Wednesday, May 20, 2020

On Writing - Trying my hand at short stories

To say staying at home on #Coronavirus/#Covid19/#pandemic #LOCKDOWN has dammed my creative juices is a woefully inadequate understatement. I produced blank pages (the equivalent of silence) the whole month of March, with the exception of my daily #vss365 one-tweet stories.

Seriously, it was depressing.

Given the number of go-go-go posts I've produced on overcoming fear, facing demons, staying motivated, my dry spell proclaimed personal failure, hypocrisy, and shame. Where was my advice when I needed it? (Right here, on the internet, easily accessible.)

A friend urged me to participate in a challenge to write a short story based on a visual prompt. Between being challenged and the thousand words implied in the photo, I did feel inspired. Prison Break came out of me and boy, did I feel triumphant and emancipated!

The story struck me as unfinished, so the following week, I wrote more.

How far could I push it? The week after that, I wrote even more, all the way into a corner. I was running out of creative juice, so Lucky Lucy suddenly had nowhere else to go.

Lmao, talk about life imitating art imitating life, however metaphorically.

Lockdown continues. I must carry on.

The same friend writes every single day, motivated by deadlines and challenges. She wrote a short story and entered it into a weekly competition, and invited me to join in also. The submission guidelines were straightforward, so I went for it.

It sparked an idea that I could possibly stick with this and enter every weekly competition. Maybe I'll win one.

If not, I'll at least build up a body of work and unleash it on the world to fame and glory.


Sorry, I'm laughing maniacally at my own joke. Apologies if you don't find it as humorous as I do.

The fact remains that my job may or may not wait for me when lockdown ends, so I have several empty pages of days to fill. Stay tuned.

If you'd like to read my contest story - Back to Dreams Aphotic - it's posted on the writers' resource website Reedsy.

My submission leans into the dark side, about a weird asshole named Orland. Since the word count max is 3000 to enter, I decided to skip giving Orland a character arc, but rather treat the entry as a character study into a twisted mind.

If I've written it well, you'll probably hate Orland. To vote for it, LIKE it. Reedsy will ask you to create an account and they'll send you a follow up email. If you're a writer who enjoys or wants to start writing short stories, it's a fantastic opportunity to stay motivated. On the other hand, if you're a fan of reading short stories, it's a great way to find new writers, because you'll get a weekly email with the new prompts.

My entry is here.

Be well, stay 6 feet apart, and have a magical day

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

RANDOM THOUGHT - Thoughts on Prison Break's performance

The irony isn't lost on me that I've written a few different posts and tweets on breaking out of writers block, only to be cursed with a spell of it for over two months. Prison Break Part 1 marked an escape, so to speak, and I was so excited that I promoted it like crazy. Its popularity took off like a rocket, which made it that much more rewarding.

Part 2 also did well in terms of numbers of views. Truth be told, Parts 1 and 2 made it to the top 4 posts on my blog (the blog has nearly 150 posts since going live in July 2018, so that's saying something).

Part 3 turned into a bit of a disappointment.

I think I understand why.

Readers got attached to Lucky Lucy and Madwoman Cheri, but my imagination couldn't see a way for them to stay free, so I couldn't write their success. In that, I let Lucy and readers down. This just brings home the old truism for writers: WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW.

I don't have the slightest idea how to evade law enforcement. If I believed in Lucy or in myself as a writer, I would have asked some of my, how to say, more successfully rebellious friends for ideas on how to get Lucy to safe harbor.

Next time, friends. I promise I'll do better.

As it is, Lucy hasn't yet been read her Miranda rights, so it's possible I'll write Part 4, but I'm not committing to that, as of right now.

Have a magical day and please accept my apologies for poor storytelling.


Friday, April 24, 2020

On Writing - MICROFICTION Part 3 - Prison Break

Photo credit: Photo by Rhett Wesley

Prison Break
Part 3
by Mackenzie Littledale

I gripped that steering wheel as though it was my very life in my hands, and I s’posed there was truth in seeing it that way. The odometer said I’d left Ginny fifty miles behind, but in the dim moonglow, all the sand and prickly cacti looked the same. Looking out the side window gave me the unnerving feeling that I was driving on a treadmill, going sixty miles per hour to nowhere. That felt like shit, all off balance and stuck in place; I already knew that feeling well enough. I stopped looking sideways like a crab. Funny thing about crabs, you always know exactly which way they're not going and that's dead ahead in the direction they're looking.

A narrow highway stretched before before me, and I imagined blackbirds drunk on bourbon like I was drunk on your memory. It’s no good to drive while dreaming, but damn, did I love a bourbon.

This car from Oklahoma may as well have been from the future, I couldn't figure out the newfangled controls, so I sang the songs I remembered from our summer picnics. Every revolution of the wheels led to a new revolution in my heart. Would you look down on me for losing my temper with Ginny? Goddammit, don't I know I was put away for killing you when I had nothing to do with it, but now I had something to be guilty over. What would I plead if I got caught now? I prepaid my time in the cinderblock dorm on a layaway plan?

But now I hunger for crab and bourbon.

Okie car still had three-quarters of a tank when I pulled over to relieve myself, and then checked the trunk. I nearly missed the walnut stained box, half hidden at the trunk light’s fuzzy edge. A few hundred dollars inside, enough to get me somewhere. My sister had scribbled a note that she loves me and a few instructions on how times had changed. Sis done me a solid. The tell-tale rattle of a snake scared the shit outta me and I high tailed it back inside the car.

I may have started the rumor that I wanted to reach the Atlantic coast, but truth be told, the beach wasn’t where I wanted to be. The sand bleeds with bittersweet nostalgia. The very sight of a beach house would cut me with ambivalent mercy. I twirled the feather in my fingers. No, I gotta get to a future, not a miserable past. Reality cruelly reminded me that you’re dead and the dead have no future. My soul’s hope protested all the same, and I foresaw us reunited, as if through a crystal ball.

I drove toward the rising sun and didn’t let up until it settled behind me. Twinkling lights on the horizon got bigger and closer until a carnival came into sharp view. Bored from driving, I welcomed the distraction. When was the last time I had any fun? So I stopped.

Still decorated like a punk rock star, spiky green and purple hair with heavy black around my eyes and on my mouth, but nobody paid me any mind. No one could rob my happiness. Funnel cake, cold beer, and hot dogs, anything I desired, except bourbon and crab. Happy but still hungry, I wanted to shake off the memory of digging in the desert, and bought tickets for rides.

I gazed longingly at the Ferris wheel and had to stop to hear  the laughter coming from top to bottom. Colorful lights made people's joy seem even merrier and reminded me of snuggling into your arms for long, soft kisses. Your kisses were always even better than the view.

The lines for the rides snaked off too long, so I headed for the house of mirrors. Reflections of me taller, shorter, stouter, broader, leaner, wavier and whatnot kept me entertained. I walked into my reflection a dozen times until whose reflection multiplied a hundred times assaulted me, but Madwoman Cheri’s, still dressed as a dude.


She ducked and vanished. “Do I look like a damn Cheri to you? Chad.”

“Chad. Chad? Where are you? What are you doing here?” I dashed toward her, only to bounce my forehead off a dead end. “You were ahead of me. How could we possibly wind up in the same place?”

“I pulled off the road and waited for you to pass.”

Unease crept up my solar plexus like a tarantula. “But why?”

She jumped out of nowhere and stood before me. “I had to make sure you weren’t gonna tell anyone what happened.”

“To Ginny? Why would I tell a soul? Bullshit. Why’d you follow me?”

“You really don’t know.” She planted her tattooed fists on her narrow waist.

“Know what?” My keloid scar behind my ear itched like a mother, the tip of the feather poking my hip. Teenage kids came bumbling by, laughing at each other.

Cheri/Chad waited for them to move along. “You can’t ever go back to that beach house.”

“Where I’m going shouldn’t concern you. Why didn’t you keep on?”

“If I tell you here an’ now, I gotta slit your throat. What I know is ‘tween me an’ Jesus.”

Rock and roll pounded my ears, our argument kept getting interrupted with waves of laughing teens. Finally we were alone again. Cheri/Chad stood in a shaft of eerie lights that made her irises glow red.

I stepped cautiously to one side. “What did you say you were put away for?”

“Don’t matter. They didn’t catch me for what I actually did, same as you.” She spat into a corner.

She’d been locked up for a crime she hadn’t committed, yet she’d committed something and was now tailing me to make sure I didn’t figure out something. “What do you know about the beach house?”

She looked down, her face shrouded in shadow and red light, looked like bruises. Cheri/Chad mumbled, then said. “Jack. I knew Jack.”

I gasped. I was tired of calling her Chad. “Cheri, how did you know Jack?”

“He hired me to off you, but I couldn’t do it.”

“Bullshit. Jack loved me. How did you know Jack?”

“I already had a better offer to take care of him instead.”

“Who paid you?”

“Jesus, Lucy.” Her red eyes narrowed at me. “You did.”

In a split second, a locked vault inside my mind opened wide. Yes, I’d wired money to her, but she must have gotten the instructions all wrong. Jack. No. I couldn’t accept that. I lunged at her, but she stepped aside and grabbed my arms. We fought in a fury, tangling, pinning, punching each other but at last I broke free. One fleeting opportunity drifted like an angel in black light and I took it, diving at her, spinning her around. With a flex of my leg, I threw her off balance to the left. As the right side of her neck became exposed, I chopped it in the same place as I'd seen Guard George whack uncooperative inmates with her billy club. The education I'd gotten behind bars sunk in deeper than anything I'd learned at university. The move forced a heaving breath out of Cheri, then I placed my hands over her cheeks and jaws. I jerked her head to the right, but not quite hard enough. I twisted further than I thought it could go and got the satisfactory crack of her cervical spine.

Cheri’s limp pretzel of a body didn’t pose much trouble. The vengeful predator in me who promised to tear your killer limb from limb would have made a terrible mess that would have been impossible to clean up. Finding no hiding place to drag her to, I was left with no choice but hoisting her and draping her across my shoulders. Cheri might have been a buck-ten soaking wet, but even with the height and broadness I had over her, I had to stoop over while I carried her out.

People stared and pointed at us. “Poor thing had too much to drink,” I said without stopping.

I’d had enough of the carnival and Cheri’s tall tales. But her words punctured me, forced open doors in my mind. Jack and I used to fight something fierce, and we each stood to gain from plump insurance policies on each other, but paying to kill each other? It couldn’t be real. Those mirrors fucked with my head. Cheri fucked with my head. I couldn’t get to the Okie car fast enough. I settled Cheri’s body supine in the back seat and puked by the side of the car. The blackbird feather fell out of my pocket and into my lumpy pool of vomit.

I had nothing to clean it off with, and started crying, feeling you slip through my fingers. Through my tears, I spotted the clock: 10:40 PM and my stomach let me know it was angry on empty. Okie car’s gas gauge was barely above “E".

A couple miles down the highway, I pulled up to a pump at a filling station with a rickety seafood joint next door.

My sister’s note included tips on how to unlock the gas cap from the inside. Even the simplest things had changed so much in the world. I filled up, paid and washed off my punk rock face in the restroom. Clean, but still with colorful spiky hair, I headed to the seafood shack, the scar behind my ear itching like crazy again. A couple people were seated, and it seemed I was quite the distraction.

“How’s the crab around here?” I asked, taking a counter seat.

“Best in town. You just passing through?” asked the waitress, toying with the stud in her nose.

“I am,” I said, warily. The look in her eyes was a little too sharp. “I’m not here for trouble, I’m just hungry. You got bourbon?”

“Yup, Knob Creek,” she said, setting her jaw like those stuck up twats in high school.

I was just passing through, I reminded myself. “How much is the Knob Creek?”


“I can't drink a whole bottle.”

“That's for a double.

Inflation's a bitch. Man, I've been gone a long time. I sighed in resignation. “One double then. And gimme a large order of crab legs, please.” She brought the bourbon first and I cupped the glass with both hands. The way the glass caught the lights, it was like peering into a crystal ball, and I saw the future. It was just as lifeless as the cinderblocks and iron I’d left behind.

“Turn around,” said a male voice directly behind me.

“Can I help you?” I asked. I turned around to see a beige and brown uniform with a brass, six-pointed star badge.

“Hands on your head.”

And just like that, I was kin with the crabs. I looked forward in the only direction I couldn't go.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

On Writing - Assignment 3 from class

The assignment was to write 500 words with a character who wants something, finds out s/he has a deadly disease and 24 hours to live, faces the choice of living or pursuing the initial want, and a conclusion.

Write or Die
by Mackenzie Littledale (for class)

Annabella took the cookie tin from the cupboard, and sat with her back to the window, the blinds drawn closed. She pulled out the money hidden inside and counted. Just forty dollars shy of six thousand, tantalizingly close to affording that three-week-long writer’s retreat in the US Virgin Islands, where she’d be surrounded by instructors, fellow writers, guest lecturers, famous authors, and palm trees. Annabella grinned, replaced the money and put the tin away. Her mind turned to the unexplained stomach pains she’d been having. As if jinxing herself, she doubled over in agonizing pain.

This time the pain was sharper, deadlier and she fell to her knees. Gasping, she crawled to her phone and dialed 9-1-1.

A short while later at the ER, she didn’t have to wait more than ten minutes before a doctor examined her. He ran CT- and PET-scans, took biopsies, and admitted her.

Feeling utterly alone and afraid of the smells of disinfectant mixed with misery, she struggled to sleep, only to wake, groaning in pain.

The following afternoon, Dr. Cherokov delivered the news. “Pancreatic cancer, and I’m afraid you’re in stage four.”

She felt in her guts that a second opinion would be the same. A sense of finality draped across her and seeped into her pores. She squeezed the bed rail. “What treatment is available?”

The doctor looked out the window and tapped his foot.

“Doctor?” she asked. “Tell me, please.”

“There is nothing beyond morphine at this point. You have twenty-four hours at most. Put your affairs in order. I’m so sorry.” Dr. Cherokov wiped his forehead and marched toward the door, but stopped short. “The university hospital is running an experimental treatment with one space left. The costs associated with the treatment are six thousand dollars. It’s an option. Lab results in small mammals have been promising, but the human risk is unknown.” He remained standing by the door.

Nothing rivaled the penetrating silence in the wake of his words. Annabella had no time to choose. Die before her dream trip or live and save up again from scratch. “The only choice is dying tomorrow. When would this experimental treatment begin?”

“In an hour.”

She fixed her gaze on her sweating hands. “Bring me the papers I need to sign.”

Annabella reviewed the papers and skimmed through the risks. She underwent the first round of treatment that night. The second round the next day left her nauseous. The third round left her lethargic and unable to get out of bed or eat for two days. When she woke up, she saw only black and grey static.

She reached blindly and pressed the button for the nurse. “I can’t see!”

“We’ll take note of that,” said the nurse when she got to the room.

Annabella shook her head. Of all the risks listed, she least expected to lose her vision. Even if she could still take her writers retreat, she’d be unable to participate. Was this worse than death, she couldn’t tell.

Friday, April 17, 2020

On Writing - MICROFICTION Part 2 - Prison Break

Photo credit Averie Woodard
Twitter: @averieclaire

Prison Break - Part 2
By Mackenzie Littledale

I leaned out the car window, letting the wind roar through my hair like a Ghost of Christmas Freedom. Ha, I wonder what old Dickens would think of that. I like to make up things, mainly to entertain myself. It was a survival habit I came up with from sharing a cell with Cheri. Cheri doesn’t shut up long enough to listen, or if she does, she elaborates on my jokes to the point it becomes her own creation and my authorship vanishes. All I needed was to get dropped off a couple miles inside Nevada, where my sister would have a car waiting for me. From there, we’d part company.

I s’pose our driver was kin, so I called her “cousin Ginny.” Ginny was nothing close to her name that I’m aware of, but she delivered on her promise to bring some gin, which made her my favorite person in the world.

The scent of pine and hickory came in on the wind like old friends, friends who knew what it means to be stuck in place. Cousin Ginny headed away from the shore of the bay like a hellcat and toward the shadowy cover of the mountains.

“Don’t get us caught, cousin,” I said, even though the feel of the rushing wind reminded me of being young and alive. “We just got the hell out, and I’m not about to go back.”

“Tell her,” said Cheri from the back seat. Cheri couldn’t stop laughing. She clung to the back of my seat as I stared at the horizon. I didn’t want to miss the trees for the forest, languid lines of tall grasses and wildflowers.

The lines on the road had been recently painted, the dull colors bleeding out from under the new distinct white and yellow. The trail to paradise laid out before us.

“Cheri, we’re out,” I shouted into the wind. But I pulled myself back inside the car and turned to look at her.

“Ain’t never goin’ back, neither,” she said. Her gaze was focused and sharp for the first time in fifteen years. She almost looked normal in the dry clothes that cousin Ginny brought. A Nike T-shirt two sizes too big flopped in the breeze around her skinny frame. Cheri looked down at the shirt. “Just do it. They got that shit right. Just do what ya gotta do and the good Lord will see it through because He’s the Way, the Truth and the Life. We took our lives back. Damn straight.” Cheri bowed her head. To pray, I guess.

“Whatch’all got planned now that yer out?” asked cousin Ginny.

“Cheri’s got her own plans. Once you get us across into Nevada, I’m just going to head south, maybe east. Get a taste of the eastern seaboard, since the Pacific hasn’t been overly kind, if you know what I mean.”

“Ah, nah, Gramps said you caught a bad break,” Ginny said, smacking her gum. “Got caught.”

I eyed her sideways. “Got framed. You and Grandpa oughta get that straight.”

Ginny popped her bubblegum and grinned like a card cheater.

“Bad break is right though. I got a shitty lawyer, wouldn’t defend me proper on my budget.”

“Whatever you say, Lucky Lucy.”

“Can we talk ‘bout somethin’ else?” said Madwoman Cheri. “Put on the radio.”

“Busted,” said Ginny. “Oh, sorry. Bad choice of words. It don’t work.”

I wished her gum would get stuck in her hair, or seal her damn mouth shut.

I returned my attention back outside as we passed boulders and the occasional deer. The distance swelling between us and the federal pen was luxurious and I stretched out. The sweet scent of honeysuckle gently seduced me back in time, before my bad break, to our picnic surrounded by the happy flowers. Sheer joy danced in your eyes as you smiled my way. We shared cherry Italian ices that summer, remember? You pushed me on the swing and just as I thought I’d fly off with the blackbirds, I’d swoosh back down. We had some times, huh?

One day soon, I’ll find who offed you, babe. That bastard who spilled your blood and pinned it on me. One day, babe, I’ll send that rat bastard to hell; I’ll destroy the destroyer of our future, send him to hell. I’ll swoop down on him like a bird, snatch him in my talons, and tear his skin from muscle, pull apart his bones, bury him. My reward? One day you and I will be those blackbirds navigating the winds and taking over the skies. Send me a sign, babe.

The analog clock said 2:00 AM when Ginny stopped behind a half lit gas station. Ginny had packed more shit plus hair stuff, so Cheri and I cut and dyed each other’s hair. We changed clothes again - Cheri like a biker dude and me like a punk rocker. We cleaned up as much as we could and went back on the road.

We crossed into Nevada, and a dark blue car with Oklahoma plates waited at mile-marker two. I grinned. My sister had held up her end and pulled through for me. “There’s the car. Pull over.”

Ginny slowed down. “You got gas money?”

“You know damn well we ain’t got shit on us,” I said. “I appreciate any amount you can spare.” I held out my open palm to her.

“Not for you. For me,” Ginny sneered. “No free rides, cousin. Maybe you gotta stick with me for a bit and earn it,” she said, still not stopping the car.

“That wasn’t part of the deal,” said Cheri.

“There ain’t no deal without some form of trade,” Ginny said. “Way I see it, I don’t owe either of you any favors. You owe me, seein’ how I’m an accomplice and all.”

The only thing I could think of to earn gas money was blow jobs or knocking over a convenience store. Cheri caught my eye and seemed to understand. Nothing was gonna stop us and the decision was made. The dark blue car waited, and the more distance Ginny put between us and it, the angrier I got. She thought she could bring me this close to my freedom and then pimp me instead. That bitch.

I slammed her head into the steering wheel, grabbed the shoulder portion of her seat belt and wrapped it around her neck. Cheri grabbed her arms while the car drifted into the desert sands. I held tight. I held on tighter and tighter. My arms were beyond burning before she stopped writhing. Takes a long time ‘fore a spirit is forced to separate from its earthly host.

I spat on her lifeless face. “Cheri, looks like you got yourself a set of wheels. Still got three-quarters of a tank. That’ll get you somewhere. Let’s bury her, and I’ll be on my way.” I shifted the car into park and we lurched to a stop. I unclicked Ginny’s seat belt, reached over to open her door, and shoved her dead weight out.

I never liked digging, per se, but if cousin’s body was found, that’d be a sure ticket backward. “Cheri, you keep that gin. I’m going to get my my hands on some good bourbon.” I didn’t need any reminders of that no good Ginny anyhow.

Once we made a tidy dune out of her, Madwoman Cheri took off in the jalopy. I kinda felt sorry for her that she’d have no radio the whole way to wherever she was headed. I walked back toward the blue car.

I’d reckon about five feet before I reached the car, I saw something dark and slender fluttering in the gravel alongside the road. As I bent over, my skin felt electrified and icy even though the night air hadn’t cooled by much. I wrapped my trembling fingers around a black feather. In my mind, I twirled with that Ghost of Christmas Freedom and left the ground beneath my feet. On one side of the road lay a dry ocean of desert, swathed in night darkness. On the other, the mountains rose up, covered acre upon acre with honeysuckle. A single tear escaped my eye, gratitude washing over me. You never let me down.

“This feather is a sign from you, if ever there was one. Thank you, babe.”

And I turned the ignition.

Friday, April 10, 2020

On Writing - MICROFICTION Part 1 - Prison Break

(photo credit: Jenny Hayut)
Twitter: @jennyhayut
Prison Break
By Mackenzie Littledale

I’ve had nothing but time to think about what I hadn’t done. I hadn’t been at the scene of the crime at the time of the crime and I hadn’t had the money to hire an adequate defense attorney and I never had the opportunity to clear my name, even at the parole board at which I was told repeatedly my requests, despite good behavior, were categorically denied. What made me unbearably ill in the whole matter was knowing there was a chance you believed the prosecuting attorney - that razor-tongued snake who surely was raised in a viper pit - who sealed my fate with evidence of sand in my brazier and my hair. Not a drop of blood, mind you, but grains of sand.

There was no DNA evidence to implicate me - if the prosecutor had believed me when I swore I loved you and always would, but the fool wouldn’t hear it - and why should there be evidence against me? If loving you were a federal offense, there could only be me mixed with you and nothing else.

Forgive me, I digress.

Echoes of guards snarling orders, clanging, scraping, and misery rival the screams in my head. My mind used to be a safe place, but I share a cell with a madwoman, sinister, blankly staring. She has nearly convinced me that the chains and lock aren’t strong enough to secure us both, if we’d work together, we can trick the demon of steel, distract him and make a getaway to Atlantis. Atlantis! And she’s completely serious. The ocean rolls outside, not that we can see it, but we know its presence, its freedom beyond these stained concrete walls that hold us captive, wrapped in stench and maximum terror. There is a certain rhythm to prison life, a lock tumbling. A slam. Steel scraping against concrete or iron. A billy club thumping a head sounds different from a head crashing into a cage, which differs again entirely from being thrown against cinderblocks.

It’s said that an artist can detect fifty variations of black, through grey, all the way to white. They practice value studies with every imaginable thing that can make a mark to learn the full range of its potential. A pencil can render the palest of grey to a black so intense it seems suffocating. We only know color as a ghost trail of memory here, but we do know living sound. Madwoman Cheri and I have developed keen ears, connoisseurs of sound, if you will. Guard Willis’s footfalls sound worlds apart from Guard George’s, and different again from Guard Elwood’s. They’re all bitches, but they walk differently. That’s not all. They turn the locks differently and their keys jangle differently. Willis tends to grunt, while George barks, and Elwood growls. Those twats couldn’t seduce a walrus.

There’s no countervailing force to Cheri’s ramblings. There was no one else to listen to, no voice of reason, only the echoes that I mentioned already. I started to believe her. The demon of wrongful imprisonment is surely manipulating the steel of the locks. I unraveled her madness, like a tangle of yarn that only patience could win over. Life behind bars with all the time of my life, literally speaking, births patience like a motherfucker. A cold, long drawn out patience, as crafty and cunning and unstoppable as a glacier. I’m a tectonic plate of patience, and once I move I’ll swallow those bitch twats whole and find freedom, find the blue of the sky and ocean and that pleasure house on the beach that we shared. The beach house that turned against me, yet I don’t know how.

It wasn’t until after 3:00am that silence was generous enough to grace us with sleep. Cheri and I shared a dream one night. We discussed it by happenstance over lunch. We’d seen the same escape.

The planning began in earnest, which ironically is the name of my grandfather and he never got caught, even though he’d robbed countless banks and never even got his name in the paper. Me? I do nothing and get incarcerated for life.

Cheri and I agreed not to recruit anyone from inside. The other prisoners curried favors from the bitch twat guards and couldn’t be trusted for a light of a cigarette much less an attempt at getting out. They had nearly nothing to lose. The hierarchy was established and lines that could be crossed for the right price. It’s amazing what counts as currency behind bars. The inside economy was simple, but tended to shift with the changing winds. Chocolate and cigarettes and weed were always hot commodities, but so were switchblades and Swiss army knives. Cheri and I asked for flour and the daily newspapers. We read the papers to each other, but we saved a page or two before surrendering them back to the guards.

It wouldn’t be in my best interest to disclose the details, but Cheri and I made our way outside. We’d used the flour and newspapers to make papier mache fins and once we could taste the salt of the ocean on our lips, we swam under the surface, kicking smoothly in an easy rhythm so we wouldn’t tire before crossing the bay. We rarely came up for air to reduce the risk of being seen and shot at.

My cousin’s wife’s uncle’s stepdaughter met us in her convertible jalopy at the right time with a change of clothes. I hadn’t seen cornflower blue, sky blue, midnight blue in so long. Navy and white stripes with a stitched golden anchor and a cardinal red ribbon. The happiest colors I’d ever seen. Symbols of the ocean, which reminded me of the beach, which reminded me of the beach house, the scene of our lovemaking and your final breath and my last time as a free woman. Now, it comes back to me.

Next, we hit the highway. Top down, windows down, when Cheri and I finished cheering, we fell silent, content to hear the wind whirling in our ears.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Local Goings-on - Rooftop 1 West Las Olas

You'd think I haven't eaten in a year! Facebook suggested I'd enjoy Rooftop 1WLO in Fort Lauderdale. They were correct!

This place rocks. Given my oddball work hours, I get to go on off nights, like Wednesday at 8:00pm when they offer movie night for only $10. That's one thing, but for that $10, you also get free rosé and a miniature kettle of popcorn (cheesy, salty, buttery popcorn).

The views are spectacular!
Bar at Rooftop 1WLO, Fort Lauderdale
Credit: Mackenzie Littledale

Braised ribs grilled cheese, Rooftop 1WLO
Credit: Mackenzie Littledale

Rooftop 1WLO Fort Lauderdale
Credit: Mackenzie Littledale

Rooftop 1WLO Fort Lauderdale
Credit: Mackenzie Littledale

View up Las Olas from 1 WLO Fort Lauderdale
Credit: Mackenzie Littledale

View of Nova Southeastern University & Museum Plaza from 1 WLO Fort Lauderdale
Credit: Mackenzie Littledale

Last night they played The Proposal with Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock. We didn't get to hear all of it, but we had so much fun, it didn't matter too much.

I can vouch for the buffalo chicken empanadas and braised ribs grilled cheese.

Full bar, but they don't have a blender, so no frozen cocktails 😢
Valet parking is $27, unless you get the front desk to validate your ticket, then it's only $7.

Thursday evening is Ladies' Night - ladies drink free from 4:00pm - 7:00pm.

Facebook: @rooftop1WLO

Go have some fun and take friends!

Have a magical day!

Friday, February 14, 2020

On Writing - next WIP ideas

While This Darkness is Mine is being queried in hopes of landing a contract with a literary agent, I have a couple ideas for future novels.

Before that though, finding potential readers who would have a keen interest in This Darkness is Mine will be foremost in my mind. Since the novel is semi-autobiographical, I decided to take a few cues from Michelle, the lead.

A support group isn't the worst idea in the world, so I'm planning on visiting one in Hollywood - DBSA (Depression Bipolar Support Alliance). I've been to support groups before and felt ill-at-ease, but since #EndTheStigma is important, it's time I stop looking down my nose at people who have the same struggles I do. Maybe they're not the same, but worse or less. The fact remains, we're in this together and bipolar manifests in myriad ways in different people. It's incredibly difficult to know what's real when the mind itself is malfunctioning.

To say I'm fortunate that my meds work so well is an understatement.

Having gone off on that tangent - the next ideas for novels are:

1) a doctor and her patient who get entangled in a massive corporate lobbying effort
2) a young woman who develops peripheral neuropathy after becoming a widow, and the only time she can feel anything at all is when she heals others' pain
3) an historical fiction novel based on the life of an ancestor in early 1800s San Vincent

Make someone else's day magical!


Friday, February 7, 2020


As of November, you can find me on Facebook. I've tried to find the necessary time to document my journey towards getting published, and it's an ongoing thing still.

If you've been following this blog for awhile or enjoy the writing, please visit my author page and leave a review so others know there's more to me than This Darkness is Mine.

The REVIEW button is on the left side of the screen.

Appreciate ya!

Make someone else's day magical!


Thursday, February 6, 2020

On Writing - FUCK YEAH

I'm not known for clean language, particularly, so let me start off by saying


Image result for royalty free victory
(c) Deposit Photos
The adult fiction writers who were mentored in Pitchwars 2019 made fucking HISTORY. Every single entry got at least one agent interested enough to request more. Getting an agent's attention is hard. Getting them to take action is even harder. I wrote 17 pitch drafts before my mentor and I said, "Yeah, that one."

It's an absolute honor to be included with such ferocious talent. Determined writers who won't listen to anyone telling them they're not good enough, even when they're telling themselves that.

Not good enough? Keep writing.
Not talented? Keep writing.
No one is going to read my shit? Keep writing.

Because we are good enough for the here and now. Right here, right now.
We are talented. We don't have to be the most talented, we have to go the distance.
We take the scrapes, the bruises, the critiques, the bad weather, the naysayers. We blow past the whiners, the quitters, and the ones who won't try.

Fuck it, I'm going for it.

My day is perfect.

Make someone else's day magical!

Sunday, February 2, 2020

On writing - What is the dream?

When I sat down for the first time to start my manuscript, it didn't have a title or a plot. I knew the beginning, some of the middle, but wasn't sure where to end the story.

I watched a tutorial on writers
The beginning changed.

I read.
The middle changed.

I watched more tutorials.
The ending didn't change much.

A busy period loomed at work and I feverishly got the manuscript to a ready state and sent it off to beta readers, giving them a full two months to read and make notes.
They all said the story kind of dragged around the same place. Good to know.

Then came pitchwars. I didn't know what it was, but I entered, figuring I'd get the right guidance for that slow spot. I didn't expect the second half to change much, because beta readers loved it.

I think I posted about this already, so I'll cut to the chase.

This Darkness is Mine has a soundtrack in mind. I wrote it out, chapter by chapter what music I think would be appropriate if it were ever made into a motion picture.

I wrote out a list of people who I'd like to send ARCs (Advance Reviewer Copies) in hopes they'd post reviews on B&N, amazon and goodreads.

Why stop there?

I looked up to see if it's common or out of the question for fiction to have a foreword. Forewords can be included in any genre (good to know!)

Reedsy has a blog and YouTube video for how to get endorsements, so I have a few names of celebrities and mental health advocates whose endorsements I crave.

So in it to win it!

My dream expanded even more after receiving feedback from reader and writer friends after the manuscript went through the pitchwars revisions.

"Holy fuck! This is blowing me away!"

"It's a masterful display of imagery that's sucking me in...I'm over 100 pages in and don't wanna stop."

"Mack...I'm shaking it's seriously good."

"I finished all you sent me of This Darkness Is Mine. I think I enjoyed this part even better than the first! You write so well, Mack."

"This is an important story."

"Maybe five or six books I've read in my life really stuck with me, and yours is now with them. Michelle's ambulance ride - what a hoot! Michelle's attitude at the support group. You know, you've really given people a glimpse into a mind that they'd never get."

"This is riveting. I couldn't stop reading it! A star is born, Wonderful!!!"

And, I mean wow! A full length review that I'll just tuck away and peek at whenever I need a pick me up and reason to crush writers block and self doubt.

Pitchwars showcase is literally a couple days away. Wish me luck!

Make someone else's day magical!!

Monday, January 27, 2020

On Writing - This Pitchwars thing is hard

One post to vent, cry, break stuff, wail, and generally complain.

Just kidding.

Pitchwars (for more on PitchWars, there's their website, and also a podcast on Manuscript Academy's website at Episode #64) has been a fascinating journey requiring me to toughen my hide and buckle down to get the task done. I didn't know what to expect. Really, I had no clue whatsoever. At the outset, since all my beta readers said the pace of This Darkness is Mine picked up around Chapter 15 and they couldn't put it down until the end, I figured I'd only be rewriting and editing Chapters 8-14. Not so bad.

That is not how it turned out.

The first half required the least work. A brand new Chapter 2. That was easy. A few overlays to add in some conflict between the characters, reveal motivations and stuff like that.

Those changes had ripple effects throughout the rest of the manuscript, which led me to writers block (it still happens to me, too).

The biggest hurdle and bluntest comments were about the character of Joe.

The relationship doesn't seem real.
It's too easy.
This remains difficult to believe.

OK. I wrestled here, but to be honest, I think the changes I made really deepen the bond between Michelle and Joe. My mentor hasn't weighed in yet, but we moved on to drafting pitches. I think we're going with draft #15. We moved on to searching for comps and now I'm back to that struggle. Finding adult contemporary fiction on mental illness in a minority family with a romantic subplot that deals with the effects of a cultish religion...not easy.

However, if you tell an agent there's "no book on the market like mine," they don't believe you and write you off as not knowing your genre.

On the flip side, when I think about the lack of suitable comparable titles, it leads me to toy with the idea that This Darkness is Mine is truly a seminal work. After all this turmoil, my ego needs the stroking. And it's plausible. This is not my first go round looking for comp titles and coming up with almost nothing.

What's in This Darkness is Mine?

  • an imaginary romance
  • a psychotic break on a plane
  • a friendship-turned-romance that blows up and falls apart
  • dysfunctional family dynamics
  • contrast of bipolar managed well against not managed at all
  • grief, loss, resilience, tenacity, denial, acceptance, and healing

It's a helluva story

Make someone else's day magical!

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Wall Street - Hello 2020

My Twitter posts about investing don't get much attention. Maybe it's because I'm not a hot shot Wall Streeter or hedge fund manager.

That's fair. I worked for over 5 years on Wall Street as an assistant and then executive assistant. I pay attention though. I read. I dig, research, create Excel spreadsheets, and dive into financial statements.

Before I give you a reiteration of my prognostication for water, clean energy, marijuana, and AI/robotics, I'll tell you a true story.

My dad talked about the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 for as far back as I can remember. He became a seasoned investor (by Wall Street standards), although he may not have been as savvy as he let on.

In 1999, I was living in NYC and every day the news mentioned some ordinary person who'd just made a killing investing in dot-com stocks. Taxi drivers, hairdressers, shoeshine boys retiring with millions, ok? MILLIONS.

I was happy for them, but filled with angsty wonder at how they made millions and my father lost so much. What did they know that he didn't?

I marched my fat ass down to Strand Books (8 miles of books) by South Street Seaport and parked myself in the Business & Investing section. I browsed through 3 stacks of books up to my knees for hours until I found an investing "bible": The Art & Science of Successful Investing by Todd Leigh Mayo. It's two inches thick. I picked it up, thinking I'd never read it, thumbed to a random page and was WOWED at how clear the writing was. Every word was solid gold advice that was at once useful and practical and compelling.

I bought that book and another that I've since forgotten, and I recommend Mayo's book to anyone interested in putting their hard-earned money to work for them in the safest way they can manage.

AT&T was about to spin off a tracking stock for AT&T Wireless (ticker AWE). My coworker and I wanted to make some fucking money and we talked about AWE. I didn't know jack about telecom, so I didn't want to put the money at risk.

Three investing seminars all said the same thing: If you'd invested $10,000 in the Dow Jones in 1967 and held it until 1997, you'd have $300,000 (gazillion dollars).

My only question: Where the hell do I get $10,000 to invest in the first place?

Enter the online discount brokers. One ad said investors could get started with $250.

WOO-HOO! I can do that! I opened an account and sent $10 or $20 every paycheck until my account balance had $250. I read Pour Your Heart Into It by Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks about how he came upon Starbucks as a marketing consultant, visited the baristas in Italy, and fell in love with coffee culture. He had a vision of Starbucks growing from a 2-guy shop in Seattle to a global powerhouse.

Dude. That's power and vision. The rest is legendary.

Image result for royalty free images howard schultz pour your heart into it

My coworker and I were at work after hours, and I placed my first trade. I let out a cheer. My coworker said, "What are you doing over there?"

I said, "I just placed my first trade!"

She asked, "What did you buy?"


"How much did you buy?"


"Shares?" She peered around the corner at me.

"Nope. Dollars worth. I got three shares!" I can't overstate how excited I was.

She belted out a laugh. I mean, a long, loud laugh.

"I'm not rich," I said, still incredibly proud of my start.

She got quiet and came closer. "I'm not rich either. Show me what you're doing."

Image result for royalty free images little guy investing with big guys Image result for royalty free images little guy investing with big guys

I  no longer hold SBUX (sadly), but I kept at it at my own pace with money I felt comfortable putting at risk, because the education I was gaining was shrinking my risk. Knowledge is power. The less you know, the more empowered Wall Street is to take advantage. The more you know (I mean REALLY know), the more empowered YOU are to avoid getting taken for a ride.

My prognostication:

Water. Global water scarcity is a definite real problem looming in the near future, and already a real problem in many places. There is an ETF for global water, but I'm liking ticker WTR as the second largest water supplier/utility in the States. That holding is up double digits from the time I purchased. Still long the position.

Image result for royalty free images plastic pollution

Clean Energy. Solar, wind, etc. There is an ETF for clean energy. If you don't want to learn how to read financial statements and all that dry stuff, go for the easiest route to diversification and low expense ratios with an ETF (exchange traded fund).

Marijuana. People are going to continue demanding medical and recreational weed. The government will cave in and regulate it. Example Canopy Growth. (I made over $1000 on a single trade. Sadly I sold it before Constellation Brands bought them out). One opportunity made, another lost. That's life.
Aphria (APHA) is way down. I'm not sure what their individual chances of success are, but at under $6.00 per share lately, there's some room for upside movement.

Image result for royalty free images marijuana

AI/Robotics. I seriously can't foresee my profession being replaced by AI or robots, but I've been wrong before. In the event it happens and I lose my livelihood, I expect to profit anyway.

Image result for royalty free images leaning back with a cigar

The extra: Waste management and recyclers. The plastic crisis is for real. We can't give up plastic until we give up petroleum, which isn't going to happen overnight. The best we can do in transition to clean energy and natural packaging products is to find better ways to dispose of plastics or recycle them.

I'm not qualified to sell investment advice, so you'll have to do some research on your own. Get your eyeballs on The Art & Science of Successful Investing as a primer. It's got all the basics down in plain English.

That's all.

Make 2020 a magical year!