Monday, August 29, 2016


Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

Yesterday I read an article about William Styron and how he wrote The Confessions of Nat Turner, a beautiful though controversial book. He wrote in pencil on a pad of paper, six hundred words a day. Then he gave the paper to his wife, Rose, to type. He seldom revised because he sought the right word in every sentence he scribbled out.

I want the perfect word every time I write. Sometimes I can't find it. But you will find that when I publish a bit of what I've written, if you read it again in a couple of days or a couple of hours, it will probably be different. It's not that I change the plot. I change the words because I want the exact word. Every word.

I appreciate your kind comments on my writing, but I appreciate your suggestions, too. I take them seriously. Something that I don't want to change when you suggest it might change in a month or a year.

Thanks for reading.



You've heard people say their lives changed overnight, right? They woke up and heard the lottery numbers and knew they were millionaires. They fell in love at first sight. 

More often, the change is bad because one day everything is fine, and the next? 

It is all fucked up. 

I read once that Marie Antoinette's hair turned white overnight in jail while she awaited the loss of her head. 

What people don't think about is that the overnight device is a saying. Nothing but a cliché. It hardly ever takes that long: eight hours, twelve hours, or however you define overnight, for a life to be transformed. Most of the time, it happens in one or two seconds.

I bet Marie's hair betrayed her during a few seconds of a nightmare when she saw the guillotine's blade slice through her own milky neck.

How many seconds does it take to purchase that lottery ticket or to decide to stop someplace for ice cream? These decisions may be part of a change that's a long time in the making, but when the hair whitening attacks, it happens in a flash. 

And the flash of the blade in the sunlight can be so bright it nearly blinds you. 

Chapter One


The yellow piece of paper on the windshield of Aggie's black minivan stood out like a beacon in the dusky evening light as she left the urgent care center. She waddled along with a purse and diaper bag slung behind her right shoulder, Ruth Ann perched on her right hip, and a still sobbing Elliot hanging on for dear life to her left hand.

She shook free of El's sweaty grasp so she could pull the paper out from under the wiper and unfold it. "ASSHOLE" it said, printed neatly in red letters on a scrap torn from a legal pad.

"Mom!" Elliot pawed at her, as Ruth Ann's head drooped onto Aggie's shoulder. Aggie stood rooted to the asphalt next to the car so she could check out the area. What had she done this time?

White painted lines of parking spaces, empty now, spread out across the parking lot like whitecaps on the ocean. White, white, white, except around her car, where she now saw yellow lines. Two yellow lines on each side of the van and an arrow underneath it that marked the route to exit the lot. The only route between the parking spaces.

Drivers must have woven around her van for hours before the lot cleared out. Tire tracks in the mud provided evidence that they ran her blockade by driving off the asphalt and into the landscaped border along the sidewalk. Flowers and juvenile trees had been flattened.

Aggie pictured the line of vehicles and hated herself. The waiting cars stretched for miles. An imaginary driver, his face contorted in righteous indignation, jumped out of his Volvo with a legal pad in his left hand and a red pen in his right hand. Angry lawyer. Furious lawyer. Late for an appointment, and it was all her fault. He held the pen in the air, a sword that dripped bloody ink, chose the perfect word, wrote it, and jammed the note in its place.

Then sedans, sports cars, and pickup trucks careened over the sidewalk and curb as pedestrians dragged their terrified children out of the way. Jam-packed cars held drivers and passengers drawn as if cartoons. "ASSHOLE" filled every balloon above their mouths because they all knew what she was. Not one could be fooled into thinking she might be a polite and pleasant person who would never park in the EXIT lane on purpose.

"I am an asshole." She was the only person who heard herself. El stood right next to her, but couldn't hear a word over his own cries, the kind of cries that came out of his mouth when he wasn't hurt anymore but still wanted to make noise.

That's it for now. As I wrote, a migraine danced before my eyes. I don't know if I'll be here tomorrow. At least I have migraine meds now. Thank you, Dr. Lacroix.


  1. Janie, ahhh, my heart aches for this poor, poor mother. People are cruel and ugly and have no idea what another person is going through when they do stuff like this. True, some people really are the A-word, but not every one. Our society is full of impatient, rude, and empathy lacking individuals. Good writing. I hope your migraine goes away. Hugs!

    1. My migraine was gone before bedtime last night. Thanks for your kind wishes.

  2. Out damn migraine, out I say!
    I'm an asshole many times over. Keep writing, my friend. It's all good. I feel for Aggie. Elliot, not so much.

  3. Only suggestion I have (clearly, you're more talented than I) is something I'm sure you already do. Read what you've written aloud. Then, read it again a few days later. If it sounds iffy, it probably could be modified somewhat.
    Be well.

    1. Penwusser, will you be my editor?

    2. Did you say Penwusser? I'm crying.

    3. Penwusser and I have an understanding.

  4. 'Confessions of Nat Turner' will always remain a favorite read.

    Janie, I do like your style; it keeps me on the edge of my seat, waiting, wondering, what comes next, (smile).

    Take care of that creative head!

    1. Thank you. I'm grateful that you like my style. The hot new movie that I think will be out soon, Birth of a Nation, is based on Nat Turner.

  5. I've never experienced a migraine but I hear they're dreadful. So sorry you have to suffer through them. Take care.

  6. I'm loving the story, and hating the asshole who wrote asshole. You get bonus love points from me for using the word "dragged."


    1. Don't worry about the asshole. He's a passing stranger. I knew I shoulda used drug.


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