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1. Screw You for Saying Life Sucks

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I’ve had a lot of people tell me lately that life is not a bowl of cherries. I’m not sure what they’re trying to accomplish by the routing of this cliché. Is this supposed to make me feel better?

I was in Florida for a week, and I never wanted to come back to Phoenix. I wanted Jake to move to the beach with the dogs and me. Burn our house down. Forget about our jobs, our belongings. Become perpetual beach bums. I could bartend; he could fix and rent out bicycles. So long as we were near the sand, the water, and the lifestyle.

While there with my brilliant Aunt Susie, we scattered Grandpa Schwind’s ashes into the sea. She reminisced; he never missed a sunset when he was down on Longboat Key. He would wander to the beach at night and say, “Thank you, God.” He planned his whole day around it.

Saying goodbye to Papa.

Saying goodbye to Papa.

Susie and I had an amazing week together. We rode beach cruisers to visit the friendly peacocks down the street. We spent all day at the beach and saw two baby sharks. We drank Kryptonite cocktails at the Daiquiri Deck, and I ate enough oysters to kill a small child. I even took a long walk on the beach in the middle of a torrential rainstorm.

I came back to Phoenix, hoping to keep the “beach mindset,” and I failed immediately. Life got in the way. First, there was the aforementioned “chicken incident.” There was an overburden of work and the stress of trying to sell our house. There was a premenstrual emotional breakdown on Saturday. Finally, yesterday morning, a close friend of mine passed away.

The bowl of cherries comment came about when I admitted to someone I didn’t really want to live in Phoenix anymore. I want to move back east. I want to be near the ocean again, and the longing to do so is a resounding ache in my chest.

Then, David died yesterday, and a friend told me death was just part of life and that life isn’t easy and mortality is a bitch and blah blah blah—I don’t know if this kind of talk helps other people, but it only makes me angry.

beach picPeople telling me life is hard does not help. People giving advice only makes things worse. I need to channel the girl I was on the beach last week, walking in the rain with the tide on my toes. She was so blissfully happy, filled with joy. She was free.

My Grandpa Schwind would have wanted me to be that girl always, every day. David (who reminded me so much of Papa) would have wanted the same. In the past six months, I’ve said goodbye to both of them—such joyful, peaceful, kind men, who would never, ever say, “Life is not a bowl of cherries.”

I need to find the girl I was on the beach, but I need to remember these two important men I’ve lost, as well. We scattered Papa on the beach because now, he can watch the sunset every night. Every night, he can say “Thank you, God.” I am utterly lost, but I can’t buy into this bullshit about life not being fair, life being hard. The negativity will drown me.

I won’t listen. I won’t hear. I’m done being told to keep a stiff upper lip, to be strong. Another friend recently said I needed “joy and ease.” She wanted me to say it like a mantra: “joy and ease.” Okay, I can get behind that. Life might be hard, but it’s also a lot of fun. Screw anyone who says otherwise.


4 Comments on Screw You for Saying Life Sucks, last added: 4/16/2014
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2. The Chicken Incident (I Don’t Like Blood)

I am not amused.

“I am not amused.”

You know that scene in Clerks where everything goes to hell and the guy shouts, “I’m not even supposed to be here today!” That was me yesterday.

I flew home from a wonderful vacation in Florida Tuesday night knowing full well that my husband would be slaughtering chickens all day Wednesday. Jake has been raising Cornish Cross chickens for months now, and it’s a cool endeavor. They’re pasture raised, healthy chickens, fresh from farm to table. (You can buy one here.)

I’m proud of his project, but I told him, several times, I wanted nothing to do with kill day. I told him, “If I see any blood, we’re going vegetarian and you won’t eat meat for the rest of your life and you’ll be miserable.” I’m threatening when I’m terrified.

My mistake was taking him lunch. I went to Papa John’s. Jake’s pizza was ready, but when the guy pulled it out, he realized he’d forgotten the cheese. This should have been an omen, because what kind of idiot forgets the cheese? Well, what kind of idiot brings her husband lunch when she knows he’s murdering poultry?

I arrived, and Jake asked me to help out—just for a second. He needed my help bagging and labeling seven or eight cleaned carcasses. Clean? Sure, okay. He led me through his processing line like a horse with blinders: “Don’t look over there. There’s blood in the buckets. … And that trashcan is filled with heads. Don’t look in there. … Actually, just stand at this table and stare at the dirt.”

I could hear the living chickens nearby. They clucked and made strange sounds reminiscent of “No, no, no.” I focused on my task at hand. Cleaned chickens were placed in front of me, and I put them in plastic bags. Behind me, I heard Jake’s helpers taking chickens to the kill cones where I knew they would soon have their throats slit.

(“No, no, no!”)

I focused on my bagging, because I’m a good wife. I’m a good wife.

(“No, no, no!!!!!”)

Then, I hear this weird sound behind me, and Brandon (Jake’s pal) cusses. I’m worried Brandon has just cut his finger off. Nay. A chicken has escaped the cone but its neck has already been slit, and it’s flapping and bleeding all over the mother-trucking place.

I drop the damn cleaned chicken I’m bagging and start screaming, followed by unintelligible mutterings and sobs. Jake has to comfort me. He keeps saying, “That’s never happened before.”

The Mexican helpers are looking at me like I’m a crazy white girl. Well, I am a crazy white girl! I didn’t grow up on a farm! I don’t know how to “eviscerate” anything (except maybe a bottle of vodka). I was upset upset UPSET!!!

I left. I went to the grocery store and bought rice, beans, and green vegetables—nothing with meat and nothing red. I was utterly wrathful with my husband for even putting me in the position to see a flapping, screaming, bleeding chicken.

(“No, no, noooooo!!!!”)

Okay, so today, I’m laughing. I told this story to my father earlier, and he was so hysterical with sick amusement, he couldn’t talk. When he could finally breathe again, he said I had to document the chicken incident. So documented.

I keep looking at our egg-laying chickens in the backyard. They’re assholes who peck my toes, but I hope they know how lucky they are, little bastards. Daddy is a chicken killer, but he has spared their scrawny necks.


2 Comments on The Chicken Incident (I Don’t Like Blood), last added: 4/13/2014
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3. Why My Husband is Hot

Jake Bauer1
My husband is cut like Brad Pitt in Fight Club. He has honey brown eyes that melt women into puddles of lusty angst. He has a single dimple when he smiles, and he smiles a lot. He has an ass that Michelangelo would have sculpted into a fifty-foot statue. He has a voice that makes Jell-O quake. And those are his lesser attributes.

Jake married a girl with depression. He married a difficult wife, and yet, he makes adorable growling noises and kisses my neck until I laugh. He holds me when I cry. He tells me—no, he makes me believe—everything will be all right, because he will never leave me, never stop supporting me.

He volunteers at an organic farm, and I love when he comes home all sweaty and covered in dirt. He always kisses me and says he needs to shower, but I don’t let him because I want to hold him. He makes me proud to be his wife.

Jake is so funny, he could make Louis CK laugh and blush. It doesn’t matter if he’s having a bad day; he will drop everything to make someone else feel better. He does it with a smile—a joyous smile that’s wrought with happy wrinkles, from his mouth to his eyes.

He dances like a white Usher. We joke that it’s because his brother is gay, and his bro can dance, too. Jake dances with no ego. He doesn’t care if people think it’s funny that a straight guy just loves to dance. He also doesn’t care that people thinks he’s a nerd for loving bad eighties elevator music.

My husband lives with no inhibitions, no fear. He is the bravest, most honest person I know. He is immediately embarrassed if he gossips. He sees the best in people, and he has taught me to try to do the same. He has taught me so much: how to be comfortable with myself and how to believe I am beautiful.

My friends have a nickname for Jake: Mr. Hottie McHotterson, and it’s not just because he fills out a pair of jeans. It’s not just because he rolls up the sleeves on his button-down shirts to show off his ripped forearms. My friends think he’s hot because he makes them feel better when he’s around. He does that to everyone.

My husband should be on posters. He should be on billboards with his six-pack abs hanging out. But he should also be on posters that say “This is a real man. This is what every man should strive to be.” He is perfect within his imperfections—his sweet snoring, his messy cooking style, and his bed head, half-mohawk blond hair.

He is what I spent my life looking for, and that makes him hot. Hotter than the desert in July. Hotter than the love anyone deserves.

Jake Bauer 2


3 Comments on Why My Husband is Hot, last added: 4/1/2014
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4. An H and Five Ws with Painter/Photographer Chambers Austelle

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Chambers Austelle (great name) is a Charleston, South Carolina, native and artist. I own four of her pieces. One—a black and white photograph of a forest that I understand she took while almost falling from a car—was a wedding gift. I have a spooky Halloween painting of a haunted house and two glorious portraits of my dogs.

Sure, I’m an obsessive fangirl, but she’s also my sister-in-law. My brother is a musician, and I find it miraculous that two artists can cohabitate and still love each other without MURDER. (Because seriously, I’m sure Jake wants to just murder me sometimes.)

Chambers is prolific and inspiring. She presses on, despite the difficulties of being an artist (i.e. rejection and emotional meltdowns). It’s time for you to meet her.

An H and Five Ws with Painter/Photographer Chambers Austelle

How did art become your passion? 

I think people love to hear about epiphanies. They want to know that “Ah-HA!” moment. Well, I never had one. The closest I think I’ve ever come to that is when I’ve tried other things and have inevitably realized, ah-ha, I should really just be making art. I think my mother may have realized it was going to be my passion, or already was, when I was seven. I think that was around the time she gave up on my room’s walls or carpet ever staying clean. I’ve always wanted to explore and create new things, using everything as a canvas or platform. I never took it too seriously until I changed my major to Studio Arts and realized that being an artist was a real possibility.

Who is your biggest artistic influence?

Wow. That’s a tough question. Sally Mann hands down set the path for my artistic style in photography. When I was in college, Rothko and Francis Bacon were definitely my favorite contemporary painters. For me, their work was the strongest and most mesmerizing. I know, I know, could their imagery be more different? But for me they’re both extremely meditative in their own way. I am influenced by so many different artists, though. I love images and am constantly looking at different works of art. Currently, I’d have to say the biggest influence award goes to Egon Schiele and Matisse for their use of line and flatness of color.

As an artist, what are you most afraid of?

Failing. My husband is an artist as well, and we talk and joke about how hard the struggle is. If something we’re working on isn’t coming along the way we imagined it, it hits somewhere deep. Being an artist isn’t a job; it’s who you are. So if you fail at a task, you feel you’ve failed as a person. We joke how people who have office jobs (not that office jobs can’t be stressful) probably never go home and cry about how they could’ve stapled those papers better, stacked them in a more aesthetically pleasing way, or made that sticky note a little more compelling. Oh yeah, then there’s that real fear of will we have food and can we pay that bill?

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Where have you done your best work?

I have a beautiful studio. It’s the biggest room in the house. It’s filled top to bottom with canvases, weird tools, cameras, and little treasures I might or might not use one day. And everyday I drag what I need out to the kitchen table and set up shop. I love our home, and I guess I feel most comfortable in the most lived in room.

When have you felt most frustrated as an artist? Have you ever wanted to just give it all up and become an accountant?

I get FRUSTRATED with the can opener; I get disappointed with art. When I’m starting a new piece, I am excited. I can see the image in my head and can’t wait for it to be real. I work in layers, and although I have an idea of what the final image should look like, I like to leave room for interpretation and to follow the work itself. It’s extremely rare that the final piece will look like what I had first imagined. This being said, that middle ground also leaves room open for disappointment. I finished “Ann” a couple weeks ago. I was so upset halfway through. I thought I had failed. I left it alone until the next day, in which I worked straight through to the finished product. It’s always a give and take, but it’s always, always worth it.

WHY are you an artist?

I’m an artist because I can’t imagine being anything else. The first art class I took in college was Drawing 1, the prerequisite for all other studio classes. I remember the professor asked how many of us were Studio Art majors. After a whopping two of us had raised our hands, he told us that being an artist was a lifestyle choice, not a job. “Make sure this is what you want,” he said. It’s a conscious decision you’ll have to make everyday. It’s hard to answer this question without giving a cliché answer, but I make art because I love to. Yes it’s hard and scary sometimes. I always have to work to get better. It’s incredibly rewarding, though. It’s my job to create new beauty, whether it’s a contemporary portrait or just a burst of color and pattern.

Learn more about Chambers Austelle at her two websites:

http://www.chambersaustelle.bigcartel.com

http://www.chambersaustelle.wordpress.com

I chose my favorite pieces of her work for this blog post, but there are so many more you need to see.

l9


6 Comments on An H and Five Ws with Painter/Photographer Chambers Austelle, last added: 3/31/2014
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5. Love for Kings of Leon

Jake and I saw Kings of Leon last night. I love them. I listen to them when I’m sad, angry, happy, when I want to dance. I listen to them always. Instead of doing a full concert review, I offer you my favorite of their kick-ass rock songs. And they played all of these last night at the Ak-Chin Pavilion.

1. Charmer
They opened with this ditty, hiding behind a curtain that made them look like ten-foot-tall ghosts. A creepy girl shouted from a huge TV screen. Warning: one of their wilder songs that showcases “the scream.”

 

2. Closer
An extremely sexy song I think is about vampires.

 

3. Molly’s Chambers
From their first album, back when I first fell in love with my boys. (Look at their hippie hair!!) Now, this is a dance song. This is a sexy woman power dance song.

 

4. Pryo
A melancholy tune that Jake occasionally does for karaoke. They rocked it last night, surrounded by images of flying flame.

 

5. Arizona
Well, it’s called Arizona. How cool is that? I like driving through the desert at night to this song, especially when the stars are out.

 

6. Back Down South
I want to move back east when I hear this song. I want to move back to Charleston and have an oyster roast.

 

7. Wait for Me
From the newest album, this one always strikes a chord. I scream the words … and try not to tear up. An affirming song about love and patience.

 

8. Cold Desert
Save the best for last. When they played this last night, a wave of fake snow fell on the crowd. Talk about theatrics. I might have sobbed a little. I get emotional around music I love, okay?


1 Comments on Love for Kings of Leon, last added: 3/21/2014
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6. Don’t Slack on Setting

I picked up a book recently because it’s set in New Orleans. The plot sounded okay, but really, New Orleans. As someone who used to live in the American Lowcountry, I miss the South. As an Anne Rice fan, I feel I’ve visited New Orleans many times, even though I haven’t.

I was excited to start this book, escape the desert for a while, and be lulled into a sensuous stupor by the sights, sounds, and smells of what many consider the most beautiful city in the world.

To say I’ve been disappointed is an understatement. Here’s what I’ve gotten so far: “There was something about New Orleans—something about the air itself—a certain sultriness found nowhere else, that silky touch of humidity on skin like fingertips dragged slowly over your flesh.”

Great! And that was the first line. Since that first line, nothing, nadda. The author could be writing about Wall, South Dakota, and I wouldn’t know. Where is my French Quarter? Where is the overwhelming, sweet scent of magnolia? Where are the horse-drawn buggies for tourists?

ef5f114d06dfe0799832eb2df94d3424I’ll tell you where: in New Orleans. But not in this author’s book.

As a writer, setting is important. In my novels (even in my short stories), the city becomes a character. When I wrote Life without Harry, my readers rejoiced over places they recognized and couldn’t wait to visit places they did not. Same goes for Something about a Ghost, set in Phoenix. You know damn well you’re in Phoenix. You feel the dry heat and smell the spring-blooming orange blossoms. You see the purple-red sunsets, because Phoenix has a persona. Setting should have a persona.

As I mentioned, I was once lucky enough to live in the American Lowcountry. I lived in Charleston, South Carolina (aka “Heaven on Earth”), and the novel I’m writing at present takes place there. An excerpt:

“The air felt crisp, clean, light, and although most of the flowers were long dead, the air still smelled like some sweet bloomer over the usual scent of saltwater and wet sand. He clunked down the metal stairs that led to the ground floor and paused as his boat shoes met grass.

“He walked through the yard and its overabundance of dormant gardenia plants, their waxy leaves still green and lush despite the chill. The Crepe Myrtles at the end of his sidewalk were almost bare, beyond a few dark orange leaves that clung. He pulled a leaf free and held it between his fingers as he took a left and walked down Church Street toward Battery Park.

fbe2a39fb38fcb522ed53d63611ecbd2-3“He passed the houses where rich people lived, passed their well-kept gardens, their BMWs. He passed over brick roads, beneath the sprawling, wicked arms of Angel Oaks. He paused at Stoll’s Alley, a tiny walkway of brick, overwrought with climbing ivy—one of his usual short cuts—and kept moving until he entered Battery Park, the very tip of the Charleston peninsula.

“He stayed on the edge of the Battery. He stood on the walkway overlooking the harbor with his elbows leaned against the cold metal rail. The sky was cloudy, so the water looked dark green, tumultuous as though a storm would soon arrive. In the distance, he could see Fort Sumter and an American flag that flapped in the wind. There was a wind, a slight one that brushed softly over his face and brought with it the smell of dead fish.”

Do you smell the smells? See the sights? Feel the air? I hope so. I worked hard to take you to Charleston, even if you’ve never been there. This is setting, and for some reason, we’ve forgotten it. We’ve gotten so caught up in plot, character, conflict—but what is a story without a world, a sense of place?

This is a reminder to writers and readers alike: don’t let books get away with weak settings. Don’t be lulled by pretty people. People are but a thin pie slice of what is really happening in a story. Don’t disappoint me. I’ll find you and write about you on my blog.


10 Comments on Don’t Slack on Setting, last added: 3/18/2014
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7. You Are a Broken Toy

Doll 2
Depression makes you feel like a broken toy. You once had use, but now, you’re forgotten, sprawled in the dust beneath a child’s bed. You can’t remember what it’s like to not be broken. You can’t imagine anyone fixing you.

So you lie there, tired, broken, and no one can reach you—not even mom’s feather duster.

Depression destroys you. It makes you forget how to work or how to eat. It makes you want to sleep but not cry. You are beyond crying. You feel nothing but a crushing pain in your chest. You feel nothing but aching muscles and the strange beat of your heart that seems louder in the silence.

It’s very quiet under the child’s bed. In the dust.

It’s not scary under here, not like the movies would have you think. There aren’t monsters under this bed—just you, the broken toy. You are in pieces. You can’t hurt anyone.

Depression is the bad thing you’re waiting for that never happens.

Depression is loss, but lost what?

Depression is the hope that this day will soon be over, because maybe you will wake up not so broken tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow will be better.

Maybe tomorrow, the child will find you under his bed. He will dust you off and sew you back together. He will play with you again and remind you what you’re here for.

You will remember how to work and eat and maybe even smile. Tomorrow.

For now, you lie in the dust and watch feet pass the foot of the child’s bed. You wonder: how do they do it? How do they go about their days? How do they keep their pieces together? When you are so broken.

You’re not even old! Barely played out! How did you end up in this dingy, under-bed place? How did you get here? But you don’t remember. One day, you were fine; the next, you weren’t.

Depression is the dark thing in your dreams, half remembered by morning.

Depression is the thief that takes and makes you forget how to give back.

Maybe you should rest now, sleep for a while, under the bed. Stop looking at other toys. Stop wondering how they stay together. Tomorrow. Tomorrow, you’ll be fixed again.


7 Comments on You Are a Broken Toy, last added: 3/14/2014
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8. We’re Going to the Gay Bar

Last week, we celebrated the veto of a ridiculous discrimination bill (SB 1062), which means (yay) I don’t have to leave the state. On a personal note, I received word that my first published work of 2014 will be my short story “Don’t Ball the Boss”—an audacious gay romance about a celeb and his PA.

1899875_10152200791602159_367601999_nFinally, though (and come on, most importantly), last Thursday was Dallas Arizona’s birthday. I met Dallas a couple years ago. He’s probably the most famous gay guy in Phoenix and not only because he’s hot but because he’s sweet and he can dance. He dances often, all over the city, but my favorite venue for a good old Dallas time is at Ice Pics Video Bar on McDowell.

The place looks scary from the outside because there are no windows, and the front door is sort of hard to find. Whenever I’ve gone there, I’m one of the only chicks; seriously, you can hear crickets singing when I walk in the front door.

Ice Pics is dark on purpose. Inside, there are TV screens everywhere, playing clips of old musicals and current music videos. There’s a dance floor and stage. They have indecently cheap drinks. And despite the fact that my girlfriends and I are usually the only chicks, we feel welcome.

The thing I’ve realized about Ice Pics: you have to come prepared. The friendliness of its clientele can be truly overwhelming. Case in point: Thursday, Dallas’s birthday. As soon as I saw Dallas (who was wearing nothing but fluorescent yellow underwear stuffed with dollar bills, of course), I was wrapped in a huge hug and my picture was taken. I was introduced around, hugged some more.

I'm in there somewhere ...

I’m in there somewhere …

I soon had gay boys circling me like friendly, smiling sharks. They wanted to talk about my outfit, my hair, my body, my lipstick. If you don’t take a complement well, do not go to Ice Pics. You will shrivel and pass out under the adoring scrutiny of the men inside.

When I go to Ice Pics, I feel like I’m on vacation—and, it seems, so does everyone else. There is long, loud laughter and sudden, unexpected stage performances by Dallas and his crew. One second, you’re outside talking to a strange, tall boy in multi-colored skivvies. The next, you’re inside, and Dallas is in a wig and glitter, dancing to the Bee Gees. Next, you’re on stage, too! You just never know.

Last week, we in Arizona celebrated the epic failure of a disgusting piece of legislature, but we also celebrated Dallas. I’m happy to know him, and I’m happy to live in a place with a pretty rocking gay scene.


3 Comments on We’re Going to the Gay Bar, last added: 3/4/2014
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9. New BBC Sherlock Fan Fiction: “This is Not a Safe House, Part III”

The producers of BBC’s Sherlock did something really mean this week. They released a shot from a cut scene in the final episode of season three, “His Last Vow,” in which Irene Adler leaves Sherlock a single red rose in the hospital.

I’ve been writing a series about these two for over a year now, because I love them together. After the completion of “This is Not a Safe House, Part II,” I received several emails requesting a part III. But I had nothing else to say … until the aforementioned photo was released. Now, I have plenty to say.

Just for you, the beginning of “This is Not a Safe House, Part III.” For the story in its entirety, follow the link provided at the end. It’s Christmas!

This is Not a Safe House, Part III
by Sara Dobie Bauer

Sherlock Holmes in a hospital bed looked unreal, so in the darkness of night, she reached out her fingers and touched the skin around his white bandage. He was real. And warm. He was alive, breathing, asleep, and probably high on morphine. Comforted by the quiet sound of beeping machines that monitored his heart rate, Irene Adler was finally able to set the small vase and red rose on the table at the foot of his bed.

e927b4a9edd265687de481d554971a22-2Should she wake him? If she did, she knew she would have to answer for herself—her absence. Perhaps if she woke him, he would think it but a dream and forget her by morning. But no, the rose would give her away. He would know it was from her, so maybe she should leave, just turn around and go, before those piercing blue eyes could stab her in the heart.

One more touch; she’d never been good at denying herself anything. She hoped the drugs were strong in his system as she leaned over and kissed his forehead.

His voice rumbled beneath her: “I was wondering if you were going to cut and run.”

She lingered with her mouth against his skin and then pulled back slowly. “So was I.” Irene looked down at the man she loved and hadn’t seen in over two years. He had aged some, filled out. Not so skinny anymore, and his features, more rugged. She knew she had changed, too.

“You didn’t answer me.” He sounded furious.

She stepped to the bottom of his hospital bed and smiled. “Did you ask a question?”

“When I came back to London, I sent for you. You didn’t answer.”

“No.”

He tried to sit up, but his face melted into pained wrinkles.

She ran to him, her weakness showing. She put her hands on his chest and pushed him back against the bed. “Don’t,” she said.

She watched him take a few deep breaths, his eyes closed.

“You look different,” she whispered.

“I look different? You were blond last I saw you.”

She nodded, remembering their time in California. He’d talked as if they had a future then. He’d talked about her coming to hide at Baker Street when he came back to life in London—talked as if they might end up happy. Together.

He looked up at her, and she withered under his gaze. “Why didn’t you come back?”

“Who shot you?”

He chuckled, bit at his bottom lip. “Planning a vendetta?”

“Mr. Holmes—”

“Don’t call me that.”

Irene tried to hide behind her long hair, loose around her shoulders. Quietly, she asked again, “Who shot you?”

(Read the full story HERE.)


0 Comments on New BBC Sherlock Fan Fiction: “This is Not a Safe House, Part III” as of 2/23/2014 11:17:00 AM
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10. Time with Troubled Teens at Mingus Mountain Academy

Ask a person with social anxiety to speak in front of one hundred teens about social anxiety, and the irony is all too apparent. Still, when Gina’s Team asked, I said “yes,” and immediately asked myself WHY? What was I thinking? I’m terrified of speaking in public, but I resigned myself to my fate.

Gina’s Team is an organization founded by my friend, Sue Ellen Allen. Gina Panetta died while serving time with Sue Ellen at Perryville Prison. She died because of ignorance—Gina, a young woman with children who loved her. Now, Gina’s Team works to promote education and self-sufficiency for incarcerated women and men in Arizona.

Mingus Mountain Academy.

Mingus Mountain Academy.

Wednesday, a group of us from Gina’s Team traveled to Prescott to visit the Mingus Mountain Academy. Mingus is a safe place for emotionally and behaviorally at-risk adolescent girls. The girls there are victims of abuse. Some are suicide attempt survivors, drug addicts, and criminals. Others have escaped sex trafficking and unsafe home environments. All in all, they are broken and in need of healing.

Upon our arrival, I was surprised at the attitudes of these young women. They approached us immediately, shook our hands, and introduced themselves. These are teenagers with a healthy respect for their elders and confidence not mustered by most adults. Impressive.

We congregated in the gymnasium for the speech segment. Three of us offered our input. Lori and Diana (both ex prison inmates I was blessed to work with at Perryville) told their stories of missing fathers, drug abuse, rape, and prison. When Lori broke down in tears, the girls of Mingus cheered her on and shouted, “We support you!” Some of them even joined in her tears, because they related—they understood.

As I mentioned, I was invited to speak about social anxiety and depression. I gave the narrative version of my life—from my days of black hair, cutting, and an abusive relationship to now. I told the story of meeting Jake, and the girls gave a standing ovation when I told them I’d been married two whole years. They were just so thrilled to hear I’d found someone—someone who loves me for who I am, who doesn’t hit me, who lets me be me.

Mingus-bell-girlsAfterward, during the Q&A, they asked me to sing for them, which I did (another standing O). One girl was brave enough to ask how I stopped cutting, since she is a cutter herself. I channel my depression, anxiety, and rage into writing, so I told her she needs to find her cutting replacement, too. Another girl asked how to get over losing someone. The only thing I could tell her was time.

As we got ready to leave, young women ran to me to give me hugs and read me their poetry. I was amazed again by their self-confidence but also by their talent. The girls of Mingus can write!

On the drive back from Prescott, we read their comments. A repeated theme: “You give us hope.” I received a personal note, as well: “Sara, you inspire me to move on with my life.”

During my speech, I talked to them about a lot of things—about escapism, how to cheer up when in a funk, and how to be strong, especially in a world dominated by men. I also talked to them about God and how He gave me depression and anxiety for a reason: so that I could relate to others suffering from the same diseases and let them know life is never without hope.

I completely crashed after my trip to Mingus. I felt the lingering nausea, which always follows public speaking. As an introvert, my body was sapped of all energy. Yet, I basked in the images of my day—all those beautiful, broken girls and the way they cheered for us outsiders, strangers. They enveloped us in their love, despite perhaps feeling unloved themselves.

I hope to return to Mingus in September for their annual poetry slam contest. I can’t wait to hear more of their written words, their form of artistic escape. Until then, the girls will be in my prayers because I want the best for each and every one of them. They deserve the best.


10 Comments on Time with Troubled Teens at Mingus Mountain Academy, last added: 2/24/2014
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11. Chris Thile is Quirky and Charismatic at the MIM

Chris-Thile-2-(by Brantley-Gutierrez)
I have been following the career of mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile for over ten years now. He’s a year older than me, which means that while I was chugging beer at Ohio University, he was already on tour. I’ve seen him perform three times, as of last night, and the man never, ever disappoints.

I took along a novice as my date, and as I explained to her the wonder that is Chris Thile, she said, “I think you have a crush on him.” Oh, okay, maybe, but it’s not because he’s hot or mysterious or dark. I really have a crush on the music, and I think my girlfriend now feels the same.

The Musical Instrument Museum is a cool place to wander. There, you can see weird instruments you’ve never heard of as well as instruments played by some of your favorite musicians. The venue housed inside has been called one of the best in the world by musicians who’ve played there, and by the end of his show, Thile agreed. I do, too; he’s never sounded so good.

Chris Thile is a quirky guy. He has nice clothes, yes—well-cut, stylish, colorful suits—but he can’t tame that wonky blond hair. He dances when he’s on stage. He moves with the music like an eighties hairband head-banger. Between songs, he goes on long tangents, akin to a stand-up comedian. Last night, he even admitted: “Most of my banter doesn’t go anywhere.” Yet, the audience was not perturbed, because Thile is too charming and wide-eyed to be a nuisance.

chris-thile-at-zankel-hall-cr-tina-fineberg-for-nytHe hit several high notes for me, including segments from his four-part suite “The Blind Leaving the Blind,” which chronicles his painful 2004 divorce. He did a Fiona Apple cover, connecting my favorite female musician to my favorite male. As if that wasn’t enough, he attacked Bach (which he described as a huge musical cube in the center of his set).

As a solo musician, I assume you worry you’ll be boring up there all by yourself, but Thile’s set list kept us glued to our seats. He jumped from classical to covers to sad songs to songs that paused in the middle due to audience hysterics (see “If You’re Gonna Leave Me Set Me Up With One of Your Friends” or, my personal favorite, “Too Many Notes”).

Thile is thankful, modest, and so comfortable on stage, you’d think he lives there. He is the epitome of a one-man show: a genius talent and an improv expert. He received three standing ovations and deserved many more.

Post show, we all stood around, hoping he’d show his face (as he did when I met him last year at Crescent Ballroom). Alas, there was no sign, so my girlfriend and I prepared to hit the road … until we walked outside. I spotted Thile, and in stiletto heels, I scampered to a parked car where I found my music crush and said, so eloquently, “Can I, like, talk to you for a second?”

We shook hands and reminisced over the Crescent Ballroom show. We talked high points of his solo tour and his upcoming reunion with his first band, Nickel Creek. I thanked him for being, well, him, and I even got my second (second!) Chris Thile hug before we separated in the night—him to dinner with his in-laws and me to a giggle fit in my car.

There is something to be said for great musicians. There is even more to be said for great musicians who are polite. They have a way of inspiring fellow artists to be the best they can be. Thile works hard, you can tell; he makes me want to work hard at my craft, too, but I hope I remember more than just that. I hope I remember to always be humble and never forget to say “thank you.”


1 Comments on Chris Thile is Quirky and Charismatic at the MIM, last added: 2/15/2014
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12. Sherlock Season 3 Recap and Review

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THERE BE SPOILERS HERE! IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED ALL OF SHERLOCK SEASON THREE, DO NOT READ. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Episode One: The Empty Hearse

We all wanted to know how Sherlock survived the dive from St. Bart’s. Within the first three minutes of season three, we get an idea via an action-movie style montage including a bungee chord, a hair ruffle, and a sexy smooch. I loved this opening. Completely unbelievable and hilarious, and of course, it was a mere flight of fancy from Anderson.

Sherlock-Molly kiss. And tumblr EXPLODES!

Sherlock-Molly kiss. And tumblr EXPLODES!

The tempo of this episode was a little off, but I forgive, especially because of Martin Freeman’s face when he realizes Sherlock is alive and standing at his dinner table. Priceless, followed by several punches to the face. We also get to meet Sherlock’s parents, played by Cumberbatch’s real mum and dad. Adorable. We meet Mary, Watson’s soon to be wife. There was even a Sherlock and Moriarty almost-kiss—which begs the question, what the hell really happened on that roof at the end of season two?

I don’t think the truth was made clear, but I do think this was done on purpose. Co-creators Moffat and Gatiss knew how many theories there were, so they gave us three, the third of which being the most likely—but nothing is for sure. Did I feel a little cheated by this hedging? Perhaps, but this episode felt more about character than plot. They made Sherlock softer, almost a real human being, and this theme of Sherlock’s sentimentality stretched the whole third season.

Episode Two: The Sign of Three

An episode about a wedding but not necessarily a detective. I call this episode “odd,” but I enjoyed it because I like odd things (like Benedict Cumberbatch’s face, for instance).

Highlights included John asking Sherlock to be his best man, after which, Sherlock resembles a frozen computer screen; comedy gold. Speaking of, the stag night within which the boys get horribly drunk and try to solve a case. Instead, Sherlock passes out on a floor, vomits, and they both end up in jail. Finally, dear Janine the bridesmaid falls for Sherlock. (Janine: “Do you always carry handcuffs?” Sherlock: “Down girl.”)

So Mary and John are married, and the grand finale: they’re expecting a baby! I really enjoyed the dialogue and back and forth. True, not too much of a mystery here, but one hell of an adorable best man speech from Sherlock and lots of laughs. Which prepared us for …

Episode Three: His Last Vow

Oh, dear.

Mary is a bad, bad girl.

Mary is a bad, bad girl.

Well, this one wasn’t very funny at all, was it? And yet it’s one of my favorite episodes of the series. We meet the odious Charles Augustus Magnussen (CAM), who actually accomplishes a face lick without being silly. He is the man Sherlock hates the most and must bring tumbling down.

First off, Sherlock has a girlfriend in this episode—Janine, of course, from the wedding, which is just so, so awkward. I knew something wasn’t right; we all did. We soon find out he’s only dating her to get to CAM. He even proposes to her to get into CAM’s office, which is when …

MARY SHOOTS HIM! MARY! Yeah, John’s wife is some sort of super killer assassin person. That was shocking, yes, but I must say, the entire sequence inside Sherlock’s mind as he fights to stay alive was fan-freaking-tastic. It even featured Moriarty, who I love, but really, amazing, amazing sequence. Gorgeous. So well done.

In the end, Sherlock survives the bullet wound and John forgives his wife. The coup de gras: Sherlock murders CAM, and there’s a sweet goodbye between John and Sherlock as Sherlock goes off to die in East Europe on some undercover assignment. But then … but then …

MORIARTY IS ALIVE!!!!!! Sherlock gets called back to London!! Closing credits!!!

My brain exploded—almost. Would have been a hell of a mess. But this whole Moriarty thing raises so many questions. For instance, what about the body on the roof from season two? Someone must have known Moriarty was not dead, and my money is on Mycroft. Maybe Mycroft was hiding Moriarty (God knows why), and with Sherlock’s life in peril, he brought Moriarty back to life?

Well, the speculation now begins, as we are on hiatus—again. Weren’t we just on hiatus? Yes. Yes, we were, and we’re back, and who knows when we’ll get season four? But I’m sated, for now, and it’s a good thing; I’ve been Sherlock-obsessed for months. Time to get back to real life. But take heart: Moriarty lives.

YES!! YES, WE MISSED YOU!!!

YES!! YES, WE MISSED YOU!!!


7 Comments on Sherlock Season 3 Recap and Review, last added: 2/6/2014
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13. To be an Introvert

I attended a fantastic book signing at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe this weekend to see Ransom Riggs: a hilarious, talented young man who penned Miss Peregrine’s School for Peculiar Children as well as its newly released sequel, Hollow City. Ransom was sociable and clever, great at off-the-cuff jokes and comic tidbits. Meanwhile, I was a nervous wreck in my seat because there were too many people and the chairs were too close together.

Me at Ignite Phoenix, speaking in front of 900 people.

Me at Ignite Phoenix, speaking in front of 900 people.

I’ve fought for years to act the part of an extrovert. I do public speaking. I throw parties at my house. I come off as confident, outgoing, and a little eccentric. The truth: I’m painfully introverted, and it takes an awful lot of emotional energy to leave my house.

According to About.com’s Psychology page, “People who are introverted tend to be inward turning, or focused more on internal thoughts, feelings, and moods rather than seeking out external stimulation.” Introverted does not mean shy; it just means we’re happier in our own heads than in the center of a crowd.

Even the social butterfly can be an introvert, which is a perfect example of me. I am a social butterfly, but only for a certain amount of time. After awhile, I run out of words, and I literally need to get home before I have a panic attack.

The Huffington Post has an article entitled “23 Signs You’re Secretly an Introvert,” and it gave me a laugh. Among the listed items:

  • Giving a talk in front of 500 people is less stressful than having to mingle with those people afterwards. (Can you say “Ignite Phoenix?”)
  • You screen all your calls—even from friends. (Guilty.)
  • You have a constantly running inner monologue. (The voices! The voices!)
  • You’re a writer. (Literally, this was on their list. No joke.)

I could go on, but you get the idea. As I said, I’ve fought to be an extrovert, because I admire people who are. Some of my best friends and social icons are extremely extroverted. They’re charmers. People like them, remember them. They love “doing things,” and I’ve wanted to be like that for years, but you know what? I’m thirty-one, and maybe I’m getting a little old to be someone else.

f4da910154a970b30270c93711ec96daSometimes, it sucks really knowing yourself, because you might not like what you find. For instance, I’m grumpy and unpleasant when I’m around people for too long. I’m horrible at returning voicemails because I hate talking on the phone. I’m in my head so much, I feel like I occasionally neglect my husband, my family, my friends … these are flaws. I don’t like them, but they are mine.

I once considered being an introvert a flaw, but no longer. It’s who I am. It’s who a lot of people are. I’d like to be like Ransom at Changing Hands. I’d like to be relaxed in a crowd and feed off the energy around me, but I can’t. And maybe I should stop trying.

The older I get, the more weird and introverted I become. Does this worry me? No. I’m just growing more comfortable with myself.

I am an introvert. I don’t want to go to that dinner theater performance because I’m terrified they might pull me on stage. I refuse to go on weekend trips with people I don’t know well, because I can’t be trapped in a hotel room with them. I know when to say “no,” but I say YES to introversion—because that’s who I am. Hear me roar … while sitting happily alone on the couch in my living room.


10 Comments on To be an Introvert, last added: 1/24/2014
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14. Outrageous Fortune Publishes My Novel Excerpt

In the Fall 2013 issue, Mary Baldwin College’s literary magazine, Outrageous Fortune, published an excerpt of my novel, Damned if They Don’t. So many thanks to them for enjoying my work, and here’s to 2014 – a new year of inspiration and publication.

Novel Excerpt: Damned if They Don’t

by Sara Dobie Bauer

After their early morning dance practice for the College of Charleston’s presentation of Cabaret, Cleo and Alessa stepped into the October sun.

“Ah.” Cleo sang the word like the first note in Act Two. “Now, this is what I’m talking about. Crisp and cool.”

They were both chorus members, which had at first been a blow to Alessa’s experienced ego. Then, as the graduate school workload steadily increased, she saw the casting snafu as a blessing in disguise.

“Where are we meeting Emily for brunch?”

Of course, Cleo and Emily were practically in love. As soon as they met over drinks at Social Wine Bar on East Bay, the friendship was cemented. Together they bemoaned the dating scene in Charleston, because although there were plenty of eligible bachelors, most of them turned out to be untrustworthy asshats. They thoroughly disagreed on the topic of Graydon. Emily still found his persona deplorable, while Cleo was charmed down to her toes by the tall, brooding musician. Alessa, of course, fell somewhere in between.

5015d2c4dd114ae21334bdf8c6ad4b67She reached for her phone. “Emily was going to text me when she woke up.” She looked at the screen. “Why do I have three missed calls from Graydon?”

“It’s ten AM on a Saturday. Shouldn’t he be hung-over somewhere?”

“One would think.” Just as she was about to call him back, her phone rang again. “Graydon?”

“Hello.” He sounded out of breath.

“Are you okay?”

“No. Yes. Where are you?”

“Just leaving the theater.”

“I’ll be there in five minutes.”

“Wait. Cleo and I are going to …” She held the phone away from her ear and stared. “He hung up on me.” Alessa looked back at her phone. “Emily says to meet her at Virginia’s on King. Apparently they have a mimosa special today.”

“Well, what are you going to do?”

“Graydon said he’d be here in five minutes.” She shrugged.

“What, is he gonna propose or something?”

“Funny.”

“I’m waiting until he gets here.”

“You don’t have to. Emily is probably already at Virginia’s.”

“No. I want to see what’s going on.”

The stern look on Cleo’s face told Alessa not to press any further. It wouldn’t have mattered. Graydon showed up across the street in three minutes flat.

Cleo scoffed. “Does his hair always look that perfect?”

“Yes. It’s disgusting.”

“He’s carrying red roses.”

“I can see that.”

man-holding-rose1He almost got hit by a car crossing the street, which made both the girls scream at him, and of course, he took a moment to cuss out the driver. He arrived on the sidewalk, and despite their hours of dance practice, he was actually covered in more sweat than either of the two women. Alessa pulled a hand towel from her gym bag and dabbed at his forehead and cheeks.

“Thank you.” He nodded.

“Flowers?” Cleo smirked. “What’d you do now?”

He gave his familiar glare, complete with lowered brows and strong set jaw.

“Cleo, why don’t I just meet you and Emily at Virginia’s?” Alessa opened her eyes wide, giving the expressive equivalent of, “Get the hell out of here. Please.”

“Fine.” She winked at Graydon. “You look sexy covered in sweat.”

Alessa agreed, but she wasn’t going to say it—not with the way he was behaving. Obviously he had screwed up, but what was there to screw up anyway? After four months of dating, they still didn’t use titles, no boyfriend-girlfriend. He still slept with other women, and sometimes they didn’t speak for days at a time, despite the fact that they worked in the same restaurant. She’d given up on anything normal with Graydon a month earlier, when another woman kissed him right in front of her. Now this? What, had he gotten someone pregnant?

“Graydon. What’s going on?”

He cleared his throat. “These are for you.”

She took the extended roses. “Thank you.”

“I woke up this morning in the bed of another woman.”

Alessa glanced away down St. George Street.

Read the rest at Outrageous Fortune’s website!


1 Comments on Outrageous Fortune Publishes My Novel Excerpt, last added: 1/13/2014
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15. Former Pastor Goes Atheist for a Year

Ryan Bell was raised Seventh Day Adventist. Since 1991, he has been either a pastor in the Christian religion or attending school, developing his skills to be a successful pastor. Then, on New Year’s Eve, 2013, he announced that for one year, he will be an atheist.

My husband told me about this last night—about how Bell was asked to resign from his position at his California church in March because of his views on homosexuality.

ryan-j-bellAccording to Bell’s Huffington Post article, “I had been an outspoken critic of the church’s approach to our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered members—that approach being exclusion or, at best, second class membership. … I tried to maintain that I was a faithful critic—a critic from within—someone committed to the church and its future success but unwilling to go blindly along with things I felt were questionable, or even wrong.”

I assume his resignation was what started Bell’s path to a year without God. Following his announcement via the Huffington Post, he was soon asked to leave his position as professor at two Christian colleges. He’s currently looking for a way to survive the upcoming year with no gainful employment.

His mission statement: “For the next 12 months I will live as if there is no God. I will not pray, read the Bible for inspiration, refer to God as the cause of things or hope that God might intervene and change my own or someone else’s circumstances.”

There have been critics in the atheist community who call Bell a fraud, a fake. However, others have stood up and raised money to keep him going on his yearlong path without God.

What do I think about Bell’s decision? I was raised in the church. I attend church. I pray and sing in the choir. Yet, even I have days when I doubt the nearness of the Lord. Even I sometimes think no one is listening. I’m thankful to have Jake whose faith is devout, patient, and seemingly effortless. My husband tends to pull me back when I stray. And perhaps that is part of God’s plan for putting Jake in my life.

I imagine there are several Christians who are angry with Ryan Bell. They surely cast words of damnation over his decision to turn away from God, and I wonder what will happen to him in the year ahead. Will he realize he doesn’t need God to live or will he realize that with God is the only way to live?

When thinking about Bell, I asked myself: how would I behave if I thought there was no God, no eternal consequence? I was somewhat dismayed to realize I would act probably the same way I do now. What does that say about my Christianity? Says I’m shaky at best.

There are general rules, right? The Golden Rule, for instance, and other things that keep me out of prison, like “Don’t kill people.” But I drink and cuss and watch/read immoral content. I enjoy the company of skeptics (sometimes more so than fellow Christians). I don’t believe in resolutions, but maybe 2014 is my year for seeking, as well, although no, I don’t see ignoring God as an option.

I will be following Ryan Bell’s path on YearWithoutGod.com. Already, his posts are covered in controversy, and hell, this might be one huge publicity stunt. Only time will tell, and I’m curious to see how he ends up. When his year is over, will he lean on his own strength or on the strength of God?


10 Comments on Former Pastor Goes Atheist for a Year, last added: 1/12/2014
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16. Best Books of 2013

I read an embarrassingly high number of books in 2013. (No wonder my laundry never gets done.) Whereas many people spend the first few days of a new year looking forward, making resolutions, et cetera, I want to look back and pay homage to the greatest of the great—the best books of 2013.

18343847This does not mean the books were all released in 2013. But they were read in 2013, and they left a lasting impression that will not lessen with the passing of time. With great gnashing of teeth, I came up with nine, in no particular order.

1. Life without Harry
(Sara Dobie Bauer)
How could I? Pimp my own book on my “best of” list? Hey, gimme a break. I’m an author. If I don’t sell myself, who will? If you miss Harry Potter, head to Goodreads and download the eBook. Late Merry Christmas.

2. Splendors and Glooms
(Laura Amy Schlitz)
Puppets, weird magicians, London … well, it goes without saying I was going to love this one. I suppose it could be considered young adult, but there are enough twists, turns, and general creepy critters to keep any grown-up interested.

3. Neverwhere
(Neil Gaiman)
I can hear you: “How in the hell did you not read this book until 2013?” Yeah, yeah, I know, pathetic, especially when you consider The Graveyard Book is in my all-time top ten. Well, Neverwhere is better than The Graveyard Book. It’s a journey into the English underground where there are angels and any manner of murderous creatures. Follow the beloved hero, Richard Mayhew, to the place where the forgotten go …

157835144. The Great Gatsby
(F. Scott Fitzgerald)
I read this book in high school; didn’t get it. I read it this year; was crushed—by the story’s decadence, tragedy, and yearning for things lost. Maybe it’s me getting older, but I finally understand why this is a classic. If you didn’t “get it” last time you read Gatsby, read it again.

5. The Awakening
(Kate Chopin)
Also read this in high school, and although I liked it then, I fully understand it now. I’m a married woman, like sad, little Miss Pontellier. Chopin gives voice to the difficulties women go through, and although she was a pariah in her own age, her story is true and timeless.

6. The Ocean at the End of the Lane
(Neil Gaiman)
Again? Gaiman! Again? Yes, get over it. He signed this book for me, and I read it in two days. This, like Gatsby and The Awakening, is a book best understood after having lived a little. There are monsters and magic creatures, but there is truth and thorough melancholy as one man says goodbye to a childhood lost. Possibly the truest book Gaiman has yet penned.

7. Bellman & Black
(Diane Setterfield)
In this book, you just have to know what comes next. The lead character, William Bellman, is a curiosity yet someone you would like to know—at least for the experience of saying you once met him. It’s a novel about our own mortality and how the rooks are always watching and waiting to carry our souls away.

175719078. The Chatelet Apprentice
(Jean-Francois Parot)
Nicholas le Floche, investigator in 18th century Paris—what a sexy beast. I received this, the first in the several-book mystery series, as a review copy. I then ordered books two through six from ENGLAND. Yeah, I was that desperate. If you like mysteries, scandal, and sex, call London; tell them to toss Nicholas ‘cross the pond.

9. The Longings of Wayward Girls
(Karen Brown)
A woman searches for meaning in her current life by returning to a mysterious summer in her past, and we all know how scandalous things can get in the suburbs. This isn’t desperate housewife crap, though; this is a painful novel of regret and the blood that never washes away.

So that’s it for 2013, folks. One year over, a bunch of books read, and now, a new year. Know what that means? MORE BOOKS!


5 Comments on Best Books of 2013, last added: 1/13/2014
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17. Sherlock Season 3 … Or Why I’m Angry at England and On Hiatus From Social Media

The moment it all began ...

The moment it all began …


The day of my fangirl birth stands out in infamy. I was minding my own business, and my husband was scanning Netflix. From my office, I heard snippets in the background: British snippets. Next thing I know: “Babe, come watch this scene.”

“What is it?”

“The BBC’s Sherlock. You gotta watch this part.”

It was the scene where Watson and Sherlock first meet in the lab at St. Bart’s and Sherlock tells Watson his whole life based on nothing but observations. I remember thinking, “Well, this Sherlock guy is cute, isn’t he?”

I sat down and watched the first episode with my husband. Soon after, we finished season one. Then, season two. By that time, I was enamored with the show and the odd fellow with the odd name: Benedict Cumberbatch. And … oh, right, Sherlock had apparently jumped off a building to his death.

sherlock.2x03.the_reichenbach_fall.hdtv_xvid-fov 421What follows is what can only be compared to mourning a lost relative because I realized there were no more episodes and there would be no more episodes for a very, very long time.

I sated my addiction by following the hype. I became a Pinterest addict and a dedicated (obsessive?) Cumberbitch. I read fan fiction (I don’t read fan fiction). I found out everything I could about the show and the forthcoming third season.

Finally, the release date reached American shores: January 19, 2014.

And disaster struck.

The BBC followed up on the American release date by announcing Sherlock’s much-awaited premiere would play in England on January 1, 2014.

There were fountains of cuss words, threats of flights to England, and then, the only reasonable conclusion hit me like a London black cab: a total avoidance of Sara’s social media. That’s right: no more Twitter, very little Facebook, and a complete blind eye to my beloved Pinterest.

I see no alternative, because I will not have some crazy Brit telling me how Sherlock survived the fall from St. Bart’s. The only way I want to hear about Sherlock’s survival is from Sherlock’s cupid’s bow lips. Got it?

Do I feel punished for being American? Do I want to ring Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss and ask them what the hell they’re thinking, doing this to us poor, sad little Americans? Yes! And yes!

On January 1, 2014, the geeky underworld of England will erupt in cheers. I will be silent, stewing, mourning the loss of my favorite internet addictions. My silence will continue until January 19, when I will finally sit in front of a television, geek out, and swoon because Sherlock has come back to life.

Image from season three. My guess? Watson's going to punch him out.

Image from season three. My guess? Watson’s going to punch him out.


10 Comments on Sherlock Season 3 … Or Why I’m Angry at England and On Hiatus From Social Media, last added: 12/30/2013
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18. The Christmas Letter

The Dobie-Schwind-Bauer family in Ohio, 2011.

The Dobie-Schwind-Bauer family in Ohio, 2011.

This morning I received the yearly Christmas letter from the pastor at my church, and it came as a surprise because so far this year, I haven’t acknowledged the most heavily celebrated holiday on the Christian calendar.

In his letter, Pastor Bob enumerated the many things he loves about Christmas: the lights, the music, and the atmosphere of joy—and it’s all true; just ask my neighbors. They’ve had their Christmas lights up since November 29th.

Usually, on December 1st, I’m ready for the holiday season, too. By December 1st, I finally allow for tinsel and 99.9 FM (the Christmas station). This year, something is different, and I’m not entirely sure what.

Is it Grandpa being gone? He was the ultimate lover of Christmas and Frank Sinatra’s “The Christmas Waltz.” He was our patriarch, and this is our first Christmas without him.

Perhaps because of this, I’ve been oddly emotional. While shopping for tree trimmings at Michael’s, for instance, I told Jake, “I gotta get out of here” and started crying as soon as we stepped outside. The next night, my husband (who is not into holidays) was the one who dragged out our fake Christmas tree.

I don’t feel giggly inside. I don’t feel joyful. I don’t believe Santa Claus is coming to town, and let’s not forget: my parents arrived last night. Yes, this will be the first time I’m not in Ohio to celebrate Christmas, but the grief people at Hospice say this is good. After a death in the family, you’re supposed to change up the holidays so the absence of a loved one isn’t quite as obvious. Yet, even with the arrival of mummy and daddy, I still don’t feel like decorating or singing carols or baking cookies.

But this morning, Pastor Bob’s Christmas letter was a revelation, because along with not thinking about Christmas, I also haven’t thought about Jesus.

From Pastor Bob’s letter: “My prayer for you is that as your scurry about with many and varied preparations for Christmas … the real meaning and message of Christ’s birth will not be lost. Pause and remember the message of Christmas is simply this: ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.’”

This holiday season may be tougher than most. My family will be separated into east and west coasts. I’ll be in the sunny desert when I really want snow. We’ll all be without Papa, and that will be hard. But Christmas isn’t about the decorations, the presents, or Frank Sinatra. Christmas is about a baby born in a manger—and it’s time I remembered.

baby-jesus-mary-joseph-by-dewey


10 Comments on The Christmas Letter, last added: 12/18/2013
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19. In Memory of Barney Schwind

Barney Schwind is dead: the man known across the Toledo area as “The TV Repair Man.” He wasn’t known to me as that. I called him “Papa.”

Saturday night, October 5, Papa passed on. For years, we watched him lose weight, lose his appetite. We watched him physically shrink, the man he used to be shed like clothing on the floor. Yet, despite old age and dementia, he was still Papa, who loved gin and tonics, always had Tic Tacs in his pocket, and did magic tricks with pieces of tissue paper.

Barney Schwind and Sara Dobie BauerPapa never lost his spark. He still yelled, “Sara, baby!” every time I called the house. He still made bad jokes, and I still laughed. He still jokingly held blankets to the side of his face every Christmas and sucked his thumb like a little kid. Despite the dwindling physicality—the mind that forgot my husband’s name—he was still Papa. And we didn’t love him any less.

He’s gone now. He died Saturday night after a huge, Papa yawn. We, as family, are left with many memories of this great man who wore gold chain necklaces on the beaches of Long Boat Key; who visited the Jagermeister tent at the German American Fest to hit on chicks; and who kissed me on the cheek each time I arrived and left his house on Walnut Street.

My family has lost our patriarch; my grandmother has lost her husband. Perrysburg, you’ve lost Barney Schwind. You were lucky to have him for so long.

Papa taught me how to be an optimist every day. He taught me how to have a smile for everyone. He taught me how to love unconditionally—and love eternally. He will be greatly missed … but in a way, I feel like he’s still here, giving me a big Papa hug and telling me he’ll always be close.

(Thanks to the Perrysburg Messenger Journal.)


9 Comments on In Memory of Barney Schwind, last added: 10/27/2013
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20. One Wedding and a Funeral

I haven’t seen my husband in eleven days. I haven’t been warm in eleven days, because for the past eleven days, I’ve been in my hometown, Perrysburg, Ohio, and the trip was a mixed bag.

Papa and Grandma Schwind.

Papa and Grandma Schwind.

Two weekends ago was funeral weekend. We celebrated the life of my Papa Schwind. My brother and I commemorated the occasion with a giddy rendition of Brandi Carlile’s “Keep Your Heart Young.” As a family, we spent the evening by a bonfire, drinking beer, playing more music, and reminiscing. We “bonded,” maybe as we never have before, because Papa always did have a way of bringing people together.

The rest of my trip was wedding madness. I have never been a bridesmaid, so this was a first for me. Monday, I assisted dear Vicki (the bride) with program folding. Wednesday, we hit Toledo in a fancy limo for Vicki’s bachelorette party. Thursday, Vicki fought through a hang-over to tie up final loose ends. Then, Friday: the salon visit, the rehearsal at the church, and the rehearsal dinner. By the time the wedding day actually arrived, I felt as though weeks had passed.

Saturday, we got dolled up. We put on our beautiful bridesmaid gowns. We pretended it wasn’t overcast and freezing outside and started the day with mimosas. Then, we all got stage fright and had to do some group deep breathing and prayer before walking down the aisle.

Vicki and Del!

Vicki and Del!

And of course everything was perfect. The ceremony was a dream. Vicki looked like a rich, 1920s bootlegger’s wife—classy and covered in glitz. Her new husband, Del, looked like he wanted to kiss her long before the pastor said, “You may kiss the bride.” And we cheered, cheered, cheered, because Vicki and Del took the first step toward a life together.

There was much rejoicing at the super-fancy reception at Carranor Polo Club in Perrysburg. The band kept us moving all night long. I sang a Norah Jones tune for the bride and groom. I danced with old friends. I was Vicki and Del’s chauffeur at the end of the night, and I got to watch him carry her over the threshold of their shared home. I then fell into my childhood bed without removing my makeup or brushing my teeth; I haven’t done that in years.

I’ve found that I get somewhat selfish at other people’s weddings. Other people’s weddings make me think of my wedding and the wonder it was. My wedding to my Jake was a miracle—could not have been more “us.” I get cheerful thinking about our big day; I get melancholy, too, because I wish we could do it again!

Maybe that’s what this lengthy Ohio trip was about: sadness and cheer.

Sad to have lost Papa; happy that he’s in peace.
Sad to have a funeral; happy to have a wedding.
Happy to have a friend like Vicki; happy that she has Del.

I am also happy to be heading home—very happy. I miss my Jake, and Vicki’s wedding made his absence more apparent. Yes, I slow-danced with friends’ parents at the wedding (ha), but this trip to Ohio was hard without my hubbie. Now, I’m on a plane. I’ll be home soon, in the arms of the man I love.

To my Grandma Schwind: Papa is gone for now, but he’s waiting for you in Heaven, where he’ll give you a huge hug and sloppy kiss when you arrive.

To Vicki and Del: Many, many congratulations on your fabulous wedding and many blessings on your marriage. You’ll always be in my prayers.

To Jake: Baby, I’m comin’ home, and I can’t wait to hold you forever.

Jake and me.

Jake and me.


3 Comments on One Wedding and a Funeral, last added: 10/30/2013
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21. Halloween Short Story: The Trouble with Smartphones

Eva-Green-Witchy-Woman-vanity-fair-21315720-460-318
Ana’s niece went through men like vampires went through bags of blood. Ana would know; her immorality spanned centuries. She and her “family” had a strange arrangement. She shared the wealthy Bauer bloodline but was the only immortal in the clan. The rest of the Bauers came and went, generation after generation; yet, each generation accepted her. Each generation understood what she was and welcomed her. She was often invited to Christmas, birthday parties, and celebrity balls. However, Ana kept her distance—until Mary was born.

Mary was born on Ana’s own human birthday, June sixth. As soon as Ana met the child, there was a connection, and as years passed, she became the “favorite auntie.” Ana was the one Mary went to with her dirty secrets. As a child, those secrets included stolen candy from the grocery store. As a teen, stolen alcohol and messy make-outs with boys at debutante balls.

Although Ana lived in New York—Mary and her rich parents in Boston—they kept in touch over the phone. Then came things like smartphones and Skype, and it was when Mary turned twenty-one that the name Ethan first entered their lengthy conversations.

“I’m seeing someone, auntie.”

Ana had her smartphone leaned against the vanity; made it easier to pretend dear Mary was in the room with her while she sat in her New York flat, upper East Side, sipping a glass of iced blood. She brushed her long, black hair in the mirror and sighed.

“I saw that,” Mary said.

“You’re always seeing someone, dear.” Ana glanced at her young niece, already curled up in bed, staring back through her own smartphone camera.

“This is different.” Mary pouted; her voice whined. No matter her age, she still sounded like a sixteen-year-old. She was a woman, true; a very intelligent woman who would, in the fall, return to school at Brown where she studied psychology. Yet, Mary could never escape the cheerleader she once was, thanks to her Minnie Mouse voice and bright, blond hair.

“Who is he?”

There was a long pause on the line.

“Mary?” Ana looked at the smartphone screen, and Mary’s eyes crinkled around the edges.

Her voice lowered to a whisper. “It’s a secret, and you can’t tell anyone.”

“I’ve never told your parents a single secret.”

“I know. I know. But I think I’m in love.”

“Well. Who is he?” Ana asked.

“His name is Ethan.”

“Ethan?” Ana picked up her phone so she could fully focus on her niece. “Does he have a last name?”

“Prince.”

“Is he a prince?”

Ana watched Mary’s flawless face smile. “I wish. Would make things a lot easier.”

“He’s not homeless, is he? A drug addict?”

Mary shook her head, and her voice sunk even lower. “He’s the chauffeur’s son.”

“Mary Elizabeth Bauer!”

“Shhh!” She looked around, as if sound traveled in the castle the Bauer family called a home.

“That’s not love; it’s a fling.”

“Ethan is not a fling.”

Ana shook her head and chuckled. If Mary’s father knew … “How long has this been going on?”

Mary shifted in her bed, laid down on her stomach and rested on her elbows. “A couple months.”

“A couple months hardly does love make.”

“I want you to meet him.”

“Darling, you know I don’t meet your beaus. It’s too much energy to explain who I am and why I’ve been alive since before electricity and running water.”

“I already told him about you.”

Panic welled in Ana’s chest. “What?”

“He knows what you are, and he’s fine with it.”

“Mary.” Ana stood up. “You promised never to tell anyone about me.”

“But this is the man I love.”

Ana paced the luxurious interior of her apartment. Then, a buzz from the front door: blood bag delivery. “Mary, I have to go.”

“I want to talk more about this.”

Ana looked down at her phone, and her beautiful, intelligent, man-eating young niece looked concerned. “We shall, but do not be a fool. Do not tell the chauffeur’s son anything else about me, and do not get caught schtooping in your parents’ home.” She paused and noticed Mary’s sad face. “I love you, darling.”

“I love you, too.”

Ana ended their call. She felt shaky; she finished the glass of blood on her vanity just as a text message arrived: from Mary, of course—a covert photo caught as a man slept in what was obviously Mary’s king-sized bed. He reminded her of Byron, a poet Ana once knew long ago: wild, black curls of hair; pale skin; and a long, faultless neck.

For the first time, Ana saw Ethan.

***

Over the next few weeks, Ana and Mary rarely spoke. Mary was busy back at school; Ana was planning an extensive tour of Europe, her home country. There were more photos of Ethan, some with Mary included, his arm around her, her lips on his face. The first video arrived early the week before Ana’s trip.

Shaky at first, Ana soon recognized Mary’s dorm room at Brown. The vantage point was from Mary’s bed, and for the first time, Ana saw Ethan in motion. He stood across the room and looked into the full-length mirror Mary kept against the wall. He wore a black suit, and he was much taller than previous photos foreshadowed.

“Tell me you love me, babe,” said Mary’s disembodied voice.

“I love you,” he said.

“Tell me again.”

At this, he glanced back at the camera. “Mary, I’ll be late.” He stood and faced her, trying to tie his tie.

The camera shook some more, danced even, as Mary got closer to Ethan. Ana could picture her, kneeing her way to the base of her bed. “Tell me again.”

“I love you,” he said. He smiled—a lovely smile that revealed matching dimples.

“Again.”

His fingers stopped fiddling with the tie, and he got so close to the camera, his face went out of focus.

It was obvious Mary had trouble keeping hold of her phone, but she giggled when the video went sideways, as she was tackled on her own bed. Soon, all Ana could see were figments of Ethan’s black suit. Then, the video stopped.

***

sex dreams
Ana found herself dreaming of Ethan. She had but fleeting images of him, from Mary’s photos and occasional videos. She found herself fixated on his neck and his hands. Thanks to a recent conversation, Ana knew Ethan was older—twenty-nine. Was a lawyer. Attended Harvard on full scholarship. All these details danced around his neck, his hands—the things his hands could do to Ana, the things she could do to his neck.

She woke up embarrassed, sweating. She showered after these dreams, guilty for using Ethan’s image this way—guilty for stealing from Mary. What would her niece think if Ana told her about the dreams? Would the pictures stop coming—the videos? But Ana needed both; they had become her only joy. She jumped at every new message from her niece and was disappointed when statements were general, like “Ethan bought me roses!” Ana wanted more pictures of his face. She wanted the sound of his voice.

One night, Ana could not sleep, obsessed with Ethan and the way he might smell. Did he wear cologne? Or did he smell simply of blood and skin? She knew then how much trouble Ethan was in—how broken Mary would be if Ana’s fantasies continued, so she forced herself to stop thinking of him, even deleting Mary’s media messages before being opened.

And Ana would have survived without him, Ethan, if not for Mary’s untimely death.

***

A wolf on the campus of Brown University? Suspicious, but then again, the wolf was escaped from the zoo. Of course Ana knew all this was a careful smokescreen, fanned to flame by Mary’s own parents. The existence of vampires was not generally accepted; therefore, admitting that a vampire had killed their daughter would put into question the Bauer sanity and the Bauer estate.

Ana stood on the edge of the cemetery and watched her niece’s ivory box lowered into the dark green grass. They had spoken but five nights before—the last time they would speak—and of course, the conversation was about Ethan, although Ana brought things round to school and family and future plans—of which, for Mary, there would be none.

Ana watched her human family, earned glances from but a few because only a choice few knew of her existence, those being Mary’s parents and a few old uncles, cousins. Ethan wasn’t there. But then, he was, away from the casket, away from the cold hole in the ground. She saw his hair first: that unruly mop of black. Then, his eyes: frigid, cold blue, ice. She put her arms around herself to shield his chill.

He was broken, very broken, but since his affair with Mary had been secret, only Ana knew why.

A luncheon was thrown afterward, in honor of Mary. Ana knew her niece would have hated the event: all somber faces, black suits. Mary would have much preferred a celebration, covered in pinks and baby blues.

Ana moved through the crowd, through the immense ballroom of the Bauer mansion, and past the disgusting smell of human food. She disappeared to the empty servant’s quarters, where she knew, thanks to Mary, of a secret entrance to her niece’s bedroom—the entrance only Ethan ever used.

Ana could still smell Mary when she entered: like flowers and sweet spice. Even though the bed was made, the room clean, she smelled something else, too: sex. She smelled the buttery scent of sex and something male. Cologne. The cologne could only belong to him.

The mournful auntie ran her fingertips over her niece’s hairbrush on the vanity. She touched stacks of psychology textbooks. She caressed a dress, tossed over the back of a wooden rocking chair. All so cold with Mary gone, killed by some monster, some blood-sucker who knew the Bauer family history—probably knew Ana.

Then, the door behind her opened. The cologne was more prevalent, as was the poisonous smell of cigarettes. “She didn’t tell me you smoked,” Ana said and turned to find Ethan, half revealed behind the secret door to Mary’s room.

“I don’t. Usually,” he said, alive, not on camera, his flesh right in front of her.

Ana stood at full height and looked at him. She pulled her small, black velvet jacket tighter around her small shoulders. She made a show of brushing a piece of lint from the edge of her dark red, floor-length dress. “Did you want to be alone in here?”

“No.” He shook his head, took a step, and closed the door behind him. He stood with his hands in his pockets, seemingly unsure of himself, although he’d never looked that way on Ana’s smartphone screen.

Ana’s boots made loud taps as she walked toward him. She removed her leather glove and touched his hair, pushed a piece behind his ear. A line of goosebumps began at her fingers and moved up to her shoulder, over her chest. “You’re more handsome in person.”

The side of his mouth turned up. He looked at the floor.

“Am I the only one who knew? About you and Mary?”

He nodded, but as he nodded, a salty tear fell down his face. She wanted to lick it off, but instead, she pulled him into her embrace and put her hand on the back of his head. He leaned against her. He held her in the vice of his long arms and shook in silence as the pain of his loss soaked her shoulder.

“Shh,” she said. Her fingers ran down the back of his neck. “Shhh.”

“Do you know who did this?” he said.

“I have my suspicions.”

“Was it one of you?”

“I believe so,” she said, and he tore himself away from her.

“Why? Why would one of your kind kill Mary?”

Ana shook her head.

Ethan stopped in his pacing, and his eyes found her, his gaze just as chilled as the cemetery. “Is it because of you?”

“Yes,” she said.

He was out of breath, she could see, when he said, “God, I wish I could …”

“Hurt me?”

The expression on his face told her he didn’t mean it, not really, but she could hear the blood pumping through his veins. His anger was like a hot breeze through the room.

“I’m hurting enough,” Ana said.

“How will you find who did this?”

“There are places to go,” she said. She looked away from him to hide the added rouge to her mouth and cheeks. She realized coming to the funeral was a mistake; being alone with Ethan, a mistake. He was too close, and she wanted him too badly. The scent of his blood now filled the room as smoke fills a chimney, and Ana wanted him right there on her dead niece’s bed.

“Take me with you.”

“No,” she said.

“I’ll find the killer, with or without your help.”

“No, you won’t,” she said to the window that overlooked a lush, green backyard with a maze in the middle.

“Stop me,” he said.

“I can stop you.” The quietness of her tone made the words all the more menacing, but when she gave him another look, Ethan was not afraid of her. He carried the same blind trust as her niece. Even though Ana was a monster, they believed her incapable of hurting people she loved, and by proxy, the people they loved.

“I’ll go out tonight,” she said. “You can come by my hotel room in the morning.” Then, she used speed no human could see. She grasped his chin, and he jumped backwards at her unexpected touch. He knocked into the vanity, and Mary’s gilded brush fell to the wood floor at their feet. “If I sense you anywhere near me tonight,” she said, “I will lock you where no one can find you until this is over. Do you understand?”

“Yes.” His voice shook, and Ana left.

***

Silhouette of woman looking out of a window-1350607
The next morning, she woke to the scent of him outside her hotel room door. She wrapped herself in a robe at the sound of his knock and opened windows, let the light in. Ana did not fear the sun; had not in over a hundred years when she realized she was too old to be harmed.

He looked younger, so much younger, without the suit and tie. “My God, you could be a college student,” she said.

“May I come in?”

She opened the door. She stayed in one of the old hotels in Boston that overlooked a square where witches once hung. Her room was lush, filled with antique couches, flowers in tall vases, and throw blankets for keeping warm in the New England chill.

“What did you find?”

Ana stepped past him, toward the phone. “Would you like coffee?”

“No.” He shook his head.

She hung up the phone. “Nothing. Yet.”

“I’m coming with you tonight.”

“No. You’ll get hurt.”

He took two long steps forward, and he had her back against the wall. “Who cares?”

Ana remembered all the sweaty dreams she’d had of this man—all the times she’d awoken, whispering his name, before Mary was dead, before his skin was inches from her teeth. She shoved past him, but the warmth of his chest lingered on the palm of her hand where she’d pushed him away.

“Mary would care,” she said at the window, facing the street below.

“She’s dead.”

“Do you rush to meet her?”

“I can’t just do nothing.”

She felt him get closer, until he lingered, inches from her back.

“Please, Ana,” he said.

She wanted him to say her name again. She wanted him to beg. To quench her auditory longing, she turned and hugged him around the waist. She leaned her forehead against the side of his chin and took in a mouthful of scent.

She was surprised by the way his tension melted in her arms, as if they were old familiars. Perhaps Mary had shown him pictures, too—of Ana, of Mary and Ana. Perhaps he once dreamt of her.

“Just tonight,” she said. She pulled back and touched his face. So soft, just shaved. “Only tonight will you need protecting.”

***

She took him to a vampire bar—one where few mortals dared venture, especially without an escort. Ana would be Ethan’s escort, and she would be careful, because he was too beautiful to be left alone. The place was called Vlad; Ana found this trite; having once met the infamous vampire, Dracula, she found him stupid and dull.

The interior was black and red—black walls, red carpet. The place smelled of Old Country church incense and an undercurrent of blood no mortal could detect. Ana took Ethan’s hand as they stepped inside and whispered, “Pretend we’re together,” meaning not friends but lovers.

And he looked the part in a black suit and shirt, no tie. He looked the part: pale skin; bright, wicked eyes. He looked like a man a vampire would love.

Eyes turned when they entered because they were new and easy to admire. Ana dragged him to the bar; ordered a shot of blood for her, vodka for him. They toasted, and after they drank, her lips found the edge of his mouth; he didn’t pull away because he only pretended.

They allowed themselves to be touched, flirted with. Ana noticed Ethan was an old pro—had no doubt spent years being treated this way by many different women. She kept her nose open, waiting for the scent of Mary or perhaps the flicker of a gaze. Surely whoever killed Mary also knew of Ethan, her sexual secret; if Ana saw recognition in the eyes of an admirer, she would know whose throat to slash.

Yet, as time passed, no scent arrived; eyes did nothing but gaze adoringly on Ethan. There was no guilt here. No fear. Only the hope of a warm meal, which Ana was careful to dissuade with her hand on Ethan’s shoulder, her own stare planted on his neck that shined like a moonlit pond. No one doubted he was hers, but perhaps they hoped for a threesome—a hope she shook off when other monsters looked to her with their pleas.

Soon, he grew tired, and she told him it was time to go home.

***
dddd
Ethan trusted her because Mary, his love, trusted her, so there was no hesitation when she invited him up to her hotel room for a nightcap. After the bar, a quiet, relaxing drink was what they both needed. He sat on the couch and leaned his head back. Ana watched him, and her fingers shook as she poured two glasses of wine.

She approached, handed him his glass. His skin smelled like the cologne she now knew well, along with a tinge of laundry detergent on his dress shirt. She ran her hand through his black hair, and he closed his eyes against her touch—not in pain but in pleasure. He was comfortable with her, had proved as much since the funeral.

Then, he moaned softly, and she realized he was asleep. Before the untouched glass of wine could fall to the wooden floor, Ana removed the long stem from his fingers and set it on the lamp-lit table by his side. Her own glass joined his, and she watched him sleep until she was certain her movements would not wake him.

She removed her high-heeled shoes and set them on the floor. She kneeled on the couch and straddled his waist. Still, he did not move.

Ana pulled her smartphone from the side of her bra. She leaned back, on top of him, and saw Ethan through the camera lens. She teased herself with the distance the lens afforded—like all those photos and videos from dear, dead Mary. Ana even took a picture of the sleeping man, for old time’s sake. Then, she moved her camera away to remind herself he really was between her legs.

She placed her petite hands on his chest and felt the warmth there. She heard his heart beat and smelled the blood beneath his skin. Warmth began to spread through her own body, starting in her thighs and up into her stomach. Her head felt light, delirious with desire for this doomed man whose only mistake was falling in love with her favorite niece.

Ana leaned forward and brushed the side of her cheek against his. “Ethan,” she whispered.

She pulled back as his lashes fluttered. His blue eyes looked up at her, confused. “Ana?”

She put her thumb against his mouth. “Shhh. This won’t hurt a bit.”

He tried to stand up, but before his feet could find placement, she had the top two buttons of his dress shirt torn and her teeth against his throat.

He tensed when she broke skin. He whimpered, said her name. His hands pushed against her shoulders until the poison in her fangs spread through his brain and made him lazy in her arms. His head fell against the back of the couch; his arms went limp. He was a six-foot ragdoll, but at times, she felt him pull closer to her—perhaps running toward death to see his Mary once more.

His blood was all she hoped, knew, it would be. Ever since the funeral, the smell of him haunted her. Now, what kept him alive poured down her throat and made her dead heart … beat, beat, beat. Halfway through the meal, she found herself moaning against his flesh, because she knew this was not about death.

Yet, Ethan was near death—very much so. She pulled her teeth away and looked at his face. If she didn’t know better, she would think he was but asleep.

She rose higher on her knees. She used her own teeth to carve a hole in her wrist, and she dripped blood between his parted lips. Her job well done, she fell back on the couch beside him. She licked the lingering blood on her lips—her own mixed with that of Ethan’s.

She sat and waited, but she did not need to wait long.

He was suddenly awake at her side, bent forward, doubled over in pain. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders. “It’ll be over in a moment,” she said.

His new-found strength was difficult to manage as his humanity died. Becoming a vampire was not a pleasant process, Ana recalled. Yet she was strong enough to hold him, keep him from breaking the room as he fought to escape bodily hurt. When he shouted, she covered his mouth with her hand. She soon found herself kneeling on top of him, pinning him to the couch and holding him in silence.

Ethan’s breath then calmed. His body relaxed. He no longer fought her, and she leaned away, gave him space. “Ethan,” she whispered, and she touched his hair.

“God, what have you done?” He wouldn’t look at her.

“You’ll never lose the woman you love again.”

“I don’t love you,” he said.

“You will.” She pushed his hair behind his ear and saw his profile—wide open eyes and parted lips. “Let me see you.”

After long moments of nothing but background city noise, he finally turned to her. His skin was no paler than it had been before, but his eyes, even brighter. A drop of blood stood out like a beauty mark on the side of his chin; she left it there for him to find, and she held his face in her hands.

“I’ve wanted you since I first saw you,” she said. She kissed his parted lips, once.

“Why?”

“You remind me of someone I once knew.” She thought back to her beloved Byron. “And you made Mary so happy.” She paused. “Make me happy, too, Ethan.”

She still held his face in her hands, and for the first time since they met, his eyes moved to her lips and he kissed her. He was gentle, perhaps testing out the taste and feel of her, until she pulled hard on the back of his neck and opened his mouth with her tongue.

Ana pulled away long enough to say, “Touch me,” before her mouth once again found his.

She thought back to the innocent smartphone video from Mary’s dorm room—a video that ended like this, with Ethan on top and in a black suit. Tell me you love me, Mary had said, and he did.

One thing Ana would never tell Ethan: that she’d killed his precious Mary to have him all to herself. Mary was too unreliable with men; she only would have hurt him anyway.

The End – Happy Halloween 2013


3 Comments on Halloween Short Story: The Trouble with Smartphones, last added: 11/4/2013
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22. I’m Shallow

Brad vs. Brad.

Brad vs. Brad.

My father has always considered me shallow. (Like he can talk; he used to judge college girls’ outfits from my apartment window in Athens, Ohio.) Daddy’s right, though; I am shallow. Look at my husband. However, I would like to point out to my father and to all of you … I’m not the only one.

This came to my attention most recently thanks to a box office flop.

The Fifth Estate is the fictional-based-on-fact account of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s rise and fall as conspiracy theorist and (arguably) American terrorist. According to the Huffington Post, this film, released October 31st, is “the biggest wide-release flop of 2013.” The director blames Assange and his underlying omnipresence in the media.

I blame a blond wig, brown contacts, and a funky accent.

The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch—my current Hollywood crush. (I like to keep one around; gives a girl something to look forward to in movie theaters.) Cumberbatch—or “Benny,” as I call him—is best known for the BBC’s Sherlock and his role as Khan in Star Trek: Into Darkness. He’s also best known for black hair, icy blue eyes, and a voice that Britain’s Times likens to “a jaguar hiding in a cello.”

Now. Take these things away from Benny, and what do you have? A lanky, odd-looking, British nerd who can act.

How is this even possibly the same dude?

How is this even possibly the same dude?

This was The Fifth Estate’s mistake. To play Julian Assange, Benny had to look like the guy—and he did! In spades! But as Cumberbitches (Benny fans), we don’t want to see him looking like Julian Assange. We want to see him looking HOT. Ergo film floppage.

Now, let’s discuss Little Favour.

Little Favour is a short film, released today on iTunes, starring dear Benny. In the film, Cumberbatch has:

  1. Shaggy, black hair.
  2. Bright blue eyeballs.
  3. A DEEP … BRITISH … VOICE!

So far, word of the short firm has spread like a computer virus on all forms of social media. According to Empire Online, it is the highest selling short in iTunes history, even before its release!

Every Cumberbitch the world over probably has a copy already, and he/she has watched the short film a dozen times. (Well, er, I have, at least.) Anyway, Little Favour made me realize how shallow I/we really are! I mean, we say we love this guy, but we won’t go see him in a blond wig, will we?

This isn’t the first time I’ve had to admit to prodigious superficiality. Additional examples:

  1. Brad Pitt: Saw him immediately in Seven; skipped Twelve Monkeys.
  2. Val Kilmer: worshipped him in Tombstone; had no interest once he got fat.
  3. Ryan Reynolds: will watch even bad, bad movies just because he’s in them.

SHALLOW!!!!!!!!!

I don’t want you to think I feel bad about this. I don’t. I’m very proud that my husband has earned the nickname “Hottie McHotterson” amidst my girlfriends. I acknowledge my Benedict board on Pinterest almost solely includes pictures of him with black hair (he’s actually a ginger). I am shallow, and well … I’m okay with it. But I’m not alone.

Why, Val? WHY???!

Why, Val? WHY???!


4 Comments on I’m Shallow, last added: 11/6/2013
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23. The Suicide Girls and Blackheart Burlesque

Suicide Girls. Blackheart Burlesque troupe.

Suicide Girls. Blackheart Burlesque troupe.


There is something really hot about a chick with black lipstick and tattoos. I’m fake punk; I know this. I wear dark lipstick, makeup, and tight t-shirts with snarky sayings. However, I also clean up well and look very nice in a white dress. Oh, and I only have one tattoo. I couldn’t be a Suicide Girl, but oh, how I would like to be!

I attended Suicide Girls’ Blackheart Burlesque at the Marquee Theater in Tempe. Initially, I bought tickets because I love burlesque. Only secondarily did I look into the Suicide Girls, although as I understand it, the majority of my male friends knew about them already.

Suicide Girls is a website, created by two Portsmouth, Oregon, folk who wanted to see “hot punk rock girls naked.” To be a member of the website, you must pay, and it’s become an international phenomenon, now based in Los Angeles. There are books by the Suicide Girls, as well as movies and a tour.

Priddy Suicide. Pardon my drooling.

Priddy Suicide. Pardon my drooling.

The Blackheart Burlesque show is a little different than the tour, because not all Suicide Girls can dance—and the BB girls … they could freakin’ dance. The lead cast of the show was only four ladies. I could have gone for more, but the four did not disappoint—Priddy Suicide, in particular. Talk about a hot chick. Yipes. Each of the four women was different: different colored hair, different tattoos, different body shapes. What did they have in common? Severe confidence and an edge.

The Blackheart Burlesque was very much about nerd love. Since I’m a nerd, I appreciated all the cultural references. This wasn’t a stupid strip tease. This was everything from The Big Lebowski to Planet of the Apes to Star Wars. True, Star Wars in g-strings with duct tape over nipples—but Star Wars!

I was about six rows back, but the front couple rows got covered in everything from fake blood to whiskey. And how could I forget the birthday cake? At one point, the MC covered her breasts in birthday cake and let the audience lick frosting from her fingers. Priddy Suicide even poured whiskey into her own mouth and then spit liquor into the awaiting, open mouths of her fans.

Half the troupe was British (hot). But of course, Priddy, the whiskey-chugging, foul-mouthed, ample-breasted redhead, was American. Thank you.

The Suicide Girls are not about dotting letters with little hearts. They aren’t about being sweet or shy. Although burlesque is the art of tease, this was teasing with a fist to the head. Whenever you open a show with Bjork’s “Army of Me,” what can you expect? Nothing less than one kick ass performance from four kick ass women who chew men up and spit ‘em out like bad sushi.

The Suicide Girls do Star Wars.

The Suicide Girls do Star Trek.


7 Comments on The Suicide Girls and Blackheart Burlesque, last added: 11/11/2013
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24. “Something about a Ghost” Excerpt

In honor of Thanksgiving, I post an excerpt from my recently completed novel, “Something about a Ghost.” I’m thankful the novel is done; I’m also thankful to already be working on another. Happy reading, and HAPPY TURKEY DAY!!

“Something about a Ghost” - Excerpt by Sara Dobie Bauer

My feet are bare, and the floor feels cold. I move only to pull an orange and brown afghan off the back of the couch. I wrap my legs in the scratchy material and use my fingertips to check the melted makeup beneath my eyes, but there’s no hope. I don’t have enough fingers to clean all the black from my face, my face that still feels puffy and is probably still red.

hot-cup-teaThe man returns, with two steaming mugs in his hands. Despite the makeup ghost on the front of his chest, his dress-shirt is still tucked into his gray slacks. His clothes are tailored so tightly, I’m surprised he can breathe—but of course he can. Only skinny, tall men can dress like this, and if he is anything, he is skinny and tall. He’s also just brought me chamomile tea with milk and honey. I’m so accustomed to English Breakfast, I can smell every note of this sleepy time stuff. And just as my feet are cold, so are my hands, so I wrap them around the mug and say, “Thank you.”

“You’re very welcome.” He sits on the floor next to me but first has to kick the coffee table away to have space. “How are you feeling?”

“Mortified.”

“No reason to.” He takes a loud sip of tea.

“I don’t cry.”

“I do,” he says.

“I’m not saying it’s a weakness; I’m just saying it’s not my thing.”

“Keep it that way. You look horrible when you do it.”

I set my tea cup on the table to the right of the couch: the one with the lamp made entirely of antlers. I have to pull up the bottom of my dress to be able to straddle him and run my nails down the front of his shirt. “You’re going to have to get this dry-cleaned,” I say.

I trace the black circles where my eyes were, right between his pecs. There are smudges of brown and orange from my concealer and bronzer. There is even a tint of red at his sternum, where my open mouth sobbed against him.

Field-of-CloverI work free the first button and the second. I lean forward and kiss the skin I reveal—pale, pristine, with just a smattering of hair. His body is so warm beneath my chill, and I get even warmer when he reaches beneath the tulle of my dress and pulls my ass closer with the palms of his hands. Even sitting like this, me on top, his torso is so long, he can reach my lips without me having to bend forward at all. With his tongue in my mouth, on my father’s living room floor, I feel like a high school girl just home from prom.

He leans forward and tilts me away until he can find purchase on his knees. He lifts me enough to shift our positions so that I’m on my back in the center of the living room, and he’s next to me, his hand on my bare arm and his hot mouth on my neck. I reach up and hold onto his hair. I do love that hair—the soft, thickness of it—but tonight, there’s styling gel in the way, and I laugh a little when my fingers stick. I latch onto the back of his neck instead, and I pull his mouth up to mine. He tastes like honey.

He has to fight through layers of tulle, and I have to wrestle with a built-in slacks belt—which, in the end, he unfastens—before we can finally make love, fully clothed, on the rough tile floor. The chill of the tile against my back battles the heat of his body on top of me, and the sensation is more pleasant than painful. I might have scrapes on my back tomorrow; he will surely have bruised knees. But at the moment, all I can do is drown in the scent of him. I can lose myself in his movements between my legs, the weight of him, and oh, God, the taste of his lips, like clover in the fields near Flagstaff.


0 Comments on “Something about a Ghost” Excerpt as of 11/26/2013 8:27:00 PM
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25. Giffing Out

Kmart recently launched a new ad campaign for Christmas that features two happy shoppers “giffing out.” I know what you’re thinking: Kmart still exists? If you’re not thinking that, you’re thinking: What the hell is a gif? Well. Let me introduce you to one of my favorite time wasters.

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A “gif” is an image format. Unlike the boring “jpeg,” a gif format supports animation. Basically, you can turn any video into a repeating image that repeats and repeats and honestly grows funnier the more it repeats.

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Who has time to turn videos into gif files? I have no idea, although I often wonder because they show up so fast. You see something funny on the news? It’s probably a gif before the show even reaches your TV. I mean, these people are fast—like, faster than a Cumberbitch with a camera at The Hobbit premiere.

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For me, gifs exist to make me laugh—and they do, often. And who doesn’t need a laugh, right? I’m not a computer nerd, but I did laugh at the new Kmart commercials. I say bravo to them for being hip with computer folk.

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True, there are those who think the “giffing out” commercials are immature–but laughing at gifs is immature, so the advertising makes perfect sense.

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Thanks honestly to all the insane fangirls, comics, and internet-obsessed who give me the gift of gif. Merry Christmas to me!

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8 Comments on Giffing Out, last added: 12/9/2013
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