Categories
Author Interview Books Podcast

Saralyn Richard Makes Murder Mysteries FUN!

Saralyn Richard! Learn more at her website!
Visit with us here on YouTube!
Audio-only visit

Show Notes with Links:

Find all of Saralyn’s books (and follow her!) on Amazon HERE!
  • How have you / your writing process changed in the past 3 years?
  • Do you still love all aspects of the writing/publishing?
  • Character charts?
The “Door Prize”!
  • Did you know Who dun it from beginning?
  • Real people as references?
  • Great sensory details throughout
  • PLEASE READ A SECTION!
  • Any RESEARCH surprises? Police / mortician / karate!
  • “False summit” idea near end . . . we think we have the answer!

You didn’t like outlining for books…needs spontaneity, but how did you keep all of the sub-plots organized?

Saralyn with Galveston Island Elks Lodge Queen, Asta Timms!
  • Lessons for readers? Advice?
  • Next?  Shout-outs?

Check out Saralyn’s accolades!

  • First Place in SpeakUp Radio’s Firebird Awards for Mysteries 2021
  • Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Readers’ Favorite Award 2021
  • Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Readers’ Favorite Award 2019
  • Silver Medal Readers’ Favorite 2020
  • Finalist Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Best Investigator 2021
  • Finalist Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Police Procedural 2019
  • Finalist American Bookfest 2020
  • Finalist Chanticleer CLUE Award 2019

Laurel Stuff:

Meanwhile, I’m working on a new science fiction series AND a children’s picture book AND recently published my first coloring book for the Waterwight series!
(Photo Credit: Elise Sunday)

Find my other work here!

Please subscribe to Alligator Preserves on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts, and tell your friends about it! I’d love it if you “liked” the episodes you listen to, and I’d love it even more if you’d post a quick comment!

Categories
Author Interview Writing

Award-Winning Young Author Henry Dodson!

CCWE Vice-President Cam Torrens and I present Henry Dodson with his award!
Visit with us on YouTube and hear Henry read his winning entry!

Audio-only version of my visit with Henry Dodson

Show Notes with Links:

  • Henry Dodson took 1st place in CCWE‘s inaugural Young Authors Fiction Contest!
  • In addition to his cash prize and my book, I had the pleasure of interviewing Henry and having him read his winning entry (read his story “The Trees” below).
  • Henry talks about his motivation to enter the contest, and credits his creative writing teacher, Taylor Drusch, at Chaffee County High School with encouraging him to participate.
  • Henry’s favorite authors are Stephen King and Dean Koontz, and Koontz’s novel Lightning is a particular inspiration.
  • Henry used the main character as a Vietnam Veteran to honor his grandfather, a veteran.
  • Henry reads his psychological thriller “The Trees.”
Henry’s artwork of the vision of the stalking tree
  • He discusses his choice of Spruce trees.
  • He’s a “pantser,” not a “planner.”
  • He talks about how he ended his story, and when he discovered he was a good writer, and then gives us a hint about the first book he plans to write.
  • We talk about keeping track of ideas, and Henry gives advice to young writers.

“The Trees” by Henry Dodson

 I awoke violently once again. The whispering which had taunted me constantly was becoming louder and louder, almost too loud to bear. I sat up and grabbed my rifle, loading it through the top, pulling the bolt, and aiming it at the door. Every single night since building my Cabin deep in the Appalachian woods, something has haunted me, following me, driving me insane. I moved into these woods after my discharge from the Army to try to escape the constant horrors that had plagued me since the ambush, but it seems that my demons are chasing me and won’t relent until they’ve gotten what they wanted, whatever that may be. I tense my finger on the trigger of my rifle. Whatever is chasing me doesn’t just want me dead, it wants me suffering. Both I and It know that it is more than capable of ending my life, but I haven’t the slightest clue why it’s waiting so long to put me out of my misery.

            It wasn’t long after my injury in Vietnam that it first appeared. I initially thought I was just experiencing PTSD, or shock, as any person exploded by an RPG would. The doctors could explain away what I was seeing and experiencing and would say it was just a result of the attack on my psyche. When I told the doctors about the whispers, they explained to me that “my brain’s just rattled,” and that it would subside before long. They told me the creature outside my window was an effect of losing my eye, and that my brain was attempting to “fill in the gaps.” I should never have believed them.

            I blindly searched the floor next to my cot for my prosthetic leg. Dawn had broken and I was safe, at least safer than I was before the sun had appeared. The whispers of the trees had returned back to a tolerable murmur, however they never stopped. I attached the peg, which was carved out of Red Spruce, to the stump just beyond my knee and departed my cabin to carry out my daily dues. During the days I would hunt animals and gather berries and mushrooms for food,picking up firewood along the way. Most of these trips would go without much incident, aside from the odd rustle among the leaves or distant scream from the forest that seems to be common around these parts. Today’s hunt was different. The areas of the woods I had familiarized myself with had now felt wrong, as if they weren’t the same woods. I was no more than fifty feet into the wood before my skin began to crawl and the trees began to whisper again, whispering like last night. I turned around on my heels and began to sprint back to my cabin; I knew that my time was coming soon, but I sought to prolong the inevitable. 

            As I tore through the unrelenting forest the whispering of the trees turned into yelling, then into deafening screams. No matter how hard I looked or how fast I ran, the woods continued. I knew how far I was, I knew which direction my cabin was, I had been into this section of the woods every single day. Something was wrong, I had moved miles away from where I began. I had no chance, it had caught up to me. The only thing I could do at this point was pray that my death would involve minimal suffering. I dropped to my knees and began sobbing as the trees fell silent.  I heard the sound of massive amounts of earth and lumber moving, rushing towards me like a river of mud and stone. As the sound of snapping roots and flowing earth approached, it fell silent before me. As I held my head in my hands, sobbing, I heard a solitary whisper, frail and like sandpaper against my ears. 

“Look to me…” It beckoned. I was trembling with fear. It was the creature that had been pursuing me since the ambush. I lifted my head from my hands and looked up to meet its gaze.. In front of me was a gargantuan spruce tree, hundreds upon hundreds of feet high. In its trunk were the withered bodies of hundreds of  tortured men, whispering, screaming, begging. The bodies of these men, their skin fused into the bark of the trees, were all faces I vaguely recognized. Trapped within this tree was the soul of every person I had killed in the war. The tree’s voice, rough like it’s bark, called again. 

“Look upon me, look upon the souls you’ve damned.” I continued to weep as I watched the tortured souls of the Vietnamese Army grab and claw at me, begging for mercy. “You were responsible for the loss of these men, freedom fighters for their homeland,” The tree’s voice tore against my ears. “The gunshots, explosions and fires that led to their deaths all came from you. You are responsible. You did this. You are the monster, not I.” The voice of the tree had become too much to bear, the pain of what it had told me became too much to deal with. I continue to sob as I look upon the tree of souls. I feel its roots wrap around my prosthesis and drag it into the earth, and then I am urged by the tree into a deep sleep.

            I awake outside my cabin, my clothes torn and dirty. As I attempt to pull myself off of the ground I fall. My leg is gone, but so too is the whispering of the trees.

Laurel Stuff:

Meanwhile, I’m working on a new science fiction series AND a children’s picture book AND recently published my first coloring book for the Waterwight series!
(Photo Credit: Elise Sunday)

Find my other work here!

Please subscribe to Alligator Preserves on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts, and tell your friends about it! I’d love it if you “liked” the episodes you listen to, and I’d love it even more if you’d post a quick comment!

Categories
Laurel on Life

Friday the 13th: Groundhog Day Edition

“Let’s go tent camping,” he said.
“It’ll be fun!” I said.

I frequently forget that I’m half-past 63, and the last time we tent camped was at White Sands, New Mexico in 2011 for the Bataan Death March Marathon. I completed the run, but the camping experience was a disaster, with winds strong enough to snap our tent poles and leave us fearing an airborne transport to the next county.

Still, on Friday the 13th, Mike and I loaded up the truck with an unopened tent we purchased before COVID-19, our mountain bikes, his kayak and my paddleboard, and enough sunscreen and snacks for an entire campground. We hugged our son Jake goodbye and headed to Fruita, Colorado.

Our plans for Friday included setting up camp, getting onto the water, going out to eat, and then letting the sounds and smells of nature lull us to sleep as we snuggled under our comforter. We’d hike on Saturday, bike on Sunday, and then head home feeling refreshed.

“You can have the shooting mat, I’ll use the Army sleeping pad.” Mike was generous in giving me the larger of the two mats, though I vaguely recalled it had no loft to it.

My memory was correct, but hey, I could sleep on anything for two nights. The tent was great, and I covered our mats with one of those soft, fuzzy fleece blankets. I removed what I thought was a filled comforter from its plastic bag—it had been years since we’d used it in a trailer we once had—and realized it was just a spread. So much for my memory.

But hey, it was really hot out, and the tent was great. We’d be fine.

We were surprised that our tent site was designated as a handicapped location but were delighted at how convenient it was to the parking lot. Mike told me it was the only site available in the whole campground—Lucky us! He failed to tell me another thing he discovered in small print when he rechecked our reservation, but I’ll get to that.

By the time we unloaded and set up our site, it was later than we’d anticipated.

“How about we walk to the Mexican food place and then just come back and chill,” I suggested. “We have all weekend to get on the water.” It wasn’t hard to convince Mike, and we did our best to hear ourselves speaking over the raucous diners who shared the patio space with us. Covid restrictions have atrophied our noisy-crowd-tolerance muscles.

“Let’s walk around the lake,” Mike suggested when we’d finished our chicken mole enchiladas. It was a lovely evening, and it looked to be about a one-mile trail around the lake.

One mile turned into several, which was good because Mike was feeling queasy, and I felt like I’d swallowed the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. Evidently, Covid has weakened our dining-out digestive systems too.

“Oh, I didn’t know there was a train nearby.” I smirked at the memory of past camping experiences when train whistles had startled us awake throughout the night.

“Of course there would be.” Mike shook his head and belched.

“Ewww.” It’s pretty bad when you can taste someone else’s burp.

It was still hot in our tent when we turned off our reading lights, so we kept one end opened. Although one of Mike’s superpowers is the ability to fall asleep the moment his head hits the pillow, his gut kept him awake for the next few hours. I knew this because I kept myself awake giggling as I tried in vain to get comfortable on my bumpy, fleece-covered “shooting” mat. I have found over the years that it is better to giggle than to weep over discomfort, knowing that—generally—it will pass.

We were quick to realize that our convenient tent site was also convenient for all of the sites beyond ours. Hordes and herds of rowdy campers shuffled by our tent throughout the night, shining flashlights into our tent and occasionally even bumping into it as they passed. The convenient cement pathway meant for handicapped accessibility to our site was easier for them than the gravel pathway they should have taken to theirs.

“Hey! Get the chairs from the back seat!” A man who’d passed yelled over our tent to his son in the parking lot.

“Both of them?” Son yelled back.

“Get both of them.”

“Both of them?”

“Yes, both of them!”

“Both of them?”

“Yes, get—I’ll be right there!”

Oh . . . my . . . God. Mike was about to yell something inappropriate. I giggled.

At some point, Mike fell asleep. At another point, the temperature dropped precipitously. I pulled on my sweatpants and did my best to conserve my body heat, pulling the loose edge of the fleece blanket up and over half of my body and curling into the fetal position under the flimsy spread. And at yet another point, the shiver-sweating started. As snuggly and soft as fleece typically is, it was no comfort to me that night.

As exhausted as I was, between the Jake Brakes on the nearby highway and the sporadic train whistle piercing the night, there was a slim chance I’d sleep at all. Still, I smiled. Ah! The sounds of nature! And . . . what was that smell?

The small print on the website which Mike failed to share with me notified campers there could be occasional wafts from a nearby decommissioned sewer treatment facility. Yup. Ah! The smells of nature!

Remarkably, I must have succumbed to sleep sometime before sunrise, for I woke from a nightmare to the sound of birds . . . and brakes . . . and train whistles . . . and barking . . . and—

“Coffee?” Mike had made it through the night without barfing and had the Jetboil bubbling.

“Yes, please!” My entire body ached as I unfurled it from its flimsy blanket cocoon. The morning was bright and beautiful, and we sat in camp chairs on the cement walkway, sipping our brew and daring any would-be encroachers to schlep their gear through our site.

“Are you up for a hike?” Mike knew I’d barely slept, but there was no way we were going to hang around the campground. “We can get on the water after, and then . . . what do you think about going home?”

I was glad it was his suggestion, and happy to comply.

Our 10K hike took us along gorgeous trails punctuated by wildflowers, and we chatted with a local gal who asked where we were from.

“You live in Salida? What are you doing here?” she asked, exactly what we’d been thinking when we awoke. Mike and I looked at one another and grinned.

Back at the campground, Mike glanced at the kayak and hesitated.

“We don’t have to go to the lake,” I said. “We have all summer for that.” It was all the persuasion he needed, and we made short work of breaking camp and packing up. I texted Jake our change of plans and we made the trek home, laughing about the silliness of what we’d experienced and happy to return to the sights and sounds and smells of the nature surrounding our serene home.

“You know I live to give you something to write about,” Mike said, smirking.

“I know. And thank you! What a Friday the 13th!”

But wait. There’s more. While offloading our gear at home, I noticed a new toilet tank supply hose on the kitchen counter.

“Jake? What happened?”

Here’s where I will tell you how much damage a split $8 toilet supply hose can do to hardwood floors upstairs . . . and carpeting downstairs . . . and the walls in between.

Lots.

If Jake hadn’t been home to hear the unusual noise upstairs, I can only imagine the devastation we would have discovered upon our return. Oh, and while we were driving home, my trip to North Carolina for our other son’s engagement party was cancelled due to a Covid outbreak. As I write this looking out onto our newly snow-laden landscape, I’m happy that I’d at least resisted the urge to plant all of my vegetable beds before going camping. I’m finding it difficult, however, to laugh over the piercing noise of the heating pads, blowers, and dehumidifiers strategically placed to blow and suck out all of the water from our once-peaceful home.

And while I know that this “disturbance” will pass in a week, or two, or five, I always thought Friday the 13th was supposed to be just one shitty day.

But okay. I can still giggle.

Laurel Stuff:

Meanwhile, I’m working on a new science fiction series AND a children’s picture book AND recently published my first coloring book for the Waterwight series!
(Photo Credit: Elise Sunday)

Find my other work here!

Please subscribe to Alligator Preserves on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts, and tell your friends about it! I’d love it if you “liked” the episodes you listen to, and I’d love it even more if you’d post a quick comment!

Categories
Books Laurel on Life

Wind? What Wind?

“…I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore…”

and we’re not quite “over the rainbow,” either! Dorothy had a spectacular dream–something I very much relate to–after being struck on the head during a “twister,” but the crazy winds we’ve been experiencing lately are real(ly irritating)!

Steinbeck wrote of drought, dust storms, and the resultant hardships on humankind. The Dust Bowl of the ’30s should be a reminder to us all that Ma Nature doesn’t really care about us and that–yes–our misuse/misunderstanding of the land can exacerbate natural climate patterns. But this newsletter isn’t intended to remedy anything. Rather, it’s a reminder that we generally get to choose how we will respond to inconvenient circumstances. 

Will we allow the wind to make us cranky, keep us indoors, and remain incessantly vocal about how really irritating it is? Or will we consider WWSD (What Would Stoics Do)? While I’m not espousing the “keep it all bottled up inside” advice some may suggest, after we allow our natural inclinations to vent, we might then remember A Stoic Response to Complaining, and then readjust our response! 


Catwalk at Bishop Castle (go ahead and experience how it sways in the wind…I dare you!) 

As spring slides into summer, let’s stay aware of local conditions as a way of preventing unnecessary disasters. Dry winds (and personal negligence) cause horrific fires, and it looks like we’ll have many “red flag days” in our future. Let’s do what we can to spare our first responders this year . . . while still finding ways to enjoy the great outdoors. 

Stay well, my friends, and take breaks from news and social media (except my newsletters!) every once in a while! 

Nothing stops the mighty Bagel from enjoying his hikes!
:)

Laurel Stuff:

Meanwhile, I’m working on a new science fiction series AND a children’s picture book AND recently published my first coloring book for the Waterwight series!
(Photo Credit: Elise Sunday)

Find my other work here!

Please subscribe to Alligator Preserves on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts, and tell your friends about it! I’d love it if you “liked” the episodes you listen to, and I’d love it even more if you’d post a quick comment!

Categories
Laurel on Life

March Madness…

… has nothing to do with basketball, at least in my world. The Googles define madness as “the state of being mentally ill, especially severely . . . extremely foolish behavior . . . a state of frenzied or chaotic activity.”

And don’t those characteristics define the month of March perfectly? When days alternately bring blizzards or brilliance, when our bodies have to adjust to the theft of a precious hour (maybe it’s time to move to Arizona or Hawaii?), when sleepy towns are held hostage by spring breakers shouting “YOLO,” when friends and Marie Kondo challenge you to a spring cleaning contest, when you hope the corned beef brisket you just bought for your annual St. Patrick’s Day cabbage fest isn’t all fat and gristle, when everyone’s telling you to BEWARE this ides of March (Caesar didn’t, and look how that turned out), and when you know Mr. IRS is waiting . . . well, what more madness must one person endure?

And so I make a point every day now to take a little break in the afternoon–I call it my carpet nap, though I don’t really sleep–with my feet up on the ottoman, and I do my best to endure my new buddy, who’s a pro at this nap thing. We all could learn a few things from Bagel. After all, he ain’t crazy. He’s my granddog. 

Our son and his dog, Bagel, are with us now, and Bagel is a snuggle-hound!

 May the rest of this month bring more brilliance than blizzards, and may you find time each day to unplug from the madness.

Wishing you all a Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I’ll be cooking up the mandatory corned beef/cabbage/carrots/turnips/potatoes/onions on Thursday. Call it tradition, call it crazy, call someone you haven’t spoken with since Hector was a pup!

Stay well, my friends, and take breaks from news and social media (except my newsletters and blog!) every once in a while! 

:)

Laurel Stuff:

Meanwhile, I’m working on a new science fiction series AND a children’s picture book AND recently published my first coloring book for the Waterwight series!
(Photo Credit: Elise Sunday)

Find my other work here!

Please subscribe to Alligator Preserves on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts, and tell your friends about it! I’d love it if you “liked” the episodes you listen to, and I’d love it even more if you’d post a quick comment!

Categories
Author Interview Books Writing

Let’s Remain Hopeful!

Nadine Collier and I (and photographer Sarah Collier!) at the Van Gogh Alive exhibit in Denver, August 2021

By now we all should understand that the novel coronavirus and its persistent variants will be with us for the foreseeable–and unforeseeable– future. When Nadine and I created our award-winning book Peace by Piece: 10 Lessons from a Jigsaw Puzzle!, we did not anticipate the political strife the pandemic would create. We did not assign the virus responses to tribes: Red vs. Blue.

Peace by Piece: 10 Lessons from a Jigsaw Puzzle!

We did, however, intend to help those struggling with every kind of “normal” challenge life throws at us, and our book is as relevant today as it was when we launched it into the uncertain world.

We are honored by The Colorado Sun’s SunLit Interview about how we came together to create our inspirational and humorous book, and we hope you might find reasons in it to be encouraged about our shared future despite the ongoing and often changing reality of this troubling pandemic.

Let’s remain hopeful and do what we can to return to living life in a sensible and less stressful way while remaining vigilant against the virus and protecting those most vulnerable.

Our book is available everywhere in paperback and ebook versions. Hope you’ll consider taking a gander!

Laurel Stuff:

Meanwhile, I’m working on a new science fiction series and just published my first coloring book for the Waterwight series!
(Photo Credit: Elise Sunday)

Find my other work here!

Please subscribe to Alligator Preserves on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts, and tell your friends about it! I’d love it if you “liked” the episodes you listen to, and I’d love it even more if you’d post a quick comment!

Categories
Author Interview Books Podcast Writing

Meet Award-Winning Author/Editor MK (Molly) Sturdevant!

A fascinating multi-genre Doctor of Philosophy writing about an old-time miners strike in Colorado!

Visit with us in this YouTube video!
Listen to the “audio-only” version here!
Molly spends time in COLD Leadville researching the historical archives and environs.

Show Notes with Links:

  • Molly tells us a little about herself.
  • She answers the question, “How does someone with a PhD in Philosophy end up researching the 1896 mining strike by the Cloud City Miners Union (Local 33) in Colorado? That happened 126 years ago!”
  • Why does she present this nonfiction event as fiction?
  • Molly talks about some of the characters she created.
  • The many surprises from her research.
  • Research has taken her several places. She talks about those, and if she has found any ancestors of the miners.
  • She is a Writer in Residence at Elsewhere Studios in Paonia, CO for the month of January 2022.
  • Molly discusses how the pandemic has affected her work.
  • Her book–“The Sleepers”–is almost finished!
Shaft and tunnel map of the famous Robert Emmet mine, not far from the Matchless Mine in Leadville. 
Molly in front of Leadville’s historic 1879 Saloon! (All about the research!)

Laurel Stuff:

Meanwhile, I’m working on a new science fiction series and just published my first coloring book for the Waterwight series!
(Photo Credit: Elise Sunday)

Find my other work here!

Please subscribe to Alligator Preserves on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts, and tell your friends about it! I’d love it if you “liked” the episodes you listen to, and I’d love it even more if you’d post a quick comment!

Categories
Author Interview Books Podcast

Meet Author and All-Around Fun Guy TH (Todd) Leatherman

Rollicking Space Opera Sci-Fi Author and Humorist

TH Leatherman at 2021 FANEXPO Denver!
Enjoy our visit on YouTube!
“Audio-only” version of our visit!

Show Notes with Links:

  • Introducing TH (the H is not for Horatio!) Leatherman
  • We discuss names and how his humor evolved into a book
  • 1001 Puns, Dad Jokes, and One-Liners (many groan-worthy!)
  • We discuss his inspiration for and development of his Burning Son Series and his character development
  • TH tells us about his writing style
  • I have never found him to be intimidating!
With TH Leatherman at FANEXO Denver, Halloween weekend 2021. Yes, he is TALL!
  • Marketing tips (social media and in-person events)
  • I ask him about his two Pomsky dogs, Jasmine and Willow
Jasmine (L) and Willow (R)
  • He provides a book review service! Here’s his Policy.
  • Lots more! Listen to or watch the full interview above!
  • Shout-outs to his wife and sons and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (RMFW)
  • All the places to Connect with TH Leatherman!
  • TH Leatherman and I would love it if you would post positive reviews of our work on Amazon! Thank you!
Meanwhile, I’m working on a new science fiction series and just published my first coloring book for the Waterwight series!
(Photo Credit: Elise Sunday)

Find my other work here!

Please subscribe to Alligator Preserves on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts, and tell your friends about it! I’d love it if you “liked” the episodes you listen to, and I’d love it even more if you’d post a quick comment!

Categories
Author Interview Books Writing

Author Kathy Taylor

Tree Whisperer!

Kathy Taylor, author of Trees and Other Witnesses
Audio-only version
https://youtu.be/9zkwZEZwBHM
Visit with us on YouTube! (https://youtu.be/9zkwZEZwBHM) (please click the link if you cannot see the embedded link with photo)

Show Notes with Links:

  • Kathy talks about how growing up in a Quaker community in Pennsylvania informed her life and work.
  • Visit with us on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/9zkwZEZwBHM
  • We met at a Chaffee County Writers Exchange event and I took a “look inside” her book on Amazon…and immediately bought it!
  • We discuss our favorite trees (not that there could be just one!)
  • Why 13 stories?
One of Michele Wayland’s illustrations in “Trees and other Witnesses”
  • I share many glorious figurative language excerpts from her book.
  • Kathy reads a passage from her book.
The Amate Tree!
  • We talks about how figurative language “happens” (it’s my opinion that Kathy is a master!)
  • Autobiographical elements in her writing, and discussion of different languages.
Woman with Burro, Ocotal, Nicaragua
Meanwhile, I’m working on a new science fiction series and just published my first coloring book for the Waterwight series!
(Photo Credit: Elise Sunday)

Find my other work here!

Please subscribe to Alligator Preserves on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts, and tell your friends about it! I’d love it if you “liked” the episodes you listen to, and I’d love it even more if you’d post a quick comment!

Categories
Laurel on Life Podcast Writing

From the Bidet to the Beach!

Reflections on Time Well Spent

If you’d like to listen, I’ve embellished my reflections in this podcast episode. :)

“You should go.”

Mike had been preparing for this year’s elk hunt, and I had naturally assumed I’d be tagging along behind him, whispering haiku poems into my voice memo app and praying he wouldn’t bag a big one miles from civilization. A bull elk weighs in anywhere from 700-1,100 pounds. We may be strong for our age, and I’m about to turn pro on the speed bag Mike bought for me (there will be videos), but that’s just too much weight to haul from the wilderness.

“But . . . hunting,” I said. I didn’t want to appear too enthusiastic about his suggestion that I attend a gathering of West Point women on the Outer Banks of North Carolina that happened to coincide with his hunting week.

And now I offer great praise and thanks to my husband’s friend since childhood, Gene Dixon-Anderson, who, after reading my book “Hunt for Red Meat (love stories),” flew in from the East Coast to experience a Colorado elk hunt.

Gene and Mike scouting for “signs” of the wily elk!

So off I went on an adventure I’d never intended, pandemic be damned, and the night before my flight out, knew the trip would offer plenty to ponder.

To say I have generous and merciful friends would be an understatement. It was Mimi Finch who told me about the OBX event at our classmate Bonnie Schweppe’s beach house, and I spent the night before our early morning flight with Mimi’s family in Denver. They were still moving into a new home, and the guest bathroom had what I recognized as a bidet arrangement on the toilet.

Well . . . I may be on the downslope of the proverbial hill, but I’ve never “experienced” the workings of a bidet. Curious about how it might work—I wasn’t about to use it without knowing what to expect—I stood in front of it, reached down, and pushed what appeared to be a typical flush handle.

The powerful jet of water nearly knocked me over, and in a state of startled confusion—why wouldn’t it stop? I only pushed it down once!—I stepped from the torrent and watched in horror as it splashed against the opposite wall.

“Help! Helllllllp!” I shouted, closing the seat cover—that would surely shut if off!—and watching as water cascaded over the edges and onto the floor. “HELLLLP!”

Mimi and her sister finally came to my rescue—I wonder what they were thinking when they heard my call—and I learned a bidet lever is not like a flush handle. I’m telling myself I merely christened their new home, and I’m not sure I’ll ever personally experience this contraption as it’s intended to be experienced, but the incident certainly set the tone for the rest of my trip.

When Mimi and I landed, our “hostess with the mostess” met us at the airport and chauffeured us to a great outdoor restaurant where we met several other weekend adventurers, and by the time we all got to the beach house, despite the late hour, we established the unspoken rules—there would be late nights with enough M&Ms and music to keep us awake, and early mornings with sunrises no one would want to miss. Bonnie ordered ideal weather for us, and the gods complied.

This was the only day I did not swim in the ocean!

Now I’ll share the memories that will stick with me until those particular brain cells hibernate.

  • Champagne breakfast at sunrise on the beach. One of the youngsters, my king-bedmate, brought the champagne and crystal flutes, and Bonnie arranged the picnic basket. Soft sand, candles, and curious crabs greeted us, and we oooed and ahhhed as the blood-orange sky announced the rising sun, which soon silhouetted sleepy-eyed dancers and yoga posers in the ebbing surf.
Mimi Finch in her signature sunrise pose! So happy I captured this moment.
  • Strolling on the beach after sunset, and range-walking (that’s speed walking, for you non-Army folks) back to the house when the sky turned black and rain pelted our backs.
That’s a rising moon behind us. And then came the storm!
  • Diving through and being lifted by ocean waves, and the mandatory peeing in the sea. Absolutely glorious, all of it.
  • Ten women belting out Helen Reddy’s iconic song and being startled when I tear-choked over the words “Oh yes I am wise, But it’s wisdom born of pain.” I still choke up thinking about it. Ten entirely different women bonding over experiences shared decades ago, and each with distinctive memories of those events.
  • Along those lines, getting to know women from Proud to Be ’83, Best of the Corps ‘84, and For Excellence We Strive ’85, and being saddened by stories of rape and assault, discrimination and abuse, gross injustices that still somehow prevail in our society.
  • Writing my 250-word nycmidnight challenge story with a glass of bourbon while others shopped—being dubbed Laurel Hemmingway McHargue, if only!—and then sharing the story with the group over dinner. No one wanted to sleep with me that night—but several of them chipped in with ideas for a fairy tale that had to include drinking milk and the word heart. “Magical unicorn milk” . . . “the people who drink it get the power to eat the hearts of others” . . . and several other suggestions that would have required far more than 250 words to complete. I’ll read it to you after my reflections.
  • Winning a game of Scrabble because I got to put my “Z” for “zapped” on a triple letter score.
  • Three former “Rabble Rousers” going through their routine as we all sang “On, Brave Old Army Team,” the USMA fight song. Sadly, it didn’t help our Black Knights win that night.
  • So much dancing with wild abandon late into every night, fueled by M&Ms, wine, and joy.
  • The long walk over the boardwalk and through the woods—another mandatory peeing in the trees—and back along the beach.
“Old Grad” toes!
  • And who will ever forget the discussion of glass dildos and butt plugs? It had to happen in a group lucky enough to include a sex therapist.

It dawned on me as I traveled back to my Colorado mountain home that although each of us in that magical gathering has overcome hardships many cannot imagine, age-old insecurities still linger. Words like “not enough” or “if only” or “I’m too (fill in the blank)” or “I should” or worse—“I should have” . . .  still plague us. And we have far fewer years remaining than those we’ve already lived. Will we ever believe that we are enough?

Mike always starts his morning with quiet reading time and hot coffee, and although I was slow to adopt this habit, I now relish this gentle way of reengaging with the new day. We read a passage from The Daily Stoic and then as many pages as seems right in whichever book we’ve chosen. Mike sets a timer, but that’s because he still works to keep me in the manner to which I’ve grown accustomed. I’ll never be that disciplined, but that’s a topic for another day.

Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations is always nearby too, and I’m drawn to his idea that “The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.” I often struggle with rumination over past and future events, neither of which I can control, but I also often prompt myself to remember how I felt when I first read Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now.

And I remembered it throughout my time in the beach house and on the beach this past weekend. I remembered to be present for every moment, for every dance, for every sip of bourbon, for every confession, for every song, every tear, every hug, every wave, every crab, every M&M.

In addition to my short story, I left a haiku in Bonnie’s guest book:

Powerful women
Tribulations all endured
Invincible us!

Despite late nights, we did not miss a sunrise!

Mimi’s husband, Ed, picked us up at the airport and her sister, Betsy, had late-night quiches waiting for us upon our return. I smiled the entire drive home the next morning after spending another night there, no more bidet incidents, and I felt—as I have been feeling lately—like the luckiest gal on the planet. With a husband who supports and encourages me to dance on the peak of Maslow’s hierarchy and friends whose generosity knows no bounds, how could I feel any other way?

“I am so, so happy I went,” I told Mike when I returned.

There was no fresh elk meat to process, but Mike and Gene made their own man memories over miles and miles of mountainous terrain . . . while I danced in the sand and embraced a sisterhood of extraordinary women.

And now, my story. The title (offered by another contributor to my creation): Sour Milk. The challenge required a story of no more than 250 words in the fairy tale or fantasy genre, with an action of drinking milk and use of the word ‘heart.’

Sour Milk

I’ll tell you a story that’ll have you think twice before smiling when someone says unicorns are sweet and magical. I know the real deal about those one-horned freaks. Seen ’em in action, and it ain’t pretty. It all started, once upon a time, with the first “blessing”—hahaha!—of those pompous beasts.* Don’t get me wrong—we hyenas might’ve done the same had two-leggers tried to capture us—but misunderstood is our middle name. We’re born with enough of a bum rap.

I watched in horror, tried not to laugh—really, I did—when they lured that first dude into their midst. Mesmerized by their seductive scent, he dropped his weapon, nestled down among them, and proceeded to drink the milk from one who’d just birthed another foul foal. Disgusting, but that wasn’t the worst of it.

Full-bellied and drowsy, he was, when they crept around him in an ever-smaller circle. I appreciated their tactics. Must’ve learned that maneuver from us, and I suppressed another chuckle. Dude never saw it coming, though, probably thinking about his forthcoming good luck, but as soon as he lay back against the momma’s milk-soaked belly, her stud sprang forward, spearing him through the heart with his horn.

His blood made me giggle and drool, but they made quick work of the cleanup. Not a chunk of him left for me. Explains why no two-leggers ever report seeing a unicorn. Magical creatures, my ass. Selfish charlatans, more like it. Milk ain’t always heart-healthy. Hahahahaha!

* A group of unicorns is called a “blessing”!

Meanwhile, I’m working on a new science fiction series and just published my first coloring book for the Waterwight series!
(Photo Credit: Elise Sunday)

Find my other work here!

Please subscribe to Alligator Preserves on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts, and tell your friends about it! I’d love it if you “liked” the episodes you listen to, and I’d love it even more if you’d post a quick comment!