Sunday, November 30, 2014

no earthly way of knowing...

Upon my return from the great salted roads of Thanksgiving travel, and given the above freezing temperatures, I took myself to a car wash. (Preventative washing perhaps will keep this car from rusting out like my previous one. *fingers crossed*)

It was a new one I hadn't ever been to before.  It was strange.  It was incredible!  It was just like getting on the boat in Willie Wonka and going down the tunnel into the factory.  Things whirred and whizzed past me, there were vibrant pastel colors sprayed on the windows, the scent of something sweet permeated the air.  It was quite the experience!

It was slightly pricier than another one I favor, but the adventure was well worth it.  I started thinking of who else I could bring with me to see all the whizz-bang-woosh stuff!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

storm on the way

There's another storm brewing and coming across the coast.  Stay safe everyone and travel with caution to and from your families.  It is wonderful to celebrate with each other, but keep safe so there can be more celebrations again.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Free Fiction Friday: Say It With Strawberries

I had a little fun with this story.  It's more like an exercise in writing than it is a complete package short story.  Instead of being strictly romance with happily ever after, the main character doesn't get the guy, but he bounces back better than before.

Title: Say It With Strawberries
Genre: male/male romance
Length: ~1000 words


Strawberries meant romance, so Jeremy bought strawberries.  

He bought them once a week and that was the only thing he purchased during that trip.  It was supposed to make a statement.  Nigel worked as a check-out cashier three times during the week and Jeremy made sure he shopped every time Nigel was there. The other two times Jeremy found different things that suggested love.  

Jeremy wasn’t old enough yet to legally purchase champagne, being eight months shy of twenty-one, but the grocery store stocked just about anything else that brought romance to mind. In the past two months, Jeremy found bags of enormous crisp apples, deeply blushing pomegranates,  red globe grapes, expensive chocolate with chilies and cinnamon, tins of smoked oysters, and even a small jar of caviar. He’d indulged in crusty French bread and cupcakes with pink icing, cheeses with names he couldn’t pronounce, and once, very boldly, he’d even bought a can of whipped cream at the same time as the strawberries.  

Sometimes it took a while to work up his courage, and to wait for the perfect moment when there was no line at the register, to bring the selected item over, but each time he did, his palms sweated and his breath grew short. Blood rushed through his ears so loudly that sometimes he could barely hear Nigel’s words. He hated it because it meant he missed hearing the slightest trace of an accent contained within Nigel's voice. Nigel’s voice was deep, the sort of deep that brought to mind movie trailers and jewelry commercials, and tinged with a curl around his vowels that gave Jeremy goose bumps on the back of his neck. Jeremy wasn’t particularly good at accents, so he had no idea what it could be, but he loved the way Nigel spoke.  Even if it was only to ask if he wanted a plastic bag.  

Jeremy had harbored crushes before and made good on some of them, turning infatuations into passionate experiences.  But there was something different about Nigel.  He was slightly older and even though he laughed pleasantly, making small talk with customers, his eyes were dark and serious.  They didn’t just brood, they smoldered.  Jeremy could get lost in the fathoms of  those eyes.   
Nearing the start of his third month, Jeremy longed for something more forward than just purchasing love-struck foods and waiting for Nigel to chat with him during the transaction.  If he didn't do something, he could spend a year or more buying strawberries with nothing to show for it.

Lurking in the pasta aisle, Jeremy waited until Nigel’s line was completely empty, then he sidled through the lane. “Hi,” he said, sounding breathless to his own ears.  

“Hey.”  Nigel looked down at the item.  “Strawberries again?  Are you on some kind of special diet?  Is this for smoothies?” 

Jeremy’s heart sank a little because he’d thought it had been obvious what he was doing, but he pressed on.  “Not really, it’s sort of been like a romantic gesture.”  He paused to gather his courage.  

Nigel spoke before Jeremy decided what he wanted to say.  “Oh, that’s cool,” Nigel said.  He picked up the carton and brought it across the scanner.  A little beep sounded. “My boyfriend does that for me, sometimes.  Brings me little things he knows I like.” 

Jeremy’s heart plummeted.  Nigel already had a boyfriend. The next few moments were a blur.  He said something to Nigel about how that was nice, but he couldn’t remember exactly what words he used. He must have paid for the strawberries because he walked outside with them in one hand and his wallet in the other.  

He stood on the sidewalk and stared into the parking lot.  Cars moved around in a slow dance.  His own car was in the lot, but he didn’t feel like getting in it and driving anywhere.  It seemed like too much effort and he didn’t know where he’d go.  
Jeremy turned slightly and he could see Nigel through the window glass.  He was ringing up the purchases of a woman with long brown hair. Jeremy stayed on the sidewalk for several long minutes.  One of the lot workers came by, pushing a long line of shopping carts. 

“You okay, there? You need help?” the guy asked.  His name tag read “Leo”.  He was older with a salt and pepper mustache, but his eyes were friendly. 

Jeremy shook his head.  His throat was too tight to trust he would find his voice.   

Leo pushed the carts all the way into the store. He came back out again a minute later.  He looked at Jeremy.  “Mister, you sure you don’t need some kind of help?  You look confused.” 

Jeremy held out the container of strawberries.  “I bought these, but I don’t want them anymore.” 

Leo shifted his weight.  He looked past Jeremy and then refocused his gaze.  People whizzed past them, intent on getting inside to shop or outside to pack up and go home with their purchases.  Leo tugged on Jeremy’s elbow.  “Over here, buddy.” 

Jeremy went with him.  Near the wall, it was quiet and felt more private.  

“Look, I’ve seen you here before.”  Leo fidgeted and scrunched his face. He seemed incredibly uncomfortable.  “It’s Nigel, isn’t it?” 
Jeremy stared at the ground.  

“He’s a handsome kid, that’s for sure,” Leo said. “And nice.  Hard worker. But he doesn’t have a lot going on in the office, if you get my meaning.” 

Jeremy’s attention shifted from the dried up green piece of gum stuck to the ground to Leo’s face. “What?” he asked.  Nigel’s smoldering, serious eyes couldn’t be just…vacant, could they? 

“You think about it.  You’ll be okay.  I bet you can find someone better suited for you.” Leo patted Jeremy on the shoulder. Then he brushed past him and returned to collecting carts.  

Jeremy stayed against the wall.  He looked down at the strawberries.  He did like strawberries.  He’d also liked the smoked oysters, unpronounceable cheeses, and caviar.  Actually, coming here to see Nigel had been difficult on his wallet.  Organic, fair-trade chocolate with cinnamon and chilies did not come cheap. At least he’d gotten to eat the food. He’d really enjoyed it.  But he’d just nibbled on the items individually, without really doing anything with them. 

Maybe what he needed was to take a cooking class.  

Then, next time, when he tried to date someone, he could cook them a romantic dinner instead of just buying ingredients.  Jeremy dug his car keys out of his pocket and headed for his car. 

Leo gave a wave as he passed by.  Jeremy returned the wave, but otherwise, didn't look back.

Monday, November 17, 2014

my own worst enemy

I'm doubly glad I didn't sign up for NaNo, but only in terms of writing commitment.  Of course I'm super jealous of everyone headed into the final stretch, with half-completed novels!

I started to feel like I just got done with some of my commitments, and then I went and made some more! They are good ones -- restaurant tour with some friends, a mini-Thanksgiving with other friends, a 3-day work seminar I signed up for early December, etc.  but they do command my time.

I wonder if I could just take December (after the seminar) and just really Stay Home And Write.

It's tough not to want to get out and live life.

Gotta athletic league tonight.  ;-)

Sunday, November 16, 2014

spork me, I'm done

Just finished the first round of edits for Never Waste a Good Left Turn.  There were so many things I needed to tweak that I will have to let this sit and come back to it to check my edits.  I feel like I've fallen into a rabbit hole.  Track changes is so full on the side that there's no room!!

I will say, they are good, solid edits, though.  The final product on this story is going to *rock*.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

twitter plunge

I resisted for a while because I really do have very limited time to post on all the various media platforms.  I like twitter, and I like what it does and how it works.  It was more just that I took to heart the advice that you should do what is within your means to do and that it is better to focus on that than to spread yourself too thin. But, I've been doing okay on blogging, so I am taking the plunge (versus dipping a toe) for twitter.  If it fails, I'll back away, but I suppose a few random thoughts on writing as they occur to me probably won't go amiss.  Come find me at @TrayEllisWrites

Friday, November 14, 2014

the hoary frost limned the forests

It was a beautiful drive this morning.  The snow fell all across the trees and covered the greyness of their bark.  It was kind of like traveling through the world of The Snow Queen.  Everything was fresh and new, sparkling in the scant sun.

Free Fiction: The Nightingale's Confection, by Tray Ellis

 This short story is set just before the events in How Sweetly the Whippoorwill Sings (available at  Molly is shopping for her wedding cake and her brother is along to keep her company and offer his opinions. Told from the perspective of the shop owner (and wedding cake baker and artist!), the reader gets a glimpse of events before the Big Day.  Wistful and waiting, Jake doesn't know that romance is right around the corner.

Title: The Nightingale's Confection
Author: Tray Ellis
Length: ~1100 words
Genre: male/male romance
Parent Story: How Sweetly the Whippoorwill Sings


The old-fashioned bells jingled as the door to her cake shop opened and Lissa glanced at the clock.  Five minutes until two in the afternoon and her wedding cake sampling appointment was early. 

"I'll be out in a moment!" she called into the main area and received a friendly confirmation from two voices, a woman and a man.

She took the time to clear the catalogs and order forms she had been working on.  This would give her customers a few moments by themselves to peruse the shop and get comfortable before she approached them.  Her store, The Nightingale's Confection, was mainly a bakery for special occasion cakes, but it also had a small café space for customers to indulge in coffee, tea, and pastries. In the busy mornings she had assisting staff, but the afternoons quieted down and she often cared for the store by herself.

Lissa checked herself in the mirror to ensure she didn't have smudges of flour anywhere and was pleased to see she looked properly professional.  With her dark hair and skin, rogue sprinkles of flour and powdered sugar were obvious.  Some days she went home dusted thoroughly and other days she remained pristine.  Luckily, today was one of those nothing-can-go-wrong days.  Even this morning, her newest brainstorm of butterscotch and bittersweet cocoa cupcakes had briskly sold out.

With one last pat to smooth down her apron, Lissa left her office and entered the display and café area.  "Good afternoon!" She shook hands with both her potential customers.  "I'm Lissa Robinson.  Welcome to my shop.  You're here to try some cake flavors?"

"Molly Mountbatten, and this is my brother Jake."  The petite woman looked competent and extraordinarily poised, and her brother was ruggedly handsome. 

He gave Lissa a smile that could have stopped traffic. "It's very nice to meet you."

"It's good to meet you both." Lissa led them over to one of the tables.  "I have the samples prepared for you.  Give me a moment to retrieve them. And you'd mentioned that you had some possible special requests?"

"Yes."  Molly pulled a folder out of her large handbag and offered it to Lissa.  "The theme for my wedding is going to be whippoorwills, and the colors are going to be pink and white.  I have photos of my dress and some drawings in here. Also color swatches.  Would it be possible for you to come up with a sketch of the cake design so I can make sure it will fit with the overall theme?"

Impressed with the preparation, Lissa took the folder and flipped through it.  The photos were well taken, with both overall shots and in-focus close-ups of the embroidered details.  The sketches were rough, but gave an excellent impression of the aspired to style.  Lissa said a silent prayer of thanks for the color swatches because it meant she could match them perfectly.  Too many brides showed up with haphazard, incomplete ideas and while Lissa enjoyed the challenge of making sure they came away with something spectacular, it certainly involved more work when she started from almost nothing.  Molly already had a firm grip on what she wanted for her final product.

"Absolutely I can work with this.  Let me look it over more closely while you try the samples."  She brought back the prepared tray as well as two glasses of water and an informational sheet that listed prices.  Weddings were almost always conducted on strict budgets and Lissa found it best to be upfront about the costs.  "Here you are.  These are the flavors I have available every day and I can mix-and-match them with the frostings.  I can make other types, but those are by request only and require an additional small fee.  Today's tasting is complimentary."

Lissa pointed out the three different kinds.  "Amaretto-vanilla cake with vanilla butter cream.  Chocolate fudge cake with chocolate ganache.  Lemon cake with lemon curd and fondant.  The fondant is popular because it allows more creativity with the design, but some find it doesn't quite taste as expected."

She left Molly and Jake alone so they could nibble at their own pace and she went behind the counter to peruse the folder more closely.  Grabbing a sketch pad from the drawer below the register, Lissa began to roughly outline her concept of incorporating whippoorwills.  Eavesdropping wasn't exactly her intention, but she did keep a small amount of attention on her customers in case they had a question or comment for her.

"Mmm, this one's delicious," Jake said.  "And this one, too.  I don't see how you're going to pick."

"It is a tough one."  The click of a fork on the plate was distinctive.  "But I knew this was going to be the right store just from the name."

"The Nightingale's Confection?" The penny must have dropped a moment later because when he spoke again it was without the questioning tone.  "Oh, I see.  Whippoorwill. Nightingale.  You do love birds."

Lissa darkened a line on her sketch.  She had little doubt now that Molly would choose her shop.  She didn't know much about whippoorwills, but she already liked their form.  Like the nightingale, they seemed lighthearted and meaningful.

"Of course.  Sometimes you just know what you know," Molly said. 

"Like you know that Irving is the one for you."

"Sometimes you just know what you know," Molly repeated.  "When it happens to you, you'll know too."

"I hope so.  Haven't met that special guy yet." Jake sounded wistful, with a hint of long-suffering dejection.

There came the distinctive soft crumple of a napkin being used.  "Any of these flavors would be perfect, but I think I like the lemon and the fondant."

"Fondant so you can make sure you get your whippoorwills," Jake teased again.

"Don't joke." Molly's tone was light, but held an edge of warning.  "They bring luck.  They might be bringing you luck right now that you don't know about yet."

"How can you be so logical and a lawyer and still believe in magical birds?"

"Life is full of contradictions. Sometimes you just need to enjoy the ride," Molly said.

"Getting engaged has made you wise."

"I'm your older sister.  I've always been this way.  You're just finally starting to realize it."

Jake laughed, and Lissa felt like that was her cue to interrupt. 

She brought the folder back along with her impromptu sketch.  "How is everything?  Any questions?" 

Molly picked up the sketch. A smile spread across her face as she studied it.  "These are beautiful.  You have a gift."

"Thank you," Lissa said. 

Molly sat up straighter in her chair and her gaze became sharp. "Let's start with what information you need from me so I can order a cake. I'm getting married this winter and this needs to be perfect."

Lissa nodded and bent forward, eager and excited about the prospect of creating a whippoorwill themed cake.  It would be a triumph of her skill and creativity.  Plus, every cake she put out there was an advertisement for her shop.  "Excellent," she said.  "I'll make it perfect."


Thursday, November 13, 2014

roses, a memory from fall

I took this photo way back in September, but the roses are still beautiful.  Especially now, as I sit in the dark evenings, wishing for the long daylight hours of summer, the memories of coming across some random rose bushes on a bike ride are a pleasant diversion.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

a car full of herbs

I suppose a car full of herbs might be a phrase that gives momentary pause, but I'm really talking about fresh herbs.  The garden finally fell yesterday.  I drove away with some amazing Swiss chard, a tuft of flat-leaf parsley, a flowering sprig of basil, some dark purple sage and some verdant green sage, a fragrant plant top of rosemary, and a hearty bunch of spearmint.  Also, I had a tub full of tomatillos, which I roasted until they popped. My car smelled wonderful and exotic and fresh for the drive home.

Then, I turned it all into soup.  Yum.

Monday, November 10, 2014

the very last of the garden

I'm on bouncing wi-fi access while off visiting family, so I haven't been able to really do much on the internet for a few days.  It is a bit frustrating but also kind of nice in a way -- my time is spent visiting, not checking e-mails. (Even though I still keep checking to see if there is any news about that submitted story I'm waiting to hear about.  So far, no news.)

In other news, even though there hasn't been a hard frost yet, there are still small pleasures left in the garden.  Yesterday I plucked a handful of leftover ripe raspberries and harvested the tomatillos (long growing season, they're always ready right at the very, very end), and the swiss chard is still doing well in the chilled ground and air.  Once a real frost hits, it'll kill everything for sure, but it is wonderful to have a few hardy things still living out there.

I even have a vase with three roses in it.  Without the frost, the roses are still trying.  They'll get mulched soon enough.

Friday, November 7, 2014

waiting all week for Friday and how did Friday sneak up on me??

Many, many apologies for not having a free read for this Friday.  I won't always be able to, though I do have something just about ready to go...oh, no, the issue was that even though I spent all week waiting and waiting and waiting for Friday to show it's head, when it finally did creep in, I was rushing about getting other things done!

I suppose I could do a Friday Round-up, wherein I state the status of writing.

--I flirted with the idea of NaNo, and thought I might try for something in the 30k range, and then I was three days into November, and had been out of the house taking care of other issues and didn't even have my computer with me.  NaNo Dreams died a quick death.

--I started the editing process for my story Never Waste a Good Left Turn, which will be in the Random Acts of Kindness Anthology (coming out middle-ish of February!), which involved creating blurbs, breaking down character summaries, figuring out what existential crises my story deals with, and all other deep-thinky sorts of stuff.

--I am waiting with some anxiety about another story I submitted a month ago.  This Limbo of waiting is tough on the constitution.  And I start to wonder what I will do with a 5k story that is pretty much all polished and shiny if the publisher doesn't want it. Even if there is rejection, there are always possibilities.

--I am searching my calendar for time where I'll have the energy to write.  I know a lot of people say 'make time', don't just write when there's extra, or you'll never write.  But, there are a lot of obligations in my life just at the moment.  Things I've put off as long as I could, and things that need to get done.  Once I'm over this particular cluster of activity, I really do intend to start making more time for myself.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

this tore at my heart

For those out there who, perhaps, also listen to a lot of NPR....

I've always enjoyed On Point with Tom Ashbrook, and been amazed at how versatile he is at every subject, and how tactful he is with his guests and callers.

Today, we listeners learned of a sad trajectory in his life:

I would hesitate to share it, it is so personal and delicate, except, it really is the sound of love.  You can hear it in his voice, and even in sadness, I think hearing that type of beauty is something we can all stand a little more of.

May there be courage and joy and peace, and whatever else is needed in the moment.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Halloween was amazing!

I had a great Halloween.  Counting very roughly, I believe I had 170 kids come to the door.  Ninja turtle costumes seemed to be the most popular for the boys, and there was definitely a contingent of Frozen princesses, but I was impressed by some of the ingenuity of the outfits, and the variation.  One group of slightly older boys had on their grandfathers' outfits from when he was a performer.  These outfits were exquisite, with embroidery and sewn-on details.  Grandfather isn't performing anymore, so the kids were giving the outfits a hoorah outside of storage.  All in all, a very enjoyable evening!