Wednesday, June 16, 2021

THE GREAT WAVE.... A WEP JUNE 2021 CHALLENGE!


 Hi All,

I hope everyone is well. Today is special because I have finally written something NEW. YAY! I have been in such reclusion from the blogosphere and the world in general. But now I am ready to resubmerge with a new flash fiction piece for the WEP!

It has been TOO long since I have written something for the WEP, and I am delighted that I can finally do so now. Thanks to all the lovely ladies of the WEP, ( Denise Covey, Yolanda Renee, LG Keltner, Nilanjana Bose, and Olga Godim, and a special thanks to Nick Wilford-Judge), writers get a chance to post original flash fiction, poetry, photography, or anything creative that features the prompt: This month... the GREAT WAVE. There is still time to post for this prompt. You have until June 18th. Here is the link to the WEP.

My flash fiction was inspired by a trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico several years ago. I visited the Castillo San Filip del Moro (El Morro), the fortress that was built between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries to guard San Juan Bay against pirate invasions. While exploring the fortress, I was amazed at how massive the stone fortress was, but also how cramped it was for the soldiers. I learned from the guide that almost all the soldiers were young teenage boys and very tiny to be able to fit into guard stations called, garitas. When writing my piece, I imagined myself as a scared teenage boy on guard duty in the midst of the quiet predawn night. I hope you enjoy my story, any feedback is welcome.


The Wave of a New Dawn



Another day struggles into existence. My eyes, still cloaked in darkness, pierce the midnight-blue water. Watching. Forever watching. All is silent. 


I blink to stay awake and attempt to shift my cramped body. The salty air pays a short visit but does little to relieve the overpowering stench of seaweed and sweat encased in this pillar of stone: La Garita del Diablo. Is this the price to pay to prove one’s worth? I am just barely a man; fifteen on my last birthday. A prison sentence would be more welcoming. But, this is my duty, and I shall persevere. 


Droplets of perspiration form on my temple, trickling to the inside of my collar. I wipe them away with a fraying sleeve and continue to keep watch. An ever-glowing light pierces the horizon, sprinkling the waves with twinkling stardust.


My mind wanders, and for a split second, I escape my destiny. 


A gust of wind knocks off my cap. Another gust follows. I spy the seas as heavy clouds roll across the sky, extinguishing the early morning light. 


Thunderclaps jolt me to attention. The seas rise, swelling at an alarming rate. I must not leave my post. Storms are common and often play havoc, but the massive stone walls shield the city of San Juan well. I, as the guard, must hover high above the crashing water and keep a watchful eye. The garita is my only protection, and for twenty-two months, it has served me well. 


Lighting flashes. I know what follows, and I prepare myself for the deafening boom. I remain focused, scanning the turbulent seas through one of two stone portals. My survival depends upon it. Standing my post is my only option.


Violent winds and torrential rains loom overhead, and I pull inside to shelter from the dangerous onslaught. Invisible hands clamp the side of my skull, squeezing like some medieval torture device. I scream, my voice silent in the whirl of the winds. Gripping myself hard, I do everything in my power to close off the cacophony of sounds. If this is my end, so be it. Then, I must leave this earth standing like a man. I force myself into an upright position. Never would I have dreamed of this growing up on the farm miles away from the atrocities of life at El Morro. But here I am, destined to ward off this horrific storm.


Pressing against the edge of the portal, I attempt to view the open sky. I freeze as an oncoming tidal wave crashes into the garita, drowning me in a salty grave…



An intense throb from the back of my head awakens me. I cough out mouthfuls of seawater and gasp for breath. The wave slammed me into the wall. I reach for the back of my head, and my hand is covered in blood. Moving seems difficult, but I manage to get to my knees after spitting out another mouthful of seawater. Blood is running down my neck. I tear off the sleeve of my shirt and tie it around my head. I cry out in agony, realizing my shirt is soaked in saltwater.


I stumble toward the portal and peer out, seeing a dull light streaming into the aqua seas. The storm has passed. Or, so I thought. On closer inspection, distant bands of dark clouds and rain pelt the open sea. Spears of lightning and rumbling thunder slowly grow closer. A second storm approaches. How on earth will I survive? Gingerly, I step to the exit doorway, hoping and praying to see another soldier, but I know I will not. It is only me against the elements.


Dehydrated, I search for my skein of water. Thankfully, it did not wash out to sea. The few drops left, trickle down my throat.


I suppress thoughts of food and water. Surviving the next storm and keeping watch is what I must do. A mild breeze refreshes me as I stand in front of the portal. A glint of light temporarily blinds me. I shake my head and search the open sea. I spot it. Something in the distance glitters, and it is not the peaks of the water. I squint my eyes to focus. 


No. It can not be. It must be a mirage. 


But, is it?


For almost two years, I have seen nothing. Now…in the middle of this storm—I see a ship’s mast?


Impossible.


I shake my head again, suck in a deep breath, and lock my eyes on the same spot. Bobbing in the distance, a wooden mast sparkles in the open sea. 


Adrenaline pumps through my body. I race out of the garita and onto the fortress wall. As I stumble on the rough stones, my task is set: ring the warning bell. There is little time. The soldiers must sink the pirate ship before the storm hits. Sweat pours out of me, and I make it to the tower. But am I able to climb the tower wall? I am weak, exhausted, and my head is pounding. The bandage around my head is soaked, and blood is streaming down my neck. I can barely take another step. 


But, I must. 


This is my chance to prove to them all…




Life was certainly trying for those poor young men. I would like to share a few pictures I took of El Morro when I visited there. The Garitas certainly inspired this story.













Wednesday, June 2, 2021

SIX MONTHS INTO A NEW YEAR...WHAT HAVE YOU ACCOMPLISHED? AN IWSG POST.


 Hi All, 

Welcome to another IWSG post.  Thanks to the talents of Alex J Cavanough and the AMAZING IWSG staff we are able to vent our insecurites or offer advice to other writers...how cool is that!

If you would like to join, please hop over to Alex's site to join.

Can you imagine it is JUNE already? Six months into 2021 and I feel I am still in 2020. I know that so many people blame Covid for this and for that, but the reality is that it has altered everyone's life. My creativity levels have been in limbo for quite some time now. Every time I try to write, my focus is just not there. I would much rather be outside digging in my garden and spending great portions of the day planting, trimming, sweeping, mulching, and cutting. I was never really the gardening type, but since I have been forced into a seclusive state, this is what gets me through the day. How about you? Do you feel comfort in your seclusion? 

I actually do. I still see my neighbors and chat with them as they go by their daily walks, jogs, or errands. And this seems to be enough. I honestly don't understand why. When I lived in Chicago, I was never home. My days were spent running around the city with clients, shopping, working out, dining out, etc. That was my life. I had no problem writing and reading for hours on end when I finally did get home. I survived on five hours of sleep and felt amazing. Now, I am up at 5:30, and in bed by 10:00 exhausted. I barely read and haven't written much in about a month. This year seems to be slipping away so quickly, and I feel as though I will never catch up. Does anyone else feel that way?

One would think, now that our lives are somewhat going back to a new norm, I would feel energized and ready to face the future... but, I don't. Perhaps I have reclused too far. I felt differntly in the beginning of Spring... the weather was crisp and nature was bursting. Now, the temps have risen to amost summer heat, and I am fried, almost literally. The sun is so intense, and it's only June.

I so wanted to get so much accomplished and start a new story and get excited about writing again. But, it's more of chore for me and not a pleasure. I just wish I could feel the way I did when I wrote my first two novels. I had so much determination and tenacity to keep plugging along and believing in my stories, knowing they would be published someday. Well, that day hasn't come. Eleven years of writing. I guess it's my turn to get discouraged, but I have always been an optimist, and I will snap out of it. Thanks for listening and being there for me this month...

For all you spring flower lovers out there... perhaps a bouquet of peonies will make you smile. My gardens are flowing over with them, and they are just beautiful. I can't keep up with the arrangements...




Wishing you all a wonderful JUNE!!!!!

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

THE REBIRTH OF YOUR WRITING... AN IWSG POST...


 Hi All,


Welcome to May's addition to the IWSG. Thanks to our founder, Alex J. Cavanaugh, writers are privileged once a month to speak their minds on writing and all the anxiety that goes with it. Feel free to join, if you haven't already! Here is Alex's sign up link:

Many writers hibernate during the winter months, and some do a lot of writing and others may not. I tend to write less in the winter months with so many distractions like the holidays and LOTS of snow to shovel. Winter leaves me lethargic and flat. Now that SPRING is here, I become inspired. Last week I traveled to Florida and when I returned back to NW IL, my charming, little town EXPLODED with color. Bright green leaves were infused with pink, white, coral, and yellow flowers. The hostas leaves grew at least a foot high,  and flowering shrubs dotted all the landscapes including my own. Lilacs scented the air adding an invigorating charge to my senses. How can anyone not be inspired by the rebirth of nature? Right? 

Immediately I began scribbling out new ideas for my next novel, even though I currently have not finished my WIP. It is time for something NEW. Sometimes we have to leave our current works and start on something fresh. Then, in a few weeks, we can go back to our former works with new excitement. So that is my advice to all writers who are coming out of their winter slump. Enjoy the SPRING and all its glory. Put down your dusty current MS and bring to life an exciting new idea. 

I hope and pray that you are all well. Covid has certainly brought us all down and into a place where our creativity was/is certainly stifled. I have only had my first Covid shot and am scheduled for the second in less than two weeks. I am nervous though because so many people have more severe reactions to the second shot. Keeping a positive attitude can help, but so can prayers and good vibes. Wishing all of you the same during your vaccination.

HAVE and AMAZING IWSG day!


Wednesday, March 3, 2021

SPRING IS JUST ABOUT TO SPRING... AN IWSG POST...

 

Hi All,

Sorry for posting so late, but when the first Wednesday of the month is in the beginning, I tend to forget...

BUT...Thanks to our WONDERFUL host, Alex, and co-hosts for the IWSG, I am reminded to post no matter how late I am. For any newcomers to the IWSG, Welcome! If you would like to join our group, here is the link to Alex's blog and sign-up page.

I love this time of year. The snow is melting at a heightened pace because the temps are rising. The earth is beginning to wake-up from a LONG winter's nap. The days are longer, and there is a positive ring in the air with every fluttering bird's chirp. Finally, our minds can clear away from the winter blues and all the reclusion we have experienced from the stressful year. 

We are able to walk through the parks and throughout our neighborhoods and see the beginning signs of spring. With this rebirth, inspiration is all around us. It certainly is for me. I finally have dived back into my writing. It took quite some time. But I am thankful and it mostly is because of spring. Breathing in crisp, fresh air is so invigorating. My senses are awakening and this is SO important in writing. To improve any scene, any dialogue or any description, incorporating the "senses" in your writing will make it come alive. Readers want to experience you writing first hand. They want to be 'in the moment" with your characters. So, the next time you are writing a new scene in your MS, don't forget your senses: smell, touch, sight, hear, and taste...

Wishing all of you a HAPPY SPRING!

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

AS WINTER SURGES....AN IWSG POST.



 


Hi All, and welcome to another IWSG Post. 

Thanks to the creator, Alex J Cavanaugh, writers get to meet once a week to air out our

insecurities and also to give advice to others. 

If you would like to join our group, please visit this link: link

For all of us in the north, winter is main part of our daily lives. So much snow has fallen in my town, that we have five-foot snow hills. As I walked through my neighborhood earlier today, the trees glistened with early morning light. For the first time, the beauty of this magical season introduced itself to me. I wished I had my phone to take pics, but one doesn't think of these things while taking their pup for a walk.

This beauty awakened the writer in me. It had been asleep for so long, I had honestly thought it would never come back. With so much stress from life's everyday dilemmas, a creative mind is often clouded. Thankfully, it is slowly coming to life. So, for those experiencing similar feelings, perhaps it's time for you to take a stroll through you neighborhood to find your "awakening."

Yesterday one of my major house projects came to a close. My upstairs bath was FINALLY completed. Although mostly functional, the freestanding tub needs to be reset. Sigh. Tomorrow the plumber returns and hopefully I will have a fully functional bath.  Of course there are still many more projects to go in rehabbing "this old house," but I am happy to say two major projects are out of the way, and the third should be completed by the end of the month.  It is so nice to have an accurate vintage-looking bath without the old '60s and '80s previous remodels. The bath was a horror, but now it is loaded with the original charm from 1915, including the original restored pine floor. Imagine standing on floors that were installed over a century ago. I am not sure we can say that with modern construction a hundred years from now...



Well, that is all for now. I hope everyone is safe and healthy. Keep positive and keep looking for inspirations to write. I am WANTING to pick up on my MS and with sub-below zero weather in our upcoming forecast, I will have no excuse NOT to write. 

Also today, we are having a blogfest for the wonderful and sweet, Jo Wake. She was so full of life and really LOVED her food. I had saved countless recipes from her...all DELICIOUS! I know Jo really appreciates everyone who is posting a recipe in her honor...sorry I am late with mine, for some odd reason, I thought the blogfest was on the 6th. 

The recipe I chose today is a real favorite of mine and I know MANY people LOVE home-made biscotti... here is my recipe for them... JO, I hope you are enjoying all your treats in heaven! We miss you!

Michael's Biscotti Recipe...

First, if you want the ULTIMATE biscotti, you should caramelize the almonds. I mix both in the recipe. About half and half. 


To do this is quite easy. In a bowl place the amount of almonds you wish to caramelize. I usually do A LOT, so I have enough for three or four batches. They don't go bad, and they are also great to toss in with a salad for that extra zing!


Add distilled or spring water mixed with sugar. I NEVER use tap.. But if you have 'good' water than great. Since you DON'T want them to be too sweet because of the calories use about a half a cup of organic sugar. It's better. Mix in a two to three tablespoons of cinnamon and two tablespoons of vanilla extract. I like mine very cinnamonny, so I use three. Pour the sugared water over the almonds just enough to cover them ... If you have too much add more almonds, if not enough add more water. Easy. Mix well and set for a half an hour. Now if you REALLY want them amazing, soak them overnight. Don't refrigerate, nothing will happen to them. The longer they sit, the more solution they absorb.


Preheat oven at 250 degrees. Use a nonstick cookie pan. Make sure it has some lip on it so the liquid stays. Place them in the pan and spread them out well. Just enough liquid to coat the almonds, you don't want them sitting in liquid. Just use a bit extra. Keep the left over and do another batch. You can do more almonds, pecans, or walnuts, they are all fantastic caramelized.


Bake about a half hour and then mix them up a bit and bake another ten to fifteen minutes. SInce all ovens are different check them on occasion. It could take longer or less time. You want them toasted and dry before taking them out. When done, remove and loosen them in the pan. Cool in pan on a rack.


Now, here's the recipe for the biscotti... This is my double recipe, it makes about twenty five to thirty, three inch biscotti. 


Ingredients :


3 cups unbleached all purpose flour (add extra half cup if using all extracts. dough shouldn't be sticky so add as much as needed after mixing original recipe)


2 teaspoons of baking powder


1 teaspoon of baking soda


1 cup organic or natural sugar (can substitute regular) I use a few lines less than a cup so not a full cup.


6 tablespoons of butter, softened


3 JUMBO eggs or 4 large eggs (I prefer jumbo for this recipe)


2 teaspoons of almond extract


2 teaspoons of anise extract


1 cup or more, depending on preference of slice almonds. (half regular-half caramelized)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.


Combine flour, baking powder, and baking soda in medium bowl. Mix with spoon. place aside.


In large bowl beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add eggs and extracts and beat well. SLOWLY add flour a third at a time, mixing all flour in before adding more. At this point it should be a thick dough. Again, if too sticky add more flour but not TOO MUCH... it shouldn't be crumbly. lt should be workable in your hands. Add almonds a bit a time. Mix into dough well. You want almonds EVERYWHERE in the dough. OR if you prefer less use less. I love lots of almonds in mine.


When dough is workable, it should be easy to divide. If sticky add more flour. BUT DON'T make the dough crumble. If this happens add a bit of water.


Roll into about twelve inch lengths and flatten on ungreased cookie sheet. Flip it, an flatten again. It should be about a half an inch thick. I usually get two twelve inch rolls and one around ten inches. You want it to be about two to three inches wide when flattened. On top I usually encrust a few more caramelized almonds.


Bake for about twenty-five minutes or until firm. Don't overbake or they will crumble when you cut them. Cool on baking sheets for five minutes. Cut into slices of about 3/4 inch. I cut mine on a diagonal, but you can cut them across if you desire.  Arrange cut sides down on sheet and bake another fifteen to twenty minutes. Watch them... You want them toasted and crunchy not doughy or burnt... Remove and place pans on racks to cool. 


Now if you want an extra bit of punch.... melt semi sweet chocolate morsels and drizzle on top. Of course this adds calories, so keep that in mind. Perhaps on a special occasion or when you feel like you want a REAL treat. 



Well that's it... after cooling store in a tin. Not plastic... they will get soft. Put some paper towel on the bottom of tin and place cookies carefully inside.


ENJOY! Let me know how they turn out!



Michael



Wednesday, January 6, 2021

A NEW YEAR...A NEW BEGINNING...AN IWSG POST.

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

It's time for another IWSG post. Thanks to Alex and all the IWSG hosts, we can catch up and air our anxieties and share our advice with others as well. If you would like to join, please click on the site and sign up!

Well, we made it through another year. This one was certainly challenging. But through all the trials and tribulations, we have grown stronger. Life is never easy, and 2020 was probably one that we will NEVER forget. 


2021 will also be another challenging year. We start with a new government and with the pandemic still haunting us all. We will persevere, and we MUST. Haven't all of our journeys in writing taught us this? It certainly has for me! It is the proverbial waiting game, and sadly we must wait this year out as well. Yes, we have a vaccine, but that will take time; this virus is not going anywhere for quite some time, so we must continue to live with it as part of our lives. We will make it as long as we keep a level head and patience.


Winter has taken a stronghold in Illinois, so I will be writing after I finish my bathroom reno. It is time to finish up with my WIP and move on. This will be a year of many new beginnings, and we need to roll along with them. Making time for writing is important for me, especially this year. I seem to be the last holdout of writers who has started their journey with me over a decade ago. All of my wonderful friends have works published or to be published this year. I had many letdowns in the past; now, it is time for me—no more excuses.  I hope to regain the tenacity I once had to pour all my anxieties and energy into making it happen. 


May we get through this year together, learning from each other and growing in a healthy and happy new world. Keep safe, my friends, and I will see you all next month!





Wednesday, December 2, 2020

A DECEMBER IWSG_HAPPY HOLIDAYS!


 Hi Everone!

Sorry I am posting so late. I just realized it is the first of the first Wednesday of the month. Thanks to Alex and all the IWSG hosts, we are able to catch up and air our anxieties and share our advice to others as well. If you would like to join, please click on the site and sign up!


I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Even in these troubled times, I was able to have a few friends over. I had two tables separated by twelve feet and one family was at one and the other was with me and a few close friends. It was a cool day, but we managed to enjoy ourselves with throws and the help of an outdoor heater. One of my friends said it was one of the best Thanksgivings she had ever had. It was a wonderful day and it was nice to have some normalcy.

For the past few months, I have been deligently working on the exterior of my house. I tried several times to sit down and write, but with such limited time to finish before winter set in, I felt it was more important to spent my time away from writing. But now that the holidays are upon us, I will have time to write. YAY. This week I plan to finish putting up the Christmas decorations. Trying to stage a 2400 sq ft house plus the huge front porch is quite the challenge. For the first time in my life, I have a large enough space to actually put out ALL my decorations. And believe me, there are TONS. I can actually open up my own Christmas shop. I have four trees to decorate, a fireplace hearth, LR, DR, and kitchen... not to mention the entry and staircase. I have about half done, and I hope to complete the rest by the end of the weekend. THEN, and only then, can I work on my writing in between baking. Even though I don't foresee anyone spending Christmas Eve or Day with me, I hope to have an outdoor cocktail party for about eight people out on the front porch. I will be enclosing the porch with heavey canvas, and there will be a patio heater, so it should be warm enough with our coats on. I will have a real tree decorated out there, so it will look quite festive. The porch is such a wonderful space because of it's size. I'll post a pic on how I set it up for Thanksgiving.

I want to wish all of you a SAFE and HEATHY Holiday season. Please be careful in your travels and gatherings. We are not though this pandemic yet. Holidays can still be special with the proper planning. 

Sending you all a huge HUG and PRAYERS for you happiness and safety.