Catering Girl


Coming soon on Amazon!

Stand-up comic Frankie Goldberg is one of my favorite characters. She popped into my head while I was stuck in traffic in the middle of Woodstock, New York, and she had a story to tell me. That initial meeting eventually became The Joke’s on Me. But before Frankie reunited with her family, she wreaked a little havoc in Hollywood. Catering Girl is a novella from that chapter of her life.

Frankie keeps getting fired from her day jobs, thanks to her smart mouth and a lot of other bad habits. Now a thirty-something catering assistant on a movie set, she reluctantly agrees to bring a cappuccino to the resident diva. The young star Anastasia Cole is in tears, distraught about disturbing changes in the script. Frankie serves a side of common sense with the coffee, and excited to have an ally, Anastasia offers her the role of a lifetime. It’s not what Frankie had in mind—but being needed might be exactly what she needs.

I’m excited to share a bit of Catering Girl with you here, before I publish it this weekend.


Catering Girl

Chapter 1

I wasn’t supposed to be smoking on set, even though it was an outdoor shoot nearly halfway to the Mojave Desert. I wasn’t supposed to be smoking at all, having promised everyone who still loved me that I’d quit. But lack of sleep and a vicious hangover made for a deadly combination that lowered my willpower to zilch. I’d just lit up, intent on spending my midmorning break in contemplation of my bad habits, when a voice perforated my muzzy thoughts.

“Catering! You there, catering!”

Busted. I ground my cig underneath one designer heel and prepared for another lecture. Snapping his fingers at me was the producer’s son, an entitled little creep with a Napoleon complex and a suspiciously low hairline. Per my contract with the studio, I didn’t have to man my station for another ten minutes. For almost anybody else involved in this movie, I would have hopped to, probably with a joke and a smile, but I had no intention of saluting this guy’s flag any sooner than required.

My deficiency of hop-to did not appear to please him. His eyes narrowed to nasty slits. “What are you, deaf? Cappuccino to trailer three, nonfat milk. Don’t screw it up.”

Speaking of entitlement. “I’m not going in there.” I’d yet to meet the performer in person, but the last coffee jock who’d gone into Anastasia Cole’s trailer had exited wearing the cappuccino, then kept on walking.

If either he or Miss Silicone thought that a slew of forgettable slasher flicks and one Oscar—best supporting actress, in a slow year—earned her the right to go full-on diva, they both had another thing coming. I didn’t care that my teenage nephew adored her and had seen all her movies, some twice.

The heir apparent sighed. “Okay, what’s it worth to you?”

“Excuse me?”

He pulled out his wallet. “Ten bucks?”

Ten bucks? I saw what that putz drove onto the set. My parents hadn’t paid that much for their house. “Fifty,” I countered. “But if she throws it at me, I’m walking, too. And I’ll take the entire catering unit with me.”

I had no authority to pull up stakes, but I’d been working with guys like this for years. It seemed a safe bet that beyond his own imagined influence, he didn’t have a clue who was responsible for what.

A vein bulged on his left temple. “Christ. You’re as bad as the agents. Anastasia won’t do the nude scene, the other producers are threatening to bail, and now the catering girl is shaking me down for a lousy cup of coffee.”

Catering girl? I straightened my spine, which probably didn’t make me any taller than my usual five foot five, sans moussed curls and impractical footwear, but it made me feel more intimidating. “What did you call me?”

He got right up in my face. “Catering. Girl. No power.” He pointed to himself. “Producer. Power. Get the difference?”

I smiled sweetly at him. “Thank you for clearing that up for me. Now let me give you some advice. When Daddy makes you drive to McDonald’s to pick up dinner for the crew, don’t forget the french fries. Makes the union guys pissy.”

Then I turned and started for my car, forcing a cool, confident walkaway so he wouldn’t see that I was having a quiet nervous breakdown over what I’d just done. It was a crappy movie, but I needed this job, bad. In the thirteen years since little Frankie Goldberg had left the East Coast and the comfort of my mother’s brisket, the career as a famous movie star hadn’t panned out. Nor had I been doing very well as a fair-to-middling standup comic. The only marketable skill I had left was a knack for cooking in large quantities. At the moment, I couldn’t afford to put my job on the line just to make a point. I had bills coming due, my beat-up Barracuda was on its last cylinder, and I owed my sister and her current husband, at her last accounting, six hundred and thirty-two dollars and fifteen cents.

It was the fifteen cents that bothered me the most.

“All right,” he said. “Fifty. And I’ll talk to her first.”

I let out my breath. For fifty bucks, I’d even draw a little heart in the foam. “Nonfat milk, you said?”


heart-772637_640I’d like to share a story inspired during this week’s Two-Minutes-Go on JD Mader’s Unemployed Imagination blog. Great writing happens there. Maybe one week you’ll come by and play. Because it’s fun. And fun is good.



He didn’t recognize the purple-inked handwriting on the note he’d plucked from beneath his windshield wiper. Maybe his eyes were whacked from staring at computer code all day. So he blinked again, and again, and saw only the same few words in the tiny and most likely female script: “I heart your car.” A black cloud descended over his thoughts as he shook his head and crushed the slip of paper in one pale fist. More jokes. He drove a beat-to-crap Honda Civic that wasn’t even born in this century, hardly the stuff that inspires women to verb a perfectly good noun like “heart.” And if this writer of purple prose knew who owned the car? Yeah. Game over. He saw how they reacted to him. Women whispered when he walked past, gave him a wide berth in the hallways, as if afraid they’d catch something. A computer virus. Nobody wanted to talk to the dorky code guy. He wasn’t all smooth and sexy like the dudes in advertising or sales. No. He sat in the basement under the fluorescent lights and drank cold coffee and wore Spiderman socks.

Maybe he should rethink the socks.

He tossed the crumpled note on the back seat of his car.

When he turned, a girl was standing there. He jumped, and pressed a hand to his heart, which from her sudden materialization, had started to verb.

“Sorry,” she said, the left side of her mouth lifting for a second. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

She was pretty. Her hair was long and dark and neatly parted on the side. Her glasses sat crookedly on the bridge of her nose, and he couldn’t explain his desire to straighten them. He opened his mouth to say something hopefully clever, maybe to ask her name or if she was new because he’d never seen her before, but his mind felt like a giant intersection, all the strings of words confused as to which had the right of way.

She gestured to his car and said, “I have the same one.”

That explained the note. He looked up, across the neat rows of parked vehicles, and as if to assist him, she pointed. “I keep thinking I should get something newer,” she said. “But then I’d have to find new bumper stickers, and I don’t know that they make any like that anymore.”

She kept talking, something more about her car, but he had followed the line of her finger. One of the stickers read, “I’d rather be watching Firefly.”

And then he smiled, and his heart really started to verb.

A Few Reviews

Screen shot 2016-04-25 at 9.09.18 AMIt’s been far too long since I talked about what I’ve been reading, and I hope to get back to doing this on a regular basis. Here are a few stories I’ve particularly enjoyed lately.

Rainbow’s Edge by Leland and Angelo Dirks

If you’ve read any of the TwoMinutesGo flash fiction either here or on JD Mader’s blog, then you might know Leland Dirks. I’ve been a fan of his writing since I read Jimmy Mender and His Miracle Dog, and I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of Rainbow’s Edge. And I could not stop reading it. In fact, I read it twice. I was completely pulled into the world of this story, a journey of a father and son unspooling the truth of a troubled past as the son lays comatose in his hospital bed. It would have been so easy to push a story like this into melodrama and sentimentality, but in the hands of this skilled author, it is neither of those things. If you enjoy magic realism and tales of redemption and forgiveness, I highly recommend this moving and beautifully written story. (Available for preorder here until April 30.)

FScreen shot 2016-04-25 at 9.02.23 AMinding Travis by Melissa Bowersock (No Time for Travis, Book One)

As of this writing, Finding Travis is up for nomination on Kindle Scout. I am a fan of Melissa Bowersock’s smooth, agile writing style. And I think this story is one of my favorites of hers. Travis is adrift, his marriage all but over, spending his free time as a historical re-enactor for tourists visiting Arizona’s Fort Verde. Then a celestial anomaly—we think—pulls him back in time to the frontier days at the same location, where he is assigned to medical duties in a world before the existence of penicillin and modern surgical hygiene practices. The historical details are seamlessly woven with the plot and the character development (I have a book-crush on Travis’s assistant, Riley), making for a lovely, engaging read. I hear there’s a sequel coming, and I can’t wait to read it.

Wife Material: A Novel of Misbehavior and Freedom by Deborah Cox

I like getting out of my comfort zone once in a while, so I chose this title. Wife Material tells a story of religious abuse and sexual repression in the modern Church of Christ. This was one powerful, fascinating, heartbreaking, gut-wrenching story. I was so deep into the reading that at one point, my husband popped into my room and I actually got angry at the disruption. I couldn’t even talk for a while, after reading some parts. The scenes bounce around in time, which as a reader intrigues me, especially when it’s done well.

What have you been reading lately?


The Magic of Writing Fiction about Magic


I’ve loved magic since I was a kid. I eagerly watched magicians on television, especially Doug Henning, Harry Anderson, and David Copperfield. It looked so cool that they could appear to cut a person in half, make something vanish, or perform some other jaw-dropping feat. In my head, I knew that the illusions performed were not physically possible. Harry Anderson wasn’t “really” sticking a giant hatpin right through his arm on Saturday Night Live. David Copperfield wasn’t “really” making a 747 disappear. Doug Henning didn’t just…do that, did he? But I still was enthralled. The craft of illusion fascinated me, and even though I was able to suspend my disbelief, I admired the work and practice it must have taken to make the performances look so smooth.

Then I had a chance to peek behind the curtain. I lived with a magician for a few years, and he had a lot of magician friends. I watched them practice; I went to their shows; I learned about their props. And for a short time, I was an actual assistant, right down to the fishnet tights and misdirection. I wasn’t very good at my job, but it was a lot of fun to dress up on a weekend and try to get people to put money in our hat. I learned how to juggle and perform a few simple illusions, much to the delight of various small, fussy children and their weary parents.

I still watched the professionals with agog, even though most of the time I knew how the tricks worked. I met Harry Anderson in a Manhattan magic store (he’s adorably sweet and freakishly tall), I spoke with David Copperfield after one of his shows (eerily intense and possibly a vampire), ditto Jeff McBride (less eerily intense than Copperfield though), among others. But there was one thing I noticed time and time again.

Nearly all of the women I’d met in magic were the assistants. They were better than I had been, earned a lot more money than I had, but they weren’t headlining.

My career ambitions lay elsewhere, and just as well, because as I said, I wasn’t very good at my assistant job. You need to be flexible to fold yourself into some of those illusions, and that wasn’t in my skill set. But the question still ruminated in the back of my mind: why aren’t there more women in magic?

As I grew into writing and left magic to the professionals, I discovered two fundamental truths. First, no experience is wasted. Second, certain themes and ideas resonate for a reason. I hoped that one day I would find a suitable vehicle for my magical past and write about a woman who wanted to be a magician in her own right. And then Christina Davenport popped into my head. When I first “met” her, she was a snarky waitress, auditioning to become a magician’s assistant, hoping he wouldn’t figure out that she wanted to use him as a springboard into her own spotlight. It was a sort of power struggle between her and the magician: he wanted her to get inside a box illusion and she didn’t want to reveal her claustrophobia or her ambitions. When I started asking her more questions, a story developed.

How to handle the magic in the story was another challenge.

I’d hung around enough magicians to have internalized the idea that you don’t spill the secrets. Even though magicians like Penn and Teller do let a few cats out of the bag, it’s done strategically, and to let the audience share in the wonder of how something is done.

But how could I write a story set in a background of street and stage magic without a little peek inside—enough to pull a reader into the world and make the (sometimes imagined for the sake of the story) illusions look real without ticking off the magicians by revealing too much? Well, the magicians union hasn’t made me disappear yet, so maybe I struck the right balance.

Another reason I liked working with the theme of magic is that it sort of mirrors the art of fiction itself. Fiction writers harness the power of misdirection, of showmanship, and throw around a little sleight of hand when needed. So even though I might have been a bad assistant, maybe it was because I was really rehearsing for a different role in magic.


A quick and shamelessly promotional note—for a limited time, A Sudden Gust of Gravity will be available free from The Choosy Bookworm. If you sign up for the Read and Review program, you’ll get a free copy of the book in exchange for your honest review. Even though it’s listed under “suspense and thrillers,” the story is more on the suspense-y, romance-y side. Categories are funny sometimes.

The Bridge


I’d like to share another flash fiction entry inspired by JD Mader and the writing cabal at his blog, Unemployed Imagination, where he generously opens up his comment stream on Fridays for 2-Minutes-Go. (And, if you’d prefer, here’s the audio version of the story.)


She knew where he’d be waiting. On the left bank of the creek, just over the wooden footbridge, a small hollow flanked by two old, bent trees. She checked behind her. No one had followed. Her shoulders tightened, nearly bracing the straps of her heavy backpack of their own accord, and her breath was labored, rough as adrenaline spiked through her, as it chattered down her arms and curled her small hands into fists. Again she saw the storm building in her mother’s eyes, felt the crack of the palm across her cheek. Another note from school. Another reminder that she wasn’t like her brother, would never be like her brother, that pious freak, yes ma’am, no ma’am. She could not sit still in a succession of dull as death classrooms and listen to her droning teachers tell her things she’d learned on her own years ago.

But her father understood.

He would take her away from this.

Her sneakers squished in the damp grass, the patches of mud, as she dodged and wove the familiar ground, the same rocks, the same tree roots. The creek ran high with the recent rains; she heard it before she saw it, and she followed the sound toward the old bridge. Here, she worried. The rushing water could cover anyone’s approach. The social workers. The police. But so far, nothing but grass and pale-pink sunset clouds and trees whipped by the wind. She knew where he’d be waiting. But something ahead didn’t look right. The bridge lay splintered, half in and half out of the swollen creek. No way to cross. No way to get to where he waited. With her new chance, her new name, her new life. Something flashed ahead—a whisper of movement or maybe the wind. A light clicked on. Clicked off.

She chanced the question. “How do I get across?”

“Wait there,” he said. “I’ll come to you.”

He appeared from behind a tree like a vision. Like a holy mother vision from one of her brother’s Bibles. Even in the dimming sun she could see his smile. The promise in it. The promise of far, far away, which felt like the only safety she could imagine. Hands out for balance, he stepped foot by foot down the bank. She gasped as his left leg crumpled, as he slid to the water.

“Dad!” She skittered toward him, barely catching herself in time to avoid his fate. Then, breath held, she stared. Legs weren’t supposed to bend like that. Blood ribboned out into the water. When she followed it back to the tree branch sticking out of his arm, she nearly vomited.

“Go.” His voice was a weak rasp wheezing from his throat. A faint, rhythmic whine broke through the rush of the water. Sirens. “Shit. Your mother must have—left pocket. Take my keys.”

To reach him she’d have to swim for it. And after that— “I don’t know how to drive!”

He drew in a shallow, shuddery breath. “Time to learn.”

Roman Numerals Get the X in Super Bowl

Screen shot 2016-01-14 at 6.09.12 PMI don’t blog much about football, unless it’s haiku about Troy Polamalu’s hair. But when my husband told me about this story, I couldn’t help but mess with it. The story, that is. Not so much Polamalu’s hair. I’m afraid that if I stick my hand in there, I might never see it again.

Anyway. February 7 will mark the fiftieth Super Bowl. The NFL has been using Roman numerals after “Super Bowl” for…let’s just say for almost as long as I’ve been alive. On the surface, the convention doesn’t appear to make sense. It’s 2016, so why not call the sports-a-palooza “Super Bowl 2016” in the very sensible way that hockey and baseball handle their championships? But the NFL season splits the calendar year, so to be absolutely accurate, you’d have to call it “Super Bowl 2015-2016,” and nobody wants to put all those characters on a T-shirt. Or a beer cozy, a cap, a foam finger, or all those Doritos posters.

So I can see why they opted for the Roman numerals in the first place. And for a while, all those Xs looked kinda fun and powerful. It gives an impression of gladiators duking it out, except with better padding and a halftime show.

But I can just imagine what went on at the marketing meeting as the NFL got ready for publicizing the golden anniversary of the Big Game.

“So, hey, what are we gonna call this thing?”

“Uh, it’s fifty, so we just change the numbers, right? Toss another X or I on there, right?”

“Dude. Fifty in Roman numerals is L.”

“Super Bowl L? What the hell is that? Nobody knows what that means. X and I, they get. Maybe V, if they’re smart. But L? Most people are gonna think Superman’s playing football on Krypton or something.”

And…meeting adjourned. Cue the promotion department to break out the Maalox and trash seventeen boxes of merchandise.

Super Bowl 50 it is. But don’t worry, traditionalists. The Roman numerals are returning next year with Super Bowl LI.

The official story of the temporary suspension is that the designers couldn’t come up with an aesthetically pleasing way to render the “L.”

I call bull on that one. I’ve been a designer; I know designers; we specialize in finding solutions. And how would the “L” be less challenging than next year’s “LI,” which will probably end up looking like a “U”? The more likely story is that the change in convention was a marketing call, because I’m also a marketing person and I’ve spent a lot of time in meetings. I know what goes on there. I’m willing to bet my Super Bowl 50 commemorative chip-and-dip bowl that it was the Krypton thing.

12 Blogs of Christmas: Martin Crosbie

web pic with christmas tree 2Last but certainly not least, today’s blogger is Martin Crosbie. In a press release, Amazon called Martin Crosbie one of their success stories of 2012. His self-publishing journey has been chronicled in Publisher’s Weekly, Forbes Online, and Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper. He’s the author of six books including the Kindle Scout winner The Dead List – A John Drake Mystery.

Martin was born in the Highlands of Scotland and currently makes his home just outside Vancouver, on the west coast of Canada.


Last year on the night after Christmas, even though it had been an exceptionally busy day, I drove a car-load of family members around the streets of our town. For two and a half hours we drove up and down roads searching out the brightest, most illuminating lights on people’s houses and lawns. My eighty-six year old passenger in the back seat, wrapped in a blanket and clutching a mug of hot chocolate, smiled the whole time and asked me pull over and look at every light on every street. Two days later we took her into hospital and three weeks after that we lost her.

Doreen Clark was diagnosed with cancer when she was thirty years old. It was a form of cancer that took ninety-five percent of its victims. She beat it. In the following fifty-six years she lost a kidney, suffered heart failure, lost the ability to walk without a walker and overcame it all. She beat everything that was thrown at her. Some people are resilient, she was more than that. She was unbreakable.

Click here to read more…

Thank you for coming along on our 12 Blogs of Christmas tour. If there are any posts you missed, here’s a list of all of our contributors. I wish you a safe, peaceful, and happy holiday season.

Dec. 13   Ellen Chauvet

Dec. 14   Sarah Lane

Dec. 15   Keith Baker

Dec. 16   Virginia Gray

Dec. 17   Gordon Long

Dec. 18   RJ Crayton

Dec. 19   Jennifer Ellis

Dec. 20   Laurie Boris

Dec. 21   Heather Haley

Dec. 22   Jordan Buchanan

Dec. 23   Cate Pedersen

Dec. 24   Martin Crosbie