Saturday, November 30, 2013

Let Setting Become a Character

Elaine Calloway
This week the Mess welcomes Elaine Calloway.  Elaine grew up in New Orleans with a love for cemeteries, gothic architecture, and all things paranormal. Her books include themes of the living, the dead, and the eerie-in-between, and are usually set in iconic cities like New Orleans, New York, and San Francisco. Currently, she is writing The Elemental Clan Series, a good vs. evil set of tales involving Elementals and Fallen Angels. She now lives with her family near Atlanta, Georgia, though she misses New Orleans and can still do a Cajun accent upon request! When she’s not writing, she enjoys photography, seeing movies, and spending time with friends. For more information and to connect with Elaine online, visit her website at

This week, Elaine is going to share some of her writing experience with us, so grab your morning coffee and settle in for a great read.  And when you finish, go check out her site and pick up a book.  You'll be glad you did.

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Day After

Not bad for going to buy anything
Thanksgiving has come and gone and this morning, as we have for many years, we rose while roosters slept and headed out to face the crowds at the stores for special deals on those Christmas goodies.  Most of the time, we aren’t really looking for Christmas gifts.  We’re just browsing to see what catches our eye or to pick out something for the house.  It’s been a tradition for about twelve years now, only it’s changed some over the past two years.

Last year, Black Friday began to put the squeeze on Thanksgiving.  If you’ve been around, then you remember my rant about it back then with Blacker Thursday.  Some stores opened at 8 p.m. last year in order to get the drop on the competition.  We refused to play along and for the first time in twelve years skipped the whole Black Friday experience.  To be honest, the whole reason we started it was to get those small Mickey Mouse snow globes that J.C. Penny’s passes out to the first few customers and they didn’t do it last year, so we slept in.  This year, however, it was worse.  Not only did more and more stores jump on the Thanksgiving-Is-A-Shopping-Day bandwagon, some even opened as early as 6 a.m. and stayed open all day.   The pressure was on and now employees as well as parents with long gift lists were skipping part of the day with their family to wait in long lines and deal with angry consumers fighting over some overly priced gadget that now could be slashed down in price.  We refused again this year.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I Drove in Miami and Survived

Bumper to Bumper and not moving
I hate driving.  I’ve done it for more than twenty-five years as either a pizza delivery driver or as a newspaper carrier and supervisor.  More than fifteen hours a day at times, I was behind the wheel dealing with the idiots who must have bribed or threatened the DMV for a license.  Once I went to writing full time, it was great relief that I hung up my keys for the most part.

And then we started traveling.

Now, I don’t mind long-distance driving.  It’s actually quite relaxing.  You get on a highway, set the cruise control and enjoy the scenery.  This year alone the girls and I have taken at least six or seven trips and we have a minimum of five already scheduled for 2014.  This past weekend we were in Miami to help fellow author, Taylor Fulks, celebrate winning the Reader’s Favorite Gold Award.  The drive down wasn’t bad, at all.  Driving once there, however, was an entirely different matter.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Continental Breakfast

This wasn't our hotel. I just had the picture
One of the few things I look for in a hotel when I am browsing for a place to hang my hat on the road, outside of free parking - that’s another blog post coming - is the continental breakfast.  I like to be able to walk down with my Grandpa Munster morning hair, eyes still foggy with sleep, and fix me a small plate of food and a mug of coffee.  Actually, I like the coffee to be in the room with me so it can be fixed as soon as I wake, but that’s just to get me down to the coffee waiting at the breakfast.  In case you are unaware, a continental breakfast consists of coffee or tea and light pastries and a roll.  Way too light of a breakfast for me.

This breakfast is also self-serve, usually set up in a buffet style.  Hey, they fixed this free food; don’t expect them to hand it to you, as well.  Be grateful that it’s hot.  Usually there is one poor lady trying to keep up with the demand for food by reheating more of it in a tiny room and bringing it steaming hot out to the counters.  She’s been up since an ungodly hour and is now having to deal with hotel guests who haven’t completely woken up, yet.  And she isn’t being tipped.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Weight Watchers Needs Rollover Points

It said, "Get off!"
It’s that time of year again.  You know the one, where everyone is looking at the holidays and the pies, cookies, cakes, and candy and thinking their buttons are already on the verge of being dangerous projectiles.  It’s hit our house as well.  More to the point, it’s hit me.

Since becoming a fulltime writer my get up and go has turned into sit down and type and as a result, my 12 pack abs have turned into a case working their way slowly toward a keg.  In order to deflate my growing flotation device, the girls have put me back on Weight Watchers and the fun has been taken out of food once again.  We tried this about four years ago and truth be told it worked fairly well.  It wasn’t fun, but it worked, and then like a mental patient who thinks he’s doing great and can skip his meds, I tossed the diet when I should have been tossing a healthy salad.  Of course, that’s better than tossing my cookies, which is another post about a party we’ll talk about later.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Exhausting Fan

Not this fan
I’ve never been one who was overly impressed with celebrities.  I don’t go crazy with wanting to meet them and I refuse to wait in long lines just to say hi to someone who won’t remember I was ever there.  They are people just as we are people.  They may make millions of more dollars than we do, but I blame that on our skewed perception of what is really important in society today and not on them.  They wouldn’t be able to make that much money if we didn’t enable them to and I can’t blame them for making every dime they can while they can.

However, while I do not crave their attention, I do follow a few on Twitter.  If I am into a television show, I will usually tend to follow some of the actors who are on that show not to see what they are doing, but rather for the neat little trivia they sometimes tweet about their shows.  So far, the cast of NCIS has been the most fun to watch in my Twitter stream as Michael Weatherly, Sean Murray, Brain Dietzen and Pauley Perrette are constantly tweeting about little known facts and engaging each other in a contest of tweets.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Way and the Void

Most organized bodies, such as governments, religions, businesses, clubs, and even families, have lists of Dos and Don’ts.  It doesn’t matter what they’re called - rules, laws, commandments - they are lists of behavior that society believes people need to follow in order for everyone to coexist in peace and harmony.  They are lists that deal with actions.

Rhychard Bartlett, Warrior of the Way, is thrown out of one belief system and dragged, kicking and screaming, into another, one that has left him a little confused as to what is truly right and wrong.  There is no list, no Ten Commandments, because the Way and the Void is all about motives, not actions.  It is not so much what you do as to why you do it that now matters.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Pictures in a Digital Age

One of too many Oops shots
When the boys were younger, we would buy them those disposable cameras to take on field trips and vacations.  It was the safest method for their picture taking considering how often they forgot where they put things.  However, when I went to have the film developed quite often I had wished that they had lost the camera.  There were shots of the car ceiling, the floorboard, the back of a seat, toys taking naps, and some things I just could not recognize.  There blurry shots and dark shots and too bright shots and shot after shot of a tree, usually the same tree.

Still, there were funny moments found in their cameras, such as the photo shoot taking place in the back seat where Chris pretended he was one of the Power Rangers and Zac took several shots for posterity. There were cute poses of them sleeping and several of the family pets, pictures I would have never known about or probably taken that I’m glad I have now.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

You Will Be Born Again

A storage of oddities 
The soul was rotting, facing a fiery eternity in the bottom of a three door file cabinet, drowning in the sin of bad grammar and poor plot points.  It needed to be reborn, given new life so that it might not suffer the fatal eternity that was awaiting it.  It desperately needed the gospel of revision to save its poor, pathetic soul.

A few weeks back, I rediscovered a stack of old stories and articles.  They were in sad shape.  Suffice it to say, my writing has improved in the thirty years since I first picked up a pen.  Some of the stories weren’t even finished, dropped after a few chapters because I either gave up or became distracted by another storyline that had gripped my attention.  They were abandoned to manila folders that faded over time on paper that turned yellow with the years hidden in my desk drawer.  The ideas were not fleshed out; they weren’t even thought completely out.  Back then I grew excited about an idea and started writing.  No background.  No idea where I was going.  Just a thought, a glimpse of an idea, and I was absorbed in a story that sometimes had no ending.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Day, a Day to Say Thank You

Chad at Al Anbar, Iraq.
November Eleventh, a day set aside to say thank you and to recognize those who have served in our military forces to stand between us and those who would do us harm. Originally called Armistice Day in 1919 by President Wilson, the commemoration began with the words "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…" It was a day to be filled with parades and commemoration speeches thanking those who served in the previous years and the previous wars, starting with World War 1. On May 13, 1938 it became a legal holiday.

Businesses, banks, the federal government, schools, many places will close down today in observance of our heroes in uniform. With the government it won’t make much difference, but we may feel it in other areas. I’ll be taking the 9 year-old to play putt putt golf today because her school is closed to celebrate. The girls, however, will be working, because, well, not everyone can observe it with time off. Profit before anything else.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Mess Welcomes Ronald S. Opatich

Happy Saturday, my Messy friends  Today I have the privilege of having Ronald S. Opatich visiting with us today.  We met on Twitter through a mutual friend and it's been a pleasure getting to know him and I know you're going to enjoy it as well.  I'll allow him to tell you about himself.

My name is Ronald S. Opatich who happens to have parents who are both deaf.  I was born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio and started out working in one of the steel mills dotted throughout the Youngstown/ Warren, Ohio area.

After most of the steel mills closed in 1980, I was fortunate enough because of my sign language skills to begin a new career as a professional sign language interpreter in Columbus, Ohio.  I have been in the field of deafness and/or in the interpreting profession for 33 years now and have been blessed to have a career that has changed people’s lives or made them better.  It has been very fulfilling indeed.

In addition to my profession, I have a passion for travel, photography and writing about my experiences.  Hence I created a new travel blog, ( to satisfy all three!
Currently I am a video relay sign language interpreter for Sorenson Communications in Portland, OR.

Friday, November 8, 2013

No Shave November

Chad once he was out of the Marines
I had heard of it, but I assumed it was just something Chad, Zac, and Nathaniel came up with to make themselves look like cavemen and to drive us crazy.  I never dreamed it was an actual event with sponsors until I Googled it just for kicks.  I know that sounds perverted, but I’m not the one who named Google.  Blame them.

I came up with a couple of creators for this hair gone wild month.  One began as Movember where men allowed their mustaches to grow in awareness of prostate cancer or other male health issues.  I’m not sure how growing facial hair was to make me think of a small gland about the size of a walnut between my bladder and my manly parts, but someone put the two together in 2004 and the movement was out the barber’s door.  Now when I compliment someone on their cheesy mustache, I automatically ask how their prostate is doing.   I don’t know if they think I am offering an exam or not, but many just cover their ass with their hands and walk away.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The After School Routine

Waiting in the pickup line
Five days a week, it’s the same thing.  I leave the house at a certain time, carrying a book or some manuscript I’m editing along with my red pen, and head to the 9 year-old’s school to wait in a long line for twenty-five minutes to pick her up and take her home.  I don’t mind waiting.  I’m a writer.  My work goes with me no matter where I am.  It’s great to carry your world with you.  I’ve sat in the mall as the girls had their nails done, outside a restaurant as we waited to be seated, and outside of someone’s work waiting for their escape.  I’ve become accustomed to making the most of my time.  Waiting for the 9 year-old to get out of school is no different.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Eye of the Beholder

The Water Garden at the Harn Museum of Art
On our last trip to Gainesville to visit the college kids, they wanted to take us to a couple of the museums because they knew we enjoyed that type of stuff.  And it’s true.  Gardens, museums, art galleries, I enjoy walking through them and pretending I know what I’m looking at.  They wanted me to take an Art Appreciation class one time, but I don’t think you need to take a class to appreciate art, just to understand why some people call certain things art to begin with and not others.  I exasperated our children’s friend, Amanda, the most, because she was trying hard to get me to understand what I was looking at.

“It’s a representation of man’s anguish in a world that progresses past the point of comprehension in industrialized America and the depression that sets in and envelopes the soul.”

Friday, November 1, 2013

An Attitude of Gratitude

These are the ones I am most thankful for
Last month, a good friend, Stephanie Neighbour or, challenged her readers to make some positive challenges in their life.  It was a 30-day challenge if I remember correctly and, always eager to try something I new, I decided to change my socks and boxers to see what happened.  It was a refreshing feeling and I now plan on doing it monthly.

However, it also made me think of the 30-day challenge concept as a good way of making valuable changes in one’s life or in the lives of those around us.  As I look at the world right now, it seems that there is quite a bit of negativity and complaining going on.  I’m not saying that it isn’t justified, but it seems to be the prevailing theme in society these days and it is truly sad because there is so much to be thankful for.  I don’t know about you, but I am quite happy I am not a politician these days, and while I may be disgruntled at how they are not really doing their jobs, at least I am not in a country that is constantly being bombed and where we all have pretty much the same rights and freedoms as our neighbors, not to mention our spouses.