Monday, July 17, 2017

43

As a serious Douglas Adams fan, I had hoped that 42 years old would be a great time for me. Just cause that would be extra fun, and naturally we all want our lives to go well. Major health challenges put a big crink in those plans. So here's to hoping for stronger health and more productivity in general now that I've moved on to being 43. I'm due for a good year. Aren't we all? While the world might be going insane out there, I'm planning to get myself together.

Have a great one folks.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Fighting with Cats for the Best Spot on the Bed

Meeko doesn't care for my convalescing in bed during the day. He wants his napping spot. Now, not only is he trying to take over the spot, but he is stealing my book as well.
Meeko stealing the bed, and the book

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Making Space - Belated Flash Fiction Friday



Carolyn descended the three cement steps into the dusty garage. A space of about four by seven feet had been cleared of boxes and debris and swept clean. In the center of this space was a stack of three empty pet carriers, a basket of dog toys, and a dog bed with a sleeping speckled dog sprawled in it. Behind her followed an older gentleman, her father. When he came beside her he reached past her shoulder to pull a dangling cord turning on a long fluorescent light that hung over a workbench that ran the length one wall of the garage. 

"So if we could just make a little more space out here, I could take in more fosters and you wouldn't have anything disturbed in the house." As she talked Carolyn adjusted her hold on the five day old kitten she carried. It mewed in complaint until she got it better situated against her body and returned the little baby bottle. 

"Where do you plan to put everything?" His skepticism about this whole project dripped from the question.
"That's what I was hoping you could help me with," Carolyn began. "This stuff has been in boxes since I was little. You don't use any of it. Could we maybe. . .  get rid of. . . some of it?"

Her father looked at her, then at the wall of boxes. He said nothing.

"Look, Dad." Carolyn set the baby bottle down on the workbench and shoved the kitten into her father's hands causing a surprised sputter from him and an angry mewl from the kitten. She reached into the nearest box and pulled out a dusty metal tool that had two holes and a plate that could slide back and forth. "This thing for example. I've never seen you use it. Why let it sit out here taking up space? Is it so important to keep?"

Dad was still trying to figure out how to hold onto the squirming, now unhappy kitten as Carolyn waved the tool at him. He settled on cradling it in both hands against his belly. He looked up at his daughter. "That is an antique Colt bullet mold from 1862. No, we are not getting rid of it." The kitten was attempting to climb up his front in search of its missing bottle, letting out frustrated little meows all the while. He assisted the tiny body by bringing it more up to his chest, but still trying to contain it in his hands.

Carolyn didn't seem to notice his distress with the kitten. She regarded the bullet mold thoughtfully. "Well then, maybe we could just use it."

Her dad snorted. "Making bullets seems to go against the spirit of your animal rescuing thing."

Carolyn rolled her eyes. "No. I mean maybe. . . ", she turned to the workbench and popped off the nipple of the tiny baby bottle, turned it over and stuck it into one of the bullet mold holes. "There. Like that." She held the mold/nipple combo out for her father to see.

He looked at it, then at her, again saying nothing, but with a hint of an eyebrow raise.

"When we wash them, they could go there for drying." She smiled.

By this point the kitten had found one of Dad's pinkie fingers and latched on. The dog stretched in his sleep, rolling out of the bed and waking himself.  He got up wagging to see people out here with him and approached Dad with a rope toy and a hopeful expression. 

"Ok," Dad said. "Tomorrow you can help me go thought some of these boxes. There might be a few things we could get rid of."



Author note - Following a writing prompt from the Writing Excuses Podcast, I asked my Facebook Friends to send me photos of random objects. I would use 3 of these photos to make a story. These were the first three photos sent:


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Robin Hobb is my Idol

I'm reading Golden Fool by Robin Hobb right now. I've been saving it for my surgery/recovery so I would have something to look forward to. I'm just about halfway through and just learned something that rocked my little reader brain for a loop. I won't give the spoiler here, but man oh man is this a good book.

It's a little awkward to blog about how everyone needs to read this book when it is the second book in the middle of a trilogy, and this trilogy is in the middle of a much longer series of books. Don't start here. Start with Assassin's Apprentice. Work your way through everything in between, then read this. It will be worth it.

Now, when I was trying to figure out the reading order of these books, several websites and forum discussions I came across said that you could skip the Liveship books since they focus on different characters. I read the Farseer Trilogy (Assassin's Apprentice, Royal Assassin, and Assassin's Quest) first (as should you), then the Liveship books (Ship of Magic, Mad Ship, and Ship of Destiny) and the started on the Tawny Man trilogy (Fool's Errand, Golden Fool - that I'm in the middle of now) and next will be Fool's Fate). Now that I have done so I can say with authority that you should absolutely NOT skip the Liveship books.

There are events and characters in the book right now that would carry so much less interest and almost no emotional impact for me as a reader if I didn't have all the extensive background information and relationship connections explored in the Liveship books. My mind boggles at those reviews I read way back when that said you could skip them and not miss out on anything. The emotional wallop I and them main character hit yesterday would have been completely absent without the Liveship books. In fact, it may have been a bigger wallop to me since I have more incite to the revelation than Fitz does right now.

The only other books I saw as recommended to skip are the Soldier's Son trilogy. These are actually an unrelated trilogy that is unconnected to the events in the Farseer world. Still, I read them and loved them. They are worth reading, but you don't need to worry about their placement in the larger series because the events are completely outside of that story-line.

That's probably enough gushing for the moment. Go read!


Monday, July 3, 2017

I Lost my Belly Button

I like to picture it in a jar of formaldehyde on a shelf somewhere, but that isn't where it went. More likely it was incinerated as biologic waste a week ago. Regardless, I don't have a belly button anymore. The kids and I were brainstorming ideas of how I could explain to people why I don't have one. One wanted me to say I was an alien. I sort of liked the story that I hatched out of an egg. But the one I like best is that I don't have a belly button because my mother molded me from clay and Zeus gave me life. Now I'm just waiting for this to somehow come up in conversation.

I'm tired and sore, but doing really well all things considered. My big goal of the week is to get some writing done. I'd love to have a new Flash Fiction Friday piece ready this week. So watch for it to see how I'm doing! I'm tired of talking about my health so I probably won't for awhile.



Monday, June 26, 2017

Today is the Big Day

Abdominal Wall Reconstruction Day

Sooner than I had expected, but that's how things go sometimes, don't they. I thought I had considerably more weight to lose, but my surgeons are thrilled with what I've done so far. Trying to organize my life to make sure all my responsibilities are covered while I'm out of commission has kept me busy enough that I haven't spent too much time obsessing about the actual surgery part, which is probably for the best.

I'm hoping to get some writing time in during recovery, but from experience I know when I don't feel well, my brain doesn't flow all that well either. So we'll see and hope for the best.

Wish me luck!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Weight Loss Progress

So the weight loss is going better than expected. I'm down about 15 pounds from May 1st, which puts me on track to be down 25 pounds by mid July. I'm a little worried about muscle loss since I am so limited on what exercises I can do, but I'm putting that into the 'things I cannot change' category and trying not to let the stress of it get to me too much. I am walking a lot, and I enjoy that.

For those interested, I use the Sparkpeople app to track my food and exercise. I think you have to go into the full site to get your goals set up to see the recommended calories a day, etc. but after that I recommend the app instead. The full site is crazy ad heavy so it loads super slow and is generally a pain. But it's all free, so it has that going for it.

Just a couple days ago I hit 190 on the scale, and got very excited that I only have 10 pounds to go! Whoo! Then I thought things through a little further and realized that my reward for losing these last 10 pounds will be getting a horrible surgery that I don't especially want to have, and in that light it is a whole lot less exciting. The flip side is that I don't want to stay the way I am either, as both hernias seem to be causing me more pain and discomfort as time goes along. So surgery it is. Dammit.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Revising

Life has been very hectic lately. I haven't done any new writing in awhile aside from journaling, but I am working on my novel revisions. What has surprised me about the revision process is that I'm getting excited about the story again. I was a little burnt out with it by the end of the first draft. That wasn't something I expected to happen. I follow a lot of authors on various social media platforms, and I read a lot of books, and listen to a lot of podcasts about writing. I expected revisions to make me more frustrated with the story, not more excited.

Perhaps the time lag helped in that regard. There is common advice to set a story aside for a time before trying to revise. How much time seems to be a personal choice - a day, a week, a month are all suggestions I've read. I probably didn't look at my first draft for several months before starting on revisions. I didn't intend to wait so long, but I'm just not good at time management, so that's where I landed. While I'm reading through marking things that need to change, I'm feeling it isn't the train wreck I thought it was.

Certainly, revising something the size of a novel (or maybe a novella, I'm not sure where the final word count will land) is much more intimidating than revising short stories. I will probably have lists involved very soon. And I can see that by the end of the process I may start to feel again that annoyance with the story that I did before, but by then hopefully it will be ready for my beta readers and I will get another break until they have time to read and give their feedback.

Anyway, It's good to be moving forward again.

Monday, May 8, 2017

What's Up with Kara's Guts?

I know this is the question that's on everyone's minds. That's keeping everyone up at night.

No?

I guess it's just me then.

Still, I'll fill you in anyway because I have already said so much here, and it's going to affect the blog and my making of the things. I'm going to need more surgery. My innards have not been behaving themselves. I've herniated through both my colectomy incision site and my iliostomy site. The hernia at the iliostomy site is rather large. Because there are two hernias and one is a biggie, they can't just repair them like a normal hernia repair. I need an abdominal wall reconstruction.

I'm not going to get into what that all entails in this post, but I may later on. Right now I'm working hard to emotionally come to grips with this new reality. My previous experience with surgery was pretty terrible, and frankly, this sounds like it will be worse.

Right now, I'm in major weight loss mode - much more so than the casual weight loss I was working at before this. Apparently excess weight makes abdominal wall reconstruction much less successful. Over a certain BMI, they won't do surgery at all. I've just crossed down into the acceptable range, but to try to make things go as well as possible, and for this to be as strong a long term success as we can make it, my surgical team (yes, there is a team this time, not just one surgeon) wants me to drop another 20 to 30 pounds in the next 3 months. So that's my focus right now.

Strangely, the drastic weight loss expectations are not what's upsetting me. If the weight loss will make things go better, then I will lose the weight. I want things to go better. I want things to go great. I want things to go as well as any abdominal wall reconstruction has ever gone before in the history of abdominal wall reconstructions. Then I want to never need surgery again for anything.

Is that too much to ask?


Monday, May 1, 2017

Ashoka Headpiece Progress

Ashoka headpiece photo by Kara Hartz


Mistakes were made.

I was nervous about the complexity of this project, but I guess things are going. . . okay? I usually let the kiddos help out with their costumes, but now that they're bigger, I'm really trying to get them much more involved. So she didn't want to do any sewing, but she cut out the pattern and fabric for the headpiece, made the clay decorations that will go on the front. (I don't know what those are called), painted them, and painted the headpiece. So tidying up of the painting will have to happen, but she will do that on her own as well.

All I did was sew and put in the wire in the top. We had a problem of it being much too small when we first did a trial fitting and I was frustrated that we might have to start completely over. Luckily, my fix of just tearing out and making bigger the top section worked well enough that the kiddo declared it good. I might have been inclined to tear out and enlarge other pieces (ok, that would be starting over basically) but I'm trying to keep this her project that I'm helping with and not the other way round. She says it's good. So it's good.

I didn't supervise her directly while she worked so I don't know if the problem was the pattern, or the cutting out. We also had some printer difficulty so the odds are, the problem was on our end. Still, we made it work. We picked this tutorial to follow because it seemed a lot more manageable than many of the others we watched. At least it was made from fabric, and not latex or other materials I haven't heard of and wouldn't know how to get. Although if she keeps getting more into cosplay, I just might learn.

Monday, April 24, 2017

I Spy Baby Quilts in Progress


I have several coworkers and friends expecting babies. I like to make I spy baby quilts for occasions like this. I think I spy quilts are fun. As is my way, I take things one step further. I make sure to use each fabric exactly twice in each quilt so in addition to playing I spy, the quilts can be used for a matching game as well. Extra fun! Although it does involve having an awful lot of different fabrics, but it's worth it in my opinion.

I only have the rows for one quilt assembled so far. Still lots to do.

So the Mystery Quilt of Valor will be on hold awhile as I work on all the happy baby quilts. I'm also in process of making an Ahsoka costume for my daughter that is somewhat time sensitive. Yea for fun sewing projects! Boo for everything always happening at once.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Betrayal of Trust - Flash Fiction Friday



Dana took a deep breath, closing her eyes as she clutched the garbage can to her chest. Why did she feel guilty? Why did it feel like she was doing something wrong when he was the one. . .

She opened her eyes and set the can down. It was because snooping always felt wrong, even for a good reason. Because there was no positive spin for going through some else's trash. It was his fault, making her feel like this. So insecure. He'd promised to support her, to be here for her and help get through all this. "We're in it together," he'd said, and she'd foolishly believed him. 

The first few clues were easy to overlook. To dismiss. Really though, she already knew what was going on. It was time to admit it to herself. Then she could move forward, and stop searching the garbage. She felt tears welling up, and she took another deep breath to hold them back. She was just so tired and hungry, but she needed to retain her composure if she was going to confront him. 

With one last deep slow breath, Dana stood up, pushed the garbage can back under his desk with her food and left his den. She was planning what to say to him that evening when he came home as she turned the corner into the kitchen and stopped short. He was right there in front of her. In the act. 

A look of horror came over his face when he saw her. "I thought you were at your mother's today," he said as he attempted to casually wipe the frosting from his mustache and lay the cinnamon roll on the counter behind him. Hiding it too late. She'd been right. He was cheating on their diet.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Space Monkeys - Flash Fiction Friday



The monkeys running the spaceship were getting cranky. In their defense, they had been at this for hours now; well past their usual end of shift. Allie told herself she'd make it up to them. Soon. The major damage had been repaired, and it was clear now they would successfully make it to the next system. 

She made herself focus on the problem at hand. Her mind kept wandering back - thinking of ways to get revenge on the pirates who had attacked them so far out here between stars. Thankfully none of the monkeys had been hurt, and the ship could be repaired enough to limp to safety. She watched them with pride as they scampered and swung around the engine room. It looked like were a thousand of them when they were all working like this, although in reality there were only thirty. Much smarter than anyone gave them credit for, they seemingly could learn anything. The best part was that Allie had all the help she needed to run the ship, and she didn't have to deal with other actual people. At least, not often. 

The swirl of motion was slowing. Some monkeys came to the ground and moved off in a line toward the kitchen for food. A few more headed straight to the bunks. Allie closed the panel she had finished rewiring. They had done it. They had finished the repairs. Those that passed close enough, Allie reached out to pat. Some reached a friendly hand back to her in reply. Meeko, one of the more cuddly monkeys, climbed Allie's leg and held onto her in a hug as she walked. They had adapted well to living out here, and Allie couldn't imagine a better life.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Mystery Quilt of Valor Progress

In progress quilt photo by Kara Hartz
I got a few rows put together so far. It shows how the setting blocks will look once the whole thing comes together. I'm really liking it so far. The red and blue look great. I still have a ton of setting blocks to sew before I can do much more. However, this will get set on the back burner for a little while because I have other time-sensitive projects I need to focus on right now. (Friends having babies - yea! And babies need quilts! More on this in a future post)

Monday, April 10, 2017

Stopping C25K, Starting Camp NaNoWriMo

Just because it's become sort a running (pun intended) gag to post about C25K and NaNoWriMo in the same post - here we go:

I've recovered enough from my cold to breathe well enough to start C25K (Couch to 5K) back up again - but - I'm having other symptoms that make jogging very uncomfortable. I have another doctor appointment to find out more specifically what's going on, but in the meanwhile I will report that I'm apparently having further complications to my earlier colectomy and illeostomy reversal surgeries. There is very likely another surgery in my future. While I am not technically restricted by my doctors from running, it doesn't feel good, so I'm going to stick with walking and biking for now. There will more to report on this front soon I'm sure.

Camp NaNoWriMo started at the beginning of April. The difference between the camps and the official November event is that for the camps (in April, and I think July?) you set your own word count goal, or you can set a different type of goal, like for editing or some-such.  I've been preoccupied with taxes and lots of doctor appointments so I've written almost nothing toward the goal of 12,000 words I've set for myself. This week is technically spring break for our charter so I hope I can get in extra writing time since the girls will not need me for teaching as much. However, we still have a lot of group events and outside classes that will take up time, so I'm not going to get too excited about how much free time I'll end up with.

There we are.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

I Learned Something About Audiobook Downloads From the Library


The Obelisk Gate by N K Jemisin was the first audiobook I got from my library as a digital download. Before that I just checked out the CDs. My library uses Overdrive for this purpose, so I had to (chose to) download the Overdrive app on my phone so I could listen on my walks.

Last night while walking, I learned something about this process. No, that's not quite true. Last night I just thought my headphones had stopped working, and since I was almost home again, I didn't try to fiddle with them right then. It was getting ready for tonight's walk when I did my learning. My headphones were fine. They worked in games and in various music apps. So I head out for my walk and try to start the story back up. (Things are getting very interesting, and that's saying a lot in a book full of interesting things) I was super excited to get going again in other words. When I clicked the play button however, it told me the download had expired and it was removing the book. The book icon then disappeared.

That the borrow had expired and the book needed to be returned is fine. I get that. My bad for not paying attention to the time. The thing I find strange was why I didn't get that message last night when the story stopped mid-sentence and I clicked all over to try to get it going again? Why wait until I leave the app, then return to it a different day to tell my it expired? Just, weird.

So if you try out Overdrive for an audiobook and it suddenly stops working out of the blue with no clear explanation, perhaps it expired and it's just waiting to tell you until later on.

And yes, as soon as I got the message I got back in the que to get it back again (I'm only 5th in line!) Must learn what's up with Hoa!

Monday, April 3, 2017

What I'm Reading

I often read more than one book at a time, but I think I've gotten a little out of hand at the moment. Problem is, I'm completely loving everything I'm reading at the moment so I can't bring myself to set anything aside and focus more. Part of the reason this happened was that I put myself on the waitlist for books at the library fairly often. Sometimes those waitlists are long. A waitlist 100 people long may take months to get to me, or weeks - depending on how many copies the library has to go around. From time to time, several things I've waitlisted will arrive close together. The reason this is a problem is that if there was a waitlist for the item, I was usually not the last person on it. Others are waiting behind me for their turn as well, and if there's a pending hold on a book, you're not allowed to renew it. So I have to read those right away. Unless I've reserved too many. Then I have a problem. Like now.

Another thing that is happening is that I'm reading books along with my kids. Things I've assigned them to read that I haven't read myself, or I read so long ago that I need a refresher before we have discussions. This type of reading is also time sensitive since I have to keep up with them.

That's how I end up here. Reading:

Fool's Errand by Robin Hobb (it has been waiting for me on my Kindle for awhile, and darnit, I just needed this one for my heart.)

Obelisk Gate by N K Jemisin (audiobook from the library that I had to wait for)

Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher (library reserve. Really wanted to read some of her fiction, but still waiting for that to come in) 

Eragon by Christopher Paloini (audiobook from library. I remember this one fine, but the kids both needed to read it for book club, and we thought it would be easier to all listen together)

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J K Rowling (bedtime family read-aloud)

The Once and Future King by T S White (audiobook for 8th grader's assignment. She's reading the physical book. I flunked this one. Didn't keep up. She's finished - I'm on Chap 10. Luckily I remember enough to talk about it still.)

Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (new assigned book for the 8th grader. I promise to do better this time!)

A couple nonfiction books about homeschooling high school (note 8th grader mentioned above - trying to prepare) that I have checked out from library but have to admit I haven't gone far in because of above list. 

Also, I have Ghost Talker's I just picked up on hold, but haven't gotten to start on because of above list. This is the one I'm worried about since it was a long wait for it. I guess if I have to return it before I get to read it, I can just get back in line. 

Having too many wonderful things to read hardly seems like something to complain about. I just need to learn to pace myself better.


Friday, March 31, 2017

The Scam is Dead - Short Fiction Friday



Three more spirits before ten am. They had no qualms about waking a person, or keeping them up at night either. Two of the new ones didn't even speak English. What did they think she could do for them? When she made it clear she didn't understand them, they just got louder and more insistent. Couldn't even shut a door in their face since they can move right through walls. At least she could take out her hearing aid and that helped her ignore them when she wanted to sleep.

Rose had made a decent living out of pretending to speak to the departed. Now that they were showing up for real, she was strongly considering a new line of work. Actually talking to the dead was nowhere near as fun as pretending. It wasn't as profitable either. 

Yesterday a ghost had strolled into a séance, with a paying client, and demanded to speak with someone named Deborah. Rose doesn't know a Deborah, and the client didn't know a Deborah, so Rose sent the spirit on its way. After that though, the client would not be satisfied with moving candles, or Rose's best ethereal voice. No, she wanted to see her dead mother the way she had seen the ghost looking for Deborah. The ghost who wandered back in again just as Rose had almost persuaded the client to be reasonable and settle back down. That client would never return now. 

Then the ghost, a young man, tall with a friendly face, insisted that Rose help him find Deborah anyway. "Your sign says you are a bridge for the living to speak with the dead. Well I need to speak to Debbie." Rose explaining that usually it was the living who hired her services, and she helped them contact the dead, not the other way around. He was unimpressed. Oh, and no, he couldn't pay. Ghosts don't have money, but Deborah would probably pay her something once they found her.

Probably. That's what the little punk said. Probably pay Rose something. How reassuring. To get him to go away though, she let him give her this Deborah's information. Last address, phone number, that sort of thing. Then Rose had told him she needed quiet and peace in which to do her work. He should go away until tomorrow. That part at least had worked as well on him as it did on the living. He'd gone.

But he was back promptly this morning. He was the third. The one who spoke English. Rose, naturally, had done nothing to search for Deborah. She wasn't a detective. She had no idea how to go about searching for someone. She almost never left her house for that matter. No, she was just in no fit state to tromp around searching for a strange woman, and she told the ghost so when he reappeared to her.

"But she doesn't live at her old house anymore, and when I tried to talk to the people who live there now, they just screamed and ran away, or prayed frantically at me." The ghost said. 

"Other people can see you?" Rose asked. This had not occurred to her. Perhaps pretending to be special for so many years had made her believe she actually was.

"Yes," the ghost said. "It doesn't do me any good though. No one will talk to me, but this is what you do, right?"

Theoretically it was. It was certainly what she advertised she did. What she charged people for doing. Rose ignored the question. "My time is valuable, and I have trouble getting around at my age. I need a significant payment ahead of time to take something like this on."

"Did you call the number I gave you?" The ghost asked. "I can go anywhere to look, but I can't pick up and dial a phone. She might still use that number. You don't have to go anywhere."

"I don't mean to be callous, but there is still the matter of payment. Some vague hope that this Deborah will offer to settle your account won't do."

"What can I do for you then? Obviously I don't have credit cards," the ghost stuck his hands into this transparent pockets and pulled them out, showing they were empty, as though that display were necessary. "Maybe I could help drum up business, tell other ghosts I see to come talk to you."

He didn't listen well, did he. "They will just have the same problems you are having. My clients are the living."
"Well, I could help you there then. I'll come around when you want me to, to show folks you can really talk to the dead. That you aren't the usual fraud."

He might be onto something there. Rose thought. What if the paper came. She could summon a real ghost to show them. That would bring her more customers than any amount of advertising she had to pay for would. But would they expect her to produce their personal ghosts for them? Her thoughts swirled. If they did, she could handle that. She could call this guy her connection to the spirit world, and through him she could contact any departed soul. That would work; people would eat it up. 

"Would you come for a reporter, were I to invite one?" She tried to sound unconcerned, as if she were doing a favor to him, but the idea held her, and she found herself holding her breath waiting for his reply.
"If that will get you to find Deborah, then yes, yes I will do whatever you need me to."

"Wait here," the old woman said, and picking up her cane, she shuffled off into a back room. When she returned she was wearing a huge grin. "The reporter will be here tomorrow at 2:00. You should come a little before that to get into a hiding spot - behind this divider, I think - until I summon you for the interview."

"And Deborah?"

"Payment first," Rose said, in a 'be reasonable' voice. "After the interview, I make your calls for you."
The ghost frowned, but nodded, and then faded out of sight. 

Rose went to the séance chamber to wait for the ghost around 1:30 the next day, but he was not there yet. She kicked herself for not giving him a more specific arrival time. Overnight she had thought of more ways to increase the drama of the interview, and include some of her good old standby tricks that clients liked. She wanted to go over the plan with the ghost so he responded correctly.

1:45, still no ghost. 1:55, and she began to be worried as well as annoyed. What would she do if he didn't come? What could she possible say to the reporter? The chime on the door tinkled at 2:07, but it wasn't the ghost, obviously. He didn't use the door. It was the reporter. Well, she would stall. Rose knew she could do that well. What else was there to do?

She put on her wise old seer smile and welcomed the reporter, a woman with long dark hair in a braid, a satchel over one shoulder who introduced herself as Maggie Denton. Once inside, Rose offered Maggie a tour of her studio. She didn't take her upstairs, where her apartment was, she only gestured to the staircase off the lobby with its velvet rope barrier and explained that she lived upstairs. 

Maggie already had out her cell with a recorder ap running, as well as a notepad. She looked around the lobby at the waiting area chairs. "Do you have a receptionist?" She asked.

"No, I work alone. There really wouldn't be anything for them to do." Rose smiled what she thought of as her humble smile. 

"So how does your client know what to do when they come in?" Maggie asked. "Walk me through an appointment."

"I personally speak with all clients on the phone to set up their appointments," Rose said. "New clients at least. I have many regulars who have standing appointment times once, or several times a week. If they happen to arrive before I've finished a previous appointment, we have this area here for them to relax in." She gestured to a dim corner of the lobby with a puffy couch and armchair. A small table held occult magazines and an incense burner that was empty at the moment. "Some of my clients like to come in early just to spend a few moments here, clearing their mind before our session."

"I see." Maggie said.

"Then when we are ready to begin, we move into the inner sanctuary." Rose opened a door to the left of the staircase that led into an even dimmer room. A chandelier hung over a round table. It held multi colored light bulbs, but none of them produced much actual illumination.

Rose had walked around to her usual place at the table, but before she could sit or begin her spiel a man burst into the lobby, banging to door into the wall. He looked around frantically, and then raced in with Rose and the reporter.

"I'm so sorry Ms. Rose, my car died. I tried to catch a bus, but I don't know the schedule." 

As he continued to rant at her, something about a lyft and road construction, he bent over and tried to catch his breath at the same time. Rose had stopped listening. She just looked at him, her hands up covering her gaping mouth. It was the ghost. Except he wasn't a ghost. He was just a normal living man standing in her sanctuary babbling much too loud about his transportation difficulties. 

The reporter had a strange smile on her face and was taking his picture, then turned to take Rose's picture as well, and then began scribbling in her notebook. Rose realized how she must look and tried to compose her face into her dignified and mysterious façade. "Young man," she snapped. "Please settle down."

He stopped talking and stood more upright, although it was clear he was still trying to catch his breath. 

"Now, as you can see, I am with someone at the moment, but if you would like to take a seat in the lobby, I can be with you shortly." Rose gave a gracious smile, satisfied at her handling of the potential disaster. 

"But Ms. Rose, I know I'm late, but I have the sheet, I'm ready, I can still - "Rose had not noticed he was holding anything until he began to unfurl a sheet with two holes cut into it. He moved as if to drape the thing over himself while also moving to get behind the screen in the corner of the room. The very screen she where had planned to hide the ghost. 

It was the reporter that stopped him. "Excuse me," she placed a hand on his arm as he moved past her, struggling with the sheet as he went. "Are you here to stand in as a ghost for this woman?"

The man froze. He looked genuinely stricken. "Oh no," he said. He clutched the sheet to his stomach, as if to now hide it. Looking at Rose he said, "I'm so sorry Ms Rose, I'm so stupid. I've ruined it."

Rose had had to sit down after all by this point; her mind was frantically spinning trying to look for a way to turn this around. The reporter was going to out her as a fraud, that was bad enough, but for doing something she wasn't actually doing. How was this happening? She could pretend not to know who he was, but he was very convincingly acting as if they did know one another. The reporter wouldn't buy it. She could think of nothing to do. Nothing. She just looked at the man heedless of the anger that must show on her face. 

"Oh no," he said again, then with a wild look at the reporter, then Rose, he gathered up the trailing end of his sheet and fled. The reporter was actually laughing as she scribbled her notes, and snapped another photo of Rose sitting at the table, her hands grasping the edges to steady herself. 

"Well," Maggie said, "any response?"

With a deep breath Rose said, "I am as shocked as you. I have no idea who that man is."

Maggie giggled again. "All righty." She made another note, then tucked the pad into her pocket and clicked her pen closed. "Thanks for your time. This will be more fun to write than I thought it would be." 

Rose didn't see her leave. She let her head fall forward and rest on her folded arms. What had just happened? How had she handled it so poorly? Yet, what else could she possible have done? Who was that man? Every question triggered three others, and she had no answers.

She couldn't have been sitting there more than a few minutes when she heard the front door open again. She was in no mood. She had best go send them away and lock up for the day. She couldn't handle working now. Before she was able to push herself up to standing the man sauntered in. She realized she didn't even know his name. He didn't have his sheet anymore. 

"Who the hell are you?" she demanded.

He smiled. "Delores' son," he said. "Ya know, in the beginning, I almost felt a little bad about this trick I was pulling on you, but then every time I mentioned her name and saw that you had no idea who she was - that after everything you don't even remember her at all - well, I didn't feel bad anymore." He turned back to the door and Rose thought he was going to shut it, but he only partially closed it to get at the shelf unit that stood in the corner behind it. Spooky knick knacks and ephemera were there. Probably needed dusting. He stood on tiptoe to reach a grayish box that she hadn't noticed there. He pulled it down, turned it over and Rose saw a little light on it. He flipped a switch and the light went out. 

"My projector," he said holding the box up. He couldn't resist rubbing her nose in what he'd done, she realized. 

"What about the others, the foreigners?" She was feeding his ego she knew, but she also needed to know how he'd done it.

"Friends," he said. "Those of us who don't spend their life taking advantage and bilking other people have what are called friends." 

"Dolores," Rose said. It was familiar. She did know a Delores, didn't she? That's right, she had been a regular, but Rose hadn't seen her in many months. She was supposed to keep track of every old client now? "I haven't seen Delores in awhile."

"Do you remember her then? Or is this more of your scam. You worthless, lying -" he stopped and took a long shaky breath. "Delores was my mother." He stood a little straighter. "She wasted too much of her retirement on you, but it was hers to waste, and you made her happy, so I didn't argue with her about it. But then she complained to you about pains a few times. You told her everything was great. Health and fortune were just around the corner. That's what you like to tell people, right?"

"That's what they like to hear," Rose said before thinking.

"Well thanks to your advice she didn't go to the doctor. Not until it had already spread to her kidneys and lungs. Until there wasn't much they could do for her anymore. Because of what you told her. I hope you enjoy having your life ruined by a scam as much as my family has." He turned and walked out.