novel, pictures, Signing Events

Pop Shop Houston Summer 2016

As proof that it’s been raining daily for what seems like months-it poured down on Houston on Sunday June 12.  Silver Street Studio did lose power, and that’s when I left, which proved more difficult than expected since Edwards St. was flooded.  My car is pretty small, so I stayed on high ground until the water subsided below my knees (which is where it was when I first left (and I know because I got out of my car like an idiot and walked toward the street)).

There were some cars that had been parked along the street and had been submerged in the flood water-but most people simply stayed at the event enjoying the crafts and community until the water subsided.

Thankfully I did get to meet some new readers-one of which is also a fan of author D.L. Young (who will be taking over my blog next month when he answers my 20 Questions…). This avid reader, John Husisian, was a pleasure to speak to, and a true fan of local authors (or anything well written).

Overall it was a great event in which I could see friends, make new friends, and share my gift of storytelling with someone new.

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I’ll be at Comicpalooza on Sunday June 19 from 11-5 look forward to seeing you there!

novel, pictures, Signing Events

You know you want me to sign your book

I love meeting readers and going to really fun events-thankfully I’m doing that twice in June.

First on Sunday June 12 from 11-5 I’ll be at Pop Shop Houston in the totally chill Silver Street Studios in the heart of Houston’s arts district.  If you like man buns, diy crafts, live music, great food, and impeccably created wares then this is the event for you.  When I first attended this event was when myself, author Chantell Renee, and author Andrea Barbosa started calling ourselves ‘the dream team’.  Not only do we get along well but we all love to talk to people about our craft, and if we’re not the author for the reader then we’re more than happy to direct them to each other.


That’s the best part of the Houston Writers Guild-you create lasting friendships.

Second on Sunday June 19 from 11-5 I’ll be at Comicpalooza at George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston.  This will be my first time at this particular event, but my second time cosplaying as my character Samantha Locke from my debut romantic thriller ‘Blood On The Potomac’.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I get to see Harley Quinn again, as well as Black Widow.


As you can tell I like strong female characters.


novel, pictures, Signing Events, Uncategorized

The Birth of a Novel



The night started off as many spring evenings in Houston-pouring down rain. Thankfully by the time my handsome man Israel and I made it to Gratifi Kitchen and Bar, in the heart of Montrose, the water abated. The weather reminded me of my personal experience while writing the novel. There were pitfalls, and a fair share of challenges, but in the end, after three years, my story was made available to the public.


I was excited when I saw that the menu had named a drink after my debut novel ‘Blood On The Potomac’, which proved delicious.   The venue was crowded, and when I read scenes from the novel there were gasps and laughs at the right times from the audience.


The people that joined me on the evening my novel was released ranged from old friends, fellow writers, and avid readers that were excited to start reading. One of the attendees-a college student and talented author told me that after I read the infamous ‘roof top’ scene in the ‘Looking Glass’ chapter she “couldn’t stop reading even after you did. I just had to find out what happened next!” (The link to my Facebook Author page is at the end of this blog-and where you can see video of my readings)

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That was one of the highlights above my gratitude that so many people came to support me.


The most memorable moment for me was when someone made a toast to me, easily one of the people that have known me personally for the shortest amount of time. Sherrie along with several of my co-workers from Green Apple Salon- Montrose, came to the event just a few blocks from our salon. I was elated that they attended-a friend mentioned that no one from my previous salon attended any of my previous, yet numerous, writing events. My fellow hair stylist, Sherrie, stood up, and tapped a knife against her glass. She called the room to attention and began to speak.


Her words were moving, and the night was long, thus I can’t quote anything for sure other than how she concluded her toast of love and admiration with “you are a true artist, Mel, and we love you.”

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Knowing that others appreciate your gift for the written word is the greatest gift I’ve ever received. Thank you to all my friends, family, and the readers that attended any past or future event-without you I’d be telling stories to myself.


You can find my debut novel ‘Blood On The Potomac’ on Amazon or from Inklings publishing

Like my Facebook Page

And follow me on Twitter


novel, Signing Events, Uncategorized

Release party for ‘Blood On The Potomac’

I’m so happy that my debut romantic thriller ‘Blood On The Potomac’ (which I spent three years writing) is finally being released on May 21.  The party will be held at Gratifi Kitchen and Bar from 7pm-9pm.

They have some amazing food, and great drinks including The Silencer-which is a drink named after my short story in the anthology ‘Eclectically Criminal’ from Inklings Publishing which is available on Amazon.

You can buy ‘Blood On The Potomac’ on Amazon on May 21, or you can come to the party and pick up a signed copy.

Hope to see you there!

Everything That Counts, pictures, Uncategorized

What’s going on with ‘Everything That Counts’?

I’m proud to announce that my debut novel-a romanic thriller- ‘Blood On The Potomac will be released on May 21 through Inklings Publishing and will be available for purchase on

But right now I’d like to talk about another novel-my debut Young Adult novel-‘Everything That Counts’.  In the novel you meet Blake Morgan the biggest loser in all of Annapolis, Maryland; maybe even the world.  We follow him throughout his senior year of high school as he makes the decision to finally live life rather than plan out every detail as he has with his future plans to become an astrophysicist.

I met with Kimberly Morris who offered her professional advice as a manuscript consultant.  Her feedback (the best of which I’ve included in this blog) was invaluable and thus I will re-work the novel to make sure the voice is consistent throughout before I hire an editor and eventually self-publish it.

At this moment in time I believe I can have it ready for you guys to read by late 2018, but until then here is a scene that really gets to the ‘core’ of Blake, through his conversation with classmate and crush Zoe Malone-the hottest girl in school.



That Saturday, Zoe and I were in my Dad’s car driving to the illustrious Annapolis Mall when she said. “I like you, Blake.”

My breathing stopped. No girl had said those exact words to me. I knew Sophie liked me but it wasn’t as if she liked me. She just enjoyed my company for some strange reason. But, Zoe was different. Zoe was free. Everything was an option for her, and that concept was highly intriguing to me. I let my eyes wander from the road toward her.

“I like you too, Zoe.”

She bit her lip briefly. “It’s just I got my heart broken by my last boyfriend which really sucked.”

“Sorry about that.” But I wasn’t really. I mean, since he dumped her she was available for me to date.

“Thanks. You know, when I told my Mom, she was like,” Zoe whined and puckered up her face as if she’d swallowed a lemon, “‘that’s what you get for being stupid enough to go out with an asshole.’” Then reverted to herself. “Which wasn’t helpful, like, at all. So, when I saw you I knew you’d be different, because you looked really smart.”

We’d been in the car a few miles and already the conversation had taken me to uncharted territories far beyond imagination. “Thanks?”

She leaned close enough that I could smell her perfume. It smelled like cotton candy. “I don’t mean for it to sound bad. It’s just that I don’t do well in school all the time, and feel so frazzled about it. But, you seem to know what you’re doing. It’s like you’re going somewhere, Blake. And that’s what makes me like you. You’re gonna be something when we grow up, and I want to be something too. I want to be remembered as something more than the blonde airhead that giggles all the time, you know?”

“I know exactly how you feel. I think that a lot of people feel like that, it’s just that not everyone says it.”

She giggled. “I can’t believe I make sense to someone as smart as you.”

“You’re smart, too. I mean we have English together, so you’re just as intelligent as me.”

“Maybe you’re just bad in English. I mean I bet you get that poem we were supposed to read. You know the one about the heart inside the heart, which totally grossed me out. I mean who carries around a heart, of like, someone they love?”

She was right. I didn’t understand language and the way it would evoke emotion when one might read or say a word. Much less why writing so incorrectly would ever be appropriate. Phrases held no power; it was only how they might be interpreted by others that gave them any meaning. And who’s to say that what someone wrote would ever be read? And who did e.e. cummings think he was to write so oddly thus making it impossible to understand his work and therefore get me a ‘B-’ on a test?

Although, my stomach turned into a tangle of knots the moment Zoe started this dialogue. I mean our plan was merely to grab something to eat, and watch a movie not divulge our deepest secrets. It was the same feeling I got the first time that I heard ‘Undone (The Sweater Song)’. When I opened my mouth next I put to rest all my preconceived beliefs about a well chosen sentence, the hierarchy of high school, and that the loser never got the girl, because I’d never felt more confident. “We’re not as different as you think, Zoe, about poetry especially. And that’s only one of the reasons you’re the most amazing girl I know.”

Her smile was wider than I’d seen it before and her dark eyes glittered like the night sky. “You really mean that don’t you?”

“I will never lie to you.”

“You know, if I was ready for another boyfriend, it would totally be you.”
Zoe saved me the unending embarrassment of responding like a geek by leaning over the gearshift, and kissing me. It was just long enough for me to get the taste of cotton candy on my lips before the slender fingers of her right hand turned the radio dial. She made a noise I thought might shatter the windows. “Oh I love Christina Aguilera!”

For a moment I contemplated the lengths a man would go to be in the company of a pretty girl, and the possibilities that her acquaintance might entail.


Her mouth on mine for the majority of the day seemed well worth listening to a pop star.






novel, pictures, Uncategorized

Release of ‘Blood On The Potomac’

I’m happy to announce that my debut romantic thriller ‘Blood On The Potomac’ will be available on May 21.  There will be a release party held in Houston, the location will be announced later this week.  The novel will also be available for pre-order soon from

The cover has been released and I’m pleased to share it with you now.



novel, pictures, Uncategorized

Get inside the brain of an award winning author

In celebration of the release of my debut romantic thriller ‘Blood On The Potomac’ out May 21, I thought you might enjoy getting inside the mind of an author.

Whenever people ask me about the writing process the first thing I let them know is that music is paramount in the process. I literally can’t get in the zone without the right song on. I have yet to meet every writer, but most that I know personally write to background music, or nothing at all, they don’t spend hours searching for the right tunes then infuse it into their writing like I do.

The ‘right’ song is merely my interpretation of the music in context with what I might be writing. Matthew Hale is the only protagonist I’ve created who doesn’t think in music like I do, although he’s a big fan of The Man In Black, he doesn’t let it rule his everyday existence like myself, or his counterpart in ‘Blood On The Potomac’, Samantha Locke.  Granted Samantha’s musical taste is influenced by me (I did create her after all) but she listens to more electronica than I do, or at lest until I started writing this and became obsessed with it myself.


Below is a playlist that I created while writing/editing/re-writing/pulling hair out/completing my debut romantic thriller ‘Blood On The Potomac’. Those songs that are either directly or indirectly referenced in the novel are italicized. The titles which have a (+) after them mean that from now until the end of time when I hear that song I’ll instantly think of a man’s final wish (Precious), when we first meet Lilly (Boys Wanna Be Her), or Matthew walking through the streets of D.C. (The Tune). Those particular choices might not mean anything to the reader, but as the author I will forever have a movie playing in my head whenever I hear those songs with a (+) at the end.


The songs with an (*) are far fewer and what I like to call inspirational if you will. The songs were written long before I started the novel, but when I hear them I feel as if they were composed specifically for me to create ‘Blood On The Potomac’ (hopefully those musicians don’t find that offensive). During the early stages of writing ‘Ava Adore’ by Smashing Pumpkins resonated strongly with me, so much that if I were to give the entire novel one song to sum it up, that would be the song to do it. While I believe that ‘Female Robbery’ by The Neighborhood is clearly Matthew’s song (although he’s never heard it much less have a reason to seek it out), ‘Army of Me’ by Björk would be something that Samantha would have on her own playlist and to me personifies the character.


Some of my choices are ‘jokes’ and only something you’ll fully understand after you read the novel, while others are spot on and very specific choices, most gave me the correct vibe when it came to storytelling.   In some chapters there is a song for each POV switch between Matthew and Samantha. Other chapters have a track for each scene.

Basically this is my soundtrack to my debut novel ‘Blood On The Potomac’, and I recommend you check out the music before the novel is released May 21 from Inklings Publishing.





-Precious by Depeche Mode+



-Boys Wanna Be Her by Peaches+

-Hurt by Johnny Cash


The Test

-The Tune by Wax Tailor+

-Strawberry Bubblegum by Justin Timberlake

-Bad Girls by M.I.A.



-Bury Me With It by Modest Mouse

– The Letter Edged In Black by Johnny Cash

-Over and Over by Hot Chip

-Criminal by Fiona Apple


The Last Time

-Bang Bang Boom Boom by Beth Hart

– Wandering Star by Portishead



Locke’s First Mission

-Rollercoaster by Bleachers

-This Is A Trick by (Crosses)+

End Of The Line by Sleighbells+


Looking Glass

Written In Reverse by Spoon

King Night by Salem+

-Man In Black by Johnny Cash+

-Dirt Off Your Shoulder/ Lying From You by Jay Z & Linkin Park

Bad Blood by Taylor Swift

– Terrible Lie by Nine Inch Nails+


Three Women

-No You Girls by Franz Ferdinand

-Summertime Sadness (Lana Del Rey vs. Cedric Gervais) by Lana Del Rey & Cedric Gervais

-Wasted Time by Best Coast



Truth or Truth

– Philosophize In It! Chemicalize With It! By Kishi Bashi

– You Go Down Smooth by Lake Street Dive

– Ava Adore by Smashing Pumpkins*

Ghosts n Stuff (Nero Remix) by deadmau5

– When I’m Small by Phantogram



  • 6 Underground by Sneaker Pimps+
  • Hong Kong Garden (with strings intro) by Siouxsie & The Banshees
  • Let It Fall by Lykke Li
  • Elevate by St. Lucia
  • Young Blood by The Naked and Famous


Night Terrors

  • Harlequin Dream by Boy & Bear
  • Every Day Is Exactly The Same by Nine Inch Nails
  • Gooey by Glass Animals


Damaged Goods

  • The Cat With the Cream by Belle and Sebastian
  • Cut It Out by Kitten


Seven Cards

  • Devil’s Spoke by Laura Marling
  • I Walk The Line by Johnny Cash+
  • No One’s Gonna Love You by Band of Horses



The Broken Promise

  • Highly Suspicious by My Morning Jacket
  • Devil In Me by Gin Wigmore



The Arc

  • Ink by Coldplay+
  • Killer Bangs by Honeyblood
  • Black Out On White Night by Sage Francis
  • Crown On The Ground by Sleigh Bells +


Skin and Bones

  • Lead Me Home by Jamie N Commons
  • Something Is Not Right With Me by Cold War Kids
  • I’ll Believe In Anything by Wolf Parade
  • Always by Blink-182
  • Video Games by Lana Del Rey
  • Somplace by Jake Bugg
  • Breakin’ Dishes by Rihanna+


Maggie’s Night/Saul’s Night

  • Black Tongue by Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  • Phazing by Dirty South Featuring Rudy
  • I Told You I Was Mean by Elle King
  • It’s All Over by Johnny Cash




  • Female Robbery by The Neighborhood*
  • Sing by Travis
  • Bullet With Butterfly Wings by Smashing Pumpkins
  • Tell ‘Em by Sleigh Bells
  • Magic by Bruce Springsteen+
  • Good Lookin Out by Kurt Vile
  • Gamma Ray by Beck
  • Why Do You Love Me by Garbage
  • In Circles (Remastered) by Sunny Day Real Estate
  • Christina by Kitten


Friends with Benefits

  • Bad Girls (feat. Missy Elliott & Rye Rye) [Switch Remix] by M.I.A.
  • Animal (Switch remix) by Ke$ha+
  • The Lament of Pretty Baby by Cursive+

Gasoline and Matches

  • You Don’t Get Me Twice by Sleigh Bells
  • Knives Out by Radiohead
  • Video Games by Lana Del Rey
  • Army of Me by Björk *
  • Bitter Rivals by Sleigh Bells
  • I Know by Fiona Apple+


Golden State

  • To Hell With You by Sleigh Bells+




Be ready to turn the volume up on May 21 when you buy a copy of ‘Blood On The Potomac’ the first in the Hale and Locke series from Inklings Publishing.

short stories, Uncategorized

‘Reunion’ by Melissa Algood

This is a short story that I wrote under my pen name Elizabeth Harris, which is the name I use for my work that is less bloody.  Although it must be noted that ‘Reunion’ does include some violence and profanity thus it is not intended for readers younger than thirteen.

Elizabeth Harris’ poem ‘Darkness’ is published in the collection ‘IN THE QUESTIONS’ from Spider Road Press.  I highly recommend you check them out not only for their excellent publications, but because they donate a portion of their proceeds to charity.

‘Reunion’ is a story that I did submit for a contest, although I have yet to find out the results, I find it to be one of my favorites.  It’s the story of a woman who’s lost everything, and how she’s picked up the pieces since.  I hope you find it as heart wrenching, yet tender as I intended.  Enjoy-


Continue reading “‘Reunion’ by Melissa Algood”

Mad Girl's Publishing, short stories, upcoming releases

‘The Trail’-a short story by Melissa Algood

This story is one of the few that is actually inspired by a real person, and thus I hold it very dear.  You can read this story along with a few never before seen stories like Last Look, Circus Freak, After The Fire, and a post apocalyptic flash fiction piece Underground Railroad in the upcoming collection ‘Everyone Dies: Collected Works of a Morbid Author’.

Look for the first collection of short fiction of Melissa Algood brought to you from Mad Girl’s Publishing out 2019.

Until then I hope you enjoy ‘The Trail’-the story of Ben, a solider, who hikes the Appalachian Trail by himself months after coming home from war.



The Trail

by Melissa Algood © (2015)

Ben thought about the war a lot.  

It was on his mind twenty-four hours a day.  He’d been unable to fully get back into the swing of normal life, so his parents had him move back home until he ‘got on his feet’ they’d said.  His siblings tried to help him forget by bringing him to parties they’d been invited to, out to a movie, or just for a drive.  But it only made things worse.

At parties ,some idiot would inevitability ask him if he’d killed anyone when he was deployed.  What was his answer supposed to be?  If it was no, then he was a pussy.  If it was yes ,then he was a murderer.  How could anyone explain that after three tours in the ‘sandbox’’ he couldn’t stop checking the crowd for enemies?  Or that he never looked relaxed because he was always at attention?

Movies weren’t much better.  They were too loud, and he’d concentrate on the people around him rather than the film.  Every gesture people around him made was suspect even though his sisters’ promised, “They’re just goofing off.”

Once he was stupid enough to go to stay at home and watch a rented movie his older brother recommended that involved guns and a car chase.  It brought the war back in vivid detail; from the death of his partner, to the sirens waking him at night.  Ben’s dug into the fabric on the armrests of the couch until the credits rolled.  The shots that fired rung in his ears, and he would be covered in sweat; not out of fear, but out of memory.  When a body dropped on screen, it reminded Ben of everyone he’d seen fall in the sandbox.  He wished he could say that their faces weren’t burnt into his memory.  That their empty eyes didn’t haunt him.  But they did; all thirteen of his brothers who died in the sandbox were with him.  Always.

And the long car rides were the worst.  Ben had spent most of his time guarding the convoy.  No matter if he was protecting soldiers, or artillery, Ben was on high alert for the entire journey.  Now, back at home, the long way back proved anxiety ridden rather than calming.  Can’t really be comfortable in a car when you didn’t have a grenade launcher within arms reach, he thought as he looked out over the trees that lined the highway.  

Everyone went on with their lives the four years he was gone, but Ben’s had stopped.  They didn’t understand that he wasn’t really Ben anymore-He was a Marine.

He’d only been home a couple of months before he sat his parents down in the living room.  Ben’s mother wrung her hands; she wore her apron stained with bacon grease from making breakfast.  His father leaned back in his recliner covering half his face with his hand; maybe he already knew what his son was going to tell them.  That he needed to be free.

Ben had never been described as loquacious, even less so after his deployment.  Unaware how to articulate that he needed to do something deemed impossible by most.  That nature might prove to be a cure to the haunting of his past; so he got right to the point.  “I’m going to walk the Appalachian Trail.”

His mother chuckled.  “Oh baby, you just got home.”

He didn’t know how to explain that he’d never really come home.  “I need to.”

“Why?” Her dark eyes glistened.  “Who are you going with?  How long do you want to leave us?”

Ben sighed internally.  He thought she might cry, but he still didn’t want to be the cause of it.  Again.  “I’ll go alone.  It will take as long as it takes.”

“But it’s so far away…bears…rain…” She went on into a tizzy, and Ben let her, although he didn’t necessarily imprint her worries in his gray matter.

He was going to hike the Appalachian Trail, and that was literally the only thing he cared about.  The fresh air, strenuous exercise, and new experiences were what his soul craved.  The hike would be a reset button on his life and was much needed because he was tired of being an unemployed, twenty-five-year-old single guy who lived in a rural, Southwest Texas town.

The trail would help him recover the parts of himself he’d lost to the war.  He’d get back meaning in his life.

“Now, Sarah.” Ben’s father leaned forward and took his mother’s hand.  He sandwiched his wife’s wrinkled hand between his own age-spotted ones. “Our boy really isn’t a boy anymore.”

“He’ll always be my baby, and I want him safe, at home, Joseph.”

“I understand that, but if he can take care of himself over there in the desert, then he’ll be okay taking a little hike.”

Ben didn’t feel it was the time to add that it would at least take five months to hike from Georgia to Maine.

Joseph continued unaware of his son’s thoughts.  “He’ll be fine.  No bear can get our son if those terrorists can’t.”  

He grinned and smacked Ben on the back, which made him flinch.  Being touched was still something he wasn’t completely okay with even if it was his father giving him a ‘thatta boy.’

A few weeks later, he kissed his mother on the cheek, shook his father’s hand, hugged his sisters, and gave his brother a high five before he boarded the bus to Georgia.

“Call us when you get there, Ben,” Sarah, his mother said.

Ben nodded.  Although he wasn’t taking a map since the trail was marked so well, much less a cell phone.  He’d promised his father he’d send a letter addressed to his mother every time he crossed a post office.

It was green, so green.  If he were a poet instead of a solider, Ben would be able to describe the drops of water that clung to the leaves, or that each plant reminded him of the foliage he saw in movies about dinosaurs.  The sky was majestic with shades of orange, red, and finally a deep purple as the sun set.  The clean air invigorated his lungs.  Basically everything he experienced in nature he found to be the opposite of everything he’d seen during his three tours in the sandbox.  Birds chirped in the morning and evening; frogs sounded like fog horns as he lay in his sleeping bag, staring up at the ever-expanding stars.  Although he knew the most important rules of the trail were to not take anything off of the trail, not to leave anything behind, and not to harm any of it’s creatures; thus when he came across the occasional snake that he left alone.

He became part of every living creature he came in contact with, save the snakes.  The trickling river washed away the constant noise in his head-and the nightmares.  With each step forward, he propelled himself closer toward peace.

For hours he watched a mourning dove build a nest using twigs and leaves it gathered from the forest floor.  In the sunshine, the feathers on its chest were snow white, while its tan wings camouflaged the bird in the tree.  Ben realized that it was building a home, something he wanted to do one day as well.  Although he’d never contemplated it before as he watched the bird create its future that he wanted one of his own.  Ben wanted a strong woman by his side. He’d buy her a beautiful house where they could raise their kids.  He laughed to himself as he pictured a couple of kids playing on the tire swing that he’d put up for them as his wife finished up the chicken fried steak for dinner.

Ben made it to Maryland spending most of the trip ignoring the hikers he encountered letting the forest take over his spirit like moss on a tree.  There were signs letting hikers know a town was near, so he left the trail to go into town, the post office and pick up supplies.  He decided to spend the night in one of the cabins along the trail.  They’d been built specifically for hikers to stay in a bed with access to hot water.  Ben paid the owner’s wife for the evening.  She handed him a receipt, and told him that dinner would be served at sunset so he’d have enough time to wash up.  

When he looked in the mirror, his face shocked him.  His beard was long, dark, and wiry.  He thought about shaving but decided that he’d keep it.  Ben had long been tormented for his baby face, but that wasn’t a problem anymore since his mountain man beard obscured most of it.  It took three shampoos to cut through the grease in his hair that was long enough to tie back.  Although he couldn’t be sure if he smelled like death before the shower, his skin felt clean and smooth after hot water poured over him.  He put on fresh clothing that he’d bought in town.  Ben’s new undershirt was stark white; his flannel button up was soft, and his jeans were dark blue rather than splattered in mud.  But he wore the filthy boots his mother had bought him before he left Texas.

The wooden table in front of the cabin was large enough to hold a dozen people, but tonight it had only a handful including the owner and his wife.  Ben sat down and served himself from the bubbling pot of chili, buttered some cornbread, and took a sip from the frosted glass of lemonade.

“Heard you’ve been going the trail solo, son.” A man with gray scruff and bright blue eyes sat across from Ben, and after the man spoke, he bit into his cornbread.

Ben nodded.

A thirty-something blond woman sitting next to gray scruff man mused. “Strong, silent type; perfect for the trail.” 

Ben shrugged.

“I’m Tim.” Gray-scruff man wiped his hand on his pants, then stuck it across the table.  

Ben shook Tim’s hand.  “Ben.”  

He turned toward the woman sitting next to Time and repeated his greeting.

“Good to meet you, Ben.  I’m Annie,” the blond woman said.  Then she leaned over to Tim.  “He’s got the look.”

Ben swallowed a mouthful of chili; its spices lingered on his taste buds after it was gone.  “The look?”

Tim chuckled heartily.  “This is our third time on the trail, and we’ve found there are two types of people that walk it alone.  Those that want to remember, and those that want to forget.  You have the look of the latter.”

Ben didn’t know how to respond, so he shoved the rest of the cornbread into his mouth in lieu of an answer.

“It’s not a girl though.  But you lost something, didn’t you, Ben?”  Annie asked.

Ben finished his lemonade.

“He lost himself, babe.  He’s hiking the trail to find himself again.”  The bushy gray eyebrows on Tim’s ragged square face came to a point.  “Am I right, Ben?”

Ben nodded.  His dinner was almost finished, and it might have been the fact that he hadn’t spoken to anyone in so long, or the fresh air that unblocked his voice because Ben found himself talking to strangers.  “I’m a Marine, came back from my third tour in the sandbox to stay with my parents in Texas.  But it was all too much.  Or not enough. I needed…” He didn’t know how to articulate his desires; for so long his only needs were those of his fellow solider.  “To start over I suppose.”

Tim smiled.  The full moon that hung above them lit up the deep wrinkles in his aged face.  “You’re almost there, son.  There’s a little twinkle in your eye.  The trail does that to you.  It gives you back everything; that’s why you never take anything from it because someone else needs to see that rock or tree too.”

Ben grinned for the first time in years.  “You’re right.  I feel free…almost.”

Like so many things in life, the final stretch was the hardest part.  By the time Ben got to Baxter State Park, the trek was tumultuous.  The trail proved challenging, rocky, and covered in red pine and balsam fir. Above the trees, the mountain became steep; the heavy winds and poor soil stunted the conifers—But on the horizon was Ben’s goal.  

The peak of Mount Katahdin was the finale of Ben’s journey, and he knew that he’d reach it that very day.  He’d come across a few hikers who looked ragged, but Ben knew that they too felt the elation of completing a journey that few had attempted, much less completed.

Each step of his journey had been a step towards living, not just surviving.  He’d replaced the need to be on guard with the ease of enjoying the world around him.  Every day had released him from the cage he’d unknowingly locked himself inside.  Now that his soul felt free again all those whom he’d lost had become a deeper part of him and would live in his heart, becoming immortal.  He’d never tell anyone, but a few tears escaped as the realization of this change filled his mind.

When he reached the peak after six months and three days from the start of the hike, Ben didn’t know if it was the lack of oxygen that made him dizzy, or if it was the pure unadulterated bliss that filled him.  He sat there for a while remembering all his buddies that he’d lost, and although they wouldn’t be able to walk the trail themselves, the fact that he thought of them as he sat there and all along the way meant that they had trekked it themselves in a way.  Ben had taken his mother, father, sisters, and brother with him as well.  They all lived inside of him, in his heart.  

Now that his soul felt free again.

He took one last gulp of air from the summit before he hiked back down. He could camp out in the trees before finding his way to the nearest bus stop and back to Texas.  Ben felt lighter than the birds that flew above him knowing that he’d see his family soon and tell them all that the pieces of him that were so broken had begun to mend.

The sun was starting to set when Ben reached the tree line.  He smelled meat cooking and felt a longing for human company.  He decided to break his unintended vow of silence.  Never before had he been so excited to talk to someone.  As he neared the group sitting around the campfire ,he heard laughing.  They were a group of six, and although he couldn’t officially ascertain their ages as he drew closer, he assumed they were his peers based on their banter about music and how much they missed beer.

“Hey man!” one of the guys called out.  

“Ah, a fellow hiker!” girl cried.

“Come on and join us.” Another bearded hiker waved Ben over.

“Yeah,” a girl giggled while the first guy tickled her.  “We got plenty of s’mores.”  

Ben’s mouth watered as the scent of chocolate and marshmallows filled his nostrils.  “Thanks.”  He sat down on a fallen log next to a girl with red hair that matched the fire and turned to her.  “I’m Ben.”

She licked the chocolate off her fingers, then wiped her hand on her jeans before she shook his hand.  “I’m Monica.  Did you want me to put one on the fire for you?”  She held up a branch with a marshmallow on the end.

“That would be great, thanks.”

Monica tucked a lock of hair behind her ear.  Her face was free of makeup, but her skin was the color of milk.  It made Ben thirsty.  “We’re waking up at dawn to make it to the summit if you want to come.”

“I’ve already been there; saw y’all on my way down.”

“Whoa, so you’ve already made it all the way through” Monica turned the marshmallow so it browned on both side.  

“Yeah, it’s beautiful.  Almost as beautiful as you.”  Ben said it without even thinking, but he knew it was true.  

She giggled as her dark eyes danced.  “You’re sweet.  Maybe you should come with us; that way you can say you’ve been there twice.”

“That would be cool.” Ben sighed and tilted his head back to see the night sky trough the trees.  “Then I can tell all my friends back in Texas that I broke a record.”

Monica’s eyes widened.  “You’re from Texas?”

“Yeah.” Ben nodded.

“That’s so crazy, I’m from Houston.”

“Me too.”

Monica sandwiched the marshmallow between the chocolate and graham crackers.  “It’s as if we were meant to meet.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, my friends and I all met at Georgia Tech and decided to do the hike after graduation.  But you and I lived in the same city, and we met here -in the middle of the woods in Maine- a state neither of us have a connection to.”

“I guess you’re right.”  Ben grinned at Monica.  The group around them kept talking, but Ben couldn’t make out a word.  The only thing in his world was Monica.  “We probably shouldn’t sneer at fate when it worked so hard to get us to meet.”

“It only makes sense that you come to the summit with us then.”  She nudged Ben in the ribs.  “Fate wants you to.”

“Let’s toast,” Ben said as he held up his s’more.

“To what?”  Monica asked as she held up hers.

Ben thought of all he’d learned on his hike through the Appalachian Trail and decided that there was only one thing that was truly precious.  “To life.”

“To life,” Monica agreed.  They touched the edges of their s’mores together.

Ben bit into the s’mores.  He didn’t know what the future held, but he did know that he would climb back up the summit with the pretty girl he met by chance in the middle of the woods.

He’d break a cardinal rule and take something from the trail: Monica.

novel, pictures, The Bakery Assistant

Feedback from ‘The Bakery Assistant’

My novel in progress (under the pen name Elizabeth Harris) is ‘The Bakery Assistant’.  It’s the story of Claire Fischer who’s stuck in time after her parents were involved in a fatal car crash on the way to her 16th birthday party.  She meets Aaron Ricci, who sweeps her off her feet, although he comes with his own baggage.

I brought the end of Chapter 5-in which Claire and Aaron have their first fight, and the beginning of Chapter 6- where Sid (Aaron’s roommate and best friend’s girl) a hairstylist does her hair.  On another note Sid is by far the most autobiographical character I’ve ever written: loud mouthed, lively, and a highly talented hairstylist.

One of my favorite things to do after my weekly critique circle with the Houston Writers Guild is to memorialize the good notes I get from the group.  It’s always nice to look back over all the praise after numerous rejections in the literary world, and something I recommend for any author.

Below are some of the highlights. I’d like to thank the authors in my cc, and the Houston Writers Guild.  I wouldn’t be half the writer I am now without them.

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Stay tuned for my debut novel ‘Blood On The Potomac’ due this spring from Inklings Publishing.