Thursday, January 31, 2019

Church of the Buzzards

Did you know that buzzards are Presbyterian by denomination? No? I didn’t either, until my husband and I moved to a condo community near a Presbyterian church. That’s when we discovered buzzards are quite devout, attending services not only on Sundays but every day of the week. Each morning and evening hundreds of the black, ominous creatures line up across the church’s roof peak and fill the surrounding trees. When the morning service ends, they glide overhead, wings outstretched in search of their daily bread, or more accurately, their daily road-kill.

I admit it. I’ve been a little creeped out by the Church of the Buzzards. Since ours is a senior community, I wondered if the foreboding scavengers knew about the advanced ages of our residents. Could they be ambulance chasers of the most sinister kind? Surely, I wouldn’t feel threatened by a row of roosting doves. I’d think they were simply gathering to witness the wedding of a couple of lovebirds. What about a row of storks? Time for a baptism, perhaps? 

Something about buzzards makes me shudder. “It seems like they’re lying in wait for someone to expire,” I remarked one day as my husband and I were walking past the Church of the Buzzards. “Do Presbyterians participate in human sacrifices?”

“Don’t be silly,” he answered. “Buzzards eat dead animals, not live humans. Besides, Presbyterians are pretty much like Methodists in their rituals. I’m sure they don’t have blood sacrifices.”

“But what if I cut my finger and they confuse me for road-kill?”

“I’ll pray for you,” he countered. “You know, p-r-e-y.”

“Very funny! Suppose their roof-top gatherings are, in fact, committee meetings where they’re planning their attack on our neighborhood. We could all perish! Get it? P-a-r-i-s-h.”

“They’re just innocent birds who’ve found a high spot for congregating. Congregating, get it?”

“Ha, ha! Well, I wish they’d buzz off!”

All punning aside, I did some research on buzzards (also known as vultures). I learned they’re social creatures who roost in large flocks in trees and on roofs to prepare for feeding or to rest from a busy day of ripping dead flesh into shreds. They seek out high spots in residential or industrial areas to soak up the morning sun.

So, it seems buzzards aren’t necessarily Presbyterian. They could even be Catholic depending upon the height of the Catholic church nearby. Finally, I can relax since I learned their talons aren’t strong enough to carry away a carcass. They must eat their road-kill where they find it. This carcass intends to remain strong, healthy, and undecayed for a long time. 

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Website:; Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available from or

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Surviving Winter

I admit it. Icicles are pretty, sparkling in the sun with their varying shapes of elongated raindrops. We even use the plastic variety to decorate our houses for the holidays. Yes, icicles are pretty, but not hanging off the end of my nose.

I really tried to take my walk this morning. After bundling up in sweatpants, heavy knee socks, two shirts, vest, coat, hat, scarf, and leather gloves, I ventured out the front door only to be knocked backward by a vicious gust of wind. That gust had it in for me. I’m sure of it! But I pulled myself together and persevered, knowing the eighteen-degree temperature couldn’t possibly feel as frigid once I moved into the sunlight. Wrong!

As I rounded the shaded corner, my eyes started to water, my bundled-up body was wracked with shivers, and my nose began to run. Quickly, the nasal drainage formed a snot-cicle and not a pretty one. With wind-burned face and frost-bitten toes, I did an about-face and headed back inside. Okay, maybe that was a slight exaggeration. Anyway, it had taken nearly twenty minutes to dress for the weather, and my walk lasted less than five minutes—not the aerobic event of champions.

The point is, I lived in the northeast for eighteen years, enduring its long, cold, dreary, snowy winters. When I moved to Virginia via North Carolina, I expected mild winters. And by “expected,” I mean ordered, decreed, demanded. Let’s just say it was a strong expectation.

During the thirty-four winters I’ve lived in Virginia, I’ve experienced five major ice storms, hundreds of snow days, and enough freezing temperatures to store a year’s worth of whale blubber for an entire Inuit family. Oops! Am I exaggerating again? Don’t get me started on hurricanes, spring pollen, and sweltering summers.

The good thing about Virginia’s weather, though, is it only lasts a couple days. By Wednesday, the temperature might climb to the sixties. I’ll wait till then to take my walk.

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Website:; Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available from or

Tuesday, January 15, 2019


Since I started writing as a career, I’ve made immeasurable discoveries. One of the most interesting realizations is that perception is everything. Writers choose their words and phrases carefully to ensure the reader will connect, but each reader’s perception of words and their meanings can be different. Most writers keep a thesaurus handy and use it religiously. We want our words to reflect our intended thoughts as accurately as possible.

The English language abounds with synonyms. “But a synonym is a synonym,” you say. “What difference does it make which one you use?” It can make a huge difference. Take, for example, the word, cry.  As a noun, its synonyms include call, shout, exclamation, yell, scream, shriek, yelp, bellow, and holler. As a verb, it can mean weep, sob, blubber, snivel, whimper, bawl, howl, wail, and shed tears.

In my novel, The Dark Room, I use the verb, weep, for Stella’s response to being arrested after she thinks her life has finally turned around. She escapes her husband’s constant abuse and now her granddaughter is safe. To me, the word, weep, perfectly represents Stella’s crying. I imagine her sitting alone in a jail cell, feeling defeated and hopeless. I see her motionless, almost paralyzed, staring into space and crying silent tears. She doesn’t scream, yelp, or bellow. Weeping fulfills the image that I intend for that scene. It is my perception of how Stella would react in her situation. 

I select a different synonym for cry in my novel, I Want to Go Home. The little boys, Pete and Joey, endure several days of homelessness, first living in
their car in the dead of winter, then trying to sleep on the hard floor at Union Station. When their panicked sister, Abby, awakens them from a sound sleep in the middle of the night and ushers them outside to face the frigid darkness, they simply can’t take any more. I could have chosen for them to shriek or yelp or bellow, but my perception of their response is a mouth-open wail. No silent weeping or whimpering depicts their response accurately. They are exhausted, resentful, and angry at the world. Even the word, sob, is not a strong enough synonym for their condition. They must wail.

Words are the raw material authors use to paint mental pictures. Words set the stage for our stories and construct scenes that we hope will come alive in our readers’ minds. Words invoke moods and describe our characters’ personalities. But as carefully as we select our words, the risk exists that our readers’ perception will differ from our own.

How often have you watched a movie after reading the book and remarked, “That was nothing like I envisioned it?” Often, I find my perception doesn’t agree with the screenwriter’s interpretation. Given a choice of reading the book or watching the movie, I prefer the book since the written account is closest to the writer’s intention. I understand how writers choose their words with care, and I respect the process because I know how hard it is to get it right.

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room, and I Want to Go Home. Website:; Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available from or

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Why Do I Write?

“Why do you write?” a friend asked me the other day. “I mean, you’re retired. You could be relaxing, traveling, playing bridge, or any of those other activities retired people engage in.”

“Well, first, I don’t play bridge,” I answered. “But the simple answer is: I write because I must.” Call it therapy, a need for expression, or a passion for the power of language, but I can’t seem to get through a day without writing. Until recently, I didn’t realize it has always been this way with me.

As a child, I kept a journal and wrote poetry; not good poetry, mind you, but rhyming stanzas hewn from the depths of my young, full heart. I also dabbled in playwriting that reflected what I perceived to be the human condition. Oh, if I had known then what I know now about the human condition!

As an angst-ridden teenager, I filled my journals with hyperbolic declarations of frustration, betrayal, lost loves, self-doubt, and unfulfilled dreams. Angst. How I wish I hadn’t destroyed those journals later out of embarrassment! It would be fun, probably hilarious, to reminisce.

Now I write short stories and novels. I’d like to think my writing has matured a bit since those first sincere, pathetic efforts, but I find I’m still learning every day. The more I learn about the written word, the more I realize I don’t know.

My publisher insists I’m a professional author because I get paid for writing. But even after publishing three novels, I sometimes feel like a novice. Had I known I would one day become an author, I would have spent more of my youth digesting the works of great writers instead of spilling my childish guts on the pages of a teenager’s diary. Now I wear a ragged, invisible tee shirt that reads: “So many books; so little time!” Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Shakespeare (okay, maybe not Shakespeare), Thomas Wolfe, Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, and George Eliot all awaited my attention when I was reading the likes of Nancy Drew, The Little Princess, and Black Beauty.

To write professionally, one must cut off one’s arm and lay the bloodied, open wound before a pride of ravenous lions. The act of writing well, as the world’s classic authors would attest, is plain hard work.

So, why do I write? Storytelling is rife with enchanting word-play, literary decision-making, and the incurable disease of soul-baring. At its worst, it opens one to the potential for criticism, rejection, and even poverty. At the same time, words—when they work—propel their creator toward states of euphoria and gratification of the highest order.  

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room, and I Want to Go Home. Website:; Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available from or

Thursday, January 3, 2019


New Year’s resolutions tend to focus on improving our physical fitness, losing weight, or adopting habits to make us more successful in our work and home lives. With each passing year, I realize how important it is to nurture the soul as well as the body. As I count the new gray hairs on my head and wrinkles on my skin and feel the little twinges that accompany aging, I’m more aware than I’d like to be that my body will eventually fail me. There’s no escaping it. I can exercise, eat right, get plenty of rest, and maybe even indulge in some plastic surgery, but I can’t prevent the ultimate, inevitable destiny of my earthly body.

Our culture is uncomfortable talking about death, especially our own. It makes us feel powerless. That’s because we are powerless to prevent it.

Have you ever wondered where the human soul resides? Have you thought about where it goes after the body dies? Is it possible to nurture the soul? In preparation for eternity, can we make it healthier through exercise? 

Most of the world’s religions include a tenet about that invisible, intangible, mysterious entity known as soul. Movie-producers and psychics have earned billions from our natural curiosity about the paranormal. Despite our limited capacity, we are determined to understand the supernatural world. We are attracted to speculating about ghosts. But are ghosts the same as souls?

The Hebrew word, “nephesh” translated by most biblical scholars as “soul” literally means “living being.” If the soul is a living being, it stands to reason we can nurture it through exercise.

I’m convinced the soul is located where we humans encounter The Divine. We only need to show up. For some, being in nature, walking in the woods, or digging in the garden are where they encounter The Divine. For others, this soul-searching happens through meditation, prayer or corporate worship. Seeking God is as natural to humans as breathing because each of us is created with a God-shaped hole in our soul. Only God can fill the void, not personal accomplishment, material possessions, or even loving family and friends.

We need not make soul-searching a complicated practice. The act of exercising my soul regularly has taught me that meeting, understanding, and communicating with The Divine is as simple as showing up, embracing silence, and listening for the “still, small voice.”

May 2019 be for each of us a year of active soul-searching and encountering The Divine. Happy New Year!

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: Unrevealed, The Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Website:; Facebook page: Cindy Loomis Freeman. Her books are available from or hightidepublications.