The Ghost at My Shoulder

Do you believe in ghosts?  I do.

Allow me to elaborate . . .

One aspect of the writing life, at some point or another, is insecurity.  If you keep at it, and write for any length of time at all, insecurity is inevitable, unavoidable.  You worry that the novel you’re working on isn’t any good, and if it is, then you worry you’ll get stuck halfway through, and won’t know how to end the story.  You worry that you peaked ten years ago, and anything you write from this moment forward will signal a steady and depressing descent.  You worry that the ideas will just dry up, evaporating like steam rising from a woodland pond on a crisp October morning.  You fret that, maybe, you’ll become burned out and lose the passion that has fueled your writing for years.



You worry, in short, that every lyrical sentence is fleeting, every well-written short story a momentary triumph soon to be replaced by a long line of duds.  You worry that writing itself, the birth of ideas, the sculpting of sentences and paragraphs, the creation of well-rounded characters, is transitory.  There seems to be an impermanence to the thing, as if, at any moment, the light will dim, the flow of creativity dammed up like a lost and forgotten river.



And for me, that’s when I need to trust my ghost.  It’s not a ghost that creeps in the shadows of the night and haunts my dreams–though I believe in those, too.



This ghost, this lifetime companion, if you will, views me from afar and plays hard-to-get.  But just when I feel frustration building to red-line levels, when the urge to give up on a story is disturbingly close, the ghost returns.

Some people call the ghost a muse.  That’s a fine term, muse.



But for me, he is my ghost.  He’s a ghost because I can never anticipate his arrival–I can only hope for it when needed.  I can’t force him to come.  He visits and leaves when he will, capricious, like the New England weather.  And when I’m stuck, when the dreaded writer’s block has me in its grip, my ghost is the only way out, the only pathway to creative freedom.  I can try to force ideas all day long, I can craft a meticulous, detailed chapter-by-chapter outline, but those methods have never worked for me.  I have always needed to keep the faith in my ghost.

When I wrote The Eye-Dancers, there were portions of the novel that flowed smoothly and easily, like a cool and welcome summer breeze after a torrid hot spell.  These sections were a joy, when the words poured out of me and the story completely took on a life of its own.  I felt like a vessel, a conduit, tapping into a current of energy that poured through me and onto the page.



This is a beautiful and heady feeling,  the apogee of the creative process. Perhaps in these “in-the-zone” moments, my ghost is standing right there beside me, at my shoulder, though I am unaware of his presence.  I think the ghost works best that way–when I’m aware of his nearness, the subconscious loses its hold, and the conscious self threatens to short-circuit the process.  My ghost works best in the background.

But then there are moments when I distinctly feel his absence, when the words and thoughts seem to be spiked with barbed wire, slicing and cutting and going nowhere.  These are the times when I know I’m alone, when my ghostly ally is nowhere to be found.  Some chapters in The Eye-Dancers were like this–daunting Himalayan peaks that needed to be scaled.  I would write the chapter, but I knew it wasn’t close to what it needed to be.  I would rewrite it, reread it, still shaking my head.  I would start to doubt myself, doubt the story, and when no answers came, I felt an urge to fling the keyboard across the room.  I would struggle and wrestle, but nothing seemed right.  I needed my spectral friend in the worst way.



And then, when I felt completely unraveled, after taking a dozen long walks trying to work out the tangles of the plot, the ghost would finally come, tiptoeing along as if daring me to miss his arrival.  “Sssh,” he seemed to whisper.  “Stop trying so hard.  It will come when it will come.”  And it did.

He comes with a feather-light step, my ghost does.  He comes when he’s needed, and he always has–a lifelong helper, a friend of the writer.  He is a constant reminder to allow the story to be the story, to let it unfold as it will, at its own pace and in its own time.  When I worry over the direction of the plot, when I doubt that I have a single worthwhile word left in me to write, he reassures, softly, and he leads me along the path I need to travel.

So, you see, when I am asked if I believe in ghosts, I answer, without hesitation, “Yes.”

Because if I doubted, if I didn’t believe, my creative well would have gone dry long, long ago . . .

Thanks so much for reading!


A Super Sweet Blogging Award, and Tag! I’m It!

It continually amazes me and fills me with gratitude that The Eye-Dancers site has been nominated for so many blogging awards.  It’s been such an enjoyable ride, and I can’t thank you all enough.  WordPress is a wonderful place to be, and I am honored by your award nominations.  It really does mean a lot.  You are the reasons why blogging is so rewarding and so much fun.

I have been nominated for two new awards–The Super Sweet Blogging Award, and the Tag!  You’re It Award.

But first, I did want to thank several great bloggers for nominating The Eye-Dancers for the following awards, as well . . .

Thanks to Reshu at Reshu for a Best Moment nomination.   Thank you to Kathmandu at lmoktan for a Sunshine Award nomination!  Thanks to Janice at Jems Books for a Shine On Award nomination.  And thank you very much to Mary at Oil Pastels by MaryThe Clumsy Fool, and D-Anna at Style Salvation for a Versatile Blogger Award nomination!  The Eye-Dancers has been fortunate enough to win each of these awards in the past, but I wanted to give a shout-out to these fantastic bloggers.  Please be sure to visit their sites!  I am sure you will enjoy them!


A very warm thank you to Janice at jemsbooks, Jackie at Jackiewriting, Kristy at FamilyEverything, Lyn at The Encouraging Scribe, and Katie at The D/A Dialogues for nominating The Eye-Dancers for The Super Sweet Blogging Award!  You all have magnificent sites, and I appreciate the Sweet Award!


The rules for the Super Sweet Blogging Award are as follows . . .

1. Thank the Super Sweet Blogger that nominated you

2. Answer five super sweet questions

The 5 sweet questions:

Cookies or cake? —  Hmm.  Well, it depends on the kind of cookies and the flavor of cake!  But, as a general rule, I would go for the cookies.

Chocolate or vanilla? — Definitely vanilla!

Favorite sweet treat? — Tough to pick just one, but if I had to, I might just go with the old-fashioned, simple piece of apple pie!

When do you crave sweet things the most? — Probably at night, when I shouldn’t be eating them . . .
Sweet nick name? — My aunt used to call me Polly Wolly when I was  a kid, and she used to sing a Polly Wolly song every time she saw me.

3. Include the Super Sweet Blogging award image in your blog post

4. Nominate a dozen other bloggers. The following list is in no particular order. You all have amazing, sweet, thoughtful blogs.













Thanks again to Janice, Jackie, Kristy, Lyn, and Katie for the nomination!  And I hope everyone will check out their great blogs!


And now I would like to thank Perpetua at The Seeker57 and Shaun at Praying for One Day for nominating The Eye-Dancers for the Tag!  You’re it Award.  It is an honor being recognized by two such prolific and talented bloggers!


The rules.

1.  Post a picture of the award on your blog

2.  Tag back to the person who tagged you to let them know you’ve accepted the award.

3.  Share 11 facts about you.

4.  Answer the 11 questions I’ve asked you.

5.  Tag the same amount of people as their are letters in your name.

6.  Ask your OWN 11 questions to the people you’ve tagged.

7.  Contact the people you’ve tagged to let them know they’ve been tagged.

Questions for me to answer (from Shaun at Praying for One Day):

1. What is your favorite color?  Green.  The color of a Vermont field . . .



2. Where have you been to in the world, away from your country?  I have never been overseas.  I have only been to Canada, which I really enjoy visiting!



3. If you had a time machine where would you go and why?  The 1950s.  I’ve always been drawn to that era, and always wished I could have experienced it.  The characters in The Eye-Dancers do get a chance to “live” the ’50s–after a fashion . . .



4. What food do you love most?  Probably my favorite treat of all is French fries.  I’d have answered the same way when I was 8!



5. What is your favorite TV show?  The Twilight Zone, without a doubt!




6. Who is your favorite Actor?  I would have to go with Jimmy Stewart.  He always brought an “everyman” quality to the screen, and he was very talented and likeable.



7. When was the last time you were in the Hospital (No reasons needed):  I have been fortunate, and have never been an in-patient in a hospital.  I’ve gone for routine check-ups and tests, but never for an overnight stay.

8. When did you 1st fall in love, if not, when would you like to?  Well, I always say my first love was writing, and that happened at a very young age!  Way back in the second grade.  Writing and I, we’ve had a very rocky relationship at times, but it’s always been love . . .

9. Do you understand String Theory?  A little–some of the basic concepts.  But whenever I need clarification, I just ask my pal Marc Kuslanski . . .

10. Where IS Waldo?  Search me!!

11. What type/make of Mobile phone do you have?  I have an outdated, archaic Tracfone that never fails to elicit laughs.



My 11 questions for the nominees below:

1. You are going to a remote place–no TV, no cell phone, no electronics.  And you can only bring along one book.  Which book do you choose?

2.  You have a plate full of French fries and a plate full of apples before you.  Which plate do you go for?

3.  What is your favorite season of the year?

4.  What is your favorite sports team (or player) in any sport?

5.  Which do you prefer?  Rocky or Rambo?

6.  What is your favorite old movie (“old” here being defined as any movie prior to 1990)?

7.  What celebrity are you the most tired of?

8.  There is a romance movie on one channel, and a sci-fi movie on the other.  Which do you watch?

9.  What is the most outrageous dare you ever accepted?  Did you follow through and do it?

10.  Do you believe there is life “out there,” in outer space?

11.  Which decade from the 20th century do you think had the worst fashion sense?

Here are 11 facts about me . . .

1. I never wash my car.  When you live on a dirt road in Vermont, as I do, washing your car is a futile activity.  It will just be dirty again the next day.  When is it washed?  When it rains!



2. William Faulkner is often cited as one of the greatest American authors.  While I appreciate his talent, I have never been a fan, and have found his signature work, The Sound and the Fury, to be nearly unreadable . . .



3. I have always been drawn to the “off-season,” the quiet times, like the woods in November, stripped bare, the baseball stadium in winter, silent, the field hidden under a blanket of snow.  Or the summer amusement park in January, empty, the rides vacant and still, the food stands bare, the crowds a memory.  And yet, amidst the silence and solitude, there is the promise of tomorrow, the anticipation of laughter and fun and activity. But for the moment, all is hushed, and still . . .



4. Much like with Faulkner, I am not a huge F. Scott Fitzgerald fan either.  I have often heard people cite The Great Gatsby as the greatest American novel ever written.  Certainly it’s in the news of late, with the new movie.  And again, while I clearly can see and appreciate the talent, Fitzgerald is not a favorite of mine.  I much prefer the prose of Truman Capote, John Knowles, or Harper Lee.



5. My mother has not purchased a single donut since 1980.  The reason?  She says if she buys one, she’ll buy a dozen, and eat them all at once.  I am the same way with ice cream.  I rarely buy it, and when I do, I eat it very quickly!  It’s a twice-a-year-treat.  I can’t trust myself to get it more often than that.



6. My favorite Shakespeare tragedy is King Lear.  A masterpiece.



My favorite Shakespearian comedy?  A Midsummer Night’s Dream.



7. I love baseball history, but don’t really follow baseball very closely today.  Ask me about the 2013 Yankees and I’ll come up blank.  But ask me about the 1927 Yankees, and I can give you all the information you’d want.



8. I recently created a Twitter account.  I’m enjoying it, but still learning about it!



9.  I have never traveled abroad, though I’d love to.  Maybe someday . . .



10. When I was six years old, I went to a softball game to watch my father play.  While at the plate during his first at-bat, teammates kept shouting “good eye, good eye!” to him as he took several errant pitches.  From that day on, I called him “Good Eye.”  The thing is?  I still do . . .

11. I am not a big fan of air travel, and, in fact, have not been on a plane since 2000.  I wouldn’t say I’m afraid to fly, but I prefer not to.  But, as mentioned in #9, I would love to travel overseas.  And in that case, I’d gladly hop on a plane . . .



Well, since my full name has 14 letters, here are 14 nominations for the Tag!  You’re It! Award!
















Thank you again to the great bloggers who nominated me for these awards!  And thank you very much to everyone for reading!


Character Interludes (Or, “Yo, Marie! We Need to Talk . . .”)

When most people think of Rocky Balboa, they think of larger-than-life boxing matches, grueling slugfests against the likes of Apollo Creed and Clubber Lang.  And with good reason.  Rocky, of course, is a fighter, and the movies are built around the pugilistic perils of his career.



The Rocky brand, too, has been somewhat tarnished over the years due to the excessive number of sequels.  The sequels have, for the most part, been Box Office gold, but at the same time, they have relegated Rocky to something of a caricature.  With each new installment, it seemed the level of predictability and corniness increased, and Rocky’s opponents became more and more imposing.  Boxers such as Clubber Lang in Rocky III and Ivan Drago in Rocky IV were nearly on par with comic book supervillains.

But go back, if you will, to the original.  When Rocky premiered in 1976, Sylvester Stallone was a no-name writer/actor who had to fight hard just to play the title character in his screenplay.  The film studio wanted Burt Reynolds or Robert Redford.  Stallone stubbornly demanded the role.  Obviously it was the right call.

When audiences were introduced to Rocky Balboa, they weren’t sure what to expect.  The Rocky formula didn’t exist yet.  Stallone had a blank slate with which to work.  He decided to devote much of the first half of the movie to Rocky’s life.  We see Balboa in a smoke-filled ring to start the film, a club fighter, short on skill, but with a fierce heart and a hard punch.  We see Rocky drifting aimlessly around the slums of Philadelphia, bouncing his ever-present rubber ball and wearing his black, finger-less gloves.  He works the docks as a loan shark.



He hangs out on street corners.  He likes a shy young woman who barely gives him the time of day.



He’s friends with her older brother, cranky, temperamental bristly-edged Paulie.



As we watch the film unfold, we generally like Rocky.  He seems like a decent enough guy, down on his luck, just struggling to scrape by and earn a living.  But, this early on, we’re still not sure.  The movie is still young.  Maybe the guy will turn out to be a creep.

This is where a pivotal scene takes place. . . .

It’s night.  Rocky passes a street corner as a bunch of young men heckle him.  He ignores them, clearly used to this kind of thing, unfazed by it.  But amid the hecklers, there is a young girl named Marie, maybe twelve or thirteen years old.  She joins in, hurling curses at Rocky.

He instantly leads her away from the throng, and asks her if those “yo-yos” back at the corner taught her to swear like that.  “Don’t you never talk like that again,” he admonishes her.  They walk down the darkened city streets, toward Marie’s apartment.



Rocky tries to give her some advice.  He explains that if she continues to hang around with the wrong crowd and talk like a sewer, she’ll get a reputation.  And twenty years down the road, when people ask, “Hey, do you remember that girl Marie, they’ll say, ‘No, who was she?'”  But then they’ll bring up her bad reputation, and the people will remember.  “You see,” the Italian Stallion says. “They don’t remember you.  They remember the rep.”

When they arrive at the girl’s apartment, she seems to appreciate Rocky’s advice.  She acts like she gets it.  But then, when he’s about to turn and walk away, she says, “Hey, Rocky.  Screw you, creepo!”  And she gives him an obscene gesture before heading inside.



Rocky just stares after her, and then, to himself, he says, “Yeah.  Who are you, creepo?  Who are you to give advice to anyone?”  And he walks off, into the night.

Despite doing nothing to advance the plot, this is easily one of my favorite scenes in the movie.  The producers, however, wanted to delete the scene entirely, deeming it senseless.  Thankfully, their advice was not heeded.

With just this one short interlude, Stallone fully exposes Rocky to his audience.  The fact that this tough, street-hardened boxer would take the time to talk to a girl, try to steer her in the right direction, with no ulterior motive, permanently endears us to him.  If we wondered about Rocky before, we no longer do.  This is, unequivocally, a nice person, with a good heart.  This is a guy who cares.  This is a guy we can root for, and like, and that sentiment will carry the rest of the film.  And the fact that he then agrees with Marie–“Who am I to give advice?”–this, also, works in Rocky’s favor.  He comes across as vulnerable here.  Beneath the battle-scarred exterior is a compassionate man who is just as easily bruised as anyone else.

The scene, in short, is a slam dunk.  In two minutes, it displays a depth of character that some roles never project over an entire film.

And it shows the importance of  “character interludes”–short pieces of a story that shine a light on a character’s motives, insecurities, beliefs–anything that enables us to get better acquainted.


In The Eye-Dancers, in chapter two, we meet Joe Marma.  Joe is brash, easy to anger, always ready to fight.  On the surface, we may discount him as a simple troublemaker.  But shortly after we meet him, we witness him talking to his older brother, Bob.  Bob, who is everything Joe wishes he could be–smart, desired by the girls, athletic, and, perhaps most important, tall.  Joe, the shortest kid in his class, has a gorilla-sized chip on his shoulder due to his stature.  The scene between Joe and his brother doesn’t really advance the story line.  But it does let us in, deeper, and we can begin to understand Joe a little bit more, and, hopefully, feel some compassion for him.

The text reads: 

“It wasn’t fair, and so often he felt a river of anger flowing just beneath the surface.  No matter what he did, no matter how hard he tried, he always came in second place.  If he heard one more teacher say, ‘Joe Marma?  Bob Marma’s brother?’ on the first day of classes during roll call, he thought he’d tell that teacher to go stuff it where the sun didn’t shine.  It was hard at Christmas, too, and on Bob’s birthday.  What were you supposed to get the brother who had everything?”


Character interludes, as with so much in writing, can be overutilized.  Most scenes in a story should be there to advance the plot, in some way.  If every other scene depicts your protagonists in small talk or shows them doing some trivial, if endearing and idiosyncratic task, the character interludes will kill the momentum of the plot.

On the other hand, if every scene were strictly utilitarian and meant only to push the action along, a story would lose some of its luster, and we wouldn’t get to know the characters as well as we need to.  Balance is the key.  I sometimes think of character interludes as the hot pepper sauce of the literary world.  Too much, and they choke the piece and cause your eyes to water.  But, in just the right amounts, they add flavor, zest, and nuance. adding to the overall reading experience.



Because, no matter if you’re writing about down-and-out boxers who just want one more chance at the big time . . .



. . . or a group of adolescents who journey across an endless blue void to a parallel universe . . .



. . . there is always a place, at some point in a story, for your characters to say, in effect:

“Yo, Marie!  We need to talk . . .”

Thanks so much for reading!


Fact or Fiction?

It’s a question I get asked often:  “Are your stories autobiographical?  How much from your own life do you incorporate into your fiction?”



The answer to this question, at least for me, has always been–no, the stories I write are not autobiographical per se.  But yes, absolutely, I do include many experiences from my own life in the fiction I write.  I always urge people not to read too deeply between the lines, trying to “decode” the author behind the words.  Just because Joe Marma or Ryan Swinton react a certain way to a problem doesn’t mean I would react the same way.

On the other hand, there are fragments of me scattered throughout my stories like road maps.  If you were to gather up all of these fragments, they would begin to form a picture.  For instance, in The Eye-Dancers, Mitchell Brant‘s love of The Fantastic Four mirrors my own.  His overly imaginative mind is also a reflection of me.  His shyness and awkwardness around girls very much relates to the way I felt when I was in middle school.

Marc Kuslanksi‘s thick tortoiseshell glasses, and the way he continually pushes them up the bridge of his nose?  I did that myself, thousands of times, growing up.  (I now wear contact lenses.)  His feelings of loneliness and alienation from kids his own age?  I went through spells just like that.  Most children do, I think, at one time or another.

And of course there are the themes.  I genuinely care about the stories I write and the characters who reside within them.  The themes and ideas presented in The Eye-Dancers are themes and ideas that resonate for me:  childhood; growing up; the struggles, joys, friendships, and bonds formed during adolescence; quantum physics; comic books; camaraderie; dreams; parallel worlds; 1950s-style settings; and examining the very concept of the term “reality.”



This takes me back to the question that began this post.  “How much of your own life do you incorporate into your fiction?”  The question, of course, by its very nature, assumes that one’s own life is “real” and the fiction he or she creates is, well, fiction.  But is this entirely true?  What makes something “real”?  And what makes something “fiction”?

The textbook answer here is simple.  If something actually happens, it’s real.  If it’s made up, it’s fiction.  But let’s look deeper.  This morning, I laughed at a good joke.  It was funny, and I enjoyed it.  This is reality, correct?  But then let’s say I tell the same joke in a story I’m writing, through the mouth of someone like Ryan Swinton, and you as the reader laugh at the joke.  What’s the difference?  Does it matter that I laughed at a joke told by a “real” person, and that you laughed at a joke told by a “fictional” character?

When we read stories that engage, when we become captivated, riveted by the words on the page, the characters in the story start to seem real.  We care about them, worry about them, love them, hate them, cry with them, and laugh with them.  We experience the same emotions we would in our “real” everyday lives.  And this begs the question.  Is “reality” determined by facts, actual physical events?  Or is it determined by our feelings, the way something moves us or touches us?

I can read a bland news article on tort reform, and not care.  Or I can read a short story that touches me deeply and makes me look at the world in a new and different way.  Which is more “real” in this case?  The tort reform, or the characters in the work of “fiction” that speak to me in such a personal way?



In The Eye-Dancers, the four main characters’ understanding of reality is brought into question in more ways than one.  How could some mysterious “ghost girl” haunt each of their dreams, three nights in a row?  And are they just dreams, or something more?  When they travel through a blue, infinite void, are they dreaming it, or actually experiencing it?  And is there a difference?  When they arrive in the variant town of Colbyville, where is it?  How did they get there?  Where is the ghost girl, whose swirling blue eyes drew them in and through the void?  So many questions, so many riddles.

At one juncture, in chapter 12, convinced they are marooned in a parallel universe, science wiz Marc Kuslanski explains his theory on alternate worlds, on the layers upon layers of reality . . .

“It is a challenging concept. . . . Infinity will blow your mind if you let it.  What I do is, I try to visualize one universe overlapping another, sort of like an invisible shadow.  And these shadows go on in every direction.  They keep overlapping and they never end, and most of the time, people within one of the shadows never know about the people in any of the other ones.”



And what The Eye-Dancers does is ask, What if?  What if Marc’s multi-verse hypothesis is correct?  What if parallel-worlds theory is true?  And what if someone out there, say, a little girl with haunting blue eyes and powers she doesn’t even understand, has the ability to pierce through the dimensional gap?  What if “reality” is actually a multi-layered thing that cannot truly be defined by Webster or Wikipedia?

And what if what we term “fiction,” with its ability to reach deep into the secret, precious corners of the heart, is in fact just another, and perhaps more profound, version of “reality”?

So, yes, when it’s put that way, the fictional stories I create are truer and more personal than any diary entry I could ever write.

Fact or fiction?



Is there really a difference?

Thanks so much for reading!


Short Story — “Cover-Up”

Each of the characters in The Eye-Dancers carries with them some emotional pain–a fear of rejection, a lack of self-confidence, family concerns, the loneliness of not fitting in at school.  They also have a tendency to hide their issues–or at least try to.  Marc Kuslanski, for example, underneath his know-it-all exterior, is a boy in desperate need of a friend.  He doesn’t like to admit this, to himself or others, but his bouts of denial do not negate the truth.  Thankfully for him, the events in the story unite him with Mitchell Brant, and a friendship is indeed formed.

In the short story “Cover-Up,” which I wrote a few years ago, the protagonist is also carrying with him the baggage of emotional pain, the burden of regret and self-blame.  And, just like Marc, he tries his best to conceal it.  But on a long, cross-country train trip, his seatmate sees right through his mask.  Will he open up to this stranger, or throw up his customary wall?

I hope you enjoy “Cover-Up” . . .












Copyright 2013 by Michael S. Fedison


“So, do you wanna talk about it?” the young woman with the terrible scar asked.

He was sure he didn’t.  What Patrick really wanted to do was sleep the ride away.  But that didn’t seem likely.  It was still light outside, and the train was bumpy, lurching often and sometimes feeling precariously close to derailing.  Not for the first time, he asked himself why he hadn’t just flown.  “Talk about what?”

The woman looked at him.  Her eyes were a light, pastel shade of green.  “You know . . . whatever’s bugging you.  I can tell something’s really got you down.”

“Nothing’s wrong,” he said.  “I’m fine.  Just tired, I guess.”

“It’s not good to hold things in, y’know,” the woman said.  “You need to let it out.  And I have a good ear.  Really.  All my friends say so.”

He silently wondered if she actually had any friends, she was so nosey.  But she had seen right through his lie.  Something was bothering him.  He was annoyed that he wasn’t able to hide it, especially considering all the practice he’d had.

“Hey, really, I’m fine, so just drop it, okay?” he said.  The train lurched, and he was thrust forward, grabbing the seatback in front of him.  “Man, real smooth ride, huh?”

The woman smiled.  “What’s your name, anyway?”

“Patrick,” he said.  Taking advantage of his window seat, he looked through the glass.  They were traveling through the flat country of western Illinois now, past dead cornfields and crisp, white farmhouses with covered porches and weathervanes and dirty plastic sheets draped over the windows, flapping in the wind.

“Hi, Patrick,” she said.  “I’m ‘Becca.  Well, Rebecca.  Everyone calls me ‘Becca, though.  So, are you a Patrick?  Or a Pat?”

“Patrick.”  His dad used to call him Pat.  He didn’t even want to think of that name.

“So, Patrick . . . have you ever taken the train before?  I love it.  It’s like a real trip.  You get a chance to really talk to people, y’know?”

No, he didn’t know, and he didn’t reply, hoping she would take the hint.  He just wanted to be left alone.  But she was hard to ignore.  That scar was hard to ignore.  It was the deepest, longest scar he had ever seen on a person’s face.  He’d noticed it right away, as soon as she had boarded the train and decided to sit next to him.  It started to the right of her eye, just below the brow, and twisted its way down her cheek, not stopping until it reached the point of her chin.  Every time he glanced at her, his gaze fell upon it.  What had caused such a gash in the first place?  He had no idea, and preferred to keep it that way.  Just another reason to stare out the window.

“Where are you headed, anyway?” she asked.

“Denver,” he said.

“Really?  So am I!”  Great.  Just great.  “You must’ve gone back home for the holidays.  I did, too.  But now it’s time to return to real life and work and paying the bills.”

“Yeah,” he said.  Real life.  Work.  That was fine with him.  He never should have gone home in the first place.  The faster he forgot about it, the better.  Mom and Jayne crying.  Jayne laying into him for leaving a few days early.

“That’s just what you did before!” she’d said.  “You ran away.  Can’t you stay a measly couple days more?  For Mom?  And for me?”

But he couldn’t.  What did his presence help anyway?  They were all miserable together.  He just wanted to leave, so he had.

The door at the far end of the car opened and then snapped shut.  A couple, likely returning from a meal in the Dining Car, walked down the aisle.  Three young children, two girls and a boy, trailed right behind them like a small school of pilot fish.

He looked out the window again.  The winter sun, sinking to the horizon, gave off its last weak rays of the day.  The porch light of a distant farmhouse flicked on and shone like a beacon across the frozen fields and dead, windswept grasses.

“So, what do you do, Patrick?” Becca asked him.  “Where do you work?”

He wished she’d shut up.  He wasn’t up for this.  Still, he told her he was a technical writer who worked for a computer software company.  He wrote the how-to manuals no one liked to read.  But he enjoyed it.  Wrestling with the minutia of the programs, figuring out the meaning behind the engineers’ logic, crafting documents that somehow translated the highly complex material into understandable language for the end users.  It allowed him to get lost in the safe world of code and technology, sweeping unwanted emotions, unwanted memories, aside.

Another couple entered the car.  The next call for the Dining Car would be due shortly.  But he was thinking about going to the Lounge Car.  A few stiff drinks sounded good.  He was feeling warm, claustrophobic.

“You hot?” he asked her.  “They got the heat turned up way too high.”  He took off his jacket, placed it under his seat.

“I’m not hot,” she said.  “But if I was hot, I wouldn’t know, so . . .”

What did she mean by that?  He looked at her, but saw only the scar, which seemed almost to pulsate with a life, a vitality of its own.  Whatever had happened to her must have caused unspeakable pain and anguish.  But that thought just made him hotter, more in need of a drink.

He sidled past her, into the aisle.  The train lurched again, and he almost fell.  He would have, too, if he hadn’t grabbed onto the seat in time.  She didn’t ask him where he was going, and he didn’t say.  The last thing he wanted was for her to tag along.

“See you later,” she said.

He nodded, and headed for the Lounge Car.

It was almost deserted.  Just a young couple sitting next to each eating pretzels and popcorn, and a bald, thin man sitting by himself looking out the window into the darkening twilight, his left hand wrapped around a glass of wine.  Perhaps he, too, was attempting to drink away his troubles.

Patrick bought a beer, inwardly groaning that the kid behind the bar didn’t want to see ID.  He had just turned thirty.  Getting asked for ID used to be a hassle, five years ago.  Now he felt slighted when someone failed to do it.

He sat down, as far away from the couple and the bald man as he could get.  He needed to be left alone for a while, to enjoy the taste and buzz of the beer.  He wanted peace and quiet, light, airy thoughts.  But his mind had other ideas.  He closed his eyes, and saw his mother crying.  Not yesterday or the day before, but two years ago, after the accident.  He saw his sister crumpled on the sofa, her face buried in a pillow.  And he saw himself, standing there, hands in pockets, not knowing what to say or do.

It had all been his fault.  It never should have happened—not to Dad.  Patrick had recently moved into a new apartment across town, and didn’t visit his parents very often.  That evening, he was coming over for supper.  His car had a transmission leak and on the way over he had intended to buy some fluid.  But his thoughts had drifted, he’d forgotten, and now the car was shifting with difficulty—the transmission was dry.  When he said he needed to run to the automotive store, his father said not to think of it.  He would go.  Patrick should stay with his mom and his sister.  Patrick protested—he was the one who forgot to buy the fluid, after all—but Dad was adamant.

“Be back in fifteen minutes,” Dad had said.

They never saw him again.

Patrick took a long drink of the beer, trying to submerge the memories in alcohol, washing them down some fast-moving stream that would carry them away to a distant ocean, forever adrift, forever removed from his consciousness.  Several seats in front of him, the bald man slammed his wine glass down, causing some of the wine to spill onto the table.  He muttered under his breath, drank more wine, then banged the glass back down again.  To Patrick’s left, the young couple were whispering to each other, as if gossiping about the two lushes sharing the car with them.

He wished he were drunk.  But he was all too sober.  Suddenly, and with ferocious clarity, he heard the knock on his parents’ door.  Dad had been gone over an hour, they were getting worried.  But still, what could have happened?  The car-parts store was less than three miles away.

Images, sounds, smells raced into his head, like snapshots from a nightmare.  The door opening, revealing two police officers.  They appeared solemn, yet mechanical.  Just doing their job.  Mom shrieking when she heard them say Dad had been blindsided by a teenager running a red light.  The table had been set, the glasses full of water, the salad ready to eat, tossed in the flower-patterned bowl Mom had owned since before Patrick was born.  Dad’s plate and silverware and napkin laid out in his spot, at the head of the table.  The smell of pot roast in the oven, mashed potatoes with butter on the stovetop.  And seeing the calendar on the kitchen wall, the picture showing a snowy field in some distant mountain valley, sparkling under a blue sky the color of his dad’s eyes.  And on the date he had come over—February 17—Mom’s curly, pretty script:  “Patrick coming for supper!”

But more than anything, he remembered the cries of his mother.  She yelled at the officers, “No, no, it can’t be!  This can’t be happening!”  Later that night, Mom was in her bedroom, in the bed she had shared with her husband for thirty-two years, crying and saying, softly now, over and over, “No.”

And through it all, Patrick could only feel one thing, one repeating thought, bent on driving him mad:  It should’ve been me.  Not Dad.  It should’ve been me.  If only he hadn’t forgotten to buy the transmission fluid.  If only he had insisted that he, not Dad, go to the store!  It should’ve been me.

The train lurched again, causing some of his beer to spill.  That apparently struck the young couple as funny, because they giggled harder.  Patrick wished he could share even one-sixtieth of their good humor.  This wasn’t working.  Coming to the Lounge Car had only made things worse.  He cursed himself for having gone back home for Christmas.  All it accomplished was to cause these memories to bubble back up to the surface—after he had spent the last two years forcing them down.  That’s why he’d moved away.  He couldn’t take it anymore.  Every time he visited his mom or saw Jayne, he saw the sadness in their eyes.  And when he saw that, he felt condemned.  He knew they didn’t do it on purpose, but he didn’t need to see it, either.  Going home for the holidays, nothing had changed.  So Patrick decided to leave ahead of schedule.  He needed to go back to Denver, far away from his mom’s sad eyes, no matter what Jayne accused him of.  Running away?  Yes, he was running away.  He needed to rebury those memories again.  Shove them deep inside an impregnable vault where they couldn’t touch him, couldn’t harm him, couldn’t haunt him.

It should have been me.

“Shut up!” he yelled, and the bald man turned to glare at him.  Even the couple stopped giggling.

He downed the remainder of his beer, then got up to leave.  He realized he was better off chatting with Becca, as long as she didn’t pester him to “talk about it.”

“That was quick,” she said when he brushed past her and took his window seat again.  Outside, it was full dark now.

He rested his elbow on the base of the window, cupped his chin in his hand, gazing out into the pitch nothingness of the night.

“Guess you didn’t have such a riveting time, huh?”  she said.

He looked at her, and she smiled.  Despite her awful scar, he actually thought she was pretty.  But the scar distracted him.  He tried not to fixate on it, but he couldn’t help it.

She traced the outline of the scar with her fingertips.  “Mmm-hmm, I know,” she said.  “Hard to miss, isn’t it?”

Immediately, he looked away, at the seatback in front of him.  “I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to—”

She smiled again.  “Hey, it’s okay.  At least you weren’t staring with your mouth hanging open.  People do, you know.”  He swallowed, still feeling like he’d done something wrong.  “I don’t mind talking about it,” she went on.  “I mean, it’s a part of me, you know?  It’s the first thing everyone sees.”

There was a call over the PA system, they were taking more reservations for the next meal to be served in the Dining Car.  A short, fat man, middle-aged, immediately rose from his seat and waddled down the aisle.  He nearly tripped and fell when the train lurched, and a blond-haired kid snickered.  The fat man blushed and cursed, then walked through the doors into the adjoining car.

Becca eyed the blond kid with amusement.  “You know, I wasn’t much older than him when I got this,” she said, still touching her injury.  “I was only a little girl, five at the time.”

“Look, you don’t have to tell me about it,” Patrick said.  They were passing through a small town now, past a darkened post office, a brick town hall, and a row of stores that appeared to be closed for the evening.  “I’m sure it’s not something you like to talk about.”

She glanced past him, out the window.  “I was left by myself—only for a couple of minutes, but that was all it took.  I found this pair of scissors, and it was like I was in a trance or something.  I wanted to see if I could make myself feel something, I had to feel something, even if it hurt.  Just to see what all the fuss was about, you know?  Everyone was always telling me to be careful, but I just couldn’t understand.”

That makes two of us, Patrick thought.

“Remember how I told you before you left that I wouldn’t know if it was too hot in here?” she asked.  He nodded.  He remembered, all right.  She was a strange one.  “Well, if you want to know the truth . . . you’re sitting next to a true marvel of the medical community.  I’m a real find, y’know.  I’m one of only sixty people in the United States with CIPA.  And only a fraction of us ever get through childhood.  And here I am, twenty-six and still kicking.  I should get a medal or something.”

He just looked at her.  Every time she opened her mouth, she lost him a little more.

“CIPA . . .” she continued, apparently sensing his confusion . . . “Congenital Insensitivity to Pain with Anhidrosis.  It’s a condition you’re born with.  Basically, I can’t feel any pain.  I can’t feel the cold or the heat.  You can kick me in the face ten times and I won’t feel a thing!  Or throw me in a bucket of ice water, and I wouldn’t feel cold.  Pretty crazy, huh?  You should Google it sometime.”

He gave no reply, and she paused to allow him to digest it all.  His first thought was that she was making it up.  But then he figured she was probably telling the truth.  Why would someone lie about such an odd, unheard-of condition?  How would that benefit her?

“And, see, that’s what really made me want to do something to cause a sensation, to even cause pain,” she said.  The train had left the small town behind, as it continued its journey over the prairie-like countryside.  Soon they would cross the Mississippi River, into Iowa.  A long way to go before reaching Denver.  “I mean, everyone was always telling me that knives were dangerous, fire was dangerous, scissors were dangerous.  But it was just words to me, you know?  It didn’t mean anything.  So I had to see.  What can I say?  I was five.

“So I went to the dresser where I knew the scissors were, and I . . . well, let’s just say I was a very curious little girl.  I jabbed the sharp end into my face, right here. . .”  She gently massaged a point on the scar directly beside her eye.  “Good thing I didn’t go a little to the left, huh?  Or else I’d be blind.  But I still didn’t feel anything, and I was like, ‘What is this?  What’s the big deal about scissors?’  So I pushed them in a little deeper and then I dragged them all the way down to here.”  She touched the bottom of her scar, just an inch away from her chin.  “And you know, I still didn’t feel anything, and I started to see all this blood.  But I didn’t know what to make of it.  I mean, I felt fine!  So I was about to try the other side of my face, and that’s when my mom came into the room.  I guess you can figure out the rest, huh?”  She smiled.  “They took me to the hospital, and I had to have surgery.  They did the best they could, but . . . .  Anyway, I try to look on the bright side.  I mean, when I get a filling, they don’t need to shoot me up with Novacaine.  And you know what?  I can’t even sweat!  How many women would love to be able to say that?”

She laughed, and he laughed with her, though he felt awkward laughing on the heels of such a grisly story.  More than that, he felt dazed, as if he’d had five beers instead of only one.  It was so hard to wrap his head around this, to make sense of it.  But it was true.  She didn’t feel pain.  She was like a rock.  The more he thought of it, the more he liked it.

“Man, imagine that,” he said.  “No matter what happens, not to be able to feel a thing.”

She tilted her head, looked at him closely.  “It’s really not such a great deal,” she said.  “I wouldn’t recommend it.”

“Why not?  It sounds pretty good to me.”

“But don’t you understand?  I can’t feel any pain!  Don’t you see what that means?  I would have killed myself with those scissors if my mom hadn’t come back when she did.  I would’ve killed myself without even knowing it.  And even now, it’s like, I know not to do things that are dangerous, but it’s still kind of like secondhand knowledge, you know?  It’s like if you read about a volcano in the Indian Ocean or something.  It’s just news, information.  It’s not personal.  I know a knife will make me bleed, but I won’t feel the wound.  You see what I’m trying to say?  And what’s to stop me from burning myself on an electric stovetop?  I can touch the burner, and I wouldn’t even know it’s on!  Then when I look at my hand later and see all the skin is gone, I’d be like, ‘Uh oh.’  Or what if I stuck my hand in a sink full of soapy dishwater and jabbed at a piece of broken glass without even knowing it?  I could slice my wrist open.  Every day is like a minefield, Patrick.”

A handful of passengers walked by, most likely heading to the Dining Car.  They were serving three-cheese lasagna this evening, among other possibilities, all of which sounded good.  Maybe he’d go a bit later, but not now.  Not now.

Becca took a deep breath.  “It’s all just like a mask, a gimmick,” she explained.  “I mean, I can’t feel pain, but I can still get injured.  I still bleed and bruise, and my bones can still break.  The feeling no pain . . . it’s just a cover-up.  It doesn’t really protect me from anything.  It’s like pretend.  Like an act.  I mean, no matter what you’re born with, or what you try to make yourself believe, the things that can hurt you will hurt you.  You know what I mean?”

He just sat there, staring at his lap.

“I think you do,” she said.  “I think you know exactly what I mean.  Don’t you, Patrick?”

He was disconcerted, again, by the way she saw right through him.  He wanted to deny it, to deny her, but he couldn’t.  He dared to look at her, and she had concern in her eyes.  Understanding.  Compassion.  But none of those things set him off.  It was the scar.  That deep, old scar that slithered its way down her cheek like the imprint of a snake fossil.  He visualized Becca at five, wanting desperately to feel, even as she gouged her face and spilled her own blood.  And somehow, he just couldn’t deal with that.

The tears came, suddenly and with great force.  He coughed on his own phlegm, burying his face on Becca’s shoulder.  His body rocked and jerked.  He was sure he caused Becca to rock and jerk right along with him, but he couldn’t stop.

“That’s right,” Becca said, putting an arm around him as he kept on crying.  “You just let it out.”

He was aware, vaguely, that people were staring at him.  He sensed the blond kid’s eyes boring a hole through Becca’s back and right into his head.  But he didn’t care.  He was aware, too, that this was the first he had cried since . . . he couldn’t even remember the last time.  He just knew he hadn’t cried since Dad’s death.  Not at hearing the news.  Not at the funeral.  Not even when he moved away from home, halfway across the continent.  And certainly not yesterday, with his mom and sister.  When he saw them crying, he never thought it did them any good.  What was the point?  People needed to move past their losses, push them away.  If you gave into them, they would paralyze you.  That’s why he’d never allowed himself to cry.  He always feared that once he started, he wouldn’t be able to stop.  He thought he’d only get bogged down in the morass of guilt and regrets and lost dreams that floated high above, always out of reach.

But when the tears finally slowed, and then stopped, he found that he felt better than he had in a long time, as though a monstrous weight had been lifted from him.  He sat upright again, not looking at Becca, and peered out the window at the blackness, at nothing.

“Better?” she asked.

He shrugged, nodded, still not looking at her.

She reached over, gently turned his face to hers.  “It’s okay,” she said.  “It’s all right.”

He felt a lump in his throat, and worried he might cry again.  But he didn’t.

“So,” she said, “you ready to talk about it now?”

He looked into the green eyes of this stranger, this scarred woman he had chanced to meet on his long way back to the studio apartment where he laid his head down to sleep each night.  Where he was running back to as a desperate man in search of a refuge.  But it wasn’t a refuge.  He knew that now.  It never had been.  He looked at this stranger who was no longer a stranger, this friend who had seen him more clearly than anyone ever had.  Even himself.

“Yeah,” he said.  “I think I am.”


Thanks so much for reading!


Magnolia Moments

This weekend, I will go back home to Rochester, NY, and visit family and old friends.  It’s always an enjoyable time, and if I’m lucky, I’ll also have an opportunity to experience something as magical as it is rare. . . .

On the city’s southeast side, Oxford Street is a well-tended residential avenue, pleasant and attractive for much of the year.  But for one week in early May, a portion of Oxford Street is transformed into a fragrant, flowery paradise.



The Oxford Mall is a tree-lined section of the street, flanked on either side by stately homes that watch over the avenue like old poets contemplating the beauty in their midst.  And what beauty it is . . .

The Oxford Mall is famous for its long row of magnolia trees, which bloom each year in early May.  Area residents often make it a point to stroll or drive down the avenue, basking in the display.  I have experienced the magnolias on Oxford Street many times.  It’s something that never gets old.





But you have to catch the magnolias at the right time, or else you’ll miss them.  Generally, they are in full bloom for a few days, perhaps a week, and then they are gone, not to appear again until the following spring.  I have sometimes wondered–Why is something so beautiful, so breathtaking, also so fleeting?  Shouldn’t the flowers stay a while longer?  Why must they tease us, tantalize us each year, only to fall away within a matter of days?

Then I rethink it.  Maybe it’s their very transience that makes them what they are.  If the magnolias decorated the Oxford Mall for months on end, would they remain so special?  Or would the residents begin to take them for granted–just one more feature, albeit a lovely one, of the Rochester summer landscape?

It is much the same with writing.  Of course any writer wants each word of a manuscript to count.  Every sentence should lead into the next sentence.  Every paragraph should be germane to the story.  Every slice of dialogue should ring true to the character who speaks it.  But at the same time, can every line be a masterpiece?  Can each sentence be a miniature prose poem?

Try it sometime.  Even for one paragraph–try to make every word sing, try to end every sentence with a flourish.  It simply doesn’t work.  Much like the magnolias on Oxford Street, there is a time and a place to “wow” your audience in a manuscript.  If every paragraph was a thing of utter beauty, the overall beauty of the story would blur, blinded by its own brilliance.  You can’t hit a home run with every swing of the bat–nor should you attempt to.  Sometimes there are runners on first and second with nobody out, and a sacrifice bunt makes more sense.

Generally, especially in a long work like a novel, the role of the language is to move the story along, engage the reader, and intrigue.  Simplicity and straightforwardness accomplish this.  The story, in essence, needs to tell itself.  If each sentence is adorned with gold earrings and diamond necklaces, readers will become distracted.  The language elevates itself and becomes the star of the show, thrusting the story and characters into the background.  It may be beautiful writing, but it’s not necessarily effective.

There are, however, places in a story where you do indeed want the language itself to resonate, to leave an indelible impression on the reader.  If you pick your spots, and don’t overdo it, these sections of your story should make an impact.  They will stand out.  They will take the reader by the hand and not let go.  In The Eye-Dancers, I sometimes would try for this effect at the end of a chapter.

At the end of chapter 12, for example, after listening to Marc Kuslanski‘s theory on parallel worlds,  Mitchell Brant ponders the possibility of multiple realities, multiple Mitchells.  It’s a concept he finds equal parts fascinating, equal parts confusing.  The last paragraphs of chapter 12 read as follows:


“It seemed like hours before he got to sleep. . . . [He] lay there, thinking–of worlds upon worlds, layers of existence, side by side.  And he wondered.  What was he doing in those other worlds right now?  Did he have a sister?  Were his parents the same?  Did they get along, somewhere?  Were there really worlds out there where his mom and dad didn’t fight with each other?  Were there worlds where Mitchell was confident?  Where he could talk with ease, and his tongue worked as fluidly, as effortlessly, as his mind?

‘Good night, Mitchell,’ he whispered, to himself, to all of his selves, in all of the worlds in existence.  His last thought before sleep finally took him away was of a line of Mitchell Brants.  They stood, single file, one in front of the other.  He started to count them in his mind’s eye, but the line went on and on, forever.  He was infinite, endless.

When he counted the two hundred sixty-third Mitchell Brant, the line began to melt away, disintegrating into the netherworld of his dreams.”


Yes, I will be driving along Oxford Street this weekend when I’m in Rochester.  And yes, I hope I catch the magnolias at the right time.  But if I don’t, there’s always next year.

And there’s always the reminder . . .

Magnolia moments are precious.  Because they are beautiful?



But also, because they are rare.

Thanks so much for reading!


Three Awards and a Very Big Thank-You . . . !

Over the past month, The Eye-Dancers site has been lucky enough to be nominated for several awards.  I thank everyone for continuing to read and follow these ramblings of mine.  You are fantastic.  You are, in the lingo of one of the awards posted here–epically awesome!

The three awards I have been nominated for are:  The WordPress Family Award, The Epically Awesome Award of Epic Awesomeness, and the Awesome Blog Content (ABC) Award.

I also have been re-nominated for The Liebster Award, The Versatile Blogger Award, and The Very Inspiring Blogger Award.  I was fortunate enough to have been nominated for these awards previously, but I wanted to thank Kristy at familyeverything, Mary-Ann at likeitiz, Lorna at lornadounaeva, Christy at poeticparfait, Robin at witlessdatingafterfifty, and mummyshymz.  Thanks so much to each of you for these nominations!  I definitely urge everyone to visit their wonderful blogs.  Please take your time–there is much to enjoy!  I promise, I’ll wait till you come back . . .

Okay, onward!


Thank you very much to Joseyphina from Joseyphina’s World and Kelsie from tenshishouoni11 for nominating The Eye-Dancers for The WordPress Family Award.  This is a very nice award to win because the community here at WordPress is welcoming, talented, and very much like family.



The rules: (I am going to break one of these rules–more on that later!)

1. Display the award logo on your blog.  
2. Link back to the person who nominated you. 

3. Nominate 10 others you see as having an impact on your WordPress experience and family.    

4. Let your 10 Family members know you have awarded them.

5. That is it. Just please pick 10 people who have taken you as a friend, and spread the love.


Thank you very much to Kimberly at words4jp’s blog for the Epically Awesome Award of Epic Awesomeness!  I highly recommend Kimberly’s blog.  She is a poet and wonderfully gifted wordsmith.  I am honored she nominated me for this award.  Epic!

The rules for the Epically Awesome Award of Epic Awesomeness are – (and again I will be breaking one of the rules–more later!  Can you stand the suspense??)

1. Tell 10 epic and/or awesome facts about yourself

2. Pass along some epic and awesome love to 10 blogs

3. Let everyone know that they are Epically Awesome

4. Thank the Epically Awesome person you received your epically awesome love from &

5. Of course, do not forget to add the Epically Awesome bling to your site.

Okay, here are ten things about myself–though I’m not sure they qualify as epic or awesome!

1. When I was a kid, I had a love/hate relationship with the basement in the house where I grew up.  I liked how cool it was on hot summer days, and I sometimes retreated down there to be alone or write.  But at night?  You wouldn’t catch me down there alone then!  There was (still is–my parents still live in the old house!)–a particular window that leads out to a crawl-space area.  Looking through the window, all you can see is darkness.  I used to call it “The Window to Nowhere,” and I would tell my friends about it–of course making up stories as I went along.  “Never, ever go through The Window to Nowhere,” I would warn them.

No one ever did.

2. Some of these same childhood friends were actually the inspiration for the main characters in The Eye-Dancers, and we still keep in touch, all these years later.  When we were kids, I used to write ridiculous stories that featured them (and me) in starring roles–adventures, mysteries, sci-fi thrillers, and I would then read these stories aloud to them.


They were pretty bad, but a lot of fun.   Those were the days . . .

3. I have always been a fan of James Bond–both the books and the movies.  And my favorite Bond movie is From Russia with Love.  It stars the best Bond, Sean Connery, features Robert Shaw as a memorable villain, and the hand-to-hand fight scene between Connery and Shaw on a moving train is as good as it gets.



4. One of my favorite Stephen King books is It.  Over 1100 pages long, the novel, admittedly, should be much shorter, and I’ve always hated the ending.  But I have always loved the characters in the book–the Losers Club.  And the effortless manner in which the story follows two time lines–1958 and 1985–had me riveted from the opening page.



5.  Keeping on with books, if I had to choose a single all-time favorite novel (a very difficult thing, choosing just one!), it would probably be Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.  The prose in this book is just about perfect, and the “voice” the author creates for protagonist Scout Finch is more than just endearing.  It’s unforgettable.


6. I have long been a fantasy football geek.  For many years now, I’ve been commissioner of a league featuring family and old friends.  I always go back home to Rochester, New York, over Labor Day weekend for the fantasy draft.  It’s a lot of fun, and one thing’s for sure–when you’re in a fantasy league, it changes the way you watch football . . .


7. For the past decade, I have done a great deal of freelance proofreading for a handful of book publishers.  In other words, much of the reading I do is assigned!  I enjoy the work, and consider it a privilege serving as the “last line of defense” against typos, grammatical mistakes, and formatting issues.



8.  Believe it or not, I have never drunk an entire cup of coffee in my life.  I tried a sip of coffee when I was twelve, didn’t like it, and haven’t tried it since!



9. I remember once playing a game where you had to answer certain questions about yourself.  One of them was–“What was the most interesting job you’ve ever had?”  I answered, “Legislative Aide.”  I briefly served as a Legislative Aide for a city councilwoman in Rochester, New York, shortly after I graduated from college.  It was an eye-opening experience, and I learned a lot.  One thing I dealt with on a daily basis?  Irate phone calls.  Constituents of the councilwoman’s ward would call her office with complaints.  The thing was–she usually wasn’t there.  I was.  So I took the brunt of the criticism.  Every day was an adventure!



10.  I enjoy the board game Scrabble.  But I have a confession to make–I’m no fun to play against.  I hoard the U’s!  This way, whoever gets stuck with the Q can’t use it.  Dirty pool, I know.  But effective!



Thanks again so much to Kimberly for this great nomination!


And I want to thank Sam from bondingtool for nominating The Eye-Dancers for the Awesome Blog Content (ABC) Award.  Sam’s blog is a delightful place full of mouthwatering recipes and a spirit of fun and creativity.  Please browse around her great site!  I am sure you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.


To participate for the ABC Award:  Upload the award image to your website, use each letter of the alphabet to share something about yourself, and nominate one or more new fellow bloggers!

Okay, here are more tidbits, as we go through the alphabet!

A–Action Comics number 29.  This is the oldest comic book I have ever owned, dating back to 1940.


B–Bill Gray’s restaurant.  This is a local restaurant chain in Rochester, New York, famous for, in their own words, “The World’s Greatest Cheeseburger.”


Being a vegetarian, though, I don’t eat the famous Bill Gray’s cheeseburger.  I go for the veggie burger, which is incredibly good!  Just be warned–Bill Gray’s is not the place to count calories!  Their food is greasy, rich, and, well, just not all that healthy!  But awfully tasty.

C–Charlottetown.  The capital city of Prince Edward Island, Canada–my favorite vacation destination, and the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen.  Charlottetown is a pretty, compact little city full of charm.

D–Doctor Doom.  The Fantastic Four’s arch-villain, and my favorite villain in all of comic books.  Doctor Doom made his debut in Fantastic Four # 5, from 1962 . . .


E–The Eye-Dancers.  There’s this really cool book out there called The Eye-Dancers!  I highly recommend!  (Okay, I apologize!  Couldn’t resist.)



F–The Fantastic Four.  My favorite comic book title–the original FFs from the 1960s are unsurpassed in the genre.  And I know Mitchell Brant agrees with me on this one!



G–Galen, from Planet of the Apes.  When I was a little kid, I had a fascination with Galen.  I wanted to be Galen.  And I would only answer to that name.  One day, when we were at a playground, my mother called for me.  “Michael,” she said.  “We need to go.”  I ignored her, blissfully continuing to play.  She called again.  Again I ignored her.  She finally said, “Galen, we need to go.”  Immediately, I stopped what I was doing, and dutifully went to her.

Thankfully, this was a phase I soon outgrew!  I know my mother was embarrassed that day.  Other parents were listening.  So, years later, but better late than never–“Sorry, Mom!”

H–The Honeymooners.  This classic show from the 1950s is my favorite sitcom.  Art Carney as Ed Norton makes me laugh every time I watch him.

I–Irondequoit.  My hometown–a suburb of Rochester, New York.

J–Joe Marma.  Of all the characters in The Eye-Dancers, I probably relate least to Joe.  I tend to be methodical and a stickler for details.  Joe, on the other hand, is impulsive and likes to wing it.  He was refreshing to write for, and he is a reminder to me that sometimes we just need to let go, and not overthink.

K–Killington, Vermont.  Killington is the nearest major Vermont ski resort to the town where I live.  The thing is, though–I don’t ski!



L–Live and Let Die.  Roger Moore’s debut as 007!  I am not a big Moore fan, but he played the role well here.

M–Morse Farm.  The Morse Farm, in Montpelier, Vermont, is a nice place to visit.  They have an educational feature on maple sugaring, a gift shop, an expansive acreage, and the best maple ice cream you ever tasted!

N–Notorious.  One of my favorite Hitchcock films, starring Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman . . .



O–On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  An opportunity missed, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service may be the best Bond script, but the actor who played 007 here, George Lazenby, has about as much charisma as a soggy old two-by-four.  A great movie with the wrong lead actor . . .



P–Poopsie.  In my family, growing up, all our dogs were named “Poopsie.”  Poopsie I.  Poopsie II.  Poopsie III.  And Poopsie IV.  This wasn’t my idea!  It was my mother’s.  Hmm.  I wonder if that’s why I came up with the “Galen” . . .

Q-Q.  What would an old 007 movie be without Desmond Llewelyn in the famous supporting role of Q?  He has always been a favorite of mine. . .


R-Robot comic book covers.  There have been some classic robot comic book covers over the years.  The 1950s, perhaps, was the high point for these covers.  For example, Journey into Unknown Worlds # 49 from 1956 . . .


S–Paul Simon.  A true poet, Simon is my favorite all-time songwriter.

T-Twilight Zone.  My favorite television show, featuring many unforgettable episodes.


U-Upstate New York.  As a native upstate New Yorker, I have always appreciated the rural beauty of The Empire State.  Sometimes, New York is strictly thought of as urban, but, in actuality, the heart of the state is rural.


V–Vermont.  The state I currently call home, Vermont is a wonderful place to live.  And, of course, The Green Mountain State takes no backseat when it comes to scenery . . .


W–Weather.  I have always been fascinated by, and interested in, weather!

X–The X-Men.  For a long time, I had no interest in this comic book team.  But then, finally, when I gave them a chance, I was hooked!  Another Marvel Comics triumph.


Y–You Only Live Twice.  For me, You Only Live Twice begins a downward trend in 007 movies.  Even with the previous installment, Thunderball, the Bond movies began relying more and more on gimmicks.  You Only Live Twice takes this reliance to a new level, one that would continue  straight through the Roger Moore films.

Z–Zombies.  Zombies are a big hit these days, spurred on by The Walking Dead.  But the phenomenon that started it all was George Romero’s black-and-white 1968 cult classic, Night of the Living Dead.

Thanks so much, again, to Sam for this nomination!


And now–the rule-breaking part . . .  I am not going to nominate specific blogs for any of these awards.  All of you in the WordPress community are great, and I appreciate each and every one of the bloggers who continues to stop by The Eye-Dancers website.  (And if you’ve made it this far reading this long-winded post, you deserve more than a blog award.  You deserve a medal!)

So, I would like to take this opportunity to share these awards with each of you.  I am nominating every follower of The Eye-Dancers blog for all three awards.  Whether you’d like to accept the nomination or not is of course up to you.  But please accept my thanks for all the support and encouragement you’ve given The Eye-Dancers.

You are, well, epically awesome!

Thanks so much for reading!








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