Archive | December, 2011

Random Heartbeats of 2011

31 Dec

A few snapshots of random heartbeats that blessed my life this year. Wishing you all a New Year full of little moments that bring you peace and happiness.



In the Spotlight ~ Lora Incardona

22 Dec

Lora Incardona is a retired teacher who has never lost the love of learning nor the energy of school children of all ages. As a way to get others to find pleasure in learning, she compiled her favorite and most effective studying activities into a small book. Now that Lora is no longer in a school classroom, she has transformed her couch into a comfy place to learn, where she is studying how the brain works and why, and enjoys the Internet as her new textbook.

Requests for her book, The Study Coach’s Easy Study Manual, can be made by writing to



The Night Shift

17 Dec

This month’s long prompt on Story Dam was to describe the people who make up the world in which our character lives.

Olivia has a lot of peeps in her world. The following short introduces you to the ones she hangs out with at work.

* * * * *

Olivia Hanson clocked into work at 2:05 p.m. and her boss, Sam Dubaugh, called her into his office at 2:05 and 14 seconds. Olivia loathed Sam, as did everyone else who worked at Garretson Enterprises, except for Stephie Klinger who was screwing him in a desperate attempt to be promoted to the front offices.

Yeah, like that would ever happen.

Olivia!” Sam barked out again when it took Olivia too long to snap to his command.

“Alright, alright,” Olivia muttered under her breath as she slid her timecard back into its slot and crossed the narrow hallway to Sam’s office.

Sam glared at her over his cluttered, metal utility desk as she slumped onto the chair across from him and waited for her daily butt-chewing to begin.

“You’re late.” Sam leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his barrel chest.

Sam was always trying to look intimidating, but Olivia didn’t know why he thought he needed to. He was a huge son of a bitch, made of rock instead of flesh. He intimidated everyone just by breathing. Everyone, except Olivia.

“Sorry. It won’t happen again,” she promised, not sounding the least bit sorry as she sucked on her fountain Dr. Pepper. They both knew damn well she would more than likely be late again before the week was up, but this routine of theirs was scripted and that was her line. She was obligated to say it. “Can I go now?”

“That’s your fifth tardy this month.”

“Sixth actually, but we’ll stick with five because it wasn’t my fault this time. Honest.”

“Uh-huh,” Sam grunted. He never believed her.

“Seriously! I got into an accident at the Get ‘n Go.”

“You back into the pumps again?”

“No,” Olivia grumbled. “A Dodge pickup.”

Sam’s frown deepened as he continued to stare her down. She stared back. Neither of them said a word as the second hand of the wall clock swept two full rotations around the number plate. Without breaking eye-contact, Olivia brought her lips back to the straw sticking out of the gigantic Styrofoam cup, and sucked.

“Don’t let it happen again,” Sam finally said, dismissing her with a wave.

He was a pushover.

Olivia took her time putting away her purse and slipping on her smock, and by the time she perched on her little stool it was 2:17 p.m. and Louise tsked in disapproval.

“Sorry.” Olivia did her best to look apologetic, but as soon as Louise turned her back, Olivia stuck out her tongue.

Louise hated Olivia with a passion, and the feeling was more than mutual. The woman was older than dirt and truly believed her shit don’t stink. Olivia had no clue if Louise’s shit did or didn’t stink, and she hoped she never found out.

Carla Rain bit back a laugh as Olivia nanny-nanny-boo-boo’ed the back of Louise’s head. Carla was a five-foot-tall, ninety-five pound, fifty-five-year-old alcoholic with a dirty mouth and no kids. She said if God wanted her to have children He would have handed them over to her fully potty-trained and old enough to drive her to the liquor store. She tried marriage once and didn’t like it, but was too cheap to get a divorce. The last time she saw her husband was in 1994. As far as she knows he’s still alive. No one’s ever told her otherwise.

“Spring washers today?” Olivia groaned. She hated the little parts, especially when she had a hangover. She’d be cross-eyed and half-blind before ten.

“Just for another few hours,” Carla assured her. “And then it’s battery contacts.”

“Awesome,” Olivia said, heavy on the sarcasm.

Garretson was top of the line in all of its manufacturing practices, except one—quality control. Armed with nothing more than a pair of calipers and a thick book of CAD drawings, Olivia and the other girls made up the entirety of the Quality Control Department. They sampled less than one-half of one-percent of the product going out the door. Most days Olivia just tried to look busy. Her job was pointless.

“Looks like someone had a good time on her date last night,” Izzie said with a smug smile. Of course she was smug. She was the one who had set Olivia up.

Newly-married and annoying about it, Isabel “Izzie” Bergman was Olivia’s best friend and the person responsible for Olivia being condemned to a life of misery at Garretson in the first place. On the morning Izzie went to apply at Garretson, she had sat in her car in Olivia’s driveway, dressed in her Sunday best and laying on the horn, begging Olivia to come with her. Since Olivia was already up and somewhat dressed, and had nothing better to do that day anyway, she had tagged along.

When the HR manager told Izzie what the starting pay at Garretson was, Olivia quickly calculated it as her way out of South Juliette and across the tracks to the greener pastures of Northside in no time at all. Without thinking it through, or even bothering to ask what the job entailed, Olivia quit her minimum-wage, cashier gig at Dickie’s Drugs via text message and signed her life away alongside Izzie.

Olivia worked one day and hated every second of it. The room was sweltering hot, dirty and loud. The metal dust floating in the air coated her teeth with grit. Worst of all, the smock they issued her smelled like Corn-Nuts. Everything about it sucked—big time. At exactly midnight, she ripped off the stinky smock and peeled out of the parking lot, swearing at the top of her lungs that she was never going back there again. Ever!

But she did.

She went back the next day, and the day after that. She never stopped going back. On her and Izzie’s five-year anniversary, Olivia swore with a wave of her fork around a mouthful of rum cake that, seriously, she was never coming back. Yet, there she was.

“Good drinks, shitty time,” Olivia corrected Izzie.

“What was wrong with Ryan? He’s a nice guy with blonde hair, blue eyes and he’s a Northsider—everything you’ve ever dreamed of. Quit being so picky.”

“Have you ever actually talked to the guy?” Olivia asked. “He could put Ambien out of business.”

“I’ve never met him. He and John golf together.”

Olivia laughed at the mental image. “Since when does John golf?”

Izzie’s husband, John, was a trash man for the city of Juliette. Every inch of his body was covered in tattoos and his goatee hung down to the middle of his chest. He was a scary-looking dude, but somehow he came across as cute and cuddly at the same time. It was weird.

“Three weeks ago maybe?” Izzie said as she thought about it, causing her perfectly-plucked brow to furrow and her pretty, little nose to wrinkle.

Izzie was so pretty and perfect it made Olivia gag. Mainly on her own raging jealously.

“Why were you late today?” Stephie asked. Since Stephie was screwing the boss, she thought that made her the boss, which pissed Louise off, because Louise thought Louise was the boss. It was laughable, especially when they tried to boss each other around.

“None of your business,” Olivia answered.

“Sleeping off your hangover?” Carla guessed.

“No, I backed into some guy at the Get ‘n Go.”

“Was he cute?” Izzie asked.

“I have no idea.” She hadn’t looked at him. “Knowing my luck he was probably hot as hell, and I just smashed up his truck.”

“He was probably your Carl, Jr.,” Melanie Neilson chimed in. She sighed with a dreamy, little smile as her hands fluttered up to her heart. Her eyes teared up and her chin began to quiver. Her hands fanned her face as she tried to fight it, but she lost the battle and ran for the restroom. No one followed her. That was just Mel. She cried all the time.

Melanie was only twenty-five, the same age as Olivia, but already married and divorced with four kids. Her ex, the aforementioned Carl, Jr., was supposedly a good man who just couldn’t kick a meth addiction. Melanie was certain he would find the Lord and get clean.

Their love for each other bordered on obsession. She only divorced him to get better government assistance after their fourth child was born. If she had waited a few more months to file, she would have received the assistance anyway. Carl, Jr. was arrested just outside of Omaha for driving the wrong way on I-80, nearly killing a family of four from Maryland. He was sentenced to five-to-ten in the State Pen for possession with intent to sell, and Mel was lost without him.

Izzie took a deep breath, and Olivia rushed to pop her ear buds into her ears and hit shuffle on her iPod before Izzie could exhale. Whenever Izzie took a deep breath she was about to delve into a long and winding, painfully-tedious story about John and how fabulously wonderful he was.

Usually it was one Izzie had already told Olivia the night before between shots at Kitty’s Place, the bar they currently favored because George Gregory Valish was the bartender. He was hot and made their drinks strong. Olivia would give her first-born to the devil for one night in heaven with George, and she had told him as much late one night after way too many whiskey sours. He had yet to take her up on the offer.

The night limped along and Olivia ran out of Dr. Pepper by the third hour. She took two extra smoke breaks to make up for it. Izzie and John were trying to make a baby, so Izzie rushed home at exactly midnight, leaving Olivia on her own as she walked into Kitty’s with just enough time to suck down three beers before last call. She threw a quarter into the jukebox, eliciting a collective groan from the room as the first bars of John Cougar Mellencamp’s “Jack and Diane” played.

“You need to pick a new favorite song, Liv!” George called out as he slid a bottle down the bar to her usual stool.

“Aw, you all love it and you know it,” Olivia dismissed with a smile. She always smiled whenever she looked at George. It was an involuntary, knee-jerk reaction to how incredibly hot he was. Dark hair, tan skin, the face and body of a Roman god. Sexual perfection.

As Olivia perched on her stool and chugged her beer, George leaned in close and asked, “Who’s the guy you were with last night?”



“Some guy, Ryan, that Izzie hooked me up with,” Olivia said with a roll of her eyes. “She thinks he’s perfect for me.”

“Izzie’s wrong.”


George just smiled and moved back down the bar without another word.

“When are you gonna to grow a pair and ask me out?” she hollered after him.

“Someday, Liv,” he promised with a wink. “Someday.”


Dear Santa,

16 Dec

This week on Story Dam we had our choice of prompts. One was a really cool version of Mad Libs called Dam Libs, the other was to write a letter for Santa. My boys and I had a blast playing the Dam Libs, but after staring at that crazy paragraph for four days, the only thing I came up with was the realization that if I didn’t want to miss the deadline, I’d better stick with the letter to Santa!

The following letter is from Olivia Hanson, a character in one of my dusty little WIP’s. She’s all grown up in the story, but I always wondered what she had been like as a child. I looked through some old boxes in her trailer, and this is what I found.


Fashionably Late

9 Dec

We’re headed to the (office) Holiday Party this week on Story Dam!!

Unfortunately, Dan and Stacy had a hard time getting there.


Fashionably Late

Stacy flew out of the bathroom on a steamy cloud, and ran straight for the closet. As she whipped one hanger after another across the rod in a flurried panic, her eyes flicked over to the clock on the nightstand, and then to Dan, who had just finished tying his shoes.

“I thought I told you to get dressed?” she snapped as she ripped something black off a hanger.

Dan looked down at his fully-clothed body in confusion. “I’m dressed.”

“I meant get dressed for the Christmas party, kochanie,” she said with an irritated sigh as she hurried over to the dresser.

Dan looked at his clothes again, even more confused. “I am dressed for the party, Stace.”

“You’re not wearing that.”

“Why not?” he asked as he checked himself out in the mirror. He puffed out his chest and smoothed his hands down the stupid, button-up shirt he’d put on just for her. Hell, he’d even tucked it into his khakis. “I look damn good.”

“You don’t match.” Stacy rifled through the dresser drawer and pulled out a handful of satin and lace.

“How can I not match? I’m wearing brown. Brown matches everything.”

“You’re wearing head-to-toe brown, Dan. You look like a six-foot tall turd.”

“The UPS man wears head-to-toe brown, and you think he’s hot.”

“You start delivering me expensive things wrapped in brown-paper packages, and I’ll think you’re hot poop, too,” Stacy said with a wink as she headed for the bathroom. “Until then, change your clothes.”

He grabbed her arm as she passed by, pulling her in close. His hand slipped into her robe, caressing her silky, perfumed skin as he rumbled in a seductive voice, “Oh, I got a package I could deliver to you.”

She rolled her eyes as she batted his hand away. “Just put on the shirt I bought you.”

“But it itches,” he complained as he let her go.

She ignored his whining. “Go start the truck and load up the cookie platters. I’ll be ready to go five minutes.”

“Five minutes, huh?” Dan gave her a skeptical once-over. She was dressed in a ratty robe with her hair wrapped in a towel, her face scrubbed clean and make-up free. “Maybe I better wait on starting the truck. I’ve only got a half a tank of gas.”

“Five minutes.” She slammed the door in his face. Before he could take a full step toward the hall, she hollered through the cherry wood, “And change your shirt!”

“Damn woman,” Dan grumbled, but he did as he was told, and then headed downstairs to do the rest of her bidding.

When he was done, he grabbed a beer from the fridge, figuring he had time. Hell, knowing her, he could catch the last half of the game. As he turned to do just that, his eyes landed on a very different Stacy than the one he had left upstairs exactly five minutes earlier. The ratty robe was long gone, replaced by a little, black dress that stole his breath away.

“Oh, Stace…”

“Well, how do I look?” She struck a gorgeous pose in the doorway, causing his blood to ignite and the bottle to slip from his hand. “I got my Spanx on tonight.”

“Sounds kinky.”

“Unfortunately, they’re not,” she said with a killer smile as he pulled her into his arms.

“Oh, look,” Dan said, and pointed up. “Mistletoe.”

Her gullible eyes followed his finger. “There’s no mistle—”

He cut her off with a kiss that started in the kitchen and ended with them being incredibly late for the party.



In the Spotlight ~ Bailey Bristol

9 Dec

This week in “In the Spotlight,” it is my pleasure to introduce you to Bailey Bristol.

Bailey Bristol is author of both historical and contemporary suspense. Family bonds, enduring love, menacing villains and unforgettable characters are prominent in her stories set in unlikely places. Visit Bailey’s web site at Bailey Bristol is the pen name of Mary Schwaner, an accomplished coloratura soprano, graphic artist, and IT geek. Bailey tells her readers, “O! the places I will take you!”.

You can find Bailey’s newest release, “The Devil’s Dime,” in both e-book and paperback at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Snow Day!

3 Dec

It came a little later than usual, but we finally have our first snowfall of the season. Four to six inches are in the forecast, making it the perfect day to decorate the Christmas tree and bake that first batch of cookies. Yum!

Every year I try to mix it up a bit and try something new, but there are two cookies that are Sturgeon family standards at Christmastime. One is my mom’s “secret” cut-out recipe that I have been making since I was a little girl, and the other is Amish Sugar Cookies.

I originally got this recipe from my mother-in-law, but I adapted it slightly because I like a little spice to go with the sweet in my cookies. They are buttery-crisp and highly addictive in the way they seem to melt in your mouth. They are also very simple to make, making them the perfect choice for those who have little helpers in the kitchen, as I often do. Ever since my son has been old enough to stand on a chair, he has been the official Amish Cookie “Squisher” of the family.

Amish Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter

1 cup sugar

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

4-1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon (optional)

1 tsp cream of tartar

Colored Sugar

Cream butter, sugars and oil. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Combine flour, soda, salt, cinnamon and cream of tartar. Gradually add to creamed mixture. Shape into 1 inch balls. Place on cookie sheets and flatten with the bottom of a glass dipped in colored sugar. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Makes 8 dozen cookies.