A to Z Blogging Challenge Theme Reveal

A to Z Theme Reveal

My Main Overall Theme = Crime & Punishment

Keeping close to the theme of my Crime Fiction Blog, I decided not to venture out and try anything too different this year. I've vacillated between the theme I choose every year and the poignant memoirs I intended to write last year. For those of you who don't know me or who may not remember, my childrens' father's colon cancer metastasized to his liver several months before last years challenge began. 

I wanted to write short memoirs of how we met and and how we lived before they were born so they would always have something to read. I had to drop out of the challenge before it even began as Steve took a turn for the worse and had to get a liver stent. Sadly he didn't live much longer. He died toward the end of May, and my kids are having the most difficult time dealing with his death. Losing a father is hard for teenagers and a girl headed off to college for her first year, under any circumstance, but disastrously, my kids have been dealt and additional, exceptionally cruel hand. I won't go into any detail, but my kids are suffering terribly. They're still so miserable. My poor sweet son, he seems like a shell of his former happy self. I'm praying that the grief counseling will begin helping. We'd be honored to have any of you add our family to your prayers. Easter is around the corner, and holidays are especially rough.

So I decided against the memoirs. I can't do my kids justice with short posts and still honor the brevity readers deserve for the challenge. The kids want the memoirs and they'll get them. Just not now. 

For Each Letter I'll Write Crime Fiction & the Real World ... All the World's a Stage:

I'll write 2 or more (depending on the difficulty of the letter) & not creating too long of a post because I know we're all aiming for brevity

  • A legal theory, crime or area of criminal or police procedure that's often used in crime fiction books ... sometimes erroneously, e.g. "A"is for Alibi

  • Writing topics I've studied, learned about, am still learning since I decided to become a writer, e.g. "A" is for Antagonist 

  • Weapon - Something used to kill the victim (method or manner), e.g. "A" is for Arsenic or Arson

  • My favorite crime fiction book or movie -- either the title or author's name begins with corresponding letter, e.g. Any Agatha Christie Book, Argo

  • A favorite writing craft book, Writing Tool, Writing Resource, Author, Blogger, Blog, Website, Software or other Crime Fiction Resource I find immensely helpful

  • Definition 

I won't ever write about all six & on the days I include three or more, I will likely write a review of a couple and provide links to the others to keep my post from exceeding 1000 words.

My goal is 500 words. Some will be less. A few will be more. Only a couple exceed 750 words. I want to visit as many blogs as possible and those of us interested in making new friends breathe a sigh of relief when we click on a blog and find a relatively short post (during the challenge). C'mon, you know you do. And the really bad thing is:

I know I do, but I'm so damn wordy, and I'm the guilty culprit writing the long winded posts that make you cringe. 

Not this year. My Theme Reveal is my longest post. Letter A is my second longest. Then I'm 500 and under. 

Oh and spread through my post/theme you will occasionally be given the chance to solve a daily, stand alone mystery. You don't have to read any other post to solve the daily mystery. Prizes will awarded, To Be Announced. Not sure if it will be small daily prizes or daily and a larger prize for the person who solves the most. The mysteries are not everyday.

Don't forget to tip your bartenders or stop by and thank you host and co-host. This challenge requires a lot of planning and then a lot of work, I don't know how many people realize how much time the host and co-host put into the challenge each year. Just ask them, ballpark how many hours per week? You'll be shocked. So send hugs, treats and thanks.

Arlee Bird (Founder) @ Tossing it Out

J. Lenni Dorner (Captain) @ The Blog of Author J. Lenni Dorner

Zalka Csenge VirĂ¡g @ The Multi Colored Diary

Jayden R. Vincentte @ J. R. Vincente

Jeremy Hawkins (Graphics) @ Hollywood Nuts

Insecure Writer's Support Group

November's Insecure Writer's Support Group

Happy Thanksgiving to all. The month of November is always a short and busy month. When I'm sad and my kids are still mourning the loss of their dad I'm trying to find additional ways to remind them to be thankful for what we have, so if any of you have ideas, tips or suggestions -- I'm open and I welcome your advice. 

My kids are still grappling. If any of you suffered the same tragedy and don't mind sharing how you survived it, please feel free to pass along how you got through. I feel dangerously close to losing my son. My all American, distinguished scholar, Student Council, App creator, website builder, super athlete is slipping down the rabbit hole and I need to yank him back before it's too late.

He made the varsity soccer team as a freshman (and his high school is large and big into sports 5A) and as a freshman he was number one on the varsity cross country team. He and his dad shared a special bond at cross country meets. His dad also ran cross country in high school and his dad went to college on a cross country scholarship. The coach at Florida State invited my son to the cross country camp last summer to watch him run. He was Steve's coach at Florida, but has moved to Fl. State. I feel certain he will offer Bennett a scholarship if he continues in the direction he was headed when his dad was alive. His dad attended every meet. He planned the runs with Bennett. Met him at certain corners and told him when to pull back and when to pump it up. Toward the end of really long races, those in the lead thought they had the race in the bag -- they were nano seconds from the winners circle, then they lost energy and puttered out. 

That's when Bennett's legs levitated and he soared past the group in front of him ... then the next ... and next. The crowd in the stands strained their necks, where did this kid come from? He didn't run with any of the packs? Where did he get all that late energy? He was on fire? His dad taught him everything he knew. 

Steve never missed a meet.
Even when the chemo made him so sick he could barely move. Even when the cancer was eating him alive, and his weight dropped to less than his own kids and it took everything he had to attend. He was there for his kid. Right before his dad died, Bennett broke his leg. So he's been doing physical therapy and basically just healing this year. No running or soccer. Running has always been his outlet ... his way to get away and blow off steam, let it all out ... let things go. He's been trapped inside his own body and mind. 

I wish he would write, but he won't take advice from me. I'm not dad. But, I've got to reach him before he spirals down the wrong path. I'm scared for the first time in a really long time. He idolized his dad. 

The kids worshiped their dad and Steve adored them.

I finally started writing again. Not much, but anything is better that nothing. I plan on winning   NaNo. But we all know how time consuming NaNoWriMo is.
But, hey it was my kid who told me how much happier I am when I write. Now I'm afraid if I take my eye off him too long, he'll start rolling with wild kids. Maybe that's every mom's fear. Not just single moms whose kids just lost their dad. Oh and now he drives and he has a new car. So well,  yeah ... that scares the hell out of me too. Thanks Grandma!

I'm insecure because I still haven't managed to put my family back together and while I'm making some headway with my writing, I'm not back to where I should be. I am writing.  And I have discovered that writing through grief is wonderful. It allows authentic, raw emotions to spill onto the page. The downfall, is not having as much time as I would like to finish the emotional scenes. 

It's physically, emotionally and mentally depleting working yourself up to write a personal insufferable and impassioned scene ... being prematurely ripped away from the computer ... before letting it all out, is disturbing. Being forced to stop prior to completing ... is almost as tormenting as conjuring up the images and memories necessary for writing the scene. You can try and bring yourself back to that moment again, but you will never replicate the same heavy-hearted, poignant awareness or memory. Once the fleeting trance is gone, it's lost. I hope that made sense. 

This Month's Question:

November 1 Question: Win or not, do you usually finish your NaNo project? Have any of them gone on to be published?

Hmm ... I've participated four or five times. I've completed it (won) twice, and none of my books have been published. Now, when I say I've completed it, I have to admit, the mess I've written has taken me a year to revise. But, that's probably because I never prepared for NaNo in the past. I always thought it was cheating and clearly it's not. 

Be sure to visit the official Insecure Writer's Support Group (IWSG) site.
And Give Alex Cavanaugh, the Founder and creator a great big thank you.

And don't forget to stop by and visit, and thank this month's co-hosts. Alex wouldn't be able to keep this going without his wonderful co-hosts (actually, he probably would, he's just too nice). But, this is a lot of work, so stop by and spread your gratitude.

Stay connected on Twitter @TheIWSG and hashtag #IWSG

Are you participating in Nano this year?

If you're doing NaNo you can find me Melissa Sugar on NaNo - Let's Be Buddies

I can always use an accountability partner. Do you need one? Or Motivation? Inspiration?

Tulane Law School In Greece (A Special Memory)

Letter A - Appendectomy

In Memory of Steven D. Carby

July 30, 1966- May 26, 2017


Getting Sick on the Greek Island Spetses: A Tiny Island With No Cars. Steve and I Didn't Speak Greek and No One at the Hospital Spoke English

     Steve, my boyfriend at the time, later became my husband ... not just once, but a couple of times. My mom loved to tease him. Every time he did something she didn't like or whenever they argued, (I need to preface this with Steve's personality. He avoided conflict like an STD), and everyone, including and especially Steve avoided conflict with Barbara Sugar. She messed with him ... teased him, and she would say something like ...

     "Well, you're the idiot who keeps marrying her." "You must like misery, Both of you. Can't get enough of each other. Did Ya'll even make it all the way down the courthouse steps after the last divorce before you ran back up and got the judge to waive the three day requirement and marry you again on the same day?" It's a sickness you two have." 

     But she meant it all in good fun. She truly loved and adored her son-in-law. She loved him while we were married, separated and divorced. She loved him when he moved to another state. She sent him care packages during our first divorce, it was only a couple years. She and my sisters traveled to visit him. My entire family loved him. He remained family throughout the divorces.

     I mentioned to many of you last April that I was planning on writing short memoir essays for my A -Z Theme for Lee's Annual A to Z Challenge.

     Quite a deviation from my usual Crime Fiction Theme - A to Z, but knowing that my children's father was extremely ill with cancer I wanted to share some funny and poignant stories so they would always have them. Maybe not in April, but one day. But ... it didn't work out. Steve's health declined much quicker than we anticipated. We spent the next month and a half getting the one kid ready to graduate and off to college and basically preparing our kids for their dad's death. It came in May.

I'll shut up and just share my stories.

     "My stomach is killing me. I need a doctor." 
     "How the hell do I get a doctor?" Steve answered. "We're on a remote island, in Greece. No cars." He flung his hands into mid air. They stopped next to his ears with a pronounced chop "Shall I ring for a horse and buggy?" His face fell with heaviness into his tense hands and he massaged the pressure with his middle and index finger pads. "Toughen up."

     He ruffled my hair. A feeble, but meaningful attempt. He didn't know how to comfort me.
Stretching my cheeks into a smile for him tightened my stomach muscles and I doubled over grabbing the bed side table for balance. Please god don't make me cry in front of this boy. But how much longer could I hold it in. This wasn't like my period pain or any other pain or cramps I'd suffered. Every intuition and every spark of my brain told me I needed urgent and critical help. But, I really liked this guy.

     We'd only been dating for one semester of law school when we embarked on this surreal trip. It started out as far- fetched as all of our other dreams and fantasies A group of ten or so law students sitting in one of our apartments talking 'bout traveling to Ireland or Australia or well yea ... who knows. So we had this giant cork board and we planned and we mapped and we started with ten in our group. Ireland, Scotland, Paris,all the good catholic boys voted for Ireland. Ya'll remember that, Marty, Matty?

     Me ... I didn't care. I just wanted to go. And I wanted to go where he was going. He ... being Steve. The amazingly good looking kid in my living room, with way too long hair. The guy I pretended I didn't like. The dude I tried to convince my sister, who was so in love with him, oh gawd she had the hots for him, and I pretended that I hadn't even noticed him.

     I said, "Who him?" As I casually glanced around Ricks Tavern in East Lansing Michigan.
     "Yea." Ash repeated. "The really hot one that can't take his eyes off you."
     "Oh, I don't know.  I don't even think he's good looking. Do you?"

     Who are you kidding girl? Me, I guess, because the boy who pretended not to notice me and the dude I pretended wasn't cute ... well ... we just happen to end up walking out of the bar at the exact same time that night and we literally fell into each other and began kissing.
Not just kissing. I mean going at it. You remember making out?

     Now for those of you unfamiliar with E.Lansing, it's very freezing cold. We landed in the bushes, rolled around a little. Every time we stood back up, we kissed some more and fell back over. Still not exactly sure how we ever made it safely home to the fireplace that night.

     Oh my ... the fireplace. Thats' another story. But ... It was in the living room of my rental home on Beech St. in E. Lansing. The front door had a square window at the top of the door. If a curious person/peeping tom/voyeur/snoop were so inclined they'd probably grab some of the bricks from the patio, stack them up and stand on top of them and see inside the little square pane. Perfect view of anyone who might have chosen to take advantage of the romantic fire on a bitter, bone chilling cold Michigan night.

But I digress...

      My weak legs wobbled against the table. My balled fists clenched into my stomach. Damn I hope that Flying Dolphin or air ambulance or whatever the hell they call it gets here. I may not make it much longer.
     "It's probably the water you've been drinking, like you're a native. I warned you. You're still a tourist, you know. You'll be fine in the morning." He added with a sigh.

     His face belied his words.     

     An hour later, Steve summoned a doctor with the the help of his hands, the universal language. Neither he nor I spoke any Greek and over seventy-five percent of our law school class, studying abroad from Tulane, left earlier that day for a weekend excursion to Turkey.
     The injection ... of what -- is anyone's guess, failed to subside the pain. The female doctor reminded me of a gypsy. The gypsy witch doctor failed to ask me any of those pertinent medical questions that have become so standard in the US, I can recite them. You know ... the basics:

  • Are you allergic to any medications? 
  • When is the last time you had anything to eat?
  • Have you consumed any alcohol 
  • What medications are you currently taking

     Here's the kicker: 

     The doctor that the hotel sent for didn't even inquire about my medical history. I could probably play her role. She mashed the palm of her hand on my stomach and I cried out, She repeated the same on the opposite side and I hollered and my back came off the bed. If I hadn't been so weak, I would've bolted from the room. Not a single question to access my pain or symptoms.
I suppose that was an impossible task considering our language barrier. So, she gave me an injection of something for an unknown/undiagnosed illness. I prayed it was strong enough to knock me out so I didn't feel the pain. I wanted to wake in the morning and the whole incident be behind us.

     Two grueling hours later, the pain increased. Bent over, my head and shoulders tucked into my waist, gasping for each breath, my legs teetering and trembling unable to hold me up for longer than a few minutes at a time, I pinned Steve's cobalt blue eyes with my own, I said in an unrecognizable voice that sounded like I'd gargled with razorblades, "Steve, please. Help me. I'm serious."

     By now the pain had crawled and wormed its way all the way up my chest. I knew the situation called for extreme measures, but I didn't know how to get Steve, easy going, minimizing Steve into panic mode. This is definitely the guy you want around facing most emergencies. No one wants a person who can't handle a crisis. On the other end of that spectrum is the guy who never has a sense of urgency.Something is terribly wrong now. I know it, I''m straining -- gulping  for each breath. The pain that originated in my lower belly has snaked its way higher and higher and is rising into my lungs. Why is it getting hard to breathe? I must calm myself down or I'll have a panic attack and then I'm totally screwed. But, I know this is more than just a panic attack. I need medical attention. Now, This is a critical mater.

     "Steve, I'm having hard tine catching my breath. We need to get to the mainland ... to a hospital. Please. Quickly." I snagged his elbow and lead him toward the boat dock. Shit I cannot do this all by myself. The pain keeps climbing. This higher the pain gets the more I hunch over just to walk. My head and neck are down toward my pelvis. Why the hell didn't we take off with everyone to Turkey? Oh god I'm scared. I don't want to die. I want my mom. I really want my mom and I can't even call her.

     "This better not turn out to be gas or constipation," Steve whispered into my ear, loud enough for the transport team to hear.

     "Shut up. It's not."

     With one arm he reached underneath and scooped me into his arms, carrying me the last few feet of the dock to the flying dolphin "Sea Ambulance."
He shook his head back and forth once he slid me into the patient's seat and the EMT people took over strapping me in. He's embarrassed. That SOB. I can't believe, I could be dying here and he's worried about what these assholes might think. These people he'll never see again.
I cut my eyes at him. He got the message.


     "I could be dying and ..."

     "Sorry, it just seems a little much don't you think?"

     I closed my eyes for the forty five minute ferry over choppy breakers. Each wave sent a jolt of sharp electricity through my body. When we had to cut in or out of the wake I felt a serrated knife gutting me like a fish. The pain pulsating in my eardrum.

     The first hospital couldn't help and sent us on our way in another ambulance. Now we were traveling in the backseat of a Mercedes,which had been deputized an "ambulance." I didn't know anything about the driver and I certainly didn't know if he had medical training. And we didn't have any other people with us (no aides or staff, etc) Driver in the front seat, Steve and me in the back seat. We drive for 4.5 to 5 hours at accelerated speed through winding mountains of Greece. I'd stopped complaining hours ago. I wanted to live and if this man could get me to a hospital then I stood a chance. The curves at such a high rate of speed were painful.

     Losing hope and becoming weaker each minute, we locked eyes and I spotted the fear in Steve for the first time.

     "I'm dying. I'm not gonna make it, am I?"
He couldn't look me in the eye. He buried my face into his chest and we both cried. He swore to me that he was going to get me to the hospital.
I held onto to my grasp of his wrist.
We made it to the hospital, I was far too weak to share his enthusiasm. I don't remember much, but I begged Steve not to let them operate on me and I'll never forget him telling me that they operated on people back in the cowboy days and I'd be fine.

     I was told later that the Doctor, who Steve talked to only once, actually trained at the University of Chicago, ran from the one operating room, holding my appendix, telling Steve that he saved me from the hands of St. Peter. It wasn't my time to go that day. Steve watched another man die of a heart attack as they parked his ambulance in the shade (no air in the hospital) and the hospital only had one operating room (they call them something else over there), but anyway, they take the most critical patients first. I will forever be haunted by that. A man died of a heart attack while I was being operated on, because there was only one room.

     I remained in the ICU for 11 days and I have lots of stories, some are quite funny, some will turn your stomach. I actually received excellent medical care and when I checked out, my bill was only $7 American Dollars. Wow, imagine what that would have been in America. Steve wasn't happy about his bed pan duty for everyone in the ICU -- apparently no one empties the damn things, so he did it for everyone, followed by lots of Lysol.

     Luckily this was during the world cup, so he made friends and they went out for beer and Gyros at night.You don't need to speak the same language for that. I remained in ICU. This story has much much more so I'll revisit it during another letter.

     I wanted to point out that the man I married and the father of my kids had a chance to run, we had only been dating a short time when we traveled around the world together for a semester of law school in Greece. He was a stand up guy, then. May he rest in peace. I hope my kids are fortunate enough to get all of his good qualities.

Stay tuned and come back for letter "B"

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