Category Archives: Humor

#flashfictionfriday: Christmas at the Drunken Sasquatch

Vampires have a sick sense of humor, especially Alfredo, although he pretends to be cultured. Just over a year ago he got me banned from here, by switching my orange juice for an orange soda… that dirty trick was more than embarrassing. Covering the cost of the damages to the scorched floor, replacing the furniture, and buying Sylvia Wannamaker a new coat ate into my hoard quite heavily.

Worst of all, I was banned from participating in November’s pool tournament.

However, I’m a dragon. We like our revenge served up cold and well calculated.

The anniversary of my disgrace has passed, which would have been the obvious day for me to seek retribution. Most people have forgotten the whole incident.

But not me.

I know I look like any other old has-been, going on and on about the glory days. While that observation isn’t real flattering, it’s true. I drink more orange juice than is good for either of my livers, and I hang out here at the Drunken Sasquatch because I have nowhere else to go.

I don’t discuss it for obvious reasons, but during my years in the Middle East, Dan Dragonsworthy was far more than just a flying battle wagon. I spent a lot of time on covert missions, and one thing I learned was how to be patient, and how to spot the chinks in your opponent’s armor.

I’ve been watching Alfredo since New Year’s Eve when Bloody Bill finally lifted my punishment. I don’t intend to harm the old blood-sucker, but I’m going to give him a taste of his own medicine. There are substances vampires shouldn’t ingest, and Alfredo may have forgotten that.

A vampire tripping on chocolate is bad for everyone. I’d never do that, even to Alfredo. Fortunately, they don’t like the flavor of it. However, they do have a passion for maraschino cherries, which can cause problems for the weaker willed vampire since those fruity morsels of goodness are frequently found wrapped in dark chocolate. With one exception, the smart ones don’t succumb to temptation inside the Drunken Sasquatch, because Bloody Bill won’t tolerate that sort of behavior.

Most importantly for my purposes, vampires can’t tolerate coffee. On tiny amounts, they tend to pee themselves copiously, which the rest of us find hilarious. Vampires get quite huffy when their vampiric dignity is besmirched.

As if MY dignity meant nothing to me.

When you want to impress Alfredo, you buy him a jar of the special maraschino cherries from Italy, made with the best cherry liqueur. He can smell maraschino liqueur from anywhere in the room and, being a vampire, he lacks a conscience.

No maraschino is safe from Alfredo.

http://cookdiary.net/chocolate-covered-cherries/

The annual Christmas party and the gift exchange drives him mad. Every witch, wizard, or elf has a recipe for that most wonderful of traditional holiday treats, maraschino chocolate cordials. These kind friends are always generous with their gifts to those of us who lack their magical culinary skills.

It’s more than his old vampire heart can stand, and despite having received his own jars of cherries sans-chocolate, he takes incredible risks.

I’ll give Alfredo credit—he’s good. I’ve watched him sneak up behind Grandma and suck the cherries out of a box of cordials without getting his fangs dirty. She suspected it was him, but could never prove it. Fangs do leave holes, but it could have been any vampire.

It takes a brave (or desperate) vampire to mess with Grandma. I’d tell you to ask the Big Bad Wolf, but you can’t.

She’s wearing him.

So, anyway, last week, Grandma and I had a chat. I got on the internet and ordered the finest ingredients. They were delivered the day before yesterday, and she immediately got busy in the kitchen.

This year, one unattended box of cordials under the tree at the Drunken Sasquatch will have cherries in liqueur with unique centers. This particular batch will be vampire safe—no chance of accidental hallucinations here. Grandma created white chocolate shells filled with Cherry brandy, with a maraschino cherry floating in the middle. Each cherry is filled with a special coffee liqueur center.

It will be a joy to watch Alfredo try to deny his culpability in this year’s draining of the maraschinos as the evidence spreads around his feet.

cherry-suisse-advert-1969I hope vampire pee isn’t too acidic, although I’ve heard the stench is an excellent Zombie repellent, and no matter how you scrub, it’s impossible to get rid of the odor. Sylvia Wannamaker swears by it in a diluted form as a slug repellent in the garden, as using it there will turn your hydrangeas the brightest blue. They don’t make good cut flowers though, as they smell too bad to keep in the house.

I’m sure a pool of vampire urine won’t be as dangerous for the innocent bystanders as when he caused me to inadvertently belch fire in close quarters.

Come the day after this year’s Christmas party at the Drunken Sasquatch (even though his cash outlay won’t come near matching the damages I had to pay when he slipped me the Mickey) at least Alfredo will be out the cost of a new pair of boots. And if he can’t find a good drycleaner, he’ll be out the cost of replacing that gaudy, lace-trimmed, purple velvet suit he thinks is so stylish.

Grandma and I are both looking forward to this year’s party. Christmas could just become my favorite holiday.


Christmas at the Drunken Sasquatch, © 2016 Connie J. Jasperson, All Rights Reserved

No vampires were harmed in the making of this tale.

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Filed under #FlashFictionFriday, Dragons, Humor

#amwriting: Couriers, Pigeons, and Excalibur

Medieval_forest wikimedia commons PD 100 yrs

Russian Forest in medieval France (1405-1410) Gaston Phoebus

I have a great deal of interest in Medieval history because I have ancestors who lived then. I’m not bragging–everyone who is alive today is here because one or two ancestors survived the Dark Ages long enough to leave behind a child who did the same.

Life was perilous, even if you grew up in a fairly sheltered environment. No one was exempt from disease–even kings regularly died young from plagues and injuries. Regardless of their personal safety, medieval kings were forced to go to war in person. They did this for several reasons.

  1. The only way for the monarch to know what was actually happening on the battlefront was to be there
  2. It was expected that a monarch should understand the art of warfare and be proficient as a warrior. He was responsible for winning or losing the battle.

Portrait of Henry VIII (1491-1547) by Hans HolbeinDuring the Dark Ages, official news was delivered by a royal messenger and read aloud in church or in the market.

Messengers were a permanent fixture on the royal payroll. They were dedicated and well-paid to travel the kingdom continuously, carrying the king’s word. In medieval England, kings did not stay in London. Instead, they traveled all over their lands and the noble families were required to feed and house them at great expense. Their gypsy-like existence kept the messengers busy.

Wars were expensive. Henry VIII’s habit of medieval couch-surfing at the country homes of his noble courtiers was a great way for an impoverished king and his entourage to live well and cheaply, conserving the cash to pay for the troops. But it also meant that an organized and efficient messenger service was required to ensure that correspondence to and from the king: royal letters, grants, patents, and such, arrived at their intended destinations.

Tancred, Count of Lecce, King of Sicily via Wikimedia

Tancred, Count of Lecce, King of Sicily via Wikimedia

In the year 1190, when my direct maternal ancestor, Tancred, King of Sicily, faced Richard I of England, he was limited to what information a messenger could convey. Thus, their battles were fought in person and so were their negotiations.

These were not native Italians–the original Tancred of Hauteville (980 – 1041) was an 11th-century Norman and a minor baron of Normandy about whom little is known, other than eight of his twelve sons joined the crusades and became kings of southern Italy in the process.

So his illegitimate great-grandson, King Tancred, and King Richard the Lionhearted were Norman kings, squabbling over what was left of the Holy Land and the Mediterranean at the end of the crusades. However, Tancred was born and raised there so he was a third generation Sicilian, being the out-of-wedlock son of Roger III, the Norman duke of Apulia and Emma of Lecce, who was married to Ruggero III de Hauteville.

Quote from Wikipedia: “In 1190 Richard I of England arrived in Sicily at the head of a large crusading army on its way to the Holy Land. Richard immediately demanded the release of his sister, William II’s wife Joan, imprisoned by Tancred in 1189, along with every penny of her dowry and dower. He also insisted that Tancred fulfill the financial commitments made by William II to the crusade. When Tancred balked at these demands, Richard seized a monastery and the castle of La Bagnara.” (end quoted text)

Richard I Google Art Project via Wikimedia

Richard I Google Art Project via Wikimedia

Richard was joined in Sicily by the French crusading army, led by his soon-to-be-former friend,  King Philip II of France. The presence of two foreign armies highly aggravated the local citizens who, rightfully, demanded the foreigners leave their island.

Ever the good guest, King Richard responded by attacking Messina, which he captured on 4 October 1190. Once the city had been looted and burned, Richard established his base there and decided to stay the winter—after all, winters in Sicily are a bit more pleasant than those in Normandy.

But what’s a little looting and pillaging among friends? According to Wikipedia:

“Richard remained at Messina until March 1191, when Tancred finally agreed to a treaty. According to the treaty’s main terms:

  • Joan was to be released, receiving her dower along with the dowry.
  • Richard and Philip recognized Tancred as King of Sicily and vowed to keep the peace between all three of their kingdoms.
  • Richard officially proclaimed his nephew Arthur of Brittany as his heir presumptive, and Tancred promised to marry one of his daughters to Arthur when he came of age (Arthur was four years old at the time).
Excalibur London_Film_Museum_ via Wikipedia

Excalibur London Film Museum via Wikipedia

After signing the treaty, Richard and Philip finally left Sicily for the Holy Land. It is rumored that before he left, Richard gave Tancred a sword he claimed was Excalibur in order to secure their friendship.”

Yes, you read this correctly. King Richard the Lionhearted gave my many-times great grandfather Excalibur, the legendary sword of mythical King Arthur.

I doubt Richard the Lionhearted would really give away a sword that was supposed to prove his lineage back to the Pendragon if he actually believed it was truly Arthur’s. However, it is a documented fact that he did indeed give this sword of historical significance to Tancred.

I suspect that Tancred believed it was the true sword of King Arthur as much as I do, but in the interest of peace, he most likely smiled and thanked his departing guest. Whatever he did with it, it was never seen again. When he came to reclaim his island after Tancred’s death, Henry IV, king of the Holy Roman Empire, pillaged Tancred’s treasury and the sword was not there.

But what, you ask, does my illegitimate many-times-great grandfather’s possession of the possibly faux Excalibur have to do with communication?

Tancred and Richard both had to be there in Sicily in person and had to communicate through messengers to arrange all this swapping of women and dowries and swords of dubious origin.

Good long-distance communication has always been seen as critical to good governing. Wars were won and lost based on the information those kings and generals received. During the Middle Ages, postal systems were invented, became corrupt, and fell into disuse all over Europe. This recurred at different times up through the eighteenth century.

In 1505, Emperor Maximilian I established one of the more stable postal systems, but it was not a thing the peasant class could avail themselves of. An illiterate peasant could hire a scribe, but then they would also have to scrape up more coins to get the note sent to its destination. It was better to pay a neighbor to carry the news to wherever it had to go.

420px-Pigeon_Messengers_(Harper's_Engraving)There was a faster method of getting a letter home. Long before the Middle Ages and during them, homing pigeons were used to carry messages. Rock pigeons have the ability that taken far from their nest, they’re able to find their way home. This due to a particularly developed sense of orientation. Messages were then tied around the legs of the pigeon, which was freed and could reach its original nest.

This is of limited usefulness because pigeons will only go back to the one place that they have identified as their home. Pigeon mail can only work when the sender has a specific recipient in mind and has possession of that receiver’s pigeons.

So how did they  do this? The sender had to hand-carry the pigeons with them. Once released, the pigeons would fly back home with the note. Correspondents could not send a pigeon anywhere but the one place the birds considered their home.

If you are an author writing in an era other than the modern times, be diligent and do the research before you write about things that are outside your personal experience. Readers may have knowledge that you don’t and they will definitely not be shy about letting you know where you’ve gone wrong.

Much of my work is set in medieval environments, and so I can’t have my characters getting instantaneous information from afar without divine intervention. If my characters need to communicate over long distances, I have to consider the length of time it would take even a fast messenger to travel over roads we would consider impassable, but which were the medieval equivalent of I-5.

This kind of information is available via the internet.  Researching my subject online is how I discovered that regular mail delivery is a relatively modern invention. Perusing Ancestry.com is how I discovered the medieval Norman/Sicilian roots of my mother’s family, the (Fitz)Rogers family.

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Filed under Battles, History, Humor, Literature, writing

#FlashFictionFriday: Laundry Day Blues

Politics and fashion may come and go, but laundry is eternal. I originally wrote this poem in 1996 as a bit of joke-on-me, when I was living in Olympia and working two jobs, one of which was 2-hour commute every day. I had no washing machine. My children and I decided that the $20.00 every two weeks I had budgeted for the laundromat would be better spent on a movie matinee or making a day trip to picnic by the ocean.

Thus, laundry was done in my bathtub and hung on lines to dry. My neighbors thought I was nuts.

Nowadays I have that miracle of modern technology, the washing machine, and still, I resent being taken from my book just to sort, wash, fold, and put away clothes.

vi edgewise words inn, the laundry meme

LAUNDRY DAY BLUES

I’d love to claim I’m reading

the best book of the year.

I’d love to swear I’ve read it

but laundry day is here.

clothespin tiny

My book rests by the sofa

tempting and serene.

But I’ve a pile of laundry

to somehow sort and clean.

clothespin tiny

The cover art is lovely

with elves and all their kin.

It’s by my favorite author–

would reading be a sin?

clothespin tiny

Alas for me it would be

for socks don’t wash themselves.

When the task is finished.

I’ll run off with my elves.


Laundry Day Blues © Connie J. Jasperson 2016

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Filed under #FlashFictionFriday, Fantasy, Humor

#amwriting: Taking the #NaNoWriMo novel to the next level

NaNo-2015-Winner-Badge-Large-SquareYou took a leap of faith. You’d had this idea for a novel rolling around in your head for years. Someone told you about Nation Novel Writing Month, and on the spur of the moment you joined.

Then you were committed. Every day, no matter what disaster was occurring on the home-front, you sat down and wrote at least 1,667 words.  Some days it was hard, the words just weren’t there. But you persevered and some days you were on fire–everything flowed. Your story took you places that amazed you.

Now it’s November 30th and you have your 50,000 word manuscript, and the all-important winner’s certificate from NaNoWriMo dot org!

But now you don’t know what to do next.  Whatever you do, DON’T SHOW IT TO YOUR ADORING FANS JUST YET. This is not the time to ask for feedback unless you want to be lied to. They’ll look at you with a possum-in-the-headlights smile, and say “Wow…this is really…different.”

What they’re really thinking is, “Holy s**t. This disjointed, hokey mess sucks.” That friend will poke needles in their eyes before they read another piece of your work again.

What you must do is put it in a drawer for a month or two. Write some short stories, or start a new novel. You have to step back from this in order to see what need to be done with it, and you can’t do that right now. SO–in January or February:

First let’s talk about that manuscript.

When you were writing it, you were concerned about increasing your word-count. Someone told you not to use contractions, as the word ‘doesn’t’ counts as one word while ‘does not’ is two. Foolishly, you did just that.

LIRF Global Search all steps

Global Search Print-Screen

Now you must go through and make that awkward, stilted phrasing into contractions. Do a global search:

  1. press control+F
  2. type the word you are looking for in the search box
  3. click on options
  4. click on replace
  5. in the ‘replace with’ box type the word you want to replace the wrong word with
  6. DO NOT replace all. Go to each instance of the words individually and replace them after you have seen the context of the sentence they are in.

Second, let’s look at how we are telling the story. In the rush of the first draft, of getting all our thoughts about the story-line down, we use a kind of mental shorthand and write things like:

Erving was furious.

Martha was discouraged.

Readers don’t want to be told how the characters felt—they want to see.  When you come across this in your first draft, now is the time to follow those road signs and expand on the scene a little. Instead of telling the reader that Martha was furious, you will show this emotion.

Martha stamped her foot.

Erving’s face went white, his body shook with rage.

When you go back through your manuscript, change each ‘telling scene’ to a ‘showing scene.’ When you show the reader the emotions it deepens the story and enables the reader to be involved.

Dialogue

Third: too many dialog tags. When only two characters are in a scene readers should be able to keep track of speaker ID with ease. In those situations, speech tags are rarely, if ever, needed.

Instead of using a speech tag, consider inserting an action beat (a burst of action) before a line of dialogue. This identifies the speaker and offers opportunities for you to deepen character chemistry, conflict, and emotions.

Annie felt something trickling down her cheek. She wiped it, and her hand came away with blood. Her companion was covered with gore, but at least he was in one piece. “John, are you okay?”

 “Of course.”

 She reached toward his shoulder, toward the torn shirt, the ugly gash—but something held her back. “Your arm. I thought maybe ….”

 “You thought it was bad.” 

 The look in his eyes forced her to glance away. “Well, yes. But if you say you’re okay….” Her face burned.

John bent down, digging around in the medical kit, hiding his grin. His thoughts ran wild, but he said only, “Let’s get ourselves doctored up. We’ve a long way to go.”

Replace those empty speech tags with an emotion-infused narrative. However you must remember that the reader needs to have clear direction as to who is speaking to whom, otherwise you will lose them. Don’t make more than a few exchanges without dialogue tags, and make those you do use simple. Said, replied–we really don’t need to get fancy.

dump no infoFourth: Too Much Information. This is my personal bugaboo. As I am writing I spill my guts and write all the background as I am thinking it. The reader doesn’t need to know everything up front. These passages are really notes telling me as the author what direction this tale is supposed to go.

My beta readers always tell me the reader doesn’t want to read the history of the world–they want to get to the action. THEY ARE RIGHT!

Fifth: Make sure you have a good story arc:

  1. Exposition, where we introduce our characters and their situation.
  2. Rising Action, where we introduce complications for the protagonist
  3. Climax, the high point of the action, the turning point of the narrative
  4. Falling Action, the regrouping and unfolding of events that will lead to the conclusion
  5. Resolution, in which the problems encountered by the protagonist are resolved, providing closure for the reader.

The Story Arc

SO before we show this novel to anyone, we have a lot of work to do.

  1. Check for contractions
  2. Check for scenes that are telling and not showing
  3. Take a look at the dialogue tags and make action speak for you.
  4. Carve back the info dumps–keep what moves the story along and save the rest in a separate file.
  5. Make sure you have a good story arc.

Let this nano novel rest for several months before you do anything with it. Start a different novel, and come back to this one later. When you look at that original first draft with fresh eyes and begin looking for these things, you will be amazed at how well your novel will begin to come together. During this rewrite, your characters will grow and develop, and your plot will really begin to move along. This is when you really write your novel.

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#TalesFromBlackFriday : The Marriage Counselor

Digital Clock FaceI shook my head to get rid of the sudden, loud buzzing sound in my ears. Feeling a little disoriented, I looked at the calendar, which said Thursday, the day I dreaded most. Sometimes I felt like it was always Thursday. It was nearly time for my regular two o’clock appointment…the couple from hell, pardon my cursing. After my heart attack about six months before, they had begun coming to me, and were likely to give me another one. They never missed an appointment no matter how I wished they would.

I watched the clock tick from one fifty-nine to two o’clock.

My receptionist opened the door. “Mr. and Mrs. Haydes are here. Shall I show them in?”

 ***

I lifted my pen from the notepad and regarded the couple seated across from me. “Would you listen to yourselves? You make marriage sound like hell. It doesn’t have to be that way. You both sabotage it every chance you get.”

“Of course marriage is hell,” said the husband across from me, dressed in a double-breasted, blue suit, giving him an almost nautical appearance. Add a captain’s hat and he’d look like a cast member on The Love Boat. “It’s the absolute worst thing that could possibly have happened to a once-studly man like myself. But just like the moth flying into the flame, I had to do it. ‘Don’t go toward the light,’ my friends all said. But did I listen? Hell, no!”

His wife snorted. “Luke always does the exact opposite of what anyone advises him to do. That’s what he gets for being a devil-may-care, I’m-gonna-do-it-my-way sort of a guy. He’s Satan. That makes me Satan’s wife. Of course it’s hell—it comes with the territory. If I can put up with him, he can put up with me.” This week she wore little makeup and was neatly coiffed, with not a hair out of place. In a counterpoint to Luke’s dashing attire, she wore a beige wool suit, cut to just below her modestly crossed knees, with low-heeled pumps. Mrs. Haydes could have been a proper matron from any Protestant congregation, right down to her puritanical sense of morality.

This forty-five minute session of misery began promptly at two o’clock every Thursday. They booked their appointments under the pseudonyms, Lucifer and Persephone Haydes. He preferred to be called Luke, and she preferred to be called Mrs. Haydes. After six months of working with this pair of nut cases, I was beginning to suspect they were playing a game of mess-with-the-counselor.

Last week she’d been dressed like a teenaged skateboarder, and he as an English literature professor. The week before that, she was a hippie, complete with headband and love beads, and he was a cricket player.

Every week it was something different but always opposites. Mrs. Haydes seemed to choose her wardrobe based on what she thought would annoy him most, and he went with the opposite because he really couldn’t do anything else. He had the worst case of oppositional defiant disorder I had ever seen.

“Why are you here?” I had to ask, despite knowing I wouldn’t get an answer. “I no longer understand what you are trying to save here. You never take my advice. And you’ve been aware since the outset that I am a pastor, not a magician. What do you hope to gain from this?” I tapped my foot and looked at the clock. We were only fifteen minutes into this session, and I was already exhausted. “What you really need is a good divorce lawyer, not a counselor. I can tell you every reason why you should stay married, and if you are looking for religious affirmation, I can give you chapter and verse on the apostle Paul’s views regarding marriage. Over the last six months, I have done so repeatedly.  We’ve discussed what you originally saw in each other and what you each want from your relationship, but you’re still at this impasse.  I think that at this stage divorce is the only answer for the two of you.”

Luke snorted. “Don’t bother telling me anything the apostle Paul said—I wrote that book. I was delusional.”

“I think the pastor is right,” said Mrs. Haydes, primly folding her hands. “Divorce is the only option. I’m sure no one would blame me for leaving a devil like you.”

“I’m not giving up half of everything I own,” said Luke, clearly aghast at the notion. “Do you know how many divorce lawyers she has access to? No way am I going to let her off so easily.”

“I come from a broken family,” said Mrs. Haydes, discreetly wiping a tear. “I don’t want our children to grow up in a broken home. But it would be better than Anaheim. It’s a bad environment to raise children in. I want to move back to our palace in Hell. All it needs is a little remodeling.”

I couldn’t stop myself. I had to ask it. “And you think Hell is a good environment to raise kids in?”

“Well, at least there’s no crime in hell. We have the finest law enforcement professionals in the universe.” She glared at me defensively. “Where should I be raising them? Seattle? I’m not exposing my children to a bunch of pot-smoking vegans who ride bicycles and wear socks with sandals.”

Luke brightened up. “I love Seattle—perhaps we should move there. I could get some goats or raise alpacas. They have the best coffee in the world!”

Mrs. Haydes sniffed. “The place is full of vulgar vegetarians. They’re always taking their children to yoga and soccer, where everyone gets a trophy whether they win or lose—it’s just wrong. We will most certainly not be moving to Seattle.”

“Enough,” said Luke. “I’m going vegan and we’re moving to Seattle and that’s final.” He turned to me, missing her small, satisfied smile. “What I really want to talk about is the stint we did on ‘Home Hunters.’ She destroyed me in front of millions of people, and I have to watch it every time they rerun that episode, which they seem to do three times a week.”

“Well dear, it airs on one of your networks, and you make the rules. You’re the one who decides why the television viewing public has 999 channels available to them, and all but three of them at any given time are showing the same reruns of Pawn Shop Heroes, Home Hunters, or Gator Boys.”

From the look on Luke’s face, I could see that Mrs. Haydes had the knife and was twisting it for all she was worth.

“Besides, I said very clearly that I wanted the extremely modern condo, with all the sleek furnishings and the gorgeous, terrazzo floors. I said it at least six times. It’s on the videotape of the show.” She smiled at him smugly. “You just had your heart set on that cozy, little pink bungalow with the seventies’ décor and the orange shag carpet. You insisted, and so, of course, I gave in. Once you make up your mind, it’s impossible to change it.”

“See?” Luke exploded. “See how she manipulates me? How could I not go for the house she said she didn’t want? It was like asking the dog not to eat the chocolate you left on the coffee table. I’m Satan! I’m not really an agreeable sort of guy, and she knows exactly how to manipulate me, so now, twice a week, everyone in America gets to watch me buying grandma’s overpriced, decorating nightmare. It’s been voted the most popular episode of all time! She embarrassed me in front of God and the world.” He dropped his head into his hands. “We’re moving to Seattle now, and it’s going to be hell trying to sell that dump in Anaheim. I won’t even be able to rent it out for enough to cover the carrying costs. What a life!”

I knew this session was going nowhere. Their sessions never went anywhere positive because they were masters at circular reasoning. “What is it you want from me? You must have some reason for putting me through this agony every week.”

“I despise him, so I want a divorce, of course,” said Mrs. Haydes, with a smug, little smile. “I’ll be happy with my half of everything, and, of course, alimony. I gave up my career to raise our children, you know, and of course, they will need child support.” She aimed her tight, fundamentalist smirk  at me. “We won’t waste your time any further.”

“No. No. No!” Luke’s eyes popped out of his head. “No divorce. I adore you, Persey—you’re the love of my life!” He kissed her hand.  “I would be lost without you. Think of the children.”

“I love you too, Luke—I just hate being around you. And now you’re going to be forcing all your hippy, vegetarian food on me.” She turned away from him, primly pursing her lips. “You know how I love steak.”

“No dear, not vegetarian. Vegan. It’s good for you, you’ll love it. Why, I’ve a recipe for smoked tofu that will put a smile on that pretty face in no time.” Luke smiled his most charming smile. “If there is one thing I understand, it’s how to barbecue. You’ll adore my smoked tofu salad.”

“If you say so, dear. I’ll likely throw up.”

The two rose and left my office. I sighed.

Luke might claim to be Satan, and yes, it was even possible given how contrary he was, but if that was case, Mrs. Haydes ruled in Hell. There was no mistake about that.

I heard my receptionist speaking in the anteroom. Yes, Mrs. Haydes was scheduling another appointment…two o’clock next Thursday.

Satan might move to Seattle, or he might not. Somehow, I knew his new penchant for tofu and coffee wouldn’t get me off the hook.

I shook my head to get rid of the sudden, loud buzzing sound in my ears. Feeling a little disoriented, I looked at the calendar, which said Thursday, the day I dreaded most. Sometimes I felt like it was always Thursday. It was nearly time for my regular two o’clock appointment…the couple from hell, pardon my cursing. After my heart attack about six months before, they had begun coming to me, and were likely to give me another one. They never missed an appointment no matter how I wished they would.

I watched the clock tick from one fifty-nine to two o’clock.

My receptionist opened the door. “Mr. and Mrs. Haydes are here. Shall I show them in?”


The Marriage Counselor © Connie J. Jasperson 2015

“The Marriage Counselor” was first published March 6, 2015  on Edgewise Words Inn

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Vegans #GiveThanks too: The Famdamily Feast

1024px-Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-_The_Peasant_Dance_-_1526-1530 to 1569I make no secret that I am vegan. It confuses my friends, and my family tolerates it. They worry what to feed me. I always say, “Vegetables.”

I like food that is
– made with Non GMO ingredients
– 100% meat and dairy free (vegan) made from ingredients with words I understand and can pronounce.

I don’t really care for the traditional vegan staple, the Tofurkey roast, although many vegans do enjoy that particular product. I LOVE Tofurkey brand’s tempeh products, and use them all the time.  I even like their 100% meat free hot dogs.

Field Roast celebrations roastI prefer Field Roast products, when it comes to getting my protein in a vegetable form. Thus, while I am roasting an actual organic, free-range turkey for my sadly carnivorous family, I will also make myself a Field Roast brand Celebration roast, with a cranberry glaze.

All of the traditional side dishes will be there but they will have no animal product in them–and there will be no  lack of Thanksgiving flavor at my table!

I will make the traditional sweet-potatoes, using Dandies vegan marshmallows.

There will be chips and salsa and guacamole, and  tea-bread and  chocolate chip cookies. No one but me will know they are vegan, because there are many great recipes that don’t require butter or eggs.

I will make mashed potatoes, using Earth Balance margarine (100% vegan, has no lactose in it) and almond milk:

  • 5 to 6 potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 Tbsp vegan margarine optional
  • 1 cup Almond milk, warmed (rice milk if allergic to nuts)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

My mashed potatoes will pass the taste test–Courtney, the pickiest eater ever, will love them.

I will make Balsamic Roasted Vegetables with this glaze:

1/3 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

homemade croutons image © connie jasperson

homemade croutons

I will also make a tasty Vegan Stuffing, using croutons made from homemade bread: Made like garlic bread, cubed, and seasoned with my own poultry seasoning. Baked at 350 for 25 minutes, stir half way through.

  • 10 cups 1/2 inch bread cubes from 1 lb firm wh wheat or other sandwich bread
  • 2 Tbsp + 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh garlic (2 – 3 cloves)
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped celery
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1+1/2 tsp dried rubbed sage leaf
  • 1 tsp dried thyme leaf
  • Optional: 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 – 3 cups vegetable stock OR 3 c. water + veggie BetterThanBoullion to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Oil a large shallow casserole dish

  1. Toast bread cubes in a large baking sheet in the oven until golden brown. Set aside in a large bowl
  2. Turn oven down to 350 degrees F
  3. Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Sauté onions, garlic, and celery until soft
  4. Using a rubber spatula, transfer the veggie mixture to the bowl of bread crumbs
  5. Add parsley, sage, thyme, optional salt, and pepper
  6. Optional: Drizzle 1 Tbsp olive oil into the mixture
  7. Stir until until everything is well mixed
  8. Add 2 cups vegetable stock, and stir until it is absorbed. Add more stock as needed so that the mixture is moist and clumping together, but not soggy
  9. Bake in a covered shallow casserole or baking dish for 25 minutes
  10. Optional: Uncover and bake another 15 minutes to form a crusty top
onion and mushroom gravy

picture via google images

But the best part will be the ONION AND MUSHROOM GRAVY

  • 3/4 cup white or button mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 small yellow or white onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup vegan margarine
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tbsp poultry seasoning (or 1/2 tsp each of sage, thyme and marjoram)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large skillet, melt the vegan margarine and add onion and mushrooms. Sauté for just a minute or two over high heat.
  2. Reduce heat to medium and add vegetable broth and soy sauce. Slowly add flour, stirring well to combine and prevent lumps from forming. Bring to a simmer or a low boil, then reduce heat.
  3. Add poultry seasoning, salt and pepper, stirring consistently. Allow to cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring regularly, until gravy thickens.

And–there will be pumpkin pie and cherry pie, with coconut whipped cream, all made with all-vegetable ingredients.

Vegan pumpkin pie–for the recipe, click here: Food Network Vegan Pumpkin Pie

Food Network Vegan Pumpkin Pie

Food Network Vegan Pumpkin Pie

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#FlashficFriday: The Edit

The village clerk , painting by Albert Anke 1874

The Edit 

Desperate hours, pen in hand,

Inspiration shifts like sand.

Ruthless, crafting perfect prose,

Revelation’s tendril grows.

Sifting, sorting, choosing—nay–

Some must go, but you shall stay.


The Edit, © Connie J. Jasperson, All Rights Reserved

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#amreading: Mad Science Institute, by Sechin Tower

mad science institute front-coverI have been catching up on my long-put off reading, starting with a book by fellow Northwest indie author Sechin TowerMad Science Institute . I had a great time reading this particular YA novel. But first, The Blurb:

Sophia “Soap” Lazarcheck is a girl genius with a knack for making robots—and for making robots explode. After her talents earn her admission into a secretive university institute, she is swiftly drawn into a conspiracy more than a century in the making. Meanwhile and without her knowledge, her cousin Dean wages a two-fisted war of vengeance against a villainous genius and his unwashed minions. Separately, the cousins must pit themselves against murderous thugs, experimental weaponry, lizard monsters, and a nefarious doomsday device. When their paths finally meet up, they will need to risk everything to prevent a mysterious technology from bringing civilization to a sudden and very messy end.

My Opinion: This book totally lives up to it’s promise. Soap is a great character, and so is Dean.  She is a little too adventurous in the laboratory, and things sometimes go awry. The story opens with her, and immediately shifts to Dean’s story, but shifts back again.

Dean is older, is a firefighter who loves his work, and has relationship issues, which launch him into the thick of things.

Soap is a feisty girl, who is launched into a series of immersive adventures. She’s a bit testy and awkward when it comes to interpersonal relationships.

The author, Sechin Tower, is a teacher in his real life, and I think he must be pretty awesome in the classroom, because the story contains a lot of historical information imparted in regard to Nicola Tesla and his scientific legacy, presented in such an entertaining way the reader doesn’t realize they’re learning.

All in all, I have three grandkids who would really enjoy this book–and Santa will be obliging this year!

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#flashficfriday: TED (a drabble)

large dragon courtesy www.wallpaperfreehd.com

large dragon courtesy http://www.wallpaperfreehd.com

Drabbles are little short stories of 100 words in length, and writing them is good exercise.

Each time you write a drabble, you create possibilities that could evolve into larger stories. In 2013 I participated in a challenge to write a drabble every day for the month of May. The original prompt went as follows:

Write A 100 Word Story (“Drabble”) . . . although a 100 word story will probably take longer than expected, it can be done in a manageable amount of time.

To make a drabble work,
-Choose one or two characters
-Take one single moment/action/choice and show us how it unfolds
-Give one or two vibrant details in as few words as possible
-Hint at how this moment/action/choice is more significant than the characters probably realize in the moment

 Here is my first drabble, written May 1st, 2013:

TED

Edna stirred her coffee and looked out the window toward the shed.

“Did you feed the chickens?” Marion always asked, despite knowing Edna had.

Edna tore her gaze from the shed. “Of course.” Her eyes turned back to the small building. “We won’t be able to keep him in there much longer. He’s growing too big. We should have a barn built for him.”

“Ted was always a greedy boy.” Marion stirred her coffee. “I warned him he behaved like a beast, and now look.”

A rumbling bellow shook the shed. A long green tail snaked out of the door.

Garden Shed, Albatross Cottages, San Diego Public Domain Via Wikimedia

>><<<

I love that scene. I keep wondering about the two ladies, and also Ted. Who is he in relation to them, who are they in relation to each other, and what is their life like, apart from the secret in the shed?

Ted will become a longer short story in November, as part of my NaNoWriMo project. I will be writing a book of short stories this year, as I need to build my repertoire. I hope to have fifteen or twenty new short tales of 2000 to 5000 words in length by November 30.

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Filed under #FlashFictionFriday, Humor, Literature, Uncategorized, writing

#epilepsy: Life in the Fast Lane

Albert Bierstadt - Autumn Landscape PD|100 via Wikimedia Commons

Albert Bierstadt – Autumn Landscape PD|100 via Wikimedia Commons

We have two adult children with epilepsy. Both were adults when they had their first seizures, with no prior warning signs.

Our daughter’s first serious seizure was at the age of 29. She has only been hospitalized once with serious injuries, and her medication controls her seizures well. She doesn’t like that she has it, but it doesn’t rule her life, and only rarely causes her trouble.

For our son, it hasn’t been that easy. He was 32 when he began having seizures. He has had more difficulty with his, both in accepting it and in getting it under control. Since the first major seizure, he has woken up in the hospital with serious injuries many times, not knowing how he got there.

Two weeks ago, our son had a breakthrough seizure and fell in a concrete parking lot, fracturing his skull. He had a severe concussion, an epidural hematoma, and lost a liter of blood.

This son is a software engineer and an entrepreneur. He was employed by Amazon for ten years, and was well compensated during his tenure there. He had just started his own company, writing software. He was completely focused on this, and was working 12 to 16 hour days, and getting little sleep, which is very bad for him.

But being who he is, he didn’t realize he was courting disaster.

We live two hours south of where this son lives. We got the phone call at 4:30 pm and threw our clothes into suitcases. Running out the door, we called a hotel near the hospital, and made the nerve-wracking trip up Interstate 5 to Redmond, Washington.

During the harrowing journey north, we discussed his possible long-term care, wondering how he could survive such a terrible injury with his intellect intact, wondering how we could care for him if his motor skills were too severely compromised.

But in a four-hour surgery, a wonderful neurosurgeon not only saved his life, but saved his quality of life. He emerged from the experience with no brain damage, and no loss of motor skills.

Our son’s head-injury was the same sort of thing that killed actors Ben Woolf and  Natasha Richardson. When you look at the way head head-injuries can kill otherwise healthy people, our son’s recovery is a miracle for which we are grateful.

Something intriguing happened with this incident. Our son has embraced life in a way he never has before. He woke up from the surgery in an incredibly different frame of mind.

Instead of wondering why this wretched condition has happened to him and focusing on the negativity of his situation, he is now looking at his life and appreciating it in a way he had not really done before.

When he left the hospital this time, his epilepsy was just something he has to deal with sometimes, and the rest of the time his life is good. His spirits are high and his recovery has been nothing short of miraculous.

If you couldn’t see the large wound on his head and the long, curving line of  stitches, reminiscent of a baseball seam in the way the long scar curves around his temple, you would never know he had undergone brain surgery only 12 days ago.

He is full of energy and ambition, and though he does tire easily, he will soon be back on track and moving forward with his current project which he intends to have on the market before January.

Sometimes, we find ourselves going for a spin in the blender of life. We never know what will happen next, and we have no control over how life affects us. But through all of this, the community of our friends supported us, and faith carried us through the dark hours when we didn’t know what his future would be.

There is so much worse out there–things that make this epilepsy thing pale in comparison. We are praying for a dear friend in Australia whose young daughter is fighting for her life, dealing with terrible complications of flu-b, necrotizing myositis. Her prognosis is grave, and  I know her parents are living in that land of fear and disbelief that I lived in for 24 hours.

We are supporting another friend here in the US, who is undergoing yet another surgery for kidney stones. What we have been through was scary, no doubt about it, but thanks to a wonderful neurosurgeon, it was nothing in the face of these ongoing life and death battles.

Epilepsy is a bitch, but it doesn’t have to rule our lives. Seizure incidents are inconvenient, and yes, we know they will occur when we least expect them. They can and will have a seriously negative impact on us. We know that the next time may not have such a good outcome but we can’t let fear ruin the joy and beauty that we have today.

The real news is not that our children have epilepsy–it is what happens the rest of the time.

We have five adult children with great careers and bright futures, two of whom also happen to have epilepsy.

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Filed under Epilepsy, Humor, Uncategorized, writing