An interview with my muse – a fiction challenge

Diana over at Myths of the Mirror challenged writers to interview their muse after finding that hers had recently outsourced the job to a merciless mercenary for hire/part-time healthy life style disciplinarian. But upon accepting the challenge, I found my muse somewhat difficult to track down…


A fiction challenge and the investigation into the mysterious disappearance of my muse - www.alliepottswrites.comThe air was heavy with procrastination as I heard the door open behind me. I didn’t have to turn around to recognize her perfume, a mix of earth and chocolate spice. It could only be Moka. Moka Chino. She spelled her name with a k rather than a ch. She thought it gave her an extra shot of originality. I’d never had the heart to tell her I thought it made me question whether her head was on right.

She sashayed into my office as if it hadn’t been years since we last met. Though I tried to keep my expression neutral, I couldn’t help drinking in her appearance. “What brings you to the old neighborhood?” I asked as she removed a pair nutmeg shaded glasses, revealing mascara stained eyes underneath.

“It’s Latte. She’s missing.”

Latte was Moka’s cousin. Tall and skinny, though just as smooth. I’d met her at one of Moka’s parties and we’d spent the next hours in easy conversation. Latte’s side of the family wasn’t nearly as rich and she’d offered to help with the occasional job or two for whatever change I could spare, which was never much.

It was worth the expense. Her contributions might cause me the occasional heartburn, but they never failed to get results. She was reliable that way. It wasn’t like her to disappear without leaving a trace.

“So, can you help me find her?”

A lock of white slipped from her frothy up-do. I fought the urge to inhale her scent, as I helped sweep it back into place. She was bad for my health. Some might argue, toxic. I knew it. It was another reason I’d kept my distance. But I also knew she didn’t need to ask. Moka was someone I could never say no to. The problem was, she knew it too.

Latte spent her time between gigs in the editorial department of a local publishing house. It would be my first stop.

“Thanks for agreeing to meet with me,” I said to Latte’s boss, B.K. Caffé, a huge man with a complexion as dark as his current expression and crushing arms.  I extended my hand.

He didn’t take it. “You’re late.”

“I apologize. I was given the wrong directions in reception. Has anyone ever told you guys that this place is difficult to navigate?”

“You said this was about Latte?”

“Yeah, her cousin says she hasn’t seen her in awhile. Looked worried.”

“Yeah, well I haven’t seen her lately either. Now I’ve got senior management roasting my beans. I’ve had to bring my sister’s kid on board just to deal with the slush.” His scowl deepened as he glared as something or someone behind me. “But now I’m beginning to wonder if I was better off.”

A kid who must have traded his diaper in for an overpriced suit stood there. From the slicked back hair to golden pinkie ring, he could pass for an extra in the Wolf of Wall Street. He marched across the room like I wasn’t there. “We need to talk about my assignment.”

“Not now.”

“But Uncle B, I really don’t think you are recognizing all the benefits I bring to the table. I should be in charge out there.”

“And yet I still don’t have a publish-ready novel from you, now do I.”

“If you’d only listen -”

“We can talk later. Now do the job I’m paying you to do.”

The kid left, slamming the office door behind him. “Kid thinks he’s bulletproof,” B.K. said more to himself than to me, shaking his head.

“So Latte.” I took out my notebook, bringing his attention back to the matter at hand. “You saw her last…”

“Weeks ago. We sent a draft off to beta readers and a crew went out celebrating.”

“Including you?”

“Not my scene.” He crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back in his chair. “I’ve been told I can be a bit of a buzz kill.” Someone knocked on his door. B.K. looked at his watch. “Are we done? I have a schedule to keep.”

“One last question. You wouldn’t happen to know where they went to celebrate, would you?”

“Where else: Quotable Potables.”

I was familiar with the hot spot. Signs of wear on the bar’s exterior were beginning to show. Even so, it still maintained a stable of regular customers thanks to its welcoming atmosphere. I made my way to the back where a makeshift karaoke stage, stood. It was also where I knew I’d find the Pinot Sisters.

They were seated at a nearby table, ready to launch into song the moment the equipment came online. I pulled out a chair and handed them a picture. “I’m looking for a gal named Nila Latte. You didn’t happen to see her here recently, did you?”

Both girls had the kind of legs that made you want to laugh or weep but were just as known for their bubbly personalities. Usually, the trick was getting them to stop talking, but neither offered a word. “Yes, you did.” I tapped the photo again. “A gal like that, on your turf. Yeah, you noticed.”

“We don’t remember.” Nora, the red head, pushed the photo back at me. “Okay?”

“You don’t remember seeing her, or you don’t remember what happened that night?”

Gio, the blonde, began to sweat, “She was iced!”

Nora covered her sister’s mouth. “We don’t know that.” Her gaze swiveled around the room as she looked for who else might have overheard Gio’s outburst. “Really. We don’t. Most nights are a complete blur. Ask anyone.”

It was clear that the girls were spooked and weren’t going to tell me anything more, but they’d given me an idea as to who to talk to next. I left the bar and took a turn down Memory Lane. I’d get to the bottom of this story.

It’s my job.

I’m a writer.


Those who are interested in seeing more of this story (or future short stories) are welcome to join my mailing list here and selecting short stories under interests.

Over There – An American’s experience at the London Blogger’s Bash

OVER THERE - An American's experience at the #BloggersBash - www.alliepottswrites.com

Earlier this year, my hubby surprised me with tickets to attend the Annual Bloggers Bash in London. For those of you not familiar with the event, it’s an international get together and conference for writers of all interests, sizes, and platforms wishing to network as well as learn about how to take their writing and/or blogging to the next level. I’d seen the videos from prior events. I’d read the testimonials about connections made and the impact the event had made on others’ lives. I couldn’t believe I was lucky enough to get to go. I felt like Cinderella finding out she would be able to attend the ball. I was so excited – nervous about traveling to another country all on my own – but excited all the same.

Then . . .

Well, then there was an event in Westminster and the news broke with stories about women and children exiting a pop concert being targeted in Manchester followed by others about shoppers and pub-goers on London Bridge, and my nervousness took on a slightly different flavor. I wasn’t the only one to wonder what might happen next. I saw a message from another attendee suggesting the event might not still go on in light of recent events.

The response from one of the event’s organizers was simple – as long as London is open, the Bash will go on. I should have expected nothing less from the land of “Keep Calm and Carry On”. And so, on I would go as well, coincidentally packing my bag while a bit celebrating the 100th anniversary of the song, ‘Over There’  played on the radio. Yes, I thought as the music played, the Yanks were coming. I would show my grit, do my bit – over there.

I might say a prayer, but I was prepared for over there. While the idea of traveling solo still made me nervous, it wasn’t my first visit to the British Isles. I’d taken a bus tour with my husband a few years before. It was a trip that started in London, took us up through Scotland, across to Northern Ireland, down to Dublin, and across the water once again to Wales, where we visited Cardiff Castle.

WWII poster in Cardiff

I found this cautionary sign rather amusing at the time. Where’s the trust?

Tunnels beneath the castle grounds had been converted into a museum dedicated to the Welsh soldier and featured exhibits from over three hundred years of conflicts. As we walked into an area detailing World War II, speakers hidden in the walls played radio broadcasts of the times broken up with the sounds of air sirens and bombs falling. As I looked at posters and read placards I could only imagine what it must have been like to live through times like those while being told to keep calm and carry on while chaos and fear played so loudly in the background.

And yet carry on they did, with a stiff upper lip, going on to produce many of the smiling faces and open arms which eventually greeted this relative stranger from across the ocean without fear or hesitation. As I was welcomed out to meals and into homes as if we’d known each other for years, I reflected on just how appropriate the conference’s theme word of the year – connection – really was. I might have met them first as allies, as it were, in the field of writing, but we departed as friends. (You can ‘meet’ many of them or learn more about the event itself here courtesy of Hugh’s Views and News.)

While we got to better know each other over books, blogs, cocktails and chocolate cake, I found it interesting to hear the most recent attacks referred by the locals as “that business on the bridge,” when our American headlines read terrifying things like ‘Britons Reeling’ and ‘London on Lockdown.’ Neither US headline was true as evidenced by the thousands of people who filled the London streets as I walked around town or by the banners proclaiming “London is Open” as part of a campaign following the EU referendum (also known as the Brexit vote). This is not to say the people I met weren’t concerned about safety nor viewed the loss of life as any less tragic, they just weren’t beaten by the news or willing to hide away in their homes.

The contrast in our headlines was also a reminder about the power our words can bestow or take away from events as well as people. Which is why it is all the more important we use our words wisely and never, never give in to fear.

While I may not be able to attend the Bash every year, I hope my reasons in the future will be limited to economic or scheduling ones rather than the alternative. We live in a world made smaller thanks to constant connection which is good and bad. It may at times feel less safe, but that is because news travels faster now. The fact of the matter is there have always been those who wish to strike fear into the hearts of others, which is all the more reason to go out there – explore, connect, to expand your worldview and find strength in numbers. To keep calm and carry on. For while it may be difficult to overcome fear, it is harder still to live a lifetime of regret.


While I loved meeting so many, I’d like to extend my thanks to Sacha, Geoff, Ali, and Hugh in particular for their incredible generosity as well as their hospitality. Truly, while I may have suggested in this post that it was my duty to attend the Bash, know it was my pleasure and privilege to do so as well.

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Let’s go to the place where the sidewalk ends

The place where the sidewalk ends - www.alliepottswrites.com A story about a boy and a waterfall and the small differences we make which can add up to a big change.

LT sat on the tire swing in our backyard, alone. His brother had gone to play with a friend leaving LT to amuse himself while his father and I completed our chores. His legs were curled up as they wouldn’t touch the ground even if extended. As a result, the swing was nearly motionless except for a gentle sway with the breeze. I watched as his mouth move and wondered what the conversation he was having with himself might be about. He looked content, but it was a lonely image.

The last of my cleaning could wait. “Do you want to go to the park?” I called out, thinking there might be other kids he could play with. LT beamed, eagerly accepting my offer and soon we were walking down the street to our local playground. LT chattered about things like clouds, giants and other friendly monsters, smiling at everybody we passed along the way. Never once did I have to tell him to hurry up, or stay with me, or explain why he shouldn’t be carried. Who was this child?

a day at the park - www.alliepottswrites.At the park, the sun shone down with only a few clouds breaking up the brilliant expanse of the otherwise blue sky. I settled onto a bench inside the playground as LT climbed up on the play set designed for the bigger kids. “Look at me,” he shouted as he crawled through the plastic tunnel connecting a pair of slides.

I wondered why on earth we were the only ones at the park on such a lovely day. LT went down the larger of the slides. “It’s too hot mommy,” he advised as he reached the bottom. I realized the kid wasn’t exaggerating as I touched the plastic. The equipment might serve as a skillet if it was much hotter. I now understood why the playground was empty.

LT’s brother wouldn’t return for another hour or so. “How about we go on a waterfall hunt,” I suggested. The greenway was not too far away. We just had to go to the end of the sidewalk. LT beat me to the gate.

Raleigh greenway - www.alliepottswrites.comThe temperature dropped a good five to ten degrees (F) as we made our way down the gravel path connecting the trail with the outside world. As always, I felt as if we’d been teleported to some distant place as the canopy of trees stretched out above us. “This way,” LT requested, pointing in the direction of one of his favorite places along the path – a small bridge arching over an even smaller stream.

Leaving the trail, we descended down to the stream below. Large rocks enabled LT to step halfway across where he dipped his fingers into the water at the top of the small falls. “Can a waterfall move?” he asked.

“I suppose it can,” I answered, “but it takes some time to move on its own.”

We ventured further along the stream bed to where the bank was broken up by a myriad of smaller rocks and pebbles. LT reached down and grabbed a handful of dirt. Throwing it into the water, we watched as it dispersed into a ribbon-like cloud as the current took it downstream. LT grabbed a larger rock and this one too went into the water with a plunk, but unlike the dirt, the rock remained in place. You could almost see the gears turning in his head.

“Can you make a waterfall?” he asked.

Raleigh hidden gem - www.alliepottswrites.comOnce again I nodded and soon he was grabbing rocks, twigs, and bits of dirt. The water bulged where LT had added his obstacles, rising over the additional rocks as it rejoined the existing flow. It was hardly Niagara Falls, but it was enough of a difference in height for LT to declare success.

I knew by this time his brother was likely home and would be looking to share his own adventures with us. “Are you ready to go home and tell Daddy all about your waterfall?” I asked.

“But it’s not my waterfall, mommy,” he answered with a smile. “It’s ours.”

“All I did was stand here,” I countered as my heart did a little flip-flop as it tried not to melt.

“But you were here with me,” he replied.

It was a comment that probably kept him from getting grounded for life when he decided to lock himself in his room later that night in protest rather than get ready for bed. Ah, kids. And like that he was once again the child I recognized.

I’ve thought about the stream and our waterfall. He only moved a few rocks, true, but even so, the stream will never be exactly the same. The newly formed eddy, as small as it is, will cut into the stream bed creating new paths for the current to flow. These underwater paths, these series of small adjustments, might go for years unseen but will continue to trigger more changes. Another rock might shift. Another eddy form. Until one day, years from now, someone might dip his or her finger into the top of a waterfall where one did not previously exist – all thanks to LT and the difference he made at the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow, and we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go, for the children, they mark, and the children, they know the place where the sidewalk ends.” – Shel Silverstein

And it will be our waterfall because you were here with me. We’re never as alone as it seems. I know we can move waterfalls. All it takes is to first be willing to make a small change.

How to close a killer deal – how I got tricked by a 5-year-old

How to close a potentially killer deal - www.alliepottswrites.com #salestips“If you lost all your skin …, would you die?”

Up until that moment, I’d been enjoying a few minutes of downtime with some light reading after a long work day. LT’s latest five-year-old pondering caught me off guard. He had to be asking someone else.

Putting down my magazine, I looked around the room, attempting to locate any other member of my family LT could be addressing. Of course, neither my husband nor my eldest son made eye contact. It would appear I was on my own. “Er … um … as in, if I lost all of it? All at once?”

He nodded.

“Then, yes,” I answered with caution, somewhat worried about what must be going through LT’s head to prompt such a random question.

“Why?” LT asked, elongating the word as only kids can as he took a step closer, eliminating any chance for my escape.

Once again I looked around the room for anything at all I might use as a diversion. “Because without my skin my insides wouldn’t stay inside.” We’re a very technical household.

I could see LT chewing over my answer in his mind as I braced myself for another round of questioning. Instead, he only smiled. “I am going to give you more skin so you won’t die.” He hugged my leg, satisfied with his solution.

Occasionally I wonder if my youngest may be a wee bit off unique.”Um … thanks …?” I replied as he wandered away, but all I could think about was the line by Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs – ‘It rubs the lotion on its skin.’

A day or so later, LT approached me with an orange. “Do you need me to help you with that?” I asked. Once again LT nodded. Within short order, I handed him the peeled results. “Here you go. Now throw the peel in the trash, please.”

“That’s for you, mommy. It’s skin,” he replied with a smile before shoving the fruit into his mouth and hopping away.

I looked at the peel in my hand and remembered our earlier conversation. It was skin. It hit me then – LT had indeed figured out a way to keep his promise (even better, no humans were harmed in the process). That’s a relief, I thought as I walked his ‘gift’ over to the trashcan.

kid's tea party

Good evening, Clarice

As I closed the lid on the trashcan, another thought occurred to me – not only had LT gotten me to throw his garbage away for him, he’d managed to do it in a way that made me grateful for the opportunity. It almost made me wonder if this was the end result he’d had in mind from the start. LT is no budding Buffalo Bill but he could yet be the next Hannibal Lecter (minus the serial killing and cannibalism).

Or he might just be a really good salesperson.

Why? Because at five, he already knows how to close a deal. Lucky kid. Here are just a few of the lessons I’ve learned from watching him (and this goes for selling goods such as books, services, or tricking your parents into doing chores for you) –

  1. Never open with the hard sell

Just like if someone walked into a room and announced without preamble, buy my stuff if LT had given me his orange peel and told me to throw it away for him, I would have said absolutely not. First, because that’s rude, and second, because I know he has two good feet. Instead, he managed to reframed the conversation by priming me to think that orange peel in my hand was a good thing.

But how?

2. Connect on an emotional level

Even those who consider themselves fact-based decision makers, make decisions based on the facts that make them feel like they made the smart and rational decision. The prospect needs to feel good about the decision – not obligated. If he’d dropped the peel at my feet and run away without first reframing the conversation, I probably would have thrown it away for him. Once. But rest assured my youngest would be regretting that poor choice in the not too distant future.

But how?

3. Highlight the potential benefits

Will the reader be entertained, learn something new, or think about life in a new way? Will the prospect save time or money? Will mommy live longer thanks to an extra layer of vitamin C goodness? Your book, service, or product should exist for a reason other than to only make you rich. Don’t be subtle about it. If you leave it up to a potential reader / client / customer to connect the dots, there is a chance they won’t.

But how?

4. Identify the pain

In other words, take the time to really get to know your audience. You know who they are and where to find them, but what is it they wish they had more of? Why don’t they? It is also just as important to find out why they’ve tolerated less up to this point so you can anticipate how to overcome obstacles and objections. Tailor your pitch accordingly. You don’t want to risk dying, mommy, do you?

But how?

5. Keep your promises and follow-up

LT’s seemingly random question may have been mostly forgotten after an amusing conversation shared between friends and family, and a statement on twitter, if it weren’t for his follow-up as well as how he kept his promise.

While he may not have successfully sold me on throwing his garbage away for the rest of time, by this simple act, he has ensured I’ll never look at his leftover orange peels in the same way ever again, and that’s no small deal.

For those who think I have it all together

Inspired by Judith Viorst’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.


Even grownups can have terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days.

My boss came into my office. “I am going to throw a curve ball at you,” he said, shutting the door.

Just like that, I could tell that it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

“Kay has turned in her notice.”

Kay is one of my peers. This announcement meant there was a better than average chance a portion of her work would find its way to me, at least temporarily, while the position was refilled. I looked at my mug. “I am going to have to start spiking my coffee,” I replied while I considered moving to Australia.

My boss laughed but didn’t disagree.

Yep, I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Five o’clock rolled around, ending an office day filled with sympathetic looks and panicked responses (many of which were mine). I raced out the door. My husband, Lamont, was out-of-town the rest of the week (a trip I hadn’t known about until the afternoon before), therefore it fell on me to pick up our children from their various locations. All I had to do was get there on time.

I hit traffic.

Much later than I’d planned, I waited for Kiddo to pull his shoes on and collect his book bag. He, however, was more interested in showing me bits of small paper. “I’ve made a card,” he advised. “For the Leprechaun. Do you think he will come tonight?”

I silenced my inner groan along with several other choice words I won’t print here. The next day was St. Patrick’s Day, and I had nothing prepared. No Leprechaun traps. No pots ready to be filled with gold. Nothing. When exactly had leprechauns coming to your house on St Patty’s Day become a thing anyway?

I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

When we got to the house, Kiddo made a bee-line to the television, ready to consume his daily allowance of cartoons. Her Royal Highness, our dog, made an equally determined path to the front door, ready to take care of her own daily requirements. I looked to Kiddo. I looked to Her Royal Highness. Taking her outside would give me an opportunity to send a message to my mom regarding a certain Leprechaun. “I’ll be right back,” I called. The cartoon’s theme song was already playing as I closed the door.

Mom replied back within short order, not for me to worry, however, Her Royal Highness had not yet done what we’d come out to let her do. Just then a cat appeared, and not just any cat – it was the cat. The cat that is either the bravest or stupidest animal I’ve ever seen. Whatever the reason, this cat not only is not afraid of dogs, it actively seeks them out. Spotting Her Royal Highness, it immediately crossed the road, causing a car to come full stop and angry looks shot my way.

Her Royal Highness passed her cat test before we brought her home, but still, I don’t like to tempt fate, nor do I wish to be responsible for an injury of someone else’s pet. Seeing no other choice, I led Her Royal Highness away. The cat followed. Only when we rounded a corner did the cat give up its pursuit. If I wasn’t an animal lover who doesn’t condone this line of thinking, I might hope you step on a tack, cat.

It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

That’s what it was because when we returned inside, the house was empty. Guess whose kid decided, in those short few minutes, that he missed me more than he wanted to watch his cartoons and had run off in the opposite direction with his brother while Her Royal Highness was being chased by a cat around the corner?

If what I’d felt during the work day was panic, the myriad of swirling emotions I experienced in that moment has yet to be named. I wondered if invisible fencing for children is allowed in Australia.

I am having a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, I texted my mom (or roughly something like that). I didn’t look at my phone to see if she answered.

While I was scolding/hugging my children for giving me a fright, Mom showed up on my front porch with a frozen mix of Korean noodles in hand. It was a wonderful gesture, but. . . they proved to be utterly inedible. Even Her Royal Highness turned it down.

Kiddo, wanting to show off for his Nana, took twice as long to do his homework than he usually does and LT, well LT was his normal self, but if I allowed LT access to the phone, he probably would have called Australia.

It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Lamont didn’t promptly return my texts, and I hate that.

Exhausted after the kids went to bed, I couldn’t motivate myself to work on my WIP and I hate a lost opportunity.

When I finally did hear from Lamont it was clear he’d been having fun while I was not. I still hadn’t figured out what to do about the Leprechaun outside of mom’s vague assurances that all would be well and calling into work sick the next day wasn’t an option.

It had been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

My mom says some days are like that, even for people who might seem to have it all together.

I guess it’s a good thing for me then, that my mom lives nearby and not in Australia.

Love you, Mom, and thanks.