Mannequin Monday – What I’m Not Reading

Credit: APPI-Technology

We don’t always like the first outfit we try on. The same holds true for dressing our mannequin with words. The first words don’t always suit our taste.

This Mannequin Monday I talk about books I have not finished.

And, as always, I offer you a bit of my own writing, this time the opening chapter from the draft of my next story.

Thanks for joining me this week. And enjoy your holiday.

What I’m Reading This Week

It might be more accurate to say, what I’m not reading this week. I am in the middle of at least four novels, and not sure I will finish any of them. As the year 2020 draws to a close, I find myself unable to focus on much of anything. I’ve always been a reader who finished every book I started. Not this year. I have probably sent ten or more books to an early grave because they did not hold my interest. And I won’t give my time to them.

In previous years I might drop a book on a rare occasion, usually when the subject matter got too graphically violent. Example, a Lee Child mystery and a Tess Gerritsen story. Each had a crime scene so horrific, I stopped reading before the scene embedded itself in my brain.

A lifetime ago I had a great friend who was a history buff. He would recommend books like And Quiet Flows the Don, Andersonville, and Men of Colditz. I read them all. In the last two books mentioned, to this day, I can still picture a couple of scenes of torture and suffering that have never left my mind.

At times now I’ll simply skip a few paragraphs or a page to avoid the graphic stuff. The overall story, the characters, will hold me. But what runs through my mind lately is an observation I found in a Parker Palmer book, On the Brink of Everything, where he explores his later years. He points out that many older people will work hard in their retired years to declutter their belongings. They free themselves up – for what? Palmer says he asked himself, after I declutter, what will I give myself to? That notion has stuck with me. One result: I will not waste time on a book that does not hold my attention, a book whose characters won”t sustain my caring.. If it’s a simple lack of focus, I may come back to the book at a later time. But if it doesn’t hold me, I’m gone. These days I can get a hundred pages in and will not hesitate to walk away.

What will I give myself to?

The books I am currently reading now are Zadie Smith’s Swing Time, Heather Webb’s Rodin’s Lover, Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood, Joy Jordan-Lake’s Under a Gilded Moon, and Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I own several of these and will probably get back to them soon. Others are library books which I may or may not finish. All are excellent stories. Some of them may prove simply to not hold me.

What will I give myself to? Words to live by.

What I’m Writing This Week

As of this week, the draft of Surfrider, book two in my Film Crew series, opens with music. Terrell and Lyndie are in his tiny home studio playing music. Terrell on keyboard, Lyndie on bass. They are putting together a soundtrack for the off-road desert race film that Tessa, Eric and Lyndie shot in book one.

Tessa is busy filming Terrell and Lyndie as they play. She is also not listening to the music itself. And Terrell calls her out on it.

Chapter One: Terrell’s Studio

Tessa Warren watched in awe as Lyndie Reed and Terrell Ellis recorded music tracks in his tiny home studio. Lyndie played bass lines as a bottom while Terrell caressed lyric keyboard melodies over her bass lines. Tessa pulled out her phone and captured video clips as they played. Then she moved around the two, using the phone to capture pictures of them at work. Closeups of their faces, their hands, the instruments. Wider shots of the two interacting. Watching their eyes as they harmonized. 


After a half hour of playing and recording, Terrell put on headphones, began editing the tracks on his computer edit program.  

Lyndie packed up her Fender bass. “I gotta go. My mom will need the car.” She looked at Tessa. ” Can you get home okay?”

“I’m good. I can walk from here. Talk to you later.”

Tessa did homework for a while till Terrell wrapped up his editing. Terrell picked up a green tennis ball, tossing it between his hands. Flipping it up in the air and catching it. Tossing it against the wall and grabbing it when it bounced back. There were pock marks all over the wall.

He began squeezing the ball.

“What are you doing?” Tessa asked.

“Building up my hand strength. It helps with the punching bag.” He pointed to a large bag hanging in the corner.

Tessa nodded.

“Helps me with my frustrations.” He nodded to Tessa.

“Wait…what are you saying? You pissed with me?” She pushed aside her books.

“Did you listen to Lyndie’s bass?”

“I was filming you two.”

“Sure. But not listening.”

“The music was cool.”

“What do you know about cool music?” He tossed the ball against the wall again.

“Where is this attitude coming from?”

“Do you have any clue how good Lyndie is with the bass?”

“I’m no musician. She looks good when she’s playing…”

Terrell turned to the computer. He played a bite from what they had just recorded. “Can you hear what she’s doing? She’s what, sixteen years old. She’s playing chords on the bass. Playing clear chords and avoiding muddiness. That’s not easy to do.”


“She’s finding her notes from the notes and chords I’m playing on the keyboard. Go back later and watch what you recorded today. Watch her hands. Watch how she plucks with her right hand close to the bridge while she plays chords on the frets.”

Tessa stares at Terrell.

“Yeah, I know you have no clue. Open your eyes…and your ears. She’s your friend. Know how good she is.”

Tessa feels her face redden. She nods.

Terrell smiles. “Okay. Frustration gone. Ready to do the podcast?”

“I guess,” Tessa said. “I never recorded a podcast before.”

“Piece of cake. Just keep your mouth close to the mic. Watch your plosives.”

“My what?”

“Plosives. P sounds. You know, Pot. Police. They tend to pop in recording. I don’t have a pop screen yet. I’ll motion to you if you start doing it. Then back off the mic a bit with P sounds.”

“Got it.”

The two sat side by side at a small desk with a large microphone planted between them.

Terrell adjusted a few sliders, then hit Record.

“Hey, this is T-Pod. Terrell. Talking to my sisters. My brothers. Welcome to my podcast.” (He played keyboard music under, soft.)

“Today I got with me a friend. Name of Tessa. We’re in the same high school. The one where I am now under suspension. Talked about that earlier.”

H e turned to Tessa. “Hey, Tessa.”

Credit: PacRad

“Hi Terrell. Happy to be here.”

“Tessa is a filmmaker, y’all. Three weeks ago she and two others from school, Lyndie and Eric, spent a weekend in the Mojave Desert. Shooting an off-road race.”

“That’s right, Terrell. The Cactus 100. It was a last-minute thing. We went there with Eric’s dad, who was an EMT for the race.”

“Didn’t go so well, right?”

“It was a mess. A lot of protestors showed up. Complaining about how the racing was messing up the habitat of the desert tortoise.”

“They were protesting for turtles?”

“Right. That’s okay. It’s their right. But a few got crazy. Yelled at us because we were filming. Stole a memory card from my camera. Then sabotaged the race. Stretched a cable across the track and caused a major pileup. Lots of drivers were injured. Cars were wrecked.”

“Did they get caught?”

“Not yet. They raced off, after beating me up and stealing my camera.”

“They beat you up.”

“Yeah, I was getting footage of them as they ran from the scene.”

“You all got hurt, too, right.”

“Eric broke a finger. He was in one of the cars that got wrecked. Lyndie got stitches in her head from flying debris when we were trying to help the injured drivers.”

“So your film is basically messed up.”

“We lost all the memory cards, with most of the footage. The best footage. We’re struggling now to piece something together.”

“Violence. Even in the middle of the desert. Violence.”

“Right. But to be fair, the protestors see the races as violence against the environment.”

“Doesn’t justify causing pileups. People could have died, right?”


“My sisters and brothers, violence again. Everywhere. My counselor…yeah, I got a counselor…says anger has to go somewhere. Me, I got a punching bag here. Keeps me out of trouble…sometimes.

“Thanks for talking to me, Tessa.” 

“Sure, Terrell. And everyone should know, you’re part of our film crew. You’re doing the soundtrack, you and Lyndie. And recording the narration.”

“Everyone, stay cool. Till next time, on to the punching bag…”

Terrell shows Tessa how to lower the slider on the recording. He gets up, begins punching the bag loud enough for the mic to pick up the sound. Tessa fades the audio gradually.

Terrell comes back, turns off the gear.

“That was awesome, Terrell. Thanks.”

“No worries. People should know, there’s shit out there with a lot of faces and forms.”

They were wrapping up the work on their podcast when Eric Pyne came in. “Hey guys.”


“Lyndie texted me to say you were here. Might need a ride home.”

“Cool. Yeah, that would be great,” Tessa said. “We’re almost finished. Just did a podcast on our film.”

“Lyndie told me. I was surfing in Malibu.”

“Any good waves?”

“Not bad. Three-footers. They closed the beach again, though. More toxic sludge leaking from Decker House.”

Terrell said, “What’s Decker House?”

“It’s right next to Surfrider Beach in Malibu. An historical landmark house.”

“Can’t they arrest the owners?”

“Nope. State of California owns the house. The original owners sold it to them  a long time ago. State maintains it.”

“So someone needs to sue the State.”

“Yeah, like that’ll happen,” Tessa said. “They’ll let it leak till they finally have to close the beach for good.”

“That would suck,” Eric said.


“Sure would cut into my surfing,” Terrell said, with a smirk.

“Have you ever been on a surfboard, dude?”

“Me and the ocean have a mutual dislike of each other. That’ll never happen.”

“You should try sometime. I can teach you,” Eric said.

“Dude, this is my beach.” He gestured to his room. “My life is here.”

“Speaking of surfing, aren’t you coming with me and Lyndie sometime soon, Tessa?”

Tessa hesitated. “Maybe.”

“Soon, girl. You’ll like it. Nothing gives you a rush like catching a wave.”

Tessa shook her head. “We’ll see.”


Thanks for reading. Comments are welcome.