Why I Moved To Florida


Bobby and I went to North Beach this morning, a beautiful, sunny, 80º F. We practiced sighting and stalking, and, feeling ambitious,  Bobby climbed up a tree after a squirrel.
This dog is amazeballs.

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Bill The Self-Publishing, Self-Congratulating Non Dom

He approached me, draped in black leather duster, black button-down top, black slacks, reeking of false confidence. His eyes, attempting to look seductive, could not hide the cloud of despair swirling inside his pupils. My host intercepted him, and asked who he was. The man introduced himself as Bill. Bill’s from Baltimore, Bill found out about the event on the community’s boards. Bill wants to watch the scene.

My guy gave me a look, and I responded with a ‘no worries’ look back. Bill’s weird vibrations penetrated me, annoying me, and if I’m annoyed then he’s causing discomfort to the others in my group. I volunteered to get him away from them, so I invited him to walk with me to the bar. My guy pulled me aside and expressed his concern. I thanked him, and reminded him I have my knife.

Bill leads the way, and I immediately break him down. Left knee incapacitated, permanent limp. Shoulders lack motion, so upper spine or major shoulder injury. He puffed out his chest after removing his duster and tossing it over his left arm. Right handed.

He offers to buy my drink. Sure. I tell the bartender, “I’ll have a Jack and Coke.”

“How much is a Jack and Coke?” He called out to her. She started to make the drink. “How much is a Jack and Coke??”

Along with being a creeper and cliche dresser, he’s a cheapskate. She says $6.00, I hand him $3. Don’t want him to have to bust open his piggy bank.

My goal at this point is to let my friends comfortably hang out during the next scene and keep Bill and his bullshit away. So we sit, sip, and I, always one to field open-ended questions, started with, “Tell me your life story in 29 seconds.”

A pink-and-black corseted pixie passes by, intending to chat him up, and overheard my question. “Yes! Your life story in 29 seconds.”

He gives me a face conveying inconvenience, but I hold my interest, and he finally volunteers, “Soldier. Writer. Relocated here for work. Dom.”

Dom? As in Dominant? As in, a dominator? No, son. No, you’re not. I do my best to freeze my facial expression to placid.

My 29 second story went like this: Wasn’t born here, wasn’t raised here, finished high school here, went to college, worked in military, state, local, and federal positions, retired two years ago, writing full time, publishing my first fiction novel in February, love living in Florida.

“And what do you identify as here?” He asks, as if he can’t figure it out.

The choices are simple. Either you’re a submissive or you’re a dominant. “I’m a dominant. But tonight I’m here with my friends. Getting back into the fold after many years.”

“It’s because you were married.”


“You were married.”

“Years ago.”

“Lots of people get out because they get married.”

Well, now we know why you’re here. I see one of the girls searching the room outside where we are. Yes, it’s been quite some time away from them. She gives a look of relief as she approaches me. I already sense he sent her for me, to check on me. Love that man. She sweetly pats my shoulder like a concerned parent. “He just wanted me to check on you, make sure you’re okay.”

I glance across the table at shifty-eyed Bill. He doesn’t like that my guy has eyes on him. Really Bill? You really think I was gonna glom onto you because of your awesome ability to not intimidate me? Your natural ability to exude complete wussiness? Boy I’ll have you bent over this table under a flogger in 2.3 seconds! I pat the girl’s worried hand to convey confidence. “Don’t worry, darling. I’m fine. Tell him I’ll be right there.”

Bill is sipping his Coke in quick bursts. “So, what genre do you write in?” I don’t care, but he did throw out ‘writer’ in his 7 second life story. Asking out of sheer curiosity, but I can already predict his answer.

“Science fiction, creative non-fiction. I’m a self-publisher.”

“Great. Your books are on Amazon?”

“You’re publishing your own work?”

“I’m going through an independent publisher. Local.”

He actually rolls his eyes. Bill smugly offers, “I do it all. I self-publish. I’m an editor. Everything I publish is pristine work.”


“I believe in an extra set of eyes to ensure a marketable piece of work.”

“I can do that for you. It’s my specialty. I can do it all. I’m a one man house. I already have clients.”

This is sounding way too familiar, so I cut him off with, “I’m my own marketer. If I have a successful campaign, then I’ll be taking on clients.”

The point being, so what if your book’s on Amazon? If no one’s buying it, it’s not a marketable work. It’s just a work. I don’t want to get into it, after all, I have a $3.00 pint of Jack and Coke and my friends who want me at their scene. Bill the self-congratulating non-dom can go distract himself elsewhere.

I get up, walk over to the special room, assist where needed, then fall in on the display. My successful conveyance of lack of impression keeps Bill away from us. I did a good job, then.

Not until way afterwards, did he come up to shake my hand, and asked how to contact me. I pointed at my guy. “Through him.” Bill looked at him, back at me, and limped off.

Permed, Pulled, Puffy: A History of Von’s Hair

It was either the car gets washed, or I get a haircut. Not both. The weather forecast called for rain, so haircut it was.

I like going to hair academies, because I make for an interesting test bunny. I have three different textures on my head: bone-straight indigenous thanks to Mom, tight kinky curl thanks to Dad, and a mutation based on recessive genes merging and deciding, eff it, let’s invent a straight-curl-wave-frizz! She’ll love that.

A weird thing happened though, when I moved to Florida. My curls didn’t curl anymore. I’d wash my hair, and it’d stay loose and straight. Something in the water, maybe? I even did the Caribbean dip, letting my head soak in the salt water of the Gulf so it’ll remember to curl. Nothing. The stylist I had for all of 2012 wondered if I was heat styling or relaxing my hair chemically. No and no. Florida, the beach, the subtropics, changed my hair. It left me slightly despondent, I have fun with curls and people can’t stop with the compliments. I took it as a sign from the Universe emphasizing, ‘Less time on the facade, more time on the infrastructure.’ And so we did. Rocked out creatively, mentally, spiritually, and paid little mind to the direction my hair went.

The epitome of egoism, hair styles. Looking back at these photos, I could see the levels of escalation and descension my sense of self took. Let’s step through some of these in detail, shall we?


Mushroom hairstyle, color block silk top, neon background. Yes, indeed it's 1992!
Mushroom hairstyle, color block silk top, neon background. Yes, indeed it’s 1992!

I *owned* the 90’s hairstyle. Stacked mushroom? Flip outs? Pin back high ponytail? All me. My hair was going through the ordeal of being styled and treated by a woman who had no earthly idea how to style Black hair other than put it in rollers. So at about 14, I took over my hair responsibilities. I spent countless hours at my friends’ homes doing hair in order to learn how to correctly style my own. Slumber parties, I’d learn how to braid while the White girls learned to use a hot iron at the right temperature for my texture. And of course, a few of my Black friends introduced me to the terror that is The Hot Comb. But, gotta say, my shit was fresh.

poetic-justice-movie-poster-1993-1020204623Janet Jackson in Poetic Justice did it for me. I needed to rock braids. I already have too much hair to begin with, but I was insistent to get full locks done. My mother’s co-worker did hair at her house, and I spent morning to evening getting waist length hair put in. This is probably why I have a strong neck today; all that Yaki added to my shoulder length hair weighed 200 pounds, easy. Did it stop me from whipping it around like it wasn’t a problem? Not at all. Did it again, but shorter, with flips to the end. A different woman did them, and I remember opening and closing her shop, first and last customer. And I didn’t keep them in more than two weeks. That’s when I started actualizing my commitment issues.


I was the epitome of self-absorbed, as this multicolored Beyonce fail of a 'do suggests.
I was the epitome of self-absorbed, as this multicolored Beyonce fail of a ‘do suggests.

Oh, I was feeling way too good about myself, and my hair had to show it. Decent paying job, lovely condominium, my Honda *and* my Suzuki sitting in the parking lot. And the prettiest boy magnet as a pet, my curly-haired Black cocker spaniel, Bear. They say your daemon reflects your demeanor. Bear was pretty, snobbish, spoiled, and an attention-whore. His mama, no different. That’s when I started hitting the white crack on some overtime, plus bleaching, plus multicolors, plus spending $100s of dollars on high-end products and master designers. I’ll have to reflect further to decide if I achieved a positive return-on-investment from that era, but my immediate sense is, NO.


Ya know, the more I write about it, the more Penn State was a turning point. I turned 30 during graduate school, and the gift I bestowed to myself was getting off the dependence on chemical hair treatments. I went to the shop, and told my Philly-bred stylist to cut it all off. Everyone gasped. She did ask, “Are you having a Waiting To Exhale moment?” I responded with something to the effect of, “This isn’t about a man. This is about me.” What grew from that was thick, kinky, beautiful curls. They were fun, easy to manage, and wow, what a relief to my meager pocket book on a student’s salary. The highlight was showing up at the Euroclub’s 70s themed party and everyone complimenting my Afro wig. Wig? This is MY HAIR. I won the costume contest, just by showing up.

Thanks to Shanyce, we're back to normal!
Thanks to Shanyce, we’re back to normal!

Friday afternoon, Miss Shanyce cleaned up my shaggy straight hair, complimenting the entire time, “You have such pretty hair.” I take good care of it, but it spends more time in wraps and clips than styled out. My operating rule is, if I can pull it all back in a ponytail holder, it’s too long. So when Shanyce cleaned it back up to the chin, I said, “Let’s wash it and see how tight the curls get.” “What curls?” “You’ll see.” Two of the instructors noted how lovely the curls looked in the back, like Shanyce had done a permanent. I just smile and said, “That’s my hair.” They were nice enough to capture pics, and I sent them to Shanyce so she can add to her portfolio. When I can afford a personal stylist, I’m looking for you, sweetie!


WE BE ARTY! (WARNING: Gratuitous Shower Scene)

dia de los muetros 012
Von. Artist. Swigger of Wine.

Hello, I am an artist. No, wait! Stay! Seriously, I’m cool. I’m an artist, and my arty name is Von Simeon. Because that’s what artists do; they give their creative persona a catchy name. Besides the naming convention, I also have arty tendencies to do arty things with other artfolk. We cruise events like we can afford the 26,000$ price tags, we sip pinot grigio by the gallon, and we try to outdo each other in explaining the slashes in our titles. We become fascinated by the works we behold, then turn grey with self-doubt. And we drink some more. Then someone pulls out the weed. And that’s pretty much a night out with the arties.

And so we did, we artists, we slash bearing title holders, we ventured over to Duncan McClellan Glass to enjoy a glassblowing demonstration by Rob Stern, and to marvel at the gallery’s other fine pieces by talented people. I gotta admit, I walked in there having no real knowledge of the art form, but ignorance be damned, I made sure to enjoy myself. And if I didn’t, well, I was surrounded by the coolest arties this side of the Mississippi (not validated, but I just like typing the word Mississippi. Try it. Yeah! Amirite? Mississippi.)

Let’s break down the stars of the evening. Starting with the Man With The Plan, the one who invited us to this event, Stone Handy. Stone’s slashes are poet/spoken word artist/percussionist/potter/designer/writer and Stone knows Duncan from working with him years ago, before the gallery owner even owned a gallery. So for us to be roaming around his friend’s success, it made me think, damn, I’m glad Stone is my friend!

The man I sidled up to most the evening was Johnny Roth. His slashes are musician/guitarist/composer/recording artist and he’s the most laid back dude I’ve ever had the honor of knowing. Seriously. You stand in his wake and immediately, life is grand, and you have no earthly idea why.

Then there’s Ian Tracy. Slashes are videographer/editor/director/writer and pretty sure more, that’s just what I’ve experienced thus far. The best part about Ian is he’s WAY taller than me, and can capture better shots than my 62 inches of fury. No, that’s not the best part of him. The best part of Ian is he’s the only guy I’ve met in Florida who doesn’t flinch at my lewd language.

And finally, the sprite of my life, Marie Chapin. Her slashes are chef/children’s book author/writer/wardrobe designer/caterer/comic book artist/painter who also has the glory (misery?) of being my writing partner and recently commissioned cover art designer for I Blew Up Juarez.

And now to the glass…

Rob Stern and his artistic team invited us in the audience to draw something, and they’d in turn make it into glass. Marie and I chomped at the bit for our chance to bring a random vision to life. She held the drawing tablet close as she moved the orange crayon with soft, brisk strokes, creating with minimal effort a Tyrannosaurus Rex. ‘You’re pretty good at that,’ I complimented. ‘Shit, better be. I’m drawing with kids all day!’ Oh yeah, other part of the slashes: nanny. That’s an artform. She passed the tablet to me and I flipped to a fresh page, where I jammed the orange into the sheet and with heavy pressure, ground crayon into the shape of a very volumptous animal. Rubenesque, is how Marie described it, and when everyone remarked I drew a horse, I blew their minds by extending a horn from betwixt its ears. A unicorn, gawddammit! Yes! Rob, make me a glass unicorn. Ian delivered our art to the team, to discover they will likely not be successful in replicating our non-existent creatures. Fooey.

S. Powell, Insatiable Sassy Gasp
S. Powell, Insatiable Sassy Gasp

Onward and upward, we enter the main exhibition room of the gallery and find these amazing, HUGE pieces of art. I’m immediately antsy, worried I’m going to knock something over with either my purse or my ass. My anxiety softened at the sight of one particular piece, Insatiable Sassy Gasp, by Stephen Powell. The lighting behind it made the red and magenta and purple of the glass seem to swim, colorful oily bubbles in an organized flow. Each one working alongside the other to embrace the light, to demonstrate the proletarian forces of detail and color and texture unified to be admired. Stone caught me adrift in adoration, making the right comment, ‘It’s alive, isn’t it.’ Yes, yes it’s alive. I was humbled. Glass was taking me to a whole ‘nother place.

We entered a back room with an impressive frosted glass impression of a sun against one wall, and several large pieces leading towards an outdoor deck. As we mingled, Ian noted ‘This is his shower.’ Everyone else figured it to be an artpiece, the design of a shower with glass doors. ‘No. Look, there’s his shampoo. It’s his shower.’ We all looked in, and, yep, this was a fully functioning shower. Duncan McClellan lives in his gallery. Of course! Sign of a dedicated artist. But why not take advantage, right? Be part of his daily living? To which, Marie entered the shower, and gave us a right show:

What's this?
What’s this?
Oh yeah!
Oh yeah!
There it is.
There it is.

The arty crew moved outside to the deck, designed with way more phallic pieces than I think the gallery was not aware of. And out came a cat! Fuckers were everywhere. Calm down, I like cats. I just don’t like them all of a sudden being there, in the way only cats and, well I, have mastered. My eyes stopped on this particular piece, because of a very familiar symbol. You 90s kids should notice it immediately:

Artist Formerly Known As Prince
Artist Formerly Known As Prince

Stone drummed against a large metalwork as he freestyled words to the beat, until Marie noted there was a suspended round piece inside it on the verge of falling out. Maybe we should keep it moving.

The group splintered into two cells, those who wanted to keep looking and those who wanted to stop moving. My old lady self needed to rest my arthritis, so we chillaxed against turquoise cushions under a blue-black sky. We were lucky that Duncan McClellan walked past us, and Stone asked him about the piece with the symbols on the patio. Duncan explained they were 14th century symbols used in alchemy. Awesome.

I no longer feel ignorant about glassblowing as an artform. I love this gallery, and I encourage anyone visiting Florida to fuck Disneyworld and come over my way. This art district is a-happenin’ and you should experience it for yourself. The whole point of the evening was to eventually hit the Downtown St. Pete ArtWalk, but we never made it. Marie ended up at ARTPool Gallery, while me and the fellas ended up at Everything Dolce, where I sighted this beautiful local artist piece:

For Sale By Artist At Everything Dolce, Central Ave., St. Pete
For Sale By Artist At Everything Dolce, Central Ave., St. Pete

What’s interesting about Everything Dolce is that it used to be Cafe Bohemia, which was the first place I visited once I moved to St. Pete to start writing. Now I’m blogging my ass off and you’ll be reading my book in a few months. Talk about full circle!

We Got Cows

Original Post Date June 26, 2013 at 10:29 AM

The author offers a chronicle on last night’s storms across Saint Pete Beach.

cowtornadoThat was some storm yesterday, eh?

The crazy part was, the entire day was textbook Florida sunny day. But come rush hour, and the sky amasses with pink cheeked grey clouds. As Bobby chased squirrels and birds alongside the lake, I tightened my eyes to focus on the distinct rotation in the center of the large clouds. This ain’t my first rodeo; there be a twister! I looked to the distance and noticed the clouds were low in the atmosphere, flat to the bottom. Where’s the sun? I found it making a sheet of mottled window pane clouds glow white towards the west.

My focus went back to the rotation. A bright cup extended between purple grey masses. It glowed purple pink as cotton candy strips of grey cloud joined the revolution. The cup extended as if to form a spout, but then changed its mind. Which means, topside of the formation, the activity was picking up, the priority of the event was still in the higher level of atmosphere. Anyone familiar with Michael Crichton’s workTwister, knows everything about tornadoes, and knows when the spout retracts, it means it’s growing in strength and planning to touch down elsewhere.

Bobby and I stood in the middle of the field, watching as the cup twisted upward into the pink cheeked grey. Two things can happen here. The intensity of particle activity could reduce, stabilizing the atmosphere, or intensity could increase dramatically, the atmosphere converting to the host of a full on maelstrom. Lightening commenced to crashing around us. Yup, it’s time to retreat. We watched the show from the safety of the Treehouse.

The opera performance outside my bay window provided inspiration for next works, something storm related, a mashup of Hemingway’s Old Man And The Sea and Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God for the Digital Age, maybe. Or, I could write a western. Yeah! A western.

Just as I predicted, a tornado touched down, a few miles southwest of us. Not too soon after the NWS alert, I lost power to the Treehouse. It was a full day anyways. By 8pm, I was asleep, lulled to the dreamscape by whip cracks across the sky.

A writer of chaos and destruction just eats up these moments. The moments when humankind is reminded there are limits to control. The technology that avails me real time radar information on storm activity, hurricane data, National Weather Service alerts, will never be sophisticated enough to stop nature.

That fascinates me.

Meet The Poets

Original Post Date April 24, 2013 at 10:40 PM

The author celebrates National Poetry Month. This week’s post is part three of a three part installment. This week we highlight published poets.

npm2013_poster_200We’ve celebrated National Poetry Month by getting in front of the microphone and performing our works, putting a poem in our pocket, and reminiscing on poetry recitation assignments of yore. Poetry will remain a constant in my life and I hope poetry will affect you the same.

I’d like to introduce you to a few poets I’ve had the joy of connecting with in the past few months. Here I close my tribute to National Poetry Month by shamelessly promoting their awesomeness and art.

Poet: Maureen McDole

How We Met: I met Maureen at an open mic and found out about her open mic at Crum’s every other Tuesday, which I’ve regularly attended. Maureen provided some of the pics I featured in this month’s blog on the open mic experience.

What I Like: Maureen is confident, present, radiant, and engaging. And she happens to be a woman. In an age where it seems women are more apt to snipe at each other than hold each other up, Maureen reminds everyone in the room there is worth in celebrating femininity. Even I, Miss Darkness, Miss Pouty Face, can’t help but smile when she performs her poems. I fight it, but it’s of no use: Maureen’s words are friggin’ inspirational.

Works Available At: maureenmcdole.com

Poet: Peter Hargitai

How We Met: Peter had me at “cock.” He recited a Hungarian folk tale about an adventurous rooster and I was immediately impressed, not only at the multitude of the mention of “cock” in one setting, but how outstanding his delivery was. After his presentation we chatted and I found out he’s just as amiable as he is talented.

What I Like: I love a good story, and I enjoy a great storyteller. Peter’s poems bring you to his world, and you can see and feel and smell the old country just as he remembers it. His love for his wife is on an epic level, witnessed through his anniversary poem he performed last month. I hope I become an eighteenth as creative as he is.

Works Available At: http://www.approaching-my-literature.com/index.html

Poet: David Messineo

How We Met: I attended David’s poetry reading on April 7th. He read from Historiopticon and Formal and in between, explained his approaches to the works.

What I Like: It so happens this year is the 500th anniversary of Ponce de Leon discovering Florida. I happen to have a working project labeled “The Bastards of Conquistadors.” When David read from Historiopticon, I was dually pleased to experience such rich depiction of sentiment and such tightly researched data. A rarity in poetry collections, David has all his references listed in the back of the book.

Works Available At: http://www.blurb.com/b/4215481-historiopticon

I Am In The Process of Being Published

Original Post Date February 24, 2013 at 06:54 PM

This blog will chronicle the adventures of becoming a published author in Saint Petersburg.

2013-02-20 16.58.28Two years ago I said “toodles” to the workforce, packed up my car and drove from Texas to retire in lovely, coastal Florida.

Six novels later, I am venturing into the realm of publication.  This year I’ll be releasing “Book One” in the hopes that more than two people find my inner musings as entertaining as I do.

Just this past week, I teamed with the amazing Trace Taylorhttp://gulfportareachamberofcommerce.org/professional-services/item/trace-taylor-author of Trace Taylor Publishing.  She’s going to help me achieve my vision of holding a paperback copy of my first fiction work, ISBN number and everything.  Trace is a wonderful source of positive energy and is a persistent mentor; I certainly look forward to leaning on her these next few months.

Do I aspire to be the next JK Rowling or Suzanne Collins?  Um, yeah.  Am I deluded?  Not at all.  I had a genuinely cathartic and, I can’t emphasize enough, entertaining, experience producing the rowdy, misguided ventures of a seasoned criminal coming to grips with her destiny.

Did you say “criminal” and “her” in the same sentence?  Yes.  Yes I did.

“Book One,” not the actual title but will be announced soon, is about a criminal who wreaks supernatural havoc on a military base and drug cartel territory simultaneously, and develops a dysfunctional partnership with a renegade Army criminal investigator.  It’s a fast moving, heavily layered parable that should keep you pleasantly intrigued on the beach, bench or bed you enjoy reading at.