2017 52-Week Writing Challenge – Winner! #MondayBlog

When the Writing Cooperative announced their 52 Week Writing Challenge in January 2017, I thought long and hard about entering. I wasn’t fond of writing challenges and had problems sticking with some which were only ten to fourteen days.

But a year? Me?

I threw caution to the wind and signed up and figured any amount of time in the challenge would be good practice and help me work out a writing regimen I could stick with.

I sailed through the first three months.

I mentally reprimanded myself for fearing something which was too easy for words.

And then April happened. Hello Reality check!

Between my husband’s hospitalization for a serious infection related to his ESRD (End Stage Renal Disease) and me, getting hit with the mother of all Fibromyalgia flare-ups, I was done.

I had two submissions saved in Scrivener and decided after posting them, I was out of the challenge. I’d missed editing and publishing deadlines for my debut novel’s book two, no way could I also be stressed over a writing challenge.

That’s what I thought, anyway.

Writers can be a quirky bunch, and whether we’re burning the midnight oil editing or rising before dawn to flesh out characters and plots, we make our families (and close friends) aware of our projects and schedules.


So, they’ll understand missed appointments, preoccupations with fictional characters, or if dinner is late… or pizza… again.

But we also keep family and friends in the loop because they’re our first level of support… and our biggest cheerleaders.

Time passed, and I submitted the two completed pieces to the challenge with no plans to continue.

My family had other ideas.

Our three adult children took turns passing through and staying for a night or two with me until their dad was discharged.

(Told you guys I needed a supervisor!)

When the mister was finally discharged, I was ready to sleep for a week.

But it wasn’t meant to be.

The oldest blindsided me with, “Is your weekly writing challenge done?”

I was floored. This is the guy who thinks I write Victorian romances starring Fabio! God’s honest truth… I kid you not! Other than a couple of early story outlines, he’s never read a word I’ve written and probably never will. So, when he called me out, what else could I do but write?

That was the week I wrote Dumped, based on a true encounter I had with a homeless man when I was six months pregnant with HRH, the firstborn!

I won’t say it was easy, but I never considered quitting again after that.

And it paid off… even if the timing wasn’t the best.

Just hours after we lost my mother-in-law on January 12th, I received a congratulatory email naming me the winner of the 2017 52-Week Writing Challenge.

I was shocked, excited, and grateful… still am. But Life and family had to come first.

We’ve fallen back into our routines again, and it’s time to go to work.

My prize is a publishing package from the great folks at Standout Books, so I need to give them something to publish.

Wish me luck.



“Thinking It Through”

Excerpt from ongoing WIP. Title updated from For Worse to Heartburn. This scene occurs after No Excuses but before the scenes with Quinn’s mother and brother, Good Morning, Mother and Hypocrite. Everyone confused? Alright!

Knowing the outreach center was in west L.A., Quinn found it after only two searches.

Finally acknowledging a Clinton Clark did receive occasional treatment there, the kind, but resolute center director, Vince, would not give Quinn any more information as he walked her to the door.

“Please understand, miss. Most of our vets experienced trauma that has yet to end for them. Some are at the lowest points in their lives and vulnerable.  All sorts of folks come in pretending to be family or close friends… just to get a signature on divorce papers, land deeds, and bank accounts. One poor fella thought he was updating his son’s insurance, when in fact, he was signing away his parental rights.”

Quinn couldn’t hide her stunned expression.

Vince rested his hand on the door handle. “I know it sounds deplorable… because it is. But those kinds of situations happen more than the public is aware of. We have to do what we can to protect our vets.”

Quinn thanked the man as he held the door for her. She was glad Clinton had someone looking out for him, but Quinn was determined. She would see her brother.

She talked with Mike Matthews during her drive home. Giving him the short version of her evening, Mike didn’t give her a chance to ask for time off.

“Take all the time you need, Landon. You’ve always got my back. And besides, without you here putting out all the office fires, I get to see what the rest of this team knows… or doesn’t.”

They shared a chuckle before Quinn ended the call, grateful for a boss like Mike.

Quinn was grateful again when she pulled into her South Pasadena driveway, but for a different reason.

Oscar had not returned from her parents’ home yet.

Entering the mud room from the garage, she hoped he would opt to go to his parents’ home instead of coming home at all.

Or to see his newest side piece.

The revelation of his latest affair and his limp, unapologetic apology changed Quinn Landon.

It wasn’t Oscar’s first affair, but it was the first time blame was laid squarely on her shoulders by her parents.

They reasoned if Quinn quit her job and left the stresses of work behind, she’d get pregnant, and Oscar would be happy.

Like hell.

Finding an airline ticket stub and hotel receipts from San Diego were the swan song for the Landon marriage.

It was insult enough Quinn knew the trip was funded by money from their joint account… the money she worked for and saved… but it was the same weekend Oscar backed out of their planned trip to northern California for a jazz festival.

Oscar Landon had no intention of changing his adulterous ways.

She made a turkey sandwich, grabbed a bottle of Perrier and headed for her bedroom.

Making sure the bedroom door was locked, Quinn wolfed down her sandwich and took a quick shower. She threw on her favorite Green Bay Packers jersey and placed a pair of jeans and a light sweater for tomorrow at her dressing table.

Quinn spent the next two hours in her work email—responding to inquiries and clearing up pressing matters.

Her eyelids became heavy as fatigue washed over her.

Activating her out-of-office email response, Quinn placed her tablet on the nightstand and crawled into bed. She had almost drifted off when she heard the front door. Moments later, there was a soft tap on the bedroom door.

Ignoring her husband, Quinn turned over and let sleep take her.


Awaking before her alarm clock sounded five short hours later, Quinn laid in bed staring out her east-facing bedroom window as the sun began its ascent. The golden rays peeking through the trees energized Quinn and gave her strength.

She would call Morris Dabney next week. This time, Quinn would go through with the divorce. No amount of badgering or guilt trips from the Clark and Landon families would stop her this time.

Quinn rose and made her bed as she organized her thoughts.

She couldn’t remember what it felt like to love her husband unconditionally. Oscar’s endless lies halted Quinn’s love from growing. His disrespect of her and their marriage vows broke her heart and soured the happiness Quinn once enjoyed.

But it was Oscar’s determination to play the victim and join their families in blaming Quinn for his many dalliances which turned Quinn’s once full heart to a hardened pebble, beating enough only to maintain her existence.

Slipping into her jeans and sweater, Quinn found her favorite dark brown hiking boots in the back of her closet.

Dressed, she stood in front of the window lost in thought.

She needed to put the house on the market. She didn’t want any memories of any time shared with Oscar Landon and he couldn’t afford the house on a school administrator’s salary.

The loud chime of We Are Family snapped Quinn from her reverie.

Not in the mood to talk with any of her family, she grabbed her keys, put her phone on silent and headed for the outreach center.

Nothing would stop Quinn from seeing her brother today.


©2017 Felicia Denise


Not a Date #WritingChallenge

Not a Date- meatloaf

52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 49
This is another excerpt of my WIP, Sacrificial Daughter, currently at 69K. Ana is having dinner with a sheriff’s deputy and former “schoolmate.”

Murphy’s Family Restaurant topped Corwin’s annual food listing of favorite places to eat.

It wasn’t gourmet fare, secret recipes, or old family recipes which brought the crowds in, but the folksy, down-to-earth atmosphere found there 6 am to 9 pm seven days a week.

Third generation owner, Joe Murphy, welcomed every patron who walked through the door, and if he wasn’t available, his wife, Silvia, did.

Joe, Silvia, and the wait staff would have rolling conversations and included patrons. Topics were light, easy and fun. It wasn’t unusual for calls to come in inquiring not about the daily special, but what was the current topic of the day.

Analeigh Sellers pulled into Murphy’s parking lot at five minutes to six. Exiting her rental, she grinned when she saw Walt Gaskins leaning against a signpost near the entrance.

“How many demerits did you get for being late before you arrived early to everything?”

Ana laughed aloud.

“Believe it or not, I’ve never received a demerit for anything… and I’ve never been late.”

Walt threw his hands up in the air.

“Oh, my god, you’re a drill sergeant’s dream come true. Poster girl for the military.”

They both laughed as Walt opened the door for Ana and they headed for the wait stand.

“I said I never received demerits, but I was far from a DS’s dream recruit.”

Before Ana could continue, a loud bellow came from the other side of the restaurant.

“Walt. Hey. It’s always good to see you in the place.”

Without an ounce of shame, the large man gave Ana an appraising once over and nodded in approval.

“Walt, my man, your taste has improved a thousand percent. Introduce me to your beautiful friend.”

Walt and Ana’s smirks matched.

“You don’t recognize her?”

“Like I could forget these eyes. I never for-” Resting a hand on his waist, the confused man raised the other to scratch his head. Tilting his head, he stared at Ana again. His eyes widened in recognition.


She looked from him to Walt and back.

“We’ve met?”

Walt explained.

“Analeigh, this is Joe Murphy, Jr. His family lived just outside the city limits and he didn’t go to our high school, but he spent a lot of time in town… working here and hanging out with the guys.”

“So, we never met.”

It was a statement, not a question.

“No, but I saw you around. I always thought you were so pretty. You left a big impression on me. I always hoped I’d see you whenever I came to town.”

“Thank you, Joe.”

“Dude, can we get a booth or are you going to keep drooling over my date?”

Joe, Jr. roared with laughter and gestured for the couple to follow him.

Ana wasn’t feeling the calm that showed on her face. Anxiety buzzed in her head while she tried to ignore Walt’s remark.

Date? He called her his date. Walt was over-the-top hot and gorgeous, but she only had room for one man in her head and her heart. She hoped Walt was simply using a figure of speech.

“How’s this?”

“Perfect, Joe. Thanks, man.”

“No problem. Wait staff will be right over. Enjoy.”

He looked at Ana again and walked away with a smile on his face.

Ana settled into the booth and admired the view from the large tempered window.

Acorn Fields, the city’s biggest park, stretched out for miles behind Murphy’s. Despite the evening hour, the vibrant colors of spring were still visible under the setting sun.

“Okay, remember I told you it’s meatloaf day, and it is amazing.”

“I had it a time or two when I came here with Rosie. Can’t remember if I liked it or not.”

Walt clutched his chest, feigning shock.

“That’s blasphemy. Everyone loves Murphy’s meatloaf. And order the mashed potatoes. They’re made fresh… no instant tater flakes here.”

Ana pushed her menu aside and folded her arms in front of her the table.

“Okay, but if I don’t like it, I’ll forever question your judgment.”

He mimicked her action with his arms.

“That’s fair.”

Walt’s smiled dimmed.

“How does it feel to be back, Analeigh?”

“Not as bad as I thought it would, but still a little unsettling. But I think it’s because Rosie’s gone.”

“You guys were close, huh?”

Ana shrugged a shoulder. “She made it bearable. I don’t know where I’d be today If I didn’t have Rosie in my life.”

Walt fidgeted in his seat.

“Analeigh… about when we were kids-”

“Thank you, Walt, but we need not rehash that. It won’t change the past.”

“I need you to understand. I never believed all those things I heard about you. Most kids didn’t. But it wasn’t just mean girls like Macy and Judy fueling the fire with rumors. Some of us had parents just as bad.”

“Walt, it wasn’t a fun time in my life, but it-”

“I’m sorry, Analeigh. I wanted to be your friend, but-”

The occasional glances cast her way from other customers since they entered were now outright stares. Swallowing her anxiety again, Ana touched Walt’s arm.

“It’s okay… honest. I’m fine. Let’s talk about something else.”

Walt ducked his head with a bashful grin.

“Thank you for being so gracious, Analeigh.”

Gracious? Was she being ‘gracious?’

Ana flashed a benign smile at Walt and ducked her head. She was glad Walt didn’t know this non-date was instead a trial-by-fire for her before the eyes of Corwin.


©Felicia Denise 2017

The Park #WritingChallenge


52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 48

NaNoWriMo is over, but the writing continues. This is another excerpt of my WIP, Sacrificial Daughter, currently at 62K. This is part of a memory Ana has which led to major changes in her life and changed its direction.

Analeigh exited Dot’s Five & Dime clutching the bag which held her new spiral notebooks and pencils. She headed for home, eager to get to the solitude of her bedroom and add to her story Sadia, the Beloved African Princess.

Excited, Ana planned the wedding scene between Sadia and mighty warrior, Manu Owon, in her mind. She didn’t hear the group of girls approaching her from behind until they surrounded her.

Macy Burford and Judy Lake each gripped one of Ana’s elbows, pulling her along at a brisk pace.

“What are you doing? Let go of me!” Ana pulled and tugged to break free, but stopped when she felt Macy’s nails dig into her skin through the thin jacket she wore.

“Aww, calm down, Analeigh. We only want to hang out with you,” Judy cooed.

“No, you don’t. We’re not friends. Let go!” Ana stopped, trying to wrench herself free, but a sharp jab to her left shoulder caught her off guard. She turned her head to find Angela Feltner glaring at her. Next to Angela stood Corinne Beeman, her eyes filled with sympathy and fear.

Macy jerked Ana forward. “C’mon. We don’t have much time.

“Where are we going? Macy, what do you want from me? Just let me go. I won’t tell anyone.”

The taller girl scoffed and responded through gritted teeth.

“I don’t give a damn who you tell. No one will believe the town whore’s bastard daughter.”

Ana accepted what her mother was long ago. She could do nothing to change it. But being reminded of her anonymous father stung.

“Macy, just let me go. Judy, please. I have to get home before dark.”

Angela giggled. “Why is that, Analeigh? Do you have to help your mama service her men? Is that it, Analeigh? You raising your dress and spreading your legs for a long line of men every night?”

“You’re disgusting!”

Angela clipped Ana’s shoulder with a balled fist.

“Don’t call me disgusting… that’s your mama, not mine-”

“And what she does has nothing to do with me.”

Despite the late afternoon’s cool breeze, perspiration trickled the length of Ana’s back, fueled not by fear but anger.

Where were they taking her? What did they want? What gave them the right to control her?

The group reached the corner and turned right on Mt. Pleasant Boulevard.

“Shut your mouth and keep moving.”

Jaywalking, they crossed the desolate side street.

Ana realized they were heading straight for the back entrance of Symphony Park.

“Why are we going to the park? C’mon, you guys, let me go. Please?”

“We want to spend time with our friend, pretty Analeigh Sellers. We want to know how you always have the answers and get all those A’s. You doing special favors for teachers after school, Analeigh?” Macy smirked, marring her plain features even more.

Once the group was through the gate, Macy shoved Ana to the ground.

Ana threw her hands out and caught herself, her mouth mere inches away from the dirty, cracked cement. Pain shot through her wrist and heightened her anger.

“What the hell do you want?”

Macy leaned toward her. “If I had my way, you’d die, Analeigh. You and your slut of a mother make me sick.”

The crazed look in Macy’s eyes confused Ana, but anger won out. She kicked her leg out, catching Macy in the shin. Ana rolled to the right, missing the hard stomp of Angela’s booted foot.

Ana jumped to her feet, ignoring the pain of her injured wrist.

“Why do you hate me? What did I do to you? None of you even know me.”

“Pretty Analeigh. Smart Analeigh,” Angela mimicked. “You’re a whore’s daughter, which makes you a whore. But the boys and teachers think you’re so wonderful.”

Ana shook her head, her eyes full of sadness.

“You’re wrong. No one thinks I’m wonderful.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Macy bellowed. “None of it matters.”

All eyes were on Macy as she pulled a large pair of silver-plated scissors from her bag.

“You need a haircut, Analeigh.”


©Felicia Denise 2017

A Turkey’s Tale #WritingChallenge

Wild Turkey

52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 47
Flash Fiction – Word Prompt: Thanksgiving

Myrtle Viellot focused on her knitting as her husband, Mendel, paced in front of her.

“You’re going to wear yourself out, Mendel. Sit down.”

Incredulous at her suggestion, he gestured wildly.

“Sit down? What is wrong with you, Myrtle? Aren’t you worried about Theodore? He’s been gone two days.”

She set her yarn work aside.

“I am worried, honey. But you know trips across the valley take longer during this time of year. He’s a smart boy. I’m sure he’ll remember everything you taught him.”

Walking over to the snack can, Mendel palmed a wing full of sunflower seeds.

“I just hope I told him enough. Did I tell him about hollowed out trees? I told him about hollowed out trees, right? And not to wander too close to the marsh at Duckford, right? I told him, right Myrtle?”

Clucking, Myrtle tried to hide her frustration.

“Honey, why don’t you go strut around the grove for a spell? You need to relax and stop getting yourself so worked up. Theo’s going to come through the brush any time now.”

“I know you’re right, dear. It’s just so many of us disappear every fall. Even though there are dozens of farms breeding distant family members for someone’s holiday meal, we still have to deal with Mr. Big Bad Walk-on-the-wild-side Nature Guy, intent on bagging his own turkey.”

Myrtle smoothed his ruffled feathers.

“You’re still doing it, dear.”

“Okay, okay. I’ll be in the grove if Theo comes in.”

Myrtle clicked her beak watching her husband fly away from their nest. She was worried about Theo too. But all the families in the Great Grove fretted over missing family members.

Myrtle puffed out her feathers, taking her own advice. Worrying was useless and made her molt. She had to believe her youngest jake would be home when the flocks came together under the forest canopy before the Big Cold moved in.

Mendel saw his friend, Radford, perched on a low-hanging branch. Settling down next to him, Mendel looked across the glen at what had Radford’s attention. He gobbled.

“They never learn, do they?”

“Nope. But we were the same way when we were young toms.”

“True, but we didn’t overdo it like that. All the strutting and displays this close to the Big Cold are wasted. Better to save it for mating in spring.”

“Oh, right. Because you showed so much restraint at that age.”

The toms gobbled together knowing they’d both shared… and had eaten their share of wild oats.

“I guess we’re lucky we can remember those days. It means we’re still here.”

Radford could tell his friend’s heart was heavy.

“Theo’s not back yet, huh?”

“No. And he’s never been gone this long before.”

“C’mon, Men. He’s a young jake approaching tomhood. You know the nature… thinking nothing can hurt you and you’ll live forever.”

“I know, Rad. Just… this time of year.”

Before Radford could respond, he and Mendel were knocked from their branch.

Gobbling and drumming to untangle their feathers, the toms were about to run for cover when they saw what hit them.


Mendel danced around, purring and kee-keeing, happy to see his youngest.

“I was worried sick, son. Come. We must share the news of your return with your mother.

“Dad, wait.”

Mendel clicked his beak.

“What’s wrong, son?”

“I-I overheard the Goulds and Merriams talking a few days ago.”

“What have I told you about listening to them? You know how their kind is…. always all gloom and doom.”

“They said the food isn’t coming back.”

“Of course, it isn’t, Theo. The Big Cold is coming. Food is always scarce this time of year.”

“No, dad. Their elder said even when it was Sun Time, it was hard to find food… because of the Big Burn.”

Radford gobbled. “That is true, Men. The hens have had to go further from home for food, and don’t even think about building a new nest. Padding our old ones is near impossible.”

“I think we’re getting ahead of ourselves, Rad.” Mendel turned to Theo. “But what has this to with you being gone so long?”

Theodore chirped, beating his wings against his chest.

“I found a place for us to go. A place with plenty of food.”

“What?” The toms said in unison.

“I was over near the marsh, and-”

“What did I tell you about the marsh-”

“Dad, just listen, please. I met this older tom named Vernon. He was having difficulty flying. The guy’s a bit on the plump side. But he admitted he’d been eating too well and too much since he moved in with his cousin, Prunella.”

“Son, what does-”

“Let me finish dad. When I asked him about it, he said there was so much food, their flock couldn’t eat it all.”

“And you believed him?”

“Nope. I made him take me there. It’s all true. Pastures full of vegetables and seeds, trees full of fruits and nuts, and there’s a marsh full of ducks.”

“How can this be?” Radford walked closer to Theo. “No one has ever allowed us or the ducks to roam and eat freely. We have to be on-guard even in the protected space.”

“That’s what I told Vernon. And guess what he said? No one is allowed to take turkeys or ducks from the land. It’s called private property.”

Mendel strutted around the bush.

“I don’t know, son. We’ve seen this before. Lure us is, then turkeys go missing. Remember cousin Boris and his flock?”

“I know, dad. But I was there. And Vernon said the people are something called vegetarians and vegans.”

Mendel and Radford looked at each other.

“What do those names mean?”

Theo fluttered. “They mean the people don’t eat meat.”

The toms blustered about yelping and cackling until a small group of their flock joined them. Theo told his story again, and more turkeys danced about.

“Before we get carried away, this place needs to be checked out,” Radford suggested.

“Agreed.” Mendel turned to his son. “Think you can find this place again?”

“Are you kidding? Yeah. It’s just beyond the apple place.”

Mendel and the group agreed to meet again after sunset.

“Come on, Theo. We still need to let your mother know you’re safe and tell her about this new place.”

The tom and his jake took off for their nesting roost. Just as they landed, Mendel glanced at Theo.

“Son, you didn’t tell me if this new place has a name.”

“Sure does, dad. It’s called Fowlerville.”


©Felicia Denise 2017

The Afghan #WritingChallenge

White afghan

52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 46
Mid-way through NaNoWriMo2017 — YES! – and this is another unedited excerpt from my project, Sacrificial Daughter.

She smiled standing in her friend’s room. It was one hundred percent Rosie Chastain, appearing light and delicate, but held up by a solid sturdy foundation.

The ninety-year-old high-back rocking chair still sat in the corner. Made from thick oak by Rosie’s Uncle Preston, with pale pink cushions hand-sewn by his wife, Delia, it was Rosie’s special place. Whenever she had to sit and think about something, pray over something or someone, or collect her thoughts after a bad day, Rosie sat in the rocker.

Ana ran her hand over the smooth, glossy wood.

Next to the rocker was a massive nine-drawer dresser. Ana wasn’t sure what tree the dresser’s wood came from, but she remembered hearing workmen swear at the dresser’s weight when Rosie bought new carpeting and it had to be moved.

She opened drawers, not surprised at the order and neatness. Ana walked into the closet and was overwhelmed with memories of Rosie. The scent of the light jasmine and amber cologne Rosie loved was still in the air. Nurse’s uniforms, surgical scrubs, and lab coats took up a full third of the closet. Ana looked through the dress clothes, smiling at her friend’s love of silk.

She walked out of the closet and stood next to the large four-poster bed. Like the dresser, the bed was made from real wood and took four men to move it.

Sitting on the side of the bed, Analeigh buried her face in her hands.

Rosie was gone and now she had to get rid of these precious things.


Jeff told her to leave anything she didn’t want in the house and the auction company would include it in their inventory and sale.

Ana didn’t think she could part with the bedroom furniture. She had no space for it in her modest two-bedroom condo back in Columbus, but these were the pieces Rosie loved and cherished most and they were important to Ana too. She would find premium movers and storage until she made decisions about her future.

Ana reached for her notepad and realized it was on the kitchen counter.

Headed for the kitchen, Ana stopped when she saw something behind the bedroom door. She closed the door to find a dark leather ottoman. It was large and square… and Ana had never seen it before.

Rosie must have bought it after Ana left Corwin.

She knelt for a closer look and saw the tiny brass hinges. Ana raised the ottoman’s lid and clutched her chest with a raspy gasp.

Her eyes filled with tears as she reached into the ottoman to retrieve the treasure.

Sitting on the floor, Ana hugged the one hundred percent Merino wool afghan. She rubbed her chin and cheek against it, incredulous it was still as baby soft as the day she and Rosie completed it.

 ~ ~ ~
Ana made a few bracelets and necklaces, but she never had the patience for jewelry making and working with crystal the way Rosie did. She had no passion for it. When a friend told Rosie about loop knitting and arm knitting, she thought they might be something Ana would enjoy, and it was a creative endeavor.

She was right.

Ana was thrilled when Rosie presented her with the bulky snow-white yarn. She watched the accompanying video four times over two days before she would even consider beginning her project.

On the third day, Rosie laughed as a giddy Ana dumped the first bag of yarn on the dining room table.

A small piece of paper clung to one of the skeins. Ana picked it up and read it. Her mouth gaped open as she backed away from the table.

“What’s wrong, Analeigh?”

Shaking her head, Ana opened her mouth to speak but the words didn’t come.

“Analeigh? What’s wrong, honey? You okay?”

Rosie took a step towards her, but Ana threw up her hands, the slip of paper clutched in her fist.

“You spent almost five-hundred dollars on yarn? For me? Rosie that’s crazy. You have to take it back.”

“Is that what has you so upset? The cost of the yarn?” Rosie waved her off. “The cost is not important, sweetie. The look in your eyes and the smile on your face is what matters. The sense of accomplishment you’ll have at trying something new… being creative, that’s how we grow. Accepting challenges. Now, calm down and let’s get-”

“No, Rosie. You have to take it back.”

“Stop talking nonsense, child. I’ll do no such thing. And haven’t I taught you it is rude to refuse a gift?”

Ana walked over to Rosie, lifted one of her hands and placed the receipt in it.

“Yes, you did, Rosie, but this is too much. I’m not worth it.”

Rage erupted in Rosie and her tawny brown skin glowed as heat suffused her body. She crumpled the receipt in her hand and stalked around the table. Her arms flailed, and her gaze darted around the room.

Analeigh Sellers took a step back, afraid Rosie would send her away and not be her friend anymore.

“I’m sorry, Rosie.”

The wiry old woman rushed to Ana, grabbing and clutching her to her chest.

The teen didn’t understand, but held on, not wanting to be sent away. When Rosie pulled back, Ana saw her face was wet with tears.

“What’s wrong, Rosie?”

She smoothed Ana’s hair down and cupped her cheeks in her hands.

“Some folks think the worst way to hurt a child is physically… beat on them, smack them around. But, sweetie, what’s been done to you is just as bad… worse in some ways.”

“I don’t understand.”

Rosie Chastain tilted her head toward the table.

“Child, if I spent ten-thousand-dollars on that yarn it was worth it to me to see you smile because you are worth it. You are important to me. You matter.”

Ana opened her mouth to argue, but Rosie stopped her.

“You can’t put a price on people, Analeigh, everyone has value. Everyone matters because they are here… alive. There isn’t one of us who is better or more worthy than anyone else. I know that to be true. I’ve seen a lot in almost seventy years on this earth, but I’ve never come across a person who was better than anyone else.”

Pain mixed with the confusion on Ana’s face and she looked away.

Rosie gently turned her head back to see her eyes.

“Child, I could tell you how special and worthy you are all day long, but it don’t mean nothing if you don’t believe it yourself.”

~ ~ ~

Ana wiped her eyes remembering that day. It took a little more time, but she soon learned to walk with her head held high. Because of Rosie Chastain.

~ ~ ~
For the next three weeks, Ana stopped by after school every afternoon, and she and Rosie worked on the afghan together. Methodically matching loops and rows.

On the last day, Ana locked the final stitch and the women complimented each other as they admired their handiwork.

“We’re pretty good, huh?”

“Child, you could sell this for twice what the yarn cost.”

“No way. I’ll never sell it.”

“Does my old heart good to hear that.”

Rosie ran her hand over the blanket.

“Just a month ago, this was piles of yarn, no shape or form, sitting on the store shelves waiting to be purchased. I bought the yarn and you, Analeigh, studied the process. You decided on a pattern and we worked together, keeping the blanket uniform…no loose ends. And now we have this beautiful creation.”

Ana admired her handiwork until she realized Rosie stopped speaking. She glanced in her direction only to find Rosie’s eyes locked on her.

“This blanket is you, Analeigh.”

Ana’s brow knitted in confusion.

“Your young life here… in this town, was just a pile of loose ends. No one tried to give you structure and guidance. They just grabbed a loose end and pulled. But you’re growing into a beautiful young woman and forging your own structure without anyone’s guidance. You’ve got the pattern, Analeigh, time to make your own creation.”

“If I did any of those things, Rosie, it’s because of you.”

“Oh, no, child. I was the shelter from the storm. We all need one sometimes, and we all act as one. You’ll be someone’s shelter one day too so they can have the opportunity to figure it all out. That’s all I did for you.”

“No, Rosie… it’s not. You gave me structure and guidance. And love. And Rosie you saved my life.”

Ana gathered the ends of the snow-white afghan and placed them in Rosie’s hands.

“That’s why I want you to have this.”

~ ~ ~
Ana closed the lid on the ottoman.
Rosie Chastain broke down in tears that day. Ana knew the spry senior citizen was fond of her, but she’d always felt Rosie acted more out of pity. A sense of dread stayed nestled close to her heart, fearing the day would come Rosie would no longer consider Analeigh worthy of her time.

The bond between the two friends was cemented that day. Ana knew she would leave Corwin and its suffocating judgment behind. Leaving Rosie Chastain wasn’t an option.


©Felicia Denise 2017
Image by jdurham

Retta #WritingChallenge

Woman in the Mirror

52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 45
This is another unedited excerpt from my 2017 project, Sacrificial Daughter.

She brushed her long, dark, tresses without thought, mesmerized by own her gaze.

The dark brown eyes, once vibrant and alluring, were now dull and lifeless, witnesses to her lifetime of abuse and excess.

The lines that only appeared around her eyes when she laughed were now permanent fixtures her best makeup couldn’t conceal.

To be seen, her thin lips needed the deep red lipstick tones she favored, or she always appeared cross and sullen.

At fifty-seven-years of age, Margaretta Marie Sellers was still an attractive woman.

But she no longer met her own standard of beauty.

Retta’s looks made her stand out among her contemporaries, which was a point of contention for more than three decades.

But it wasn’t enough for Retta. She wanted to be a standout, regardless of age.

She wanted… needed to be admired and envied by younger women.

Retta wanted to be an icon.

That desire was her downfall.

Blessed with a perfect mezzo-soprano voice, Retta longed to perform in the spotlight like her idols, Marian Anderson and Leontyne Price.

While her parents, Mae and Albert Sellers had the means to finance a music education for their daughter, neither thought it a practical career and pushed Retta towards a business or teaching degree.

Headstrong and determined, seventeen-year-old Retta ran away to find her destiny.

All the sheltered, naive teen found instead were men with little interest in her natural vocal talent and more interest in her shapely, young body and exotic looks.

With promises of fame and lucrative contracts, Retta bounced from party to party on the arm of different men who plied her with alcohol and drugs.

Less than three years after leaving home, Retta returned an alcoholic junkie.

Albert Sellers rushed his baby girl into rehab.

Mae was less welcoming and had little to do with her daughter. During Retta’s absence, her younger brother, sixteen-year-old Joseph, succumbed to rheumatic fever. Mae was devastated. Her gifted and studious son had a bright future ahead of him before illness took him. Yet, her selfish, narcissistic daughter ruined her voice and her life abusing anything she could get her hands on and she still lived… and manipulated her father.

Albert tried to be the cushion between the two women but never got to see them reconcile.

A week before Retta was discharged from the rehab center, Mae dropped dead from a coronary embolism.

Retta came home drug-free and sober but her partying ways were still with her.

Craving the attention of men, Retta put her appearance first and abstained from liquor and drugs.

During a south side party for a local city commission candidate, Retta connected with her first love, Ham Burford.

Now a college graduate working for the city’s finance department, Hamilton Charles Burford fell in love with Retta Sellers when they were fifteen-years-old.

But despite the above average living Albert Sellers made from his co-op farming business, Ham’s parents considered Retta socially unacceptable and forbade Ham from seeing her.

The smitten couple sneak around and get together when they can, but after Retta learned her parents wouldn’t support her music career, she changed, becoming depressed and more withdrawn.

It was bad enough she’d never get a life with Ham, but to also not have a life in music was more than she could bear, and she left on a morning train bound for Chicago.

Now they were both back in Corwin, but any dreams Retta had about being with her first love were snatched away when Ham introduced Retta to Belinda Foley, his fiancé.

Retta Sellers has no time to mourn her broken heart when Albert is injured in a farming accident and dies two days later.

The sole survivor of her family, Retta feels cheated by life and closes off her heart.

She continues to stare at her reflection, her jaws tight and as hard as her heart.

Her hand shakes as she lowers the brush. Her chest burns with anger for the betrayals by those closest to her.

The man she loved.

And the daughter she didn’t.

Retta launched the brush into the mirror, not bothering to shield her face or body from the glass shards.

Satisfied, she stood and left the room.

©Felicia Denise 2017

#WritingChallenge #Week44

Sacrificial Daughter

52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 44
NaNoWriMo lives! This unedited excerpt is from my 2017 project, Sacrificial Daughter.

Thirty minutes passed before Ana Sellers returned Jeff Russell’s call. Expecting a receptionist or machine, she was surprised when Jeff answered the phone.

“Russell and Peters, may I help you?”

“I’m returning a call to Jeff Russell.”


Pulling the phone away from her ear, Ana stared at it, incredulous. He knew her? Sixteen years had passed since the day she left Corwin without looking back.

“You know me?”

You were a year ahead of me in school.”

The name still didn’t ring any bells so she would have to take his word for it.

“I see. And now you’re an attorney in Corwin.?”

“Yes, my cousin, Adam, and I took over the practice from our dads about seven years ago.”

“And… and why d-do you need to speak to me, Jeff? What is the urgency?”

Silence was his response.

“Jeff? Still there?”

“Yes, I’m here. I’ve been looking for you for over two weeks.”

“Please tell me what this is about and why you’ve been looking for me.”

She heard an exhale escape from him, gruff and harsh.

“Analeigh, Rosie Chastain passed away.”

Ana froze. Rosie? Gone? No. No way. She spoke to her dear friend… three weeks ago. Damn it. Rosie said she was coming down with a cold but was looking forward to flying to Georgia in July to see her good friend and surrogate daughter.

Ana pulled at her chest, trying to ease the pain gnawing at her heart.

“W-What happened?”

“Heart failure. She told everyone she had a cold, but it was pneumonia. Her heart wasn’t strong enough to handle it. Rosie had a heart attack and slipped into a coma. Three days later, she coded. There was nothing the doctors could do.”

Her dear friend was gone. Ana’s skin prickled with anxiety as she fought to keep grief from overwhelming her.

“Jeff, how did you find me? What made you even look for me?”

“Like I said, it took some time, Analeigh. Rosie didn’t get out much the last few years. The few people she did talk to said she was disgusted with the changes and direction of Corwin.”

Ana knew that was true.

She tried to avoid the subject of Corwin when she and Rosie talked. Ana didn’t need memories of the place flashing through her mind, and Rosie said it decayed into nothing more than a political cesspool. The town’s first families — the Burfords, Foleys, and Lakes held all the offices of power. They treated Corwin like it was their personal kingdom and speaking out against them killed social standing and sometimes worse.

“Rosie had no family, and at the beginning, we thought she had no will. After wading through the legalities, we were able to enter her home. We found her will, drawn up by an attorney over in Spradlin. We also found your name and number, but the number was disconnected.”

Damn it! After a mini-battle with her cell provider over dropped calls and shoddy service, Ana switched carriers… and got a new number… four days after she and Rosie last spoke.

Analeigh didn’t bother to wipe away her tears when she realized by the time she activated her new number… Rosie was already gone.


“I’m here, Jeff. Just trying to take all this in.”

“I’m sorry to have to tell you like this, Analeigh.”

“It’s alright. I do appreciate the call, Jeff… and thank you.”

“Wait, Analeigh. I didn’t hunt you done just to tell you Rosie was gone. In her will, she left everything to you. Her home and the store.”

The buzzing in Ana’s ears roared over Jeff’s voice. Analeigh Sellers sat there overwhelmed and in shock with a sense of dread taking over.


Image from ThinkStock
©Felicia Denise 2017

Giving Back #WritingChallenge

Medal of Honor

52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 43
An excerpt from Heartburn (formerly For Worse), last year’s NaNoWriMo project, releasing early in 2018.

For almost forty years, the Chase-Holland Veteran’s Outreach Center warmly welcomed military veterans from all over the country.

Named for Graham Chase and Lawrence Holland—two twenty-one-year-old Army privates killed in action during the Vietnam War, the center never charged veterans for any services received, and they never turned anyone away.

As a twenty-two-year-old Army clerk, Richard Chase, who was ten when his older brother was killed, found out Graham and another soldier, Lawrence Holland, had sacrificed their lives by drawing fire away from a small group of women and children fleeing an attack on their village.

An unpopular war with much of the U.S. in the sixties, countless acts of courage and bravery were never acknowledged.

After leaving the Army two years later, Richard Chase enrolled in college full-time. While studying to become a history teacher, he began a campaign tell the story of his brother, Holland, and so many others who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in Vietnam. A university professor who’d lost an older brother in the Korean War joined Richard’s campaign and steered his influential friends and university alumni to Richard. What started out as an idea for a book grew into a fund for a memorial.

When it was learned the growing homeless population included veterans, Richard knew what his ‘memorial’ would be… a center where vets could go anytime—day or night— and receive a meal, a place to rest, and assistance to end their homelessness.

Two wealthy brothers heard about the campaign and wanted to help. One made a sizable cash donation and the other donated a piece of property just outside of West Hollywood.

The Chase-Holland Veteran’s Outreach Center opened its doors in March of 1990 and served tens of thousands of veterans over the years by helping them find housing, apply for vet benefits, and get medical and psychological treatment.

Quinn Landon was relieved to find street parking in front of the center. More than a few car doors and fenders had received nicks, dents, and scratches in the tiny center parking lot located behind the building.

“Hey, Fred. Our girl is back.”

Grinning, Quinn didn’t have to turn around to know who was shouting from across the street–Noel Adams, Vietnam war vet, cancer survivor, dialysis patient and recently, diagnosed with diabetes.

A well-known figure at the center and in the community, seventy-year-old Noel sat in his wheelchair on the tiny porch of his bungalow across the street from Chase-Holland.

Fred Alizo waved to Quinn as she exited her car.

“Woman, if I could run I’d hightail it over there and kiss you.”

More reserved than his neighbor, Fred’s remark surprised both Quinn and Noel.

Shaking her head at her two favorite troublemakers, Quinn crossed the street to hug Fred. She crossed their short side street to hug Noel.

“We thought you’d forgotten about us, young’un.”

Fred spoke up before she could respond.

“What he said was you probably had a baby and mommy-duties.”

Noel flipped Fred off as Quinn looked back and forth between the two men.

The realization her pending divorce no doubt cost her a chance at being a mother flashed through Quinn’s mind. She pushed it aside and chuckled.

“Sorry, guys. Life got busy… Super busy. While I do love my job, I realized I missed doing other things I love too, like spending time with friends.”

The two men beamed.

Leaving Noel’s yard, she backed the few short steps to the corner, still talking to the vets.

“Let me get inside, get caught up and work for a few hours…” Quinn stopped at the corner. “And when I’m done,” she pointed at each man. “…and if you’ve managed to stay out of trouble, maybe I can catch up with you guys… over pastrami burgers.”

“Don’t worry, Quinn. I’ll keep Noel out of trouble.”

Giving Fred the ‘thumb’s up’ gesture, Quinn roared with laughter at the annoyed look on Noel’s face.

She was still laughing as she entered the center.

Another Loss #WritingChallenge


52-Week Writing Challenge: Week 42
Another snippet from the upcoming Family Matters. The loss of her longtime protector, mentor, and father-figure, Willis Benson, blindsides Olivia Chandler.

An hour late, Olivia strode past Margot’s desk, her eyes focused on her office door.

Margot watched her pass, unhappy with what she was about to do. Setting her workstation to away status, she followed her boss into Olivia’s office.

Olivia appeared not notice Margot’s presence and fumbled around, pulling out her laptop and opening file folders.

Standing near the door, Margot folded her arms across her chest… and waited. She watched Olivia move folders around her desk several times before placing them in their original positions.

Lost in thought, the attorney remained standing at her desk, head bowed. When at last she looked up, Olivia was startled at seeing Margot.

“What’s wrong?”

“You tell me, Olivia. You’ve been in a fog since you got here… late. You’re never late.”

“We all have off days, Schultz.”

“You don’t. Not when it comes to your job.”

“Well, guess I’m due then, huh?”

“Maybe. Olivia, what’s-”

“How’s the day shaping up? Bowers custody hearing at one, right? Does Louis have the background check done for the Nealy case?”

“Yes, the background check is back… and on your desk,” she gestured at the mess Olivia had created, “somewhere. Mr. Bowers has asked for a thirty-day continuance and Mrs. Bowers isn’t arguing against it. Judge Whelan is ready to grant it as long as you don’t have a problem with the custody arrangement for the kids.”


“Okay, what?”

“I have no problem with the custody arrangement.”

Margot glared at her boss as her patience wore thin.

“I haven’t told you what the arrangements are yet, Olivia.”

A pained look marred Olivia’s features. She fell back into her chair… silent.

Margot turned and closed the office door. Her brow knitted with worry, she took a seat in front of Olivia’s desk.

“Talk to me. Olivia, what happened?”

“I’m fine, Margot. It’s an off day. It hap-”

“Stop it.”

Leaning forward, the office manager’s voice hardened. Her eyes bored into Olivia.

“You were late. You didn’t take any of my calls or texts. You haven’t taken any of Bruce’s calls and the man is crazy with worry.  He drove by your house twice last night and wanted to call the police when you weren’t there. You don’t want to talk about it, fine. But we care about you, Olivia, and we don’t deserve to be treated like we don’t matter.”

Margot stood and walked toward the door, still talking. “Please let me know how you want to proceed after you read the Bowers custody arrangements.”

Olivia’s shoulders slumped, shame bearing down on her. She opened her mouth to speak, but no words came. As Margot reached for the doorknob, Olivia called out but for all her effort, her voice was low, soft and quavered.

“Margot, I’m sorry.”

The offended woman stopped, leaving the door closed but she also didn’t turn around.

“You’re right. I’m being unfair. I-I… don’t know why I have such a problem processing-”

Margot whirled around. “Olivia, dammit! What happened?”

Grief and anxiety won. Olivia wilted deeper into her chair as the first tear fell.

“Willis died last night.”


©Felicia Denise 2017