My Basketball Jones

Sparks – my new book

written under my non-pseudonym, Michelle Fidalgo

“Sure. You want to talk basketball. Like who was the greatest forward to ever play the game?” Karelys’ curls bounced with every step she took.

Eric shrugged as they passed through the senior hall. He stopped at the trophy case to tie his shoe. “Way too hard a question for a fan. You want the truth? Jordan, Dr. J., maybe Kevin Garnett. Championships tell the story. It’s about who you play with. Teamwork.”

“Oh, what about Kobe?” Karelys said. “But those old guys had style, too. I’ve seen clips of Dr. J. But I love Allen Iverson. He was good-good, you know?”

Chapter Two, Sparks

After watching footage of Allen Iverson and Michael Jordan for Sparks, I realized writing research could never be as delightful as it was in those moments. But my appreciation of the spectacular athleticism of professional basketball wasn’t the only reason I wrote this book. Sparks was written specifically for students in high school who struggle with their reading. Yet the best thing about this books is that the story works for every child.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’m a high school teacher who firmly believes that everyone should read and write every day, in every class and at home every night. However, some students have difficulty following along with the speed of their peers. I attended a literacy training in the summer of 2015; the specialists who spoke to us said that middle and high school students who find themselves falling behind had no interesting reading material at their age level. I wondered how such a thing was possible. Over one million books were published in 2015, but no one wrote a book for these students, the kids who need to read the most!

Somebody had to change that. I’m a writer. I took the challenge.

As a basketball fan, I knew what sport my main character would play. But the questions an author always asks about their main character are so much deeper: What does he say when he’s put on the spot? What does he think about when he’s alone? What causes him to spring into action? I delved into the character of Eric Marks with a sense of mission. As a teacher, I know so many kind, devoted children, kids like Eric who strive to achieve a goal. Readers of Sparks will find Eric, Belle, Tasha, and the rest of the children in the book are much like the sweet, funny people they know in their families, in their schools.

So I’m calling all young readers, challenging them to be like Eric, who doesn’t know the meaning of the word “quit”. Read Sparks. Never give up on yourself. You can read a book to its conclusion while enjoying the journey.
Get off the bench and play.

Get your copy of Sparks.

Follow me on my Kellan Publishing author page, follow me on this blog , or on Facebook or on Twitter.

Published Work Post 1: Sci-fi

Hey, y’all!

I’m posting links to my previously published work two pieces at a time. Free reading! What a deal! Support the journals that have published these stories by giving them a pat on the back via Facebook and other social media. These first two offerings are set in the same sci-fi universe, called the Cluster.

1. “Gel”, Science Fiction Romance Quarterly, Issue #5 (pub date: Winter 2015)
Genre: sci-fi romance. Length: about 4,500 words. Rated: R (sexual content)
An unscrupulous alien seeks a transformative gel excreted by a male of another species. Her nefarious purpose? The goddess con.

2. Vouchsafe, my Nanowrimo novel, on (pub date: December 2014)
Genre: sci-fi romance. Length: 54,000 words. Rated: R (sexual content, violence)
You’ll have to join Jukepop to read it, but it’s free. Vouchsafe is my comic book sci-fi epic. Featuring a non-stop plot with sex, violence, and political drama, this plot-driven madness is a quick, entertaining read.

Next update in a week or so!

Hags, Witches, and Crones – A Primer

From Beloved Dead, Chapter 2:

After a silence deep as the Atlantic, a strange squeal unlike anything Micajah had yet heard came from Genevieve’s throat, snapping her choker. An eerie wail followed. Above his body, a sight found but in the pit of hell rose above him. A pulsing venous, muscled mass rested on his chest. He struggled to remain conscious, but the gory corpus of meat on his body drove him to near madness. He could hear the beat of her heart thump against his chest, a battle drum; though he saw no stain upon his jacket, he envisioned himself drenched in thick maroon sheets of blood, a sanguine-swamp flood that drowned him in panic.

In Beloved Dead, Christine/ Genevieve plays a dangerous game that only a boo-hag can. So what is a hag? How is she different from a typical witch? Is a hag the same as a crone?

A hag, a wrinkled old woman, comes straight out of the Brothers Grimm. In many cases, hags have magical powers. In Disney’s version of Beauty and the Beast, a hag is refused entry at the prince’s castle – then wreaks her vengeance by casting a spell on the entire household. Hags existed in the Harry Potter universe as well, though they didn’t have a large role in the series.

But boo hags have their own lore. The Gullah culture, African-Americans who dwelled on the coastal islands of Georgia and South Carolina, created the mythology of this specific kind of hag. Boo hags can be considered a sort of “air vampire”, though they don’t kill their victims. They “ride” their quarry, breathing with them as they sleep. When the prey wakes up, he (or she, since hags don’t care about gender) feels like they’ve been beaten with a stick. If the victim’s lucky, they don’t open their eyes – since boo hags don’t wear their skin when they go out riding. Being skinless helps them to fit through the smallest cracks and keyholes. In traditional lore, a boo hag will steal the skin of those who struggle against her. But in Beloved Dead, Christine has an alternate plan: serial killing. Our vicious vixen doesn’t want just any skin. She wants to look youthful for the maximum amount of time. To find out how her wicked scheme evolves, check out the book!

So a boo hag is definitely not a witch, since witches cast spells and don’t need other people’s breath. And a crone, you ask? A crone has a great deal in common with a hag: a disagreeable old woman with magic powers. Yet crones don’t have to be malicious. They can also be symbols of wisdom. Some of literature’s more cooperative crones enable a hero to complete his quest. And if you’ve ever read Robert Graves myths of the divine feminine, you know that maidens may eventually become the wise crone – who gives advice to the next generation of young women.

On the website The Moonlit Road (, enjoy the classic storytelling of Veronica Byrd and her story of the boo hag. It’s definitely worth a listen.

Check out Beloved Dead at Kellan Publishing’s website. Click on the link to read a sample of Chapter One:

You are welcome to visit my author page on Kellan:

And a little advice from Charleston: Don’t let the hag ride ya!

This Story Haint Never Been Told Before!

Reincarnation brought to life by an artist’s chisel. Interesting, maybe.

Pygmalion set in contemporary Charleston. Sweet, huh?

Or maybe you’d rather consider this: a two hundred year-old villain who can strip off her skin and lay atop your sleeping body in the dark.

Yeah, let’s go there.

I’m pleased to give you a heads-up on the publication of my novella, Beloved Dead.  The title comes from an old Confederate monument erected for those they’d loved and lost. Since a portion of the novel takes place in 1819, the title hearkens backward to an interesting period in Charleston, South Carolina history.

In Beloved Dead, what’s lost is found again.

In a Charleston art studio, a ghost – actually, a haint – pushes into the fibers of a full-sized wooden statue. As it does, the classical sculpture accommodates to him, housing his restless spirit. From a slab of walnut bursts his new life.

And that’s the first paragraph.

But what, exactly, is a haint?

Haints go way back into South Carolina legend. Light teal, also called “haint blue”, is painted on porch roofs to keep these reasonably benign spirits away. If you were going to invite a ghost into your home, the haint would be a good choice. The specific legends about them detail a creature that doesn’t seek to harm the living. As time goes on, I’ll post a few charming legends on this blog.

Rest assured, you’d prefer a visit from a haint to an evening soiree with a boo-hag. (And, yeah, I laughed the first time I heard boo-hag, too). In Charleston lore, a hag lays atop a sleeping person and breathes with them. It’s not known how hags slip, body and soul, into the homes of the unsuspecting and lay on top of them. Yet the expression, “Don’ let the hag ride ya,” has been an old saw in the Holy City. If you’ve ever awakened more tired than when you went to sleep, you know what the saying means. Hear a story for yourself.

    A “breath vampire” that leaves people alive but tired isn’t a pretty picture. Yet if you wanted to remain your lovely self, would you be willing to do whatever it took? In “Beloved Dead”, boo-hag Genevieve Vetivier knows what she wants. She believes in living, and not looking like the stereotypical hag. So, every twenty years, she ensures her “cosmetic upgrade” keeps her looking 23, not 230. Naturally, she has to find a victim in good condition. So, like the ultimate wicked stepmother, she adopts a pretty young woman, and, well… you get the picture.

Let the supernatural battle begin.

When you read Beloved Dead, you’ll enjoy a paranormal world the terrified few have experienced in haunted Southern mansions. This blog will provide the history the novella references, and give fans of the paranormal a chance to share the lore.

Every week, I’ll post a little more about Beloved Dead. And I’ll keep putting up some of my unpublished works, too.

Below you’ll find links to one of my ten published short stories of 2015. This one’s called “Gel”, and it was published in January on Science Fiction Romance Quarterly, a great online journal.>

Be sure to leave a comment below!








Chicken Cookies: a meditation on search queries

While researching any piece, a writer worth their salt checks himself. Some queries possess straightforward logic. In researching a novel about aviation, you’d want to know an incredible number of basic facts about planes. I’m certain the screenwriter of “Snakes on a Plane” did his/her homework: how many king cobras can you fit in a carry-on bag?

For me, the list would go on. Fortunately, I’d give up on the idea since I don’t care to know anything about snakes, planes, or how those  – snakes got on that – plane.  But research this weekend led me to consider intercostal dominoes and chicken cookies.

Intercostal dominoes:  when a story sticks to your ribs – ready to explore the momentary fancy about writing x – and it leads you to bizarre search queries that would only apply to that particular narrative. Hence, dominoes.

So, in writing my urban fantasy novella “Beloved Dead”, the obvious searches -“boo hag”, “haint”, “Charleston South Carolina legends” – were accompanied by queries about old Yamaha motorcycles, Mexican milagros, and salt. (Read the novella and discover all six).

And it gets so much weirder from there. Post-apocalyptic science fiction novels take questions to a whole new level. The survivability of people, buildings, and specific objects have been estimated; for example, you can find out the approximate length of time a piece of plastic might be useful. But there’s so much you don’t know, and the more you find out, the more questions remain to be asked.  And every search leaves behind a cookie.

For your consideration: chicken cookies. So how would a religious sect support itself? In investigating possible large scale cottage industries for my theoretical commune, I started investigating making glass, weaving, and chicken farming. Warning: spoiler alert. Big agri-business ain’t appetizing. I went from queries about a cult in Waco to protesting the sad state of a chicken’s existence in less than an hour.

And that Chick-Fil-A biscuit I had for breakfast? Nothing but regret, y’all. Buttery, crunchy sorrow.

So check my cookies, anonymous researchers who know our every search query.  See if you can glean any marketing data out of those chicken-flavored cookies.

I send my love to the mystery writers seeking the best poison and who ends up lost in research abstracts from university chemistry professors; the romance novelist writing a sprawling epic about a Highlander, who feels she must know the location of goosebumps on thigh muscles; and the poor science fiction novelist whose queries about everything from “engineering instrumentation panel” to “efficient zero-gravity urination system” must baffle some marketing man somewhere.

Keep asking questions. I think the best ones start with “what if”.  But what do I know? I’m just a fiction writer.

Wait, Juliet.

This is a piece I published in an anthology years ago. I’d just read about the Secretaries of Juliet in Verona. These ladies provide advice to lovelorn souls who leave their messages of lost passion behind. Love as an older person has so many differences from the narrow view of romance portrayed in the media, perpetuated by writers (and I find myself among that number).  Without further ado, “Wait Juliet.”

Upon reading about the labors of the Secretaries of Juliet to the lovelorn, I thought of two great advice givers. One was Yogi Berra, who said, “Never answer an anonymous letter,” and the other, Oscar Wilde: “The only good thing to do with advice is to pass it on. It is never of use to oneself.” Giving advice about love is a perilous profession. As a woman of a certain age, I feel qualified to do anything but give advice on love; describing my familiarity with love between the elderly should not be considered advice, merely musings.

     Falling in love at forty-something isn’t the simplest course, nor is it advisable for anyone of any age to consider love among the gray-haired straightforward. It has no fifty shades, I assure you. The first thing one realizes when diagnosed as an antique romantic is this – the object of your affection may be obligated to spend a lot of time overlooking old habits, a sagging stomach and past mishaps. Hope may spring eternal, but patience? Ah, that’s another matter. And when anyone whose title has the prefix “ex” comes into play, love’s risky lack of rulebooks can cause well-warranted discomfort. Consider new beginnings when time itself has a slender brittleness. When you wonder how long you will have to share your beloved’s company, love which sees its own end however distant, fate’s compassion seems more curse than blessing. So this lover did exactly what romantics tend to: look toward the past, for nostalgia, inspiration, and denial. At 56, I became a novelist specializing in romance. Unanticipated, perhaps immature – but sustaining. When two lifelong passions intersect, madness ensues.    

     Hope being essential to the cause of love and productivity in later years, insanity possesses its own twisted logic. My lover became my reader, exploring paths of imagination long abandoned. My dovetailed careers became one, and I received the imprimatur of my beloved to follow the muse. In earlier years, I was parent. In later ones, my children stare back at me, wondering what fate has wrought other than acceptance of self and the occasional rejection letters that prompt insecurity to burst from its hiding place, pouncing on the unsuspecting. Such disappointments life brings, and strides are broken, not lost.

     In the twilight of years, but the rediscovery of passion, pragmatism and compromise are key. Yes, you’re accustomed to showering with volcanically hot water, but now, there is a second in line who is doomed to the morning deep freeze. The love poet now leaves messages on the refrigerator’s white board: “milk, bread, onions.” The cold slap of reality strikes. Regrettably, you realize, even after years together, the habits you enter the relationship with are ones most likely to survive.

     None of this is intended to deny the beauty of this minor miracle, the rebirth of passion and purpose fading-rose-romance brings. Our daily kisses, a mutual smile and the depth of our conversations still steals my breath away. I utter prayers for my single friends who wish for true commitment, a love which contributes intimacy and solace. My good fortune brings with it the fear of loss comingled with gratitude and survivor guilt.

     I can testify to my thanks for falling in love in my later years. Despite its pitfalls and my own foibles, I have found love with someone whose decision made as a mature adult led me to feel confident about the future, despite its possible brevity. Length of time, or the lack of it, does not detract from the lovely; it adds poignancy, intensity, and meaning. This weekend, I was choosing some Queen Anne’s Lace, planning to press it in a book for later use in a scrapbook. These unique flat white blossoms dot the roadsides; if one didn’t look closely enough, they might be just another weed. Of course, lovely floral Juliets in bloom were chosen for pressing, but my eye was also drawn to the round green globes the aging flowers became. When the blooms themselves are spent, they pull inward into a veined ball, their remaining seeds within, protecting them until fully dried and ready for fall. I picked a few older blossoms, too, because these summer snowflakes aren’t really weeds and should find a home in a garden, not mere display at the side of a road. I became fascinated looking at the spiky green structure holding them together until nature appeals, and they are reborn in their daughters, next summer’s Juliets.

     I am sure the Secretaries of Juliet would concur with me, believing love grows even where unexpected. Love in the age of the green globe must be nurtured, cultivated, allowed in. Any love can seem all too brief, but hopeful choices, to seize another’s hand, even with its soon-to-be-protruding veins must be made.. So, Secretaries, you may be reluctant to give advice to senior citizen loveseekers, even if you have heard it all. Like Queen Anne’s Lace, each of the queries about love the good ladies respond to is a unique appeal to the wild impulses in us, even in those whose days of lithe loveliness are in the past. Those of us who now appear more like Juliet’s aging handmaiden are smiled upon when love and passion deliver us from solitude and yearning. Our letters on Verona’s wall, though they may have gone unheeded at first, are answered in their own time. Who knows how long time will allow us? All we can do is take our blood pressure medication, take our blessed pulse and take a moment each day to look in the face of our beloved and find sweetness.

Let’s visit again, y’all.

The Perils of Summer

You may think that Lady Melisandre of Game of Thrones is exaggerating when she describes the world as “dark and full of terrors”, don’t you?  But you, would of course, be wrong. Being a teacher during the summer doesn’t oblige me to tell anyone he/she is wrong, at least for the next few months. Not that I won’t say it, because teachers are, by nature, judgmental creatures who have a love-hate relationship with talking. As for me, I’d rather just shut up and type.

But back to the terrors, right? Besides the bugs of all varieties and being out without sunscreen, summer brings a terrifying freedom. I have time to finish my book? Really? So why do I now have five new cleaning chores to do? So I forget my writer’s block! Oh, of course. All seems so simple now that you point that out, my friend.

So from here on, I’m going to post advice, “outtakes”, sample-sized bites, and kudos to other authors who far exceed my talent. The latter will take up a great deal of my time, but that will accomplish so many goals – validating the work of a talented writer, leading readers to someone I’ve been pleased to discover, and, again, avoiding my writer’s block.

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