full color version of this image taken during a walk around the newly reopened Hollywood Reservoir. I mentioned that it seemed the sort of  image that evoked a sense of Old Hollywood and that I’d love to see it manipulated in a sepia-tint. A while later, voilà—the Lovely Arlene had tagged me in a post whereupon she had applied a sepia filter to the photograph and isn’t it lovely?

My first thought was, “There’s a story there.” (Go on, look surprised, I dare ya.) And lo and behold… a wee drabble emerged.

This is that drabble. Please, keep in mind, 2.5 hours sleep.

With many thanks to Arlene for indulging my idle whim.

Vintage Hollywood

New Year’s Day 1957

No one remembered what it used to look like.

The fruit orchards and citrus groves bisected by wide, quiet avenues and lined with modest Craftsman bungalows and Mission-style houses

Back before Bill Mulholland built his dam, and Woodruff and Shoults had erected that damned monstrosity up on Mount Lee designed to draw people to their “superb environment without excessive cost on the Hollywood side of the hills.” Hell, he hardly remembered himself—he hadn’t been that long out of short pants when the sign went up and not long after, the dam was built, changing the landscape forever.

Of course, it didn’t help—or hurt—depending on your point of view, that as the popularity of the talkies grew and the industry along with it, his quiet, sleepy town had also gone along for the ride—huge swathes of acreage giving way to studios and shopping centers.

He still hadn’t quite forgiven Chaplin for that.

Even so, the area had remained fairly sylvan and peaceful for quite a long time, removed as it was from the City of Angels, proper. Especially up in the hills themselves, lots of trails for a body to take a bracing walk or where a horse could still be ridden in peace. Up there, a body could get lost for days—weeks even—almost forgetting the hustle and bustle that invaded and wouldn’t be beat back. Not unlike a particularly insidious strain of poison-oak.

The one invader he hadn’t minded was the Observatory. There was something so regal and serene about it, clean and white and set at a remove from the ugliness. One could sit up there and feel just a little bit closer to the heavens and that was a fact.

There had been that scare some years back—that lunatic, Hughes, making noises about building up on Cahuenga Peak—something about how his princess deserved a castle so she could oversee her subjects.

Man was loopier than the yarn his grandmamma used to spin.

Then again, same argument could be made for City Council, since they actually voted to grant him permission to build.

Thank God, Hughes had all the restraint of a chickenhawk let loose in a henhouse. Ginger had caught wind of his indiscretions—not that he went to all that much trouble to hide them—and had the sense God gave a goat to give the narcissistic bastard the old heave-ho before she got in too far over her head.

Granted, he might not care for the sign much, but for better or worse, it was a landmark and a damned sight better than whatever that crackpot Howard would’ve seen fit to put up, no doubt overshadowing if not obliterating anything in his path. When one took into account that his next big project after Ginger cut him loose had been the Spruce Goose…

Well—everyone knew how that had turned out.

He paused for a breath and to regain his bearings. It was all changing so fast and yet, at times like this, the setting sun bathing everything in a warm gold glow, he could squint his eyes and it almost—almost—had the look of the sepia-tinted photographs so carefully preserved within the leather-bound albums that were his pride and joy.

They told a story, those albums did.

Just not the story everyone assumed.

They thought he was merely the family historian. The dotty uncle trying desperately to cling to a past about which no one cared.

Oh, but they’d care all right.

If they were smart enough to put together the clues he’d so carefully preserved on those bits of celluloid and painstakingly affixed to the heavy parchment sheets of those leather albums.

Of one thing he was certain—by the time they put it all together, that is, presuming they ever did—it would be far too late to do a damned thing about it. He’d be long gone and the biggest secret of all, gone with him.

Something about that—much like this place he loved so much—made him smile.

With that, he picked up the shovel and began to dig.

“There but for the grace of God…” (Gracefully Gone by Alicia Coppola)

I’m sitting here with my first cup of coffee of the morning and mulling over a book I finished last night, Gracefully Gone, by Alicia Coppola. Honestly, I’ve been mulling over this book and writing this post since I first started reading it last week.

gracefully-goneNormally, I don’t write reviews—I might leave one on Amazon, as I did for Gracefully Gone, because I know those ratings and reviews can definitely help, but in terms of writing in-depth reviews on books, it’s not something I particularly enjoy doing. Maybe it’s because I know how much effort and sweat and tears and heart go into the creation of a book for me to turn what’s often a very critical eye on it. Call me a softy, but I can’t do it.

But Gracefully Gone has proven to be an exception almost from the get-go. Not simply because it’s prompting me to write about it, but because I even read it in the first place. You see, memoirs generally aren’t my cuppa—odd, since I actually love biographies, but I am a contrary creature. (Go on, look surprised.) But Gracefully Gone isn’t simply just another memoir either—it’s equal parts memoir, journal, and epistolary account. It chronicles the journey of Matthew Coppola, Sr. and his daughter, the young girl/woman who would grow up to become actress Alicia Coppola, as they navigated his cancer diagnosis, treatment, and eventually, the last months of his life.

It was a tremendous read—and yet, I still can’t review it, not in any traditional sense. It would… cheapen the experience, if that makes any sense. So I beg your tolerance as I record my reactions in the manner in which I heard them in my head as I read, which was… a chatty, conversational letter. Kind of apropos, no?

All right, then, here we go.

Dear Alicia,

Well, fellow writer, I finished reading Gracefully Gone last night. And as it has from the first moment I started reading, it has stayed with me. For various reasons—the style (since you are a wonderfully evocative writer), the story, the events, but most of all, because of a line you used more than once and that resonated: “There but for the grace of God…” Continue reading