Back From The Abyss

Hello again! If you’re confused about why this has landed in your inbox, this is the blog formerly known as Shining The Light. I’m updating and cleaning out the cobwebs.

Last month, I turned 50, and it dawned on me that if I don’t get serious about writing in general and marketing specifically I was never going to get anywhere. Hence the rebrand.

I’ve been working on a few different projects lately. The first started out as a fantasy short story called Dragon Rescue, which was published in Blackbirds Second Flight. It was followed by Mage Hunt in Blackbirds Third Flight, and has morphed into a full-blown series. The world is called Balphrahn and features dragons and dragon riders, magic, and intrigue.

The other two are still in development. One is a satirical collection of stories based on my experience in customer service fields, tentatively titled How To Get Crappy Service. The other isn’t even titled yet and may end up being a series of articles about parenting and dealing with the empty nest.

I’ve also started a newsletter and plan to share insider information there that won’t be here so I hope you’ll sign up for that.

That’s the excitement here! Well, not all of it, but you don’t want to know everything in the first post, do you?


As soon as she reached for a napkin with her sample cups, I knew who she was. She came in the first time a week or two after we opened. One of the bosses was there, and she went to great length to tell the two of us how one should only eat a tiny bit of frozen yogurt once in a while as a treat. We tried to explain how it’s healthier than ice cream or frozen custard, and she wouldn’t hear it. I thought she was rude, but the boss chatted her up. Turns out she’s a personal trainer originally from Poland. She tried a couple samples and left.

A couple of weeks ago, she came back. This was when she took the napkin. Newbies who haven’t tried our yogurt don’t know to take napkins because they don’t know when the yogurt is in the serving pipe for a while, it melts, and sometimes it makes a mess. She tried several flavors (all with the same sample cup) and came to the register to tell us that although the organic strawberry and organic banana were very flavorful, everything else tasted like Nutella. Might be because she kept going back to the Nutella, or it might be because of the same sample cup. Again, she left without buying anything.

Yesterday, I was working in the back and came to the front as she was walking out the door with nothing in her hands. She’s going in my current story. Her character will be unrecognizable and won’t make it to the end…

Happy Memorial Day

I’m off to work in a little while. It’s been years since I’ve had to work on a holiday, and Eric loves that he gets to stay home and goof off while I head to the fro-yo mines.

While a memorial service isn’t on my schedule today, I will be mindful of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. I know it’s supposed to be about the people who died in wars, or from injuries sustained there, but I can’t help but include first responders in there. They wage battles of a different kind every day–against crime, bureaucracy, hatred, anger, entitlement and complacence. Like our soldiers, they do it on low pay and, sometimes, no sleep, and sometimes they spill their blood in the course of their duties.

To those of you left behind, and to those of you who’s loved one came home changed beyond recognition, you are in my thoughts and prayers. You are our living testament to the sacrifice.

My Muse

I went looking for the post where I talked about my muse. I thought I wrote it years ago, but it’s not here. Must have been a butterfly moment.* I cranked up the Wayback Machine** and found the post where I realized my muse is Walter Mitty. Feel free to peruse it if you wish.

If you don’t know who Walter Mitty is, and a shocking number of people don’t, he’s the main character from a short story, “The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty,” by James Thurber. They did make movie by the same name two years ago starring Ben Stiller. I haven’t seen it, but from the synopsis I read online, it bears little resemblance to the story. Therefore, my Walter does not look like Ben Stiller. He’s a white-haired gentlemen who smokes a pipe and has a fondness for scotch. If I neglect him, he runs off to Tahiti (yes, the magical place), where he lies on the beach under an umbrella sipping adult beverages and admiring the thong bikinis  scenery. It’s really hard to drag him back to work.

By now, some of you no doubt think I’m delusional. All you artsy types out there, though, know what I’m talking about, whether you admit it or not. How about you? Have you gotten to know your muse?


*I have ADOB. Attention Deficit Ooooohhh Butterfly!

**This one, ya little whippersnapper, not the digital archive.

New feature

Last spring, when we started to explore the city in earnest, we saw things we’d never seen before. We were sheltered, I guess, but it seemed like common sense not to walk in the city at night in dark clothing while listening to music with headphones, and crossing the street without looking. If she’d been paying attention, she might have noticed the bus that almost rear-ended the car that had to wait for her to get off Holy Ground ( the cross walk). The sad thing is, things like that are commonplace here.

One day I opined to Eric that I’d never known survival instinct could be legislated out of people. If it wasn’t illegal to hit people in a cross walk, maybe they’d pay attention to where they were going. I think that was the first time I said, “Darwin would be appalled.”

Once I got started, I couldn’t stop, and as veterans sometimes do, I made an acronym: DWBA, or as we say, Dee-wubba.

I know I’m not seeing anything that doesn’t happen in other places. I guess you don’t really even have to be in a big city to see it. In our small town downstate, though, you don’t see things like people walking at night in black clothing much, and when you do, it’s usually a teen. I’m probably only seeing more of it because of the higher population density. Nevertheless, I’ll be sharing my observations with you. Let me know if it’s a Chicago thing, or if you see these things where you are.

New day job

Writers tend to live in their heads. You’ve probably heard that before. Even when we’re out and about, doing the same mundane things you do, we see things, and we think, “Wow, that needs to go in a story!” And we file it away for future use. The downside is we sometimes live too much in our heads. We become hermits unless we have a reason to walk away from it for a while. I was heading there, fast, and then one day, Eric pointed out the sign I needed.

Yes. A literal sign. In the window of a new frozen yogurt shop opening across the street from our apartment. I applied on a whim. I was sure, even then, I would get the job. After all, frozen yogurt shops usually hire teens. It’s an ideal first job, but teens go to school. They would need someone with a flexible schedule to work until the teens could come in. I even told my interviewer I’ve raised teens and know how to deal with them, plus I have years of diverse customer service experience, and frankly, I didn’t know why they wouldn’t want to hire me. For once, my cockiness paid off. I knew it would one day.

I started two weeks ago, and at first I didn’t say much about it to anyone. Honestly, I felt like a bit of a loser, taking a minimum wage job that requires me to wear a visor at my age. I’ve come to realize this is the perfect job for this part of my life. It’s part time, so I still have time to write. It gets me out amongst people, which was really what I needed most. There’s frozen yogurt. What’s not to love about that?

This morning, I saw a Facebook post about 60 being the new 40. My writer brain thought, “Oh, then 40 must be the new 20.” Remember your 20’s? Assuming you’ve had them already? The world is wide open, every day filled with promise and new things to learn. Suddenly it seemed perfectly appropriate that I should take an entry level job. I’m in a new stage of life, and while I’ve got a few gray hairs and some extra pounds, the world is no less wide open than it was 20 years ago. More wide open, maybe, because I don’t have small children, but I do have a man who loves me. No need to decide which dating website is best! Score! And let’s face it, I have the best commute in Chicago.

Stay tuned for blogworthy stories from the Day Job.

Blackbirds Second Flight live chat

Some of the authors of Blackbirds Second Flight are getting together on Google+ this Thursday evening from 5-7 to answer questions about the Blackbirds books. You can watch it here. I’ve had several questions about one story in particular. I’m happy to have seen them ahead of time because I’ve had to consult scientists about it. They’re very busy, so I hated to bother them with this.

No, I didn’t. It’s payback. They’re my kids. I birthed scientists, to my continual surprise, and I would be a terrible mother if I didn’t take advantage of their gifts, especially since the primary ones they got from me were the sarcasm and smart-ass genes. Having grown children is truly delightful!

The other positive thing about seeing the questions in advance is it’s inspired me to do some world-building. A few people have already said they want to know more of the story, and to do that effectively, I need to compile what I know so I can research (dream up) what I don’t know yet. It’s a bit daunting. I’ll need more coffee.

Curious about the story yet? Join us Thursday evening* and order your copy of Blackbirds Second Flight. You can let me know which story you want to see more of!


*If, for some strange reason, you’re not available to watch Thursday, I believe it will be archived on YouTube. I’ll edit with the link when I get one.