Snapshots from Eldredge

The life and writings of TJ Alexian


Leave a comment

The dark at the bottom of the stairs

stairs 3

Last night at around three in the morning I woke up with a start.

The kitten wiggled a little next to my feet. Carefully, I lifted myself up out of the bed and headed for the bathroom. It sucks getting older. Then, once relieved of my burden, I headed to my study, which is located down the hall, right next to the stairway that leads to the dark spot.

I don’t know why I think of it that way. Corb once said that he was sitting in the living room one time with the lights off and he saw what looked like a dark cloud hanging around that area. It’s the one part of the house that neither one of us like lingering too long in.

Both the kitten and Oliver were standing outside of the den as I padded my way down the hall. Both were staring intently down the stairs, as if there was something fascinating that was absorbing their attention.

“What’s going on, guys?” I called out, probably too loudly, given the time of night. Trying to chase away the goblins, I guess. I moved to the edge of the stairs, looked down. Nothing to see. The room downstairs was dark, save for the night lamp that I neglected to turn off when we went to bed.

I turned around to sit down in the den. And as I turned my back, I distinctly heard the snapping of fingers on the floor below.

What the–?

I didn’t have the nerve to go downstairs to find out what was going on. Instead, I turned the lights off and headed back to bed.

Fast forward to this morning. Corb had already showered and left for work, and I was alone in the house. I woke up, fed the zoo, and put Kyra on her leash to do her morning constitutional. I brought her to the edge of the house, waited for her to go pee. Then I moved to the other side of the lawn and started walking her through the sweet clover that smells like blueberries (I have no idea what it really is).

Just as she was about to do her doody, she looked up. She barked, moved looking at the house.

“What’s up?” I asked. “Come on, let’s get this–”

But she was no longer interested in going to the bathroom. She strained at her leash, looking to move back to the house. She kept staring at the picture window that offered a view of the dark spot, barking away. I led her back into the house. She made her way directly to the dark spot, then stopped barking the minute she reached it.

No more barking. She stopped immediately, as if nothing had happened.

Conclusion: the dark spot doesn’t like us going to the bathroom.

I guess I should be freaked out by this, right? Not really, though. My house doesn’t really scare me at all. I’m still convinced there’s nothing evil or too scary about the place. But what is it about animals and their ability to see beyond the things that our eyes are blind to?

I’m kind of grateful I’m not a dog. But on the plus side, we are going to have one hell of a Halloween party here.

PS: My book, Pictures of You, is available as a free Kindle download today and tomorrow! Check it out if you haven’t already.


Leave a comment

Available free today (and for four days after that!)

CellarStairs_v4b

Just in time for the season, I wanted to let everyone know that my YA thriller, Pictures of You, is available as a free Kindle download for the next five days. Here’s what Star Book Reviews had to say about the novel a few days ago:

“Read the blurb and Pictures of You appears to be a typical supernatural young adult suspense, but you don’t have to dig for long to discover a real heart and soul that helps carry this work high above many of its contemporaries. This novel – presented in diary format – is written with a kind of brevity and care that you’ll go a long way to find again.

Despite its dark overtones – and at times I was genuinely surprised at the themes this book explored – every time I returned to reading, I felt as though I was receiving a nice warm hug, in spite of the wrath the story threw at me.

Author T.J. Alexian says that the novel is about learning to accept the ghosts of our past, and for Ashes, our 16-year-old main character, she’ll be forced to face an onslaught before this story is through. Her older brother Daniel passed away some years before this story begins, and both Ashes and her mother are going through the motions of life. How can you ever recover from the loss of a young life?

But her world is rocked when videos filmed on Daniel’s camcorder some years before suddenly begin surfacing on YouTube. The footage is filmed by her brother, but Ashes has never seen these videos before. As the videos increase in number, the mystery deepens. Who is behind this? And, more importantly, why?

In any suspense novel, there is that dreaded line between entertaining your reader, and allowing them room to uncover the mystery for themselves. Pictures of You perfectly balances supernatural and suspense elements, never letting the reader become too passive. While the well paced plot serves to bolster the mystery, the absence of any conceited romance story or typical teenage tropes linked to this genre, are a credit to the novel, providing room to further explore what should be paramount to Ashes: answers.”

For the rest of the review, go here. Or, just download it yourself and fine out what it’s all about!


Leave a comment

Enter…Ping the Merciless

Ping

This was not my idea, I swear.

I blame Corb’s mom. She was at home one day and saw a man sneaking behind her house. When she went to see what he was up to, she discovered a two-week old kitten underneath a bush. She immediately thought of us.

Corb immediately named her Ping.

My brother Tommy added “The Merciless.” And that kind of is what she is like. She is a terror! Part of that is because Corb’s mom had her for a few weeks before we picked her up (had to make sure she weighed enough and didn't have feline AIDS) and her live-in significant other liked to “roughhouse” with the kitten. “Maybe I played with her a little rough,” the old coot chuckled as dropped her off. “I had to start wearing gloves!” Gee, thanks for that.

Now the entire zoo is scared of her. Our dog Kyra has a nasty scratch on her snout from Ping. Hayley is constantly being tormented by her. I think Ping thinks of Hayley as a mother figure. Only, a mother whose tail you like to pounce upon and bite. That’s real love, there.

And as for the humans? Well, Theo loves her, although even he can find her a little distracting when he is trying to play video games. And as for me and Corb? Last night I was in bed trying to map out the rehearsal schedule for Superstar. Do you think I was able to get even a line written down on paper? Nope! Every time I tried she would jump onto the bed and wrap her mouth around my fingers. Start nibbling, ferociously. Then she’d get more aggressive. Corb was trying to sleep during this and she scampered across his face at least three times.

She just entered my study. After using my chair as a scratching post, she climbed up the side of it and is sitting her, perched like a buzzard, waiting to pounce. Hope she doesn't claw at my jugular or something.

She is awfully cute, though. I like her perpetually outraged look and her tuxedo bib. Hmm, let me just hold up from the typing a little bit to give her a little pat. Here you, go, Ping. Yes, that’s a good girl…wait…no, stop clawing…NO, NOT THE NECK! NOT THE JUGULAR! SHI–

(End transmission.)


2 Comments

From Drab to Fab: Partners complete

   Partners 1Partners 2

After four months, the partner’s desk project is finally complete. Corb’s weekend in his pseudo-meth lab really paid off.

The first photo shows what the desk looked like when we initially purchased it. We found the desk in the basement of an antique shop, gathering dust and unassembled. It’s circa 1890 (although I am singularly unreliable when it comes to dates, and I am certain that Corb will correct me on that when he reads this) and came from the Point Judith Inn, located in Narragansett, Rhode Island. According to the grizzled owner of the thrift shop, he was friends/neighbors with the then-owner, whose husband was battling cancer, forcing her to sell the place. That’s how the desk came into his possession, and how it sat in his basement for about a year.

I don’t know what we saw in it, frankly. In looking at the photo now, it looks awfully scuffed up. Corb was the one who saw some potential first, of course. For me, it was the back story that interested me. I’m a sucker for back stories. I mean, who knows if it’s even true? It doesn’t really matter, it just gives me something to talk about, you know?

But the point is, he saw potential. And for the first few months, it just sat in our kitchen as is, while the wheels in Corb’s fertile little mind starting spinning. Then he started making some calls, to see what some local carpenters would charge to fix it up. Then he didn’t like the quotes that he received. Then he decided he could do the job himself. Then he freaked out, wondering whether he actually had the vision and skills to get the job done. And in the past month, he finally realized that he did–and he could.

To make it a proper kitchen island, he built two small platforms on the bottom, to raise each desk up a few inches. Next, he sanded and stained the tabletop, which is truly my favorite part of the project. After that, we took one of the paint buckets that the previous owners had thoughtfully left us in the basement, to match the color of the desk to the cabinets in the kitchen. Then came the hard part: sanding and painting the desk itself. Would it look okay? A few people were kind of shocked that he was painting over the wood. But after even just the first coat of primer, both of us knew it was going to look terrific.

And there you have it! This month’s episode of “From Drab to Fab” (a title Corb HATES, by the way. He much prefers, “From Old to Bold.” He thinks the former title sounds a little gay.)

Note: I have forbidden Corb from embarking upon any more home improvement projects for at least one whole week. Next Saturday, we are all gathering for my parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary, which will begin with a small reception at the house. And if you don’t think that’s causing us stress… 


Leave a comment

From Drab to Fab: Progress with the Partners

meth lab

Don’t you just love this photo? Corb took it this morning.

Corb is on the final stages of finishing off the partners desk project. He’s sanded and primed the desks and drawers, and now he’s in the process of putting the final coats of paint on everything, which is why he’s sealed off our porch, so that the paint doesn’t fly everywhere (and stain the porch, which…well..the first coats of paint may have done..)

Theo says it looks like we have a meth lab in our house. He’s been watching too much Breaking Bad.


Leave a comment

Mean?

kyra2

“Is that a mean dog? That look likes a mean dog.”

Um. Say what?

Okay, I grant you, the lady at the cash register in the drive-through I was at appeared to be a nervous sort. She looked like somebody’s spinster aunt from an old black and white movie; kind of tentative, with large animated hands she was constantly clasping, and an awkward smile that suggested she didn’t get out much. Maybe she had been bitten by a dog at one point.

Even so. My Kyra, looking like a mean dog?

I honestly had not heard that before! And my habit has been to take Kyra with me wherever I go. Usually, people love Kyra, and go on and on about how pretty she is, want to pet her, want to offer her treats (P.S.: she’s a dog, she loves treats).

“Mean? No, not really.”

It must have been clear from my tone I was displeased with the question. Look, I don’t hide my feelings well. I never have been able to. The awkward lady must have sensed that, because as she handed me back my credit card she said, “Oh, look! She’s wagging her tail. She’s not a mean dog at all.”

“No. No, she’s not a mean dog.” With icicles in my voice, I moved drove away.

So we’ve had Kyra for about four months now, and I have to say, I think she’s wonderful. No, really. I am just crazy about this dog. I love her brown eyes and her floppy cock-eyed ears. She’s the most patient, loving pup there is. Never pees or poos in the house. Goes into her crate at around nine, practically without being asked. Follows me around everywhere. And at around six, as we start eating, she is right there on the couch in her special place, ready to watch TV with us and keep us company.

She’s also pretty damn smart, too. She’s learned to sit and stay and fetch, already, and the only one she’s having trouble with is giving us her paw. She’s great off her leash, too, and hasn’t once tried to run away from us. She simply sniffs around and wanders nearby, and when we call her, comes running back.

The only thing I’ve noticed is a bit of timidity around certain strangers, mostly teenage boys. I think that’s understandable, though, given her circumstances. She is a rescue dog, after all, and did see her brothers and sisters get killed by a group of teenage boys in Memphis who thought it would be fun to jump on top of a bunch of puppies and squish the life out of them. I think given that, I’d be a little nervous around boys, too.

Plus, she’s an awfully good snuggler. She just looks up at you with those brown eyes of hers and licks you like crazy.

I guess there dog people and cat people and when you get right down to it, I’m a dog person. Corb says I don’t have as deep a connection to our cats, and maybe he’s right. I mean, I like them a lot, but there’s just something about a dog. Loyalty. Unconditional love. If only she could clean her room, I might even consider replacing her for my kids.

So, mean dog? Not on your life, lady. There aint no mean dog here. Nothing but love!


Leave a comment

Valley of the Dolls

creepy doll

I was held captive last week by the story of the story of “the gated California community, where porcelain dolls were being left on the doorsteps of girls they hold an eerie resemblance to.” (Source: ABC News, including the alleged grammatical faux pas of ending in a preposition. Personally, I’m not a big stickler about that, although I probably would have reworked this sentence to read “to whom they bear an eerie resemblance.” But that’s just me.)

It has the makings of a great suspense novel, doesn’t it? Something out of “Where are the Children?” Rich people in a gated community, good clean decent people living the American dream. Loveable little ten year old moppets. An evil psychopath, watching, scheming. One by one, leaving creepy porcelain dolls on the front doorstep of his potential victims. The terror mounts. What do they mean? What will happen next?

I’m almost betting someone is writing the story right now.

Turns out the truth is a bit less sinister. The culprit? Not a sinister child abductor, but a little old lady with a huge porcelain doll collection, approaching the twilight of her life and looking to find a nice place for the babies she loves. I think it’s kind of sweet, and also sad that we immediately thought the worst of the situation.

I blame Stephen King, personally.

Of course, perhaps it would have been wise to leave a note or at least talk to the parents, first. But then of course, that’s forgetting the fact that we are talking about a LITLE OLD LADY. In her mind, the anonymity, being a mysterious kindly benefactor, is probably part of the fun.

Oh, and by the way: I do find porcelain dolls creepy. Josie has one in a stroller at her house, an antique that was a gift from her mother. It’s terrifying. I don’t think I could sleep in that place any more, knowing it’s there and has the potential to terrorize me.

But aside from that, what kind of world do we live in where we automatically go to the sinister? That the media is right away contacted, that they of course see the news potential in the story, that they make a big deal out of it and fearmonger about it and it becomes national news? Think about it: this is mundane stuff. This should not be national news. This should be the stuff that small towns are made of. But we are so accustomed to the sinister potential in a plotline like that that we fail to look at the reality, focus only on the fiction. This is truly a “Culture of Fear” kind of situation. Our precious babies, terrorized by porcelain babies! Won’t somebody think of the children?

I mentioned to Corb that it would make for a great story, and of course, he did me one better, genius that he is. “You should flip it around,” he said. “Make it so that someone is dropping off ten year old little girls at the doorstep of doll collectors that look just like their dolls. Hello, here’s a little girl! See how they deal with that.”

I tell you, that guy should a writer. That idea is almost as good as our idea for a remake of Little Women, only featuring a cast consisting entirely of tiny female midgits. Can’t you just see it?

Oh, I just read that the little old lady has been identified and she says she is “embarrassed” by the whole incident. What is there to be embarrassed about? She was trying to do a nice thing! And even though it’s been proven to be completely innocent, the story is still told in as “creepy” a way as possible, to set the fear factor on eleven. I tell you, we live in a sad, sad society. Enjoy your twilight years, lady…and keep your creepy Chucky dolls to yourself!


Leave a comment

From Drab to Fab: Progress with the Partners

partners

Back in April, Corb and I purchased a 1800s-era partners desk from an old inn for our kitchen. The idea was that we (and by that I mean mostly: Corb) would refurbish it and make it into a kitchen island. It was a brilliant idea, and I can honestly take very little of the credit (although I did push Corb to act on his idea and fund it!)

Since then, it’s been at our house, but hasn’t been much of an island. In fact, for about a month, it has been sitting on our front porch, disassembled, which Corb decided what he wanted to do.

I’m not complaining, especially because I know what he was going through. After buying it, he suffered a crisis of “how am I going to get this done?” In fact, he actually gave up on building the platforms necessary to raise it up and started calling around to see if he could find a carpenter to get the job done.

One guy was all enthusiastic about the project, saying it was just the kind of thing that he wanted to do, that he was new to the area and wanted to establish himself, that he just liked the piece and its history and would only charge a small fee, yada yada yada. He took about a week to get back to us after the initial enthusiastic call and even then, had his assistant call back with the quote: $500 for labor at least plus materials. That’s not huge, but hardly a small fee.

The other guy in the area we went to only wanted to charge $250, but he’s been completely half-ass about the whole thing. It took Corb forever to get that quote. He had to keep calling and nagging. And then, when he finally got it, the guy promised him he would be able to do it right away because he had cleared off all his other jobs and arranged to pick it up at the house. I agreed to work out of the home that day so he could pick it up. End result: he never showed and never called back. We decided not to chase him.

Finally, this past week-end, Corb decided to bite the bullet and do it himself. He was extremely worried it was going to turn out looking amateurish. So, he took Friday off from work, did a ton of research, and devoted the next three days to the project. The result: it still needs sanding and painting and trimming, but I think he did a great job and the base is built! And that was the hardest part.

I am loving these improvement projects, I must be honest. It will be great to have this one done: my parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary is coming up and they’ve asked us to hold a small reception at the house before we go out for dinner. Of course, the thought is giving Corb no end of grief, but I think we will be just fine!


Leave a comment

Diary of a Rogue Wasp Warrior

wasp

You can’t really see it, but it’s there. Second window to the right, in the upper left hand corner.

We noticed it about a week ago. It was about the size of a baby’s fist at the time. A wasp’s nest, attached to the outside of one of our front windows. Since then, it’s grown. Now it’s about the size of a baseball.

Shudder. Wasps. How I hate them! But then, I hate anything with a stinger (unless it has vodka in it. God bless you, Elaine Stritch). And Corb, he not only hates them, but he’s deathly allergic to them. Turns out he stepped on a bee’s nest not once but twice when he was a kid and his doctor has repeatedly warned him that if he gets stung again, he could go into anaphylactic shock. Or at least, that’s what I’ve been told.

That meant dealing with the wasp’s nest was up to me.

Not that Corb hasn’t given me helpful suggestions. Case in point: he wants me to dress up in a giant bee costume. “Then go over to the hive and pretend to be a friend. Tell them they have to see the really cool beehive in the backyard. Then when they are out, whack the hive down with a baseball bat! They won’t know what to do.”

Thanks, Corb. wasp 2

Surprisingly, it actually wasn’t the worst piece of advice we received. It’s kind of like the deer infestation thing, where people told us to sprinkle all sorts of crazy stuff around the plants, like human hair and dead deer blood, to keep Bambi away.

Jim, who is the boyfriend of Corb’s mom, was the worst. I was surprised, because he is a bit of an expert on everything. He’s about ninety years old, loves to travel. Will eat just about anything. I honestly thought he’d be able to help with this. But, no. His “guidance”: “Take a putty knife, see, and scrape the nest off quickly. Then make sure you have a big paper bag that it can fall into. Close the bag once the nest is in, really quickly. And then, you have to get rid of the bag, so either throw it in the woods or set it on fire.”

That’s the last time I listen to a world traveler who will eat just about anything. Let’s go over things I will absolutely never be doing with a live wasp nest, shall we?

  • First, moving close to it armed only with a putty knife.
  • Then, pissing off a bunch of wasps by detaching their home.
  • Next, dumping said home into a paper bag and trying to close it as they rise up, more than a little angry at me. Can you imagine me trying to crinkle that damn thing shut?
  • Then, sprinting into the woods to set the bag on fire. Screaming all the way.

I swear I’d burn the fucking forest down. And, I’m too much of a wimp. I cringe when my avatar gets stung by a bee in Animal Crossing. Bottom line: I’m not sure what Bizzarro universe this plan of attack is ever going to happen in.

“Just get an exterminator,” was Corb’s other suggestion. But no, I don’t see the need for that. This is something we should be able to handle on our own. We are big boys, now. We don’t need to throw money at everything.

So, it’s up to me. Sigh. I spent the whole day thinking about how to kill the bastards. What I needed to do. I carefully considered all the possible pitfalls. Ted against the wasps. Major stingage. Hundreds of insane insects converging down upon me, or finding a way into the kitchen, where they would pull an occupy Wall Street. Missing limbs. Carnage.

In the middle of a movie last night, I made a sudden whimpering noise.

“Are you scared?” Theo asked.

“No,” I replied. “Just thinking about the wasps.” He looked away.

And then, at ten at night, under cover of darkness, when all the wasps were sound asleep and dreaming of world domination. I sprang into action. I had Corb stand in the kitchen with a lantern, placed right near the wasp nest. Then I ran outside with Theo. Moved a few dozen feet away from the nest, can of wasp poison in hand. Then, I sprayed like crazy. Emptied out the whole bottle. And then, I ran like hell.

End result: the wasp nest is quiet today. I spy a few dead wasps on the bottom of the window sill. Mission accomplished?

Only time will tell.