Running The Naked Road

Running_The_Naked_Road_webA new short story, titled Running The Naked Road, is now available:

At seventeen, Melody’s life is already heading in the wrong direction. From good girl to rebel; from straight-A student to near dropout. It’s going to take a long run on the naked road to find her way home.


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Snow Day

How fun to look out my upstairs window here in Portland to see skiers sliding down the middle of the snow packed street! I took a walk to the grocery store (without skis) and took photographs with my iPhone. Great little adventure.

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The Birth and Death of a Pen Name

I published my first novel and two short stories under the pen name Raven V. Brook. At the time, it felt right and enabled me to be brave and get my writing out into the world. But as time has passed, I’ve felt encumbered by the pen name, as if its protective shielding has instead become clumsy and awkward to maneuver around.

Being a survivor of extreme abuse, I felt like my pen name was a line of defense between my present and my past—my nightmare of a past. I simply did not know, when I first published, what would happen when my writing went out into the world. I was afraid of being hurt, of being punished for writing about topics I was told by powerful abusers to never talk about.

In the intervening years, I have walked beyond many of the fears that used to take my breath away. I am stronger. I am more confident. And I am a writer.

So let my name be on my work, and consequence or reward, let it come to me.


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The Thin Man

I wrote this awhile ago:

Last month I took a weekend trip on the Amtrak train. It was my first time riding in uncounted years, and that morning I excitedly snapped pictures as I watched new sights rush away through the window. On the journey home the train arrowed through the black of night, and the only sight out the window was the pale reflection of my own face.

A thin man in his thirties sat down next to me, resting his cane against the seat beside his knobby knees. He took a cell phone call and told someone that he couldn’t get to his medication right now, it was stowed. He hung up, laid his head back, sighed softly.

Every cue in his body language spoke of pain. Immediate and sharp. And the flash of his bright, blue eyes radiated with those secret depths that only someone on a lonely and arduous journey can possess.

I asked him if he wanted half of my ham sandwich. Maybe it’s odd to offer a section of sandwich to a complete stranger, but it seemed rude to eat in front of him. He declined. We sat in silence and I chewed quietly and quickly lest the ham aroma was annoying to the other passengers packed like sardines in the coach around me.

With dinner eaten and the train shooting through the dark, I turned to the thin man and asked if I could do anything to help. He shared his medical condition with me; the mystery illness that could not be properly diagnosed, the languishing visits to the hospitals, the fear of spending the rest of his life in a wheelchair. And not wanting to leave his son. Not wanting to die yet and leave his son.

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Before And After The Impossible

The Flipside #2I am excited to have the second installment in The Flipside complete. This story brewed inside of me for a long time before I could write it down on paper. I knew where the story began—with the character Amanda and her lullaby in the mental institution. I can hear the lullaby in my mind, I can hum it aloud—a simple tune that began with such spiritual conviction and resolve. Here is an excerpt, the beginning of this short story…


Valerie Brook

Amanda lay under the covers in the dark, listening to the silence in the hallway outside the closed door. It had no lock. Someone coughed far away. Then a shadow passed underneath the doorframe, his footsteps receding down the long hall. The quiet jangle of keys faded. The rounds were over. For now. It was safe again.

If it was ever safe here.

She rolled over onto her back and the institutional sheets scratched her skin. What temperature did the laundry service use to wash the bedding—nuclear? It made the cotton fabric feel as soft and comforting as sandpaper.

She shivered. Her hands trailed across her ribs, across her belly button, resting between her knobby hip bones. Except they weren’t knobby anymore.

Dr. Olsen had said the average weight gain in the facility was thirty pounds. He’d said it so casually in the morning check-in last week, like weight gain was okay. Like the psycho-pills he prescribed were vitamins, and they had nothing to do with making your metabolism go bonkers. Like people who wanted to kill themselves already, wouldn’t want to kill themselves even more when they realized they had porked out.

Welcome to the new and improved, fatter version of—I hate myself.

But being honest, really, what else was there to look forward to at the QueensView Center except eating? In fact, stuffing food into your face from the buffet three times a day was the only escape from the reality of being locked in a psych ward and being reduced to a diagnosis.

Insurance-billable, of course.

So don’t forget the self-serve ice cream, available for both lunch and dinner.

Amanda fingered her warm skin, ran her hands over the small bulge between her hips. She could barely pull either pair of her jeans over her hips anymore, except she wasn’t getting fat. Not in the normal way Dr. Olsen had so casually mentioned.

Something else was happening to her body.

Something that was impossible.

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