Saturday, February 24, 2024

A Good Week by Liz Flaherty

The weather is weird, isn't it? Sometimes, especially as I'm walking through the snow to get to the office, I wonder if it's the universe's way of telling us to pay attention. Is God muttering about how to wake us up, so he sends things to slow us down and make us think. Maybe even before we fall and break a hip.

I don't know. Makes sense to me, though. 

I hope you've had a good week. I have, although not a productive one. That's one of the things you have to adapt to when you reach a certain age. Well, that I've had to adapt to. 

A good week involves the people you see and talk to, the things you laugh at, if you get some good sleep instead of lying there worrying about where you put the paper you know you got and saved. 

In a good week, you talk to one of your kids almost every day. They make you laugh. You may get to see one, along with a sleepy grandboy. 

Sometimes you get to talk to a kid about the word cacophony, which you can't even spell, but you love the pictures it draws in your mind. Cacophony refers to noise, but not always sound. It's a big, full word. 

A good week means time with friends, laughing at the selective hearing of husbands (It's a real thing--you know it is. Just like a man cold, only incurable.) 

A good week is laughing hard at a play at Ole Olsen right after you've eaten a really good meal catered by Made by Jade.

And there are others.

Talking to a rural mail carrier who loves her job.

Listening to Peter and Company at Legend's and eating more really good food.

Friday night supper at Farmhouse Cafe. Sharing the table with friends and good conversation. Beef and noodles and a decadent dessert.

A few warm, sunny days. An inch of white landscape out there this morning. A 19-year-old cat insisting he hasn't eaten in days! 

A writer / teacher friend on FB often ends her posts with And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway. Kathie Giorgio's had a time of it lately, and I'm happy to see the hope at the end of what she writes. I'm always glad to see hope.

As you can tell, I didn't have much going on today. But having a good week was enough. I hope you've had one, too, and that the one coming up is even better. Be nice to somebody.

In case you're looking for something to read...

Dinah is a mom, a giver, and a doer, so she’s used to change, but this summer is kind of overdoing that. The diner where she’s worked for half her life is closing, her college-age kids aren’t coming home for the summer, and a property on nearby Cooper Lake is calling her name, bringing long-held dreams of owning a B & B to the fore. Newcomer Zach Applegate is entering into her dreams, too.

Divorced dad, contractor, and recovering alcoholic Zach is in Fallen Soldier, Pennsylvania, to visit his brother and to decide what’s coming next in his life. He doesn’t like change much, yet it seems to be everywhere. But he finds an affinity for remodeling and restoration, is overjoyed when his teenage sons join him for the summer, and he likes Dinah Tyler, too. A lot.

Dinah and Zach each experience sorrow and tumult, but go on to dance in the kitchen. Together, they have something, but is it enough?

Saturday, February 17, 2024

The Uncomfortable Zone by Liz Flaherty

Photo by Sarah Luginbill
On Thursday night, I read three essays at Open Mic at Gallery 15, something I've done a few times before. I made it through all three essays without falling off the stage, bursting into tears, or otherwise embarrassing myself or Duane, who said You can do this at least 10 times before Ron Luginbill introduced me.

The people in the chairs in front of the stage were unfailingly kind, making me almost certain I hadn't subjected them to the longest 12 minutes in their lives. Applause, to anyone who likes positive attention, is addictive. I'm not going to say it's like a drug, because I don't understand that particular addiction, but as an ex-smoker, I can say it's as good as the first cigarette of the day. 

I'm paralyzingly scared to talk in front of an audience, and it's as far out of my comfort zone as anything I can think of, but it's also fun. As a writer, being able to share what I love doing and have people say nice things to me about it is one of the best things ever. Unlike a book review, when you don't interact with the reader, you do interact with a live audience. 

One that is receptive, that listens, that does not want you to fail. 

I can't imagine what it would be like to step out in front of everyone knowing I was likely to be booed or ignored, to be unheard because no one was listening. To be jeered at because of my size, what I'm wearing, or the sound of my voice. To be heckled by people who relish the idea of doing harm. (I need to add in here that the musicians I know are almost universally supportive of each other, but they are also skilled hecklers. However, they would be horrified if anyone thought they meant it.)

Part of what I read was about music, where I said my only skill in music was the one of listening. This is a fact. Being a good listener also allows me to claim the skill of being a good audience. Sometimes. As long as I remember to not scroll on my phone after I take a picture of who's performing. As long as I don't sigh and look at the time. As long as I applaud and say great job because it matters. 

The stage is not a comfortable place for me, even when it's fun. I'm grateful to performers who step out to sing and play music, to act in theater, and to give of themselves even when the audience isn't kind. It's important, I think, to share talents and skills we're given, whether as artists--both performance and not, athletes, being skilled in sharing information, or anything else. It's also important to appreciate the sharing of others. 

Thanks for reading the Window. Have a good week. Be nice to somebody.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Rock With the Rhythm by M.J. Schiller

Hi, Liz! Thank you for having me today and entertaining the boys in the band. I think the rock stars that haunt my writing are born from my husband’s and my love for music, particularly live music. I enjoyed writing my first rock romance series—the LOVE AND CHAOS SERIES, centered around the band Just Short of Chaos—so much that I followed it up with my latest series about the band Insatiable Fire.

This is my third Last Chance Beach Romance. The first two were about the drummer, Levi Cannon, (BEATING IN TIME) and the lead guitarist, Caleb Winthrop, (LEAD ME ON). The final two are about the Blackstone brothers. My newest release, ROCK WITH THE RHYTHM, is about the lead singer and rhythm guitarist Phoenix Blackstone. It will be followed by Dakota Blackstone’s story, BASSIST’S INSTINCT, (he plays bass guitar for Insatiable Fire).

Phoenix and Dakota are about as physically different as you can get. Dakota is barrel-chested, with long, dirty blond hair and the glaring lack of a filter. He takes after his Swedish mom. Phoenix, on the other hand, is more long and lean. He generally is a pretty smooth talker, with long, black hair, and the dark coloring of his father’s Apalachee ancestors. It’s only when he’s around Savanah Drew that he becomes a bit tongue-tied.

Rock star Phoenix Blackstone never dreamed he’d fall in love with the designated driver.

Rock star Phoenix Blackstone never thought he’d fall in love with the designated driver.

Sure, she’s strait-laced and uptight, maybe even a little prickly at times. Not the best fit for a “rock star”, right? But that’s part of the appeal. There was always something about Savanah.

 In high school I worshiped her from afar. But while I was the boy from Last Chance Beach’s version of a ghetto, she was born into a 24-carat crib. She was the beautiful princess in the castle; I wasn’t fit to live in her gatehouse.

Although Savanah had never seemed like the rest of the glamor girls, she was still untouchable. But now I’m coming back to the island having garnered fame and fortune. Maybe my platinum records will tip the scales in my favor.

Savanah Drew never wanted the silver spoon stuck in her mouth.

But it’s not like I could do anything about it. And Phoenix’s dad may have worked on the docks, but Phoenix was the one who was unapproachable. His good looks, charm, and charisma, made him popular beyond my reach—I always knew he would go far. But when we were growing up, some people looked down on him because his dad wore a slicker and not a three-piece suit. One thing I can tell you, the Blackstones would be the first to come to the aid of someone in need. The people on my side of the island? If they can’t throw money at it to fix it, they don’t want anything to do with it.

But no amount of money or charisma can keep you safe when someone is out to get you, and someone on the island is gunning for the band members of Insatiable Fire, and anyone they’re close to.

Is Savanah the next target?



Women gulping down drinks in fish bowls could work to a guy’s advantage, as it might put his woman in the mood. Or, it could work to his disadvantage, if she drank too much and ended up lying on the tile at the foot of the porcelain deity all night long. I liked to watch couples from the high platform of the stage while I sang and try to determine which scenario would play out for them.

But tonight I was focused on a couple in particular. A couple of girls. One was screaming “Insatiable Desires” —the song that had catapulted my band, Insatiable Fire, into the limelight—over and over again at the top of her lungs. The other was Savanah Drew.

“Insatiable Desires” was actually on our setlist, a few songs away from what we were currently singing. But the girl was annoying me. I’ll take requests. In fact, I love requests. I had even taken one earlier from this same girl. But this wasn’t a request; it was a demand, and I was starting to feel like an organ grinder’s monkey.

I turned to my boys. “So, we’re going to play her song, because we don’t want to be total pricks, and it was on the setlist…but it’s going to be at the end of the night.”

They nodded and grinned, agreeing with me that not giving in was the best course of action. But I had my doubts. Mostly because the party in question was still screaming as Savanah shushed her. 

I wasn’t really paying attention to the loud mouth though. I was eyeing Savanah.

Even though we’d been in the same class at school, she was a complete mystery to me. I was intrigued because she seemed different than the people she ran around with in high school. 

Does she still see them?

I knew nothing about her life now. We’d come back to Last Chance Beach a couple dozen times since we’d first left to try to make it to the big time eight years ago. But whenever I came home, I was pretty monopolized with family stuff. And even had I not been, I would have never asked Savanah out. 

The island had its own little caste system when I was growing up, and Savanah and I had been from different strata. Her dad was the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Mine was a supervisor down on the docks. Hers wore $500 an ounce aftershave. Mine smelled of fish. My family wouldn’t have even been able to afford the golf cart that took the Drews from one end of their property to the other. She was the princess in the castle. I wasn’t fit to tend her gate.

But I was returning a very wealthy man. I wonder if a pile of platinum records evens the scales some…

I knew to some people it wouldn’t matter what my net worth was; I would still always be the son of a dockworker and therefore unworthy. The question remained, was Savanah one of those people?

Links ~

For MJ

















M.J. Schiller is a retired lunch lady/romance-romantic suspense writer. She enjoys writing novels whose characters include rock stars, desert princes, teachers, futuristic Knights, construction workers, cops, and a wide variety of others. In her mind everybody has a romance. She is the mother of a twenty-eight-year-old and three twenty-six-year-olds. That's right, triplets! So having recently taught four children to drive, she likes to escape from life on occasion by pretending to be a rock star at karaoke. However…you won’t be seeing her name on any record labels soon.

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Just Sayin' by Liz Flaherty

Thanks to Shannon Conley for giving me the prompt for today's post! 

She shared something from Stephanie Schmick on Facebook about hair stylists that was really good, and there was a line in there that caught my attention.  

"what’s the big deal, you are just a hair stylist..."


When I was young, just a housewife wasn't a pejorative term. It was actually kind know...nice. A housewife took care of her family, her home, whatever got in her way that needed doing. It was a multifaceted job that had no beginning and no end. If she'd gotten paid for everything she did, no one could have afforded her, but many housewives loved what they did and were proud to do it. 

Somewhere along the line, the just in her job got ugly. She somehow wasn't as important as women who worked "real jobs." Jokes about lying on couches eating bonbons followed them around.  As time went on, women who worked outside the home became "just part-time moms who used school for a babysitter."

Even when I watched that happen, I didn't give it much thought. I was "just a postal worker" for 30 years. I write "just romance" instead of "real books." I've known and worked with many, many "just factory workers." Some of my kids are "just teachers." I've heard the term "just a bunch of farmers" used when talking about anyone rural.

And these. All of these.

Just dumb jocks.

Just flips burgers.

Just a bartender.

Just the maid at the hotel.

Just a server.

Just a girl.

Just a bunch of kids.

Just the trash guy.

Just a cashier.

Just a nurse.

Just an employee.

Just a mom.

I call B. S.

No one is just anything. No one. Every one of the people I listed here--and a bunch of others I didn't think of--have something in common. They make a difference in other people's lives. Many of them do what others either can't or don't want to.

A Logansport Community Schools bus driver named Crystal Miller handed out pencils to the students on her bus engraved with the message, "I am unique and valuable” and the number 9-8-8, which is the suicide crisis hotline. The driver was worried about "her kids" because a nearby student had taken his own life.

At some point, I wonder if someone has referred to her as just a bus driver.

I remember when I was in school how the custodians cleaned up after us. They knew us by name, cleaned up when someone was sick, and put up with things we never would have gotten by with at home. During memorable Senior Weeks in days gone by, they followed us and our squirt guns through the hall with mops. Shaking their heads and laughing and wishing us their best as we went forward.

I wonder if any of us ever called them just janitors. I so hope not.

I don't remember when I first heard the term just a nurse, but I'm certain it was made by no one who ever knew one, loved one, needed one, or saw one at work. 

This morning I'm just a columnist hoping you have a good week. Be nice to somebody. 

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Into the Darkness by Liz Flaherty

Not my tree...
It's still dark this Saturday morning. The lights on the office Christmas tree are brightening the room. I think I should take the tree down, and maybe I will, but not yet. For now it makes me mind less that there has been so much grayness in the days, that the news is so dreadful, and that treating people badly is not only expected, it's often met with approval. Even though the days are lengthening, the first hours I spend in the office are with darkness hanging tough outside. 

So, the Christmas tree. 

Solutions are often easy, but we don't realize it. We complicate things way beyond what is necessary. Is it human nature that makes us do this? We will hold back from doing what is likely the right thing for everyone because we're afraid it will help someone we don't like. We will destroy or throw away something we couldn't make money from rather than give it away. 

Joe DeRozier doesn't do that, by the way. If he has leftover donuts for whatever reason, he makes sure someone gets to enjoy them. Just saying.

Do you have too many good, usable clothes, but you still like new ones? Simple. For every item you buy,  donate two.

Did you replace your towels because they weren't fluffy anymore but you don't need the garage rags you used to make from old ones? Donate the old ones. (Unless they look disgusting. Donating things that are nasty is just...nasty.)

Do you have things you don't really want anymore but they belonged to your mother so you can't just give them away? Sure you can. Your mother didn't want them saved for posterity. She wanted them to be loved and used, and it doesn't have to be done by you. Want to make sure your kids remember them? Take pictures. 

It's easy to buy an extra box of cereal or some extra canned goods at the grocery store and drop them off in a bounty box or at a food pantry. It's easy, once you've read a book, to put it in a Little Free Library. It's easy to give away an old comforter when you buy a new one. It's easy to share, especially if you're sharing things you don't even want. 

It's easy, I guess, to be a Christmas tree in the darkness. Have a good week. Be nice to somebody.