Monday, January 20, 2020

Writing Goals for 2020

I'm a little late posting my 20's goals, but I was finishing off a stalled novel. Finally finished Angel's Tread, the fourth and last volume of the Black Angel series.  At 60K words I didn't know where to take the story, but in the first weeks of 2020 I wrote another 15K to finish the story. Now I'm deciding what I want to accomplish this year.

I have several projects, one is to write the second volume of the Carolingian's series. Another is to change genres to a contemporary romance and to a 40s romance.  Whether I will or won't, I find it helps to have goals written down.

Another goal is to get some regular posts in my Rhobin's Garden blog. It's been a while. It might take a more environmental angle, though.

Other than those projects, I have some painting and other art projects to complete and some to start besides painting rooms.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

A third excerpt from Constantine's Legacy

Fifteen-year-old Leonard has been given the duty to keep watch of the new anointed king's son and nephew. Young boys, especially those now in a hereditary line of power, can get you in trouble.
Karl’s eyes squinted at Leonard. “You will not tell anyone, will you?” 

“I give you my oath, also, to always be your loyal man.” His words went far beyond the required, and Karl’s regard showed he knew it. Leonard looked directly into Karl’s clear blue eyes, perceptive enough to realize he might be swearing to his future king, but a flicker of doubt deepened his voice, which promptly cracked into a higher pitch. Both boys laughed. He glared at them through his embarrassment. Their humor at his expense ceased. 

Karl’s smile widened further. “Follow me.” He took fast steps toward the main building. Nithgard ran after Karl’s longer stride. Leonard sighed, wondering what trouble he had agreed to.

“You swore to be quiet!” Karl warned as he slid between two wooden portico slats. “No, I swore not to tell,” Nithgard replied, lowering his shrill child’s voice to a whisper. 

What was an adequate space for a large nine-year-old was a tight squeeze for Leonard. He pulled his body between the wooden slats hiding the understructure of the porch. He ducked low to avoid hitting his head on support beams, swore softly, and followed the boys as they squirmed their way through the debris beneath the porch flooring. The strong scent of earth and human waste assaulted his nose. Karl and Nithgard were quickly far ahead of him down the length of the building. Crawling, he swore again and saw the boys’ shadowed shapes disappear. He hurried forward, sometimes in a hunched-over walk and sometimes in a near crawl using his hands on supports to help pull himself forward. The light from between the slats diminished as he turned the corner where the boys had disappeared. He watched their shadowed movements through the foundation supports of the building. It took his eyes a moment to readjust to the near pitch darkness, but some light filtered in from the floor slats overhead. Losing sight of his charges, he followed the whispers ahead of him. A hand pulled him to the side, and he let out a low squeal at the assault.

“Quiet!” Karl hissed in his ear, “just a little further.”

They crawled down what seemed a crack in the earth and piled into a small space between support beams. Leonard flopped down, supporting his back against one of the beams, and saw the boys only as dark outlines except for the dim light’s reflection in their eyes. 

“Here,” Karl whispered. “We can listen to the council meet.” 

Leo’s heart tripped in fear. How had he let himself be dragged into eavesdropping on his leader’s private conference? If caught, he would be whipped. He could feel the lashes. Although he had never been whipped, he had seen it done. 

It was too late to retreat. Footsteps sounded on the floor planks above their secluded spot. From the sound, he judged several men stood overhead. Hearing the voices above him, he dare not speak. He swallowed in panic, recognizing his father’s voice. Leonard knew he was committing an act of treachery. He glared at Karl, who must have seen his look, for he shrank back against the opposite beam. 

“I cannot see anything, what...?” As Nithgard’s near-normal voice broke their stillness, Leonard quickly grabbed him and put a hand over the child’s mouth. Nithgard did not squirm for release but held deathly still. The enlarged gleam of the boy’s eyes showed his shock. Nithgard faced no punishment for his actions. Most likely Karl did not face discipline either, but Leonard knew as their guardian, he would suffer the consequence if anyone discovered his charges’ location. If not by Pepin’s order, by his father’s hand, maybe both. With what he hoped was a blood-curdling whisper, he demanded, “Quiet."

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Our Sky

Cloudy sky dotted with hot air balloons.


When I am outside, whether gardening, walking, driving, or just standing, I always look upward... many times. Doesn’t everybody? The majestic display often makes me feel minuscule and fills me with awe of the majesty and expanse of this world blanket of air. The sky's appearance is always changing, some days by the minute and some days over many hours. Only when the sky is could free does it ever look the same, when clouds are present, it is always different. In many ways, the sky defines not only our ability to live on Earth but also our daily reality.

During daylight hours, the sky can be an empty, clear and startling blue cover. Other times it is dotted with glorious puffs of snow-white puff-ball clumps of clouds slowly moving and shifting in shape or filled with stacks of billowing rotund froths of clouds. The sun's light highlights the upper edges in a glowing, angelic white while the lower parts have grey-lined edges lining darker undersides giving them three-dimensional shapes. Occasionally, high flying wisps, commonly called mares tails or Cirrus clouds, decorate the sky’s vastness. Sometimes clouds seem to stand still, other times they move at a fast, rolling, often threatening pace. Sporadically a dense blanket of grey predicting storms covers the sky and hides its upper reaches.

Along with the clouds’ visual grandeur, the wind created by the atmospheric movement affects our hearing. The sound can be soft whispers moving through the needle or leaf-lined branches trees. or it can rage in a howling volume over the ground as well as the sky.

We judge the weather by its appearance, and to those gazing at the clouds, they provide predictive clues. They can be delightful, inspiring viewers' imaginations to visualize shapes like ships, or dragons, cats or whales in their vast undulating vastness. Clouds can change how the sun and its rays appear in the sky in fascinating ways. They can also show what will be an average, ordinary good day, or express impending storms of either rain or snow. Some cloud signs are so severe they indicate approaching danger. Thunderclaps startle us, and lightning bolts frighten but fascinate us. Tornadoes and hurricanes spell peril and disaster.

Olathe, Kansas, cloud photo taken by Karen Crnkovich
Watching the sky shows life’s adaptations. Birds and man-made conveyances often fly by. The birds glide and soar on unseen winds and drafts or can wing their way to somewhere. Sometimes they dart after smaller, flying insects. Airplanes and helicopters pass with loud engine noise.

On cloudless nights a phenomenal view of the universe appears showing its grandeur and the Earth’s movement. The moon’s reflected light often falls on clouds in a glow the sun seldom creates. Infrequently, northern lights play over and through the darkness. And occasionally, flying objects pass, showcased in reflected light, those closer to Earth often appear as dark shadows.


The sky in all its glory has enchanted man for millennia, probably since consciousness began, inspiring mythology, ideologies, and freeing human imaginations. Skies have imbued humans with stories for their own purpose on Earth. While we still watch clouds and let our minds float in cloud-based inspiration about creation,  finding imaginary images within those vast collections of water molecules, so did ancient peoples. The ancient ones often discovered hidden images and meanings. For eons, mankind's stories have been imbued with ancient sky gods and stories of the creation.

More than 2,000 years before Christ, the Sumerian god Anu reigned over the sky and held rein over the entire universe or the ultimate power of the world. Around the same time, or maybe long before, the Egyptian god Ra (sun), the goddess Nut (sky), and Horus personified as a falcon, ruled over the Eqyptian sky. Greek mythology had Zeus as the god of heaven and Earth, and Nephele was a cloud nymph. Zeus became Jupiter in Roman mythology.

On the other side of the world, the Navajo’s spirit Absonnutli created the sky. In New Zealand, Rangi, the sky father, and Papa, the Earth mother, were locked in a tight embrace with their children caught in the darkness between their bodies. Their children tore their parents apart, creating the world.

In the Hindu lexicon, Indra holds authority over the sky with his thunderbolt weapon as does the god Thor in Germanic mythology.

I find it interest how often males were sun gods and females Earth goddesses, maybe saying men represented energy and women matter, tying it to today's physics.


The sky’s atmosphere exists miles above the Earth, holding molecules of gases and all the billions of water molecules that form clouds. Just because they float, doesn't mean they are any more weightless than the moon. Those clouds weight far more than their floating images imply--sometimes we have the weight of a hundred elephants floating overhead. It delivers water and snow to the Earth's surface.

As sunlight diffuses through the sky's many molecules, Rayleigh scattering lets the shorter, blue waves of light color the daytime sky. Red waves often appear to color the sunset sky.

Photo of Traverse City's East Bay, Sunset by Chris Courtright

Moreover, we know the atmosphere’s gases allow life on Earth. The atmosphere of the sky provides oxygen for animals and carbon dioxide for plants. Plants and animals work in symbiosis to expel into the air what the other life form needs. The atmosphere also invades and filters into everything, even the Earth itself: its waters, its caves, and even its soil. It holds other gases, too, like Nitrogen, Argon, Hydrogen, and Helium. The higher the atmosphere rises, the less vapor it holds. Gravity gathers most of the molecules close to its surface in the Troposphere. Above this layer, the Stratosphere holds a cover called the Ozone layer, composed of O3, which helps protect us from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. It is also present nearer ground level where it mixes with human-created pollutants from industry and vehicles. This creates smog becoming a danger to human health.

Knowledge lies out there… Of course, our night vision shows the vast universe of stars. We know much about the various objects in the sky that ancient man marveled over but never understood, not that we have complete understanding today. We have the hope of someday exploring it, and perhaps finding other Earth-like places. We know devastation lies out there, too – asteroids could crash into Earth, cosmic rays present a danger to human space travel, and black holes suck the matter and energy out of everything in their reach; plus the debris humans have left in space spells danger.


Humanity has tended to take the Earth for granted, including the sky. Many people are unconcerned with how our actions and inventions have changed and polluted the very things we depend on for life: water, earth, and air. We have filled our air with Sulfur dioxide, Carbon monoxide, and Nitrogen dioxide. Poisonous dust particles also float in the air. In some parts of today's world, it is not unusual to see inhabitants wearing face masks to prevent inhaling dangerous particles from smog, smoke, and other exhaust gases of man’s making. It is a dangerous situation of our own making; hopefully, one we can repair.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Abandoned, a short story.

Saline slowly drove down the long and straight country road. Brown autumn leaves covered the road’s tree-lined sides, and each gust of wind blew those fallen leaves in a twirling tumult across the road. No numbers marked the few houses scattered between the crop-filled fields and the wild meadows lining the road. It made her search difficult. Two times she had searched Buck County for her great-grandmother's home. This was her third try.

Before coming to Grammie's house, Mama had lived in several horrible dwellings. Grammie had welcomed her Celesty and said to call her Grammie. She gave Mama a secure and peaceful shelter after her drug-addled mother abandoned her. Mama claimed it had changed her, given her hope.

Mama had always talked about the breakfasts Grammie fixed her as she served Saline her breakfast. “She raised chickens. So every morning Grammie cooked eggs, and she always served them with the best toast and jelly in the world. She traded extra eggs with a local farmer for milk. I enjoyed knowing I would always have something to eat in the morning.” Saline knew her mother had often gone hungry when in her mother's care.

Mama had also talked about other things Grammie did, like waiting with her for the school bus in the morning to make sure she was on it. When she arrived home, Grammie always asked about her day at school. She also encouraged Mama to get good grades and to go to university. Grammie must have planned this way ahead of Mama's graduation because Grammie's Will provided Mama’s tuition.
Mama did receive the tuition, but that was all she got, even though it was a lot.

Grammie died just before Mama graduated high school, and while Mama was at the funeral, her mother raided Grammie's house and took everything, explaining, “She took the valuable stuff in the house, including most of my clothes and the few pieces of jewelry Grammie gave me. Things of no value, like family photos, lay broken on the floor when I returned home. Do you know what I miss the most?” While her Mother talked, Saline remembered her fingers rubbing the single barrette she always wore.

Saline knew the answer. “The matching barrette to the one in your hair. The set Grammie gave you when you first came to live with her.”

Mama always smiled, saying, “Yes. She brushed my hair every night and braided it into pigtails. In the morning she brushed it again, braided it, and placed the barrettes to keep it all in place.”

Saline suddenly slammed on the breaks. She saw the house, recognizing it from a photo of her Mama and Grammie standing on the steps. The steps were gone; so was the porch. The house no longer had glass in the windows, and no door filled the front entryway. Although still in place, the roof sagged. The wood siding was gray in unpainted age.

Saline parked and locked her car, leaving her purse on the driver’s side floor. For several minutes she stood and stared at the house before she walked up the chunks of cracked and broken cement sidewalk. It ran in a straight line through the weeds and small seedling trees emerging from what once must have been a lawn.

The entrance stood open about a yard above the oak leaves, broken wood, and sawdust-like substance covering the ground. She guessed window glass also lay in the debris underfoot. Glad she had worn jeans below her dressier shirt and jacket, Saline grasped the door’s frame raised one foot to the frame's sill and pulled herself up. Her grasp of the frame with her left hand suddenly pulled free, the rotted wood giving way. She swayed as flung her arm forward to find a new hold on the inside of the frame. Regaining her hold and her balance, she gasped a breath of air.

Inside the old dwelling smelled of decay. “You’re crazy. This decrepit old house could fall apart any minute." She laughed, "And you are talking to yourself.” No one answered her.

Sunlight filled the interior from the empty window frames in the outer walls. Broken furniture, painted graffiti, decayed fallen house parts, and garbage filled the living room. A wall with no plaster covering the wall studs and a worn, wooden door frame gave entrance to the kitchen. A gaping hole devastated part of the floor, showing a few grayed floor beams which had supported the floor's now missing flooring. A staircase rose from the sidewall to her left.

Saline took slow steps on the floor moving around the side edges of the room. She carefully stepped on the beam sections underneath the wood floor planks. Several steps were missing from the staircase, and much of the railing lay broken. With her hands against the wall's remains, she took the steps, placing her feet on the sides of each step where the wood remained in place. Once upstairs, the hallway turned and extended the length of the house. She noted the ceiling above the hallway seemed to mostly remain in place, except at the far end, where bricks from the collapsed chimney littered the floor. Staying close to a sidewall, she walked down the hall. Five doorframes lined the hall's walls, each without a door. The first two openings, each on opposite sides of the hallway, were small bedrooms. The flooring was gone in one, as was the ceiling.

Midway down the hallway, another small doorway opened into a closet, which stood next to another doorway exposing an old bathroom where an old-fashioned tub, toilet, and washstand remained. The last doorway exposed a large room facing the front of the house. Here the gray floorboards remained in place. An old bed lay partially collapsed on the floor, its mattress’s filling scattered over the floor with the rubble of rusted springs rising from the mess. A decrepit old dresser stood against a sidewall. A old wooden bowl sat on the dresser’s top.

A pressing urge to see the bowl’s contents grasped Saline. “It’s got to be empty,” she said, trying to dissuade herself from crossing the floor. Her legs moved of their own accord. Staying close to the wall, she watched for nails in the cracked and buckling floor showing where they were attached to floor beams, gingerly stepping on them as she slowly made her way around the room’s edge. Her breath caught with each step, expecting the floor to give way. Reaching the bowl, Saline lifted it off the dresser.

Debris filled it. She sighed. “It figures. Your curiosity led nowhere.” Deciding she wanted to keep the bowl, she turned and started the arduous trip back to the doorway. With each step, she imagined the floor shivered beneath her feet. A few steps from the doorway, she heard a loud crack and realized she had not imagined the floor's shivering. She lunged to the doorway dropping the bowl. She clutched the doorway's wooden frame as the bedroom floor collapsed with a loud series of cracking. The dresser and rotting bed frame disappeared with the floor. A dust storm exploded in the room. Her grip on the frame tightened, but even that structure shook. Squeezing her eyes shut, her breath stopped as she expected the entire aging structure to fail.

She remained standing for several seconds or maybe minutes; she was not sure which. Inhaling a quick, nervous breath, she opened her eyes. The lingering dust choked her, and she coughed. Only a few wood planks, most with broken edges, lined the bedroom’s perimeter. All else was gone.

The hallway floor remained solid. The bowl she had dropped lay in the middle of it. A beam of sunlight from a new hole in the ceiling caused something on the floor to shine. With her hand still on the door frame, she slid into a squatting position, feeling a stinging splinter enter her palm. Righting the bowl, she saw the dusty garbage it held had fallen away. A pair of old clamp style earrings, a ring… and a barrette lay on the floor. She recognized it but had never expected to find it. Picking up the pieces and the bowl, she heard a noise below.

“Anyone here?” a masculine voice shouted from below.

She yelled, “Yes, but do not come up. I’m coming down.”

Moving as fast as safety allowed, Saline moved down the hallway and staircase. Once at the bottom of the staircase, she saw a uniformed man stood balancing in the doorway. Making her way around the room’s sides, she reached the doorway. The police officer was already on the ground outside the house. He lifted her out of the doorway to the ground.

“You know you are trespassing and in a very dangerous, derelict building? You could have been killed as that floor collapsed.”

“Yes, I know officer, but I was not trespassing. How did you know I was here?”

“A passing car noticed your car parked here. I'm Deputy Galen with the county sheriff’s office, and I was sent to investigate. We've tried to keep explorers out of this derelict.”

“This house belonged to my mother. She has paid taxes on it for years, but she had never visited it.” She turned to look at the old house. “Her memories, I think, were too powerful...and painful”

“Celeste Loopinz was your grandmother?”

“No, my great-grandmother. She left the property to my mother. Mama died two weeks ago. I recently learned she left the property to me.”

Deputy Galen looked at the derelict. “It needs to be demolished.”

She gave a shaky laugh. “Yes, it does! And I plan to have it knocked down, but I wanted to see it. I never have seen it except in photos. It saddens me to see it now.”

“You are not going back inside, are you?”

“No Deputy Dalen. I realize how dangerous it is. Does any company in the county do demolishion?”

Minutes later, with the name of the business the deputy gave her, she sat in her car watching the patrol car pull away. The sliver in her hand stung. She pulled it out with her teeth and giggled. The visor mirror showed her dust-covered face. “What a mess! Good thing my tetanus shots are up to date.” Turning to look at the old house, she took a few minutes to regain her composure. She glanced at the bowl sitting on the seat next to her. Tomorrow she would take the barrette to her mother’s grave and bury it there. “Grammie found it, Mom, and saved it for you, but she must have died before she could tell you.”

Memories are precious, Hope you have enjoyed your holidays, and please visit the following authors' posts: