Pia Pucknucker On Hold For Now by Linda Lindsly

So for now “Pia Pucknucker And The Mystery Of The Indian Treasure” is on hold and due to come out in May, not March as I originally thought.    But that’s OK, because I’m still excited to have it published.  Lately, I have been conjuring up some new ideas that will take Pia Pucknucker on a new adventure.  Pia’s interest in solving mysteries as a private eye, include everything from a stolen bike (who done it) to unraveling mysteries of the past (the Indian treasure) or just finding answers to strange circumstances that keep Pia wondering why.  And Pia will also include her best furry friend, Thumbelina, on every new adventure she encounters.  Any ideas of  past childhood adventures that anyone has to share would be great.  A simple idea can spark a whole new adventure for Pia.  I remember growing up and playing with the kids in the neighborhood until we were called in for supper.  Everyday my friends and I would get together and do plays in our garage and charge neighborhood kids a dime to come and see what we were up to.  We also played softball and dodge ball on the street with our teams in place.  Every now and then a new kid on the block would join.

As  I think about all this, life was much simpler and we always would interact with each other, even fight and argue with one another.  But it was always understood that we were friends despite our differences.  We would just make up and go on.  Children don’t get to interact with others the way we did back then.  Most parents today both work and outside of school, not much social  interaction.  Activities are scheduled  and planned, which is good, but not much freedom from time restraints.  Also, the world is unfortunately not a safer place to have kids playing unsupervised or playing in the streets like we did back in the old days. We didn’t even have to wear helmuts to ride our bikes!

Well, enough of memory lane stuff.  As my ideas flow I’ll be jotting them down and envisioning what I’ll be illustrating and just go from there.  I’ll share my ideas and anyone who reads this can critique me on these ideas as well as share stories of their own.  I think that would be cool!

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Five, Four, Three, Two, One… Time’s Up! Hands in the Air! by Sherrie Hansen

I’ve been watching back to back episodes of the TV show Chopped on the Food Network this week because I’m working on a murder mystery called “A Taste of Murder:  The Galloping Gourmet Gets the Trots”. The simple, three act murder mysteries I write for the Blue Belle Inn B&B’s acting troupe are fun, mostly silly, crowd pleasers. They always end where they’re supposed to, because someone invariably confesses at the end of Round 3. As simple a format as they are, I’ve learned several things while researching and working on them.

MM - Taste of Murder

On the show, Chopped, the contestants have 20 – 30 minutes to prepare an appetizer, main course, or dessert from the often odd and usually unrelated mystery ingredients in their baskets. When the countdown ends, they immediately put their hands in the air, step back from their work stations, and hope that what’s on their plate is good enough to avoid being axed on the chopping block. No matter that your delicious milk chocolate sauce – the one you infused with melted gummy bears because that’s what was in the basket – is still on the stove, momentarily forgotten, never to be drizzled over your hastily made Chantilly crepes. When the time is up, there’s no chance to fuss, make corrections, re-plate, or change your mind about this or that. You’re done. Finished. The end has come.

Food - Cupcakes

Sometimes, I wish knowing where to end my novel was as structured and simple as that. Hands in the air. Step back from your laptop. The end.

Zion - 2013 Sunset

This week I heard back from one of my beta readers, who told me she didn’t like the ending of my soon-to-be-released Wildflowers of Scotland novel, Shy Violet. What she said – and I think she’s absolutely right – is that I had a tight strand of a story with characters and drama masterfully braided in to a focused story line when all of a sudden, about 50 pages from the end, the story started to fray apart.

Sunset 2014 Grass

What I’d done was to introduce William, who’s going to be the hero of the next book in the series – Sweet William, and pull back the characters from the previous book in the series, Blue Belle, so I could use their wedding as a backdrop for the last few scenes of Shy Violet. In doing so, I stole the thunder from Violet and Nathan’s story and left Shy Violet with a weak, disconnected ending instead of a strong finish.

228 Fence - Hairy Coo babies

Although I didn’t realize it consciously at the time, I wasn’t sure how Shy Violet should end. Although I love my characters and the premise of the book, I was ready to be done with the story. I’d been working on it for over a year, and I’d already moved on emotionally. As I read back over the ending, I could see that I was scrambling to make my word count by adding scenes that never should have been part of the story.

139 Scotland - Mull sunset

So, when is it time to say, The End? How do you know when your story is finished? What makes a good ending? Most of us are taught to focus on the beginning of our story – the magical first scene, first page, first line – the all-important hook. After all, if you don’t get the beginning right, it won’t matter how the book ends because no one will read it. But there’s a lot to be said for a satisfying ending, too. In the restaurant business, it’s commonly held that customers base their tip on how full their waiter keeps their coffee cups at the end of the meal. Sweet, well-timed endings are what make a customer – reader – leave satisfied and eager to come back. What makes a great ending?

A good ending ties up all your loose ends quickly and concisely. No need to endlessly linger – if you haven’t made your case for inclusion of the thread by now, it probably shouldn’t be there in the first place.

No need to micromanage every little detail. Find a good balance and wrap things up.

A satisfying ending may include a teaser or leave you wondering what happened next. Embrace the mystery and let your reader fill in a few of the blanks. Imaginative readers like feeling that they’re part of the story.

Think hard and long about introducing new characters or themes toward the end of a book. If you’re writing a series, it’s tempting to move things in the direction you’re planning to go in your next book, but it may not serve the story and can be a serious distraction.

Scotland Sunset

Don’t be too predictable. A wonderful ending may include a surprise, or a twist that no one saw coming. Now is not the time to throw in something way out of the blue, but being startled or caught off guard can be intriguing if it builds naturally from a multi-dimensional, sometimes unpredictable character.

Endings can be happy, sad, maudlin, or inconclusive. They can leave you hanging or satisfy you on a deeply personal level. Asking yourself what kind of ending fits the theme and characters in your book will steer you in the right direction.

Let your characters tell you how and when the book should end. If your characters aren’t talking to you, maybe they’re not ready to end the book. Give them a little time, let things settle and sink in, and they’ll eventually tell you where they want to go. I often need a little time to absorb things and make sense of something that’s happened, especially after a very climactic scene or event. Your characters do, too.

217 Scotland - Celtic Cross1

Focus on the things that really matter. A good ending reflects the crux of your book, the theme or common thread that runs throughout the entire book. Ask yourself what the book is really about. The answer may surprise you, and it may be different than whatever the book was supposed to be about. That’s what your ending should be about, too. Addressing the things your readers have come to care about while reading the book creates a comforting consistency.

If you’re still stuck, go back and read the first two scenes of your book. Think of the beginning and ending as bookends to the story in between. The ending should be a mirror image of the start.

If you’re still not sure you ended the book at the right time or in the right place, let it sit for at least a few days. Read the last few scenes of the book out loud. If the end of your book evokes emotions in you, and gives you a deeper understanding of your self and the world you live in, then raise your hands in the air and step back from the table. Your book is done.

Food - violet tarts

If you’re dissatisfied or bored, or left feeling cold or confused, then be glad that as writers, no one holds a stopwatch over our heads and demands that we deliver a hot, perfectly-plated, artistic-looking, delicious-tasting product in 20 minutes or less. Be glad you’re a writer and not a chef.

Endings are complex, and they’re just as important as beginnings, because once you have a reader, you want to keep them, move them on to your next book, and the next, and the next. That’s what a good ending does. Questions asked demand answers. The world is full of symmetry, and I believe that finding it in the pages of your book will eventually give you the perfect ending.

ShyViolet Final Front Cover

You’ll be happy to hear that I’ve re-written the ending of Shy Violet twice now, and from all indications, I finally got it right. Hopefully, in a few weeks, you can read it and judge for yourself!

Happy endings, whether you like things nice and tidy and tied with a ribbon, or helter-skelter, with a few loose ends left dangling…

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Problem Thinker

Is it not imperative that writer’s think, or does the thinking just cause problems with the writing? This is a very serious question to which we don’t want answers. Is the admonition, think before you write a hinderance or the answer? On the off-chance of shedding too much light on a subject writers would prefer to keep in the dark, I offer this humble but erudite Homily.

Thinker 1

It started out innocently enough. I began to think at parties now and then to loosen up. Inevitably though, one thought led to another, and soon I was more than just a social thinker.

I began to think alone – “to relax,” I told myself – but I knew it wasn’t true. Thinking became more and more important to me, and finally I was thinking all the time.

I began to think on the job. I knew that thinking and employment don’t mix, but I couldn’t stop myself. Continue reading

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A Teachable Moment Sadly Lost by Calvin Davis

It happened so quickly I didn’t realize it was there before it vanished, never to return, at least not with the same person. Where did it happen? In our doctor’s office. I accompanied my spouse for her regular appointment. The physician suggested that Vonnie should take a test that would require her to stay in a hospital overnight. Hearing that, she frowned as if she had just downed a gallon of vinegar.

“Oh, no, I can’t do that. I would have to be separated from my husband for a night. I wouldn’t be able to sleep.” Judging from the stunned expression on the medical man’s face, he was befuddled by her response. Why, he no doubt wondered, can’t you spend one night away from your spouse? After all, I’m not suggesting you two get a divorce.

wedding bandsI sat there listening in silence. Later I hated myself for not explaining to the doctor what my wife meant when she said she didn’t want to spend a night away from her husband.

I should have said the following: “Doctor, my wife and I are inseparable. We do everything together. Each night we go to sleep in each other’s arms. We laugh at the same jokes. Cry when watching the same movies. And have learned to communicate with each other without saying a word. A glance is enough. A sigh. A movement of the shoulders. An eloquent touching of the chin with a finger. A smile. A wink. A laugh. And let’s not forget her coming to me, complaining that she hasn’t had a hug all day for the fifteenth time. It’s a guaranteed laugh maker.

But I said none of these things. Also I didn’t tell him that occasionally Vonnieholding hands and I read an article about some couple that has been married for forty or fifty years, and that they die on the same day, almost the same hour. If my wife and I departed this life at almost the same time, we would have no fear of dying. We’d exit with a smile, aware that neither would be left behind to pine the death of the other. If we died on the same day, we would have no fear of death. We would see death not as a terminator, but as a unifier, joining Vonnie and me for all eternity. We would never have to separated again…not even for a night.

Calvin Davis is also the author of The Phantom Lady of Paris.

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What’s in the Box?, by Carole Howard

About 15 of us were gathered in a hot and dusty room in Accra, Ghana. Two young Ghanaian women wearing identical purple polo shirts walked in. One of them carried a tattered cardboard box with wooden sculptures. When she put the box down, I could see the sculptures were penises.  Maybe 20 in all, lying and standing, helter skelter.

They were varied as to size and shade of brown, but there was no mistaking what they were. In fact, as sculptures, they were rather beautiful – polished wood in a simple and elegant shape, handsome examples of African not-so-traditional wooden carving. But of course it was hard to separate form and content, and there were a few giggles.

However, this was pretty serious stuff.

The women were sex workers who had been recruited by the organization (“AIDS Prevention Project,” or APP – not the real name) for whom my husband and I were volunteering. APP’s mission was to prevent/treat the spread of AIDS and other sexually-transmitted infections in the community of sex workers. Their primary method was education, particularly about condoms.

The audience consisted of donors to American Jewish World Service, the organization that had sent us as volunteer management consultants to help APP create a five-year Strategic Plan. Since sex workers are a huge vector for the spread of the disease, APP’s work was very important. Ghana was doing well at controlling AIDS, and APP surely played a part in that.

The women introduced themselves. “Sarah,” the more outspoken of the two, had a dark expressive face and a body Rubens would have loved to paint. She was generous with her hand gestures as she spoke. “Maridia” was more reserved, with a quick but hesitant smile. She had long thin legs and a long, thin face with hair-plaits that swung as she moved her head.

For about 15 minutes, they showed us how they educated other sex workers about why and how to use condoms, from package-opening to application to disposal. They were, by turns, all-business – we were allies in the battle against HIV/AIDS – and mischievous, as if we all shared a little joke.

It was a surreal juxtaposition of my former and present lives. This presentation was better than most I’d seen in corporate conference rooms in New York. No PowerPoint, no laser pointers or flip charts.  Just penises. No MBAs, no power suits, no pretension. Just passion and commitment.

As a training consultant, I’d led many seminars on giving presentations, and I wished I could have had a videotape of what I’d just seen as a perfect example of all the qualities I tried to teach: unlimited enthusiasm, clarity of useful information, humor, compassion, engagement with the audience, even effective use of props and body language. I was particularly struck by their ease and its contrast to my own first-ten-minutes-are-hell stage fright when giving presentations.

A bundle of “what if’s” teased me. What if Maridia and Sarah had grown up in an apartment in the Bronx, as I had, with a well-stocked kitchen, a bathroom with fluffy towels, a playground outside? What if their childhood concerns had been more about resenting their parents for making them clean up their rooms, or hoping their clothing was like the popular kids’, and less about whether they’d be eating a meal any time soon?

Surely, they’d have opted to be teachers, lawyers, secretaries, nurses, doctors, homemakers, writers, civil servants, investment analysts, artists, athletes, scientists, or one of the other “You can be anything you want” possibilities. Conversely, what if I’d been born in Sarah or Maridia’s place, with the paucity of opportunities they had? Would I have turned to sex work out of desperation?

And what if I weren’t retired? Would I go back to stylish conference rooms in buildings with stale air to teach communication skills to highly-paid people who’d use them to market cosmetics, investment instruments, or other toys of the developed world?

From the moment Sarah and Maridia walked in with their box until the moment they left, they did their jobs with confidence and good humor. They never showed any signs of resentment or regret. They joked around. In a word, they had dignity. Funny the way things turn out.

Have you ever met someone you expected to be a certain way, and then had your expectations confounded?

*     *     *

Carole Howard is the author of Deadly Adagio, published by Second Wind Publishing.  She is working on a travel memoir, working title Tales of a Silver-Haired Volunteer, from which this is an excerpt.

 

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The Doe

doeThis morning, on the way to get my hair cut, I saw a dead deer on the side of the road. Its dark brown eyes were filmy. She was a doe and had already stiffened. Pieces of her were splattered, splintered, and smeared across the road. In the rearview mirror I saw broken glass, plastic grille fragments, and her two front legs bent at stomach-churning angles. That heap was once a living thing, I thought.

Here in Connecticut, we see dead deer on the side of the road all the time. But this winter, I’ve thought a lot about the deer out there in the woods behind the house. I’ve watched our dogs snooze away the winter in front of the wood stove. Genetically encoded dog DNA compels them to circle their beds before plopping down. Their wild ancestors flattened the grass by circling around it a few times before settling down. They were creating a safe and comfortable nest. Hunkered down under a canopy of evergreens, I suppose the deer do the same. But it’s been such a brutal winter. Even if they’ve been able to stay warm, what have they eaten? How much of their fat stores have been burned as they trudge through three feet of snow looking for food in the bitter cold? On the nights the thermometer dips below zero, I think about them out there in the same absurd way I think about people in coffins, and how cold they must be.

The recent thaw may have driven the doe out to forage for food. If only she could have made it a few more weeks. By late April, Connecticut comes back to life and trees start budding. Chickadees, blue jays, and nuthatches gossip as they build their nests. The days are much warmer. The woods begin their slow costume change from a gown of winter frost that blinds the eyes to the wispy greens of spring.

The mangled deer was still there on the return trip home from my hair cut. When I drove by the first time I noticed, but didn’t want to think about it – large in the belly, she was heavy with fawn.

How ironic that it’s the first day of spring. Life ends. Life begins.

Velya Jancz-Urban is the author of ACQUIESCENCE, published by Second Wind Publishing. Visit her at: http://www.acquiescencethebook.com. Her entertainingly informative presentation, The Not-So-Good Life of the Colonial Goodwife, is a result of the research completed for ACQUIESCENCE.

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Wanderlust or Wanderlost? – Chelsea Bolt

Are we lost? Many of us claim to be misguided when the GPS on any of our mobile devices malfunction, but I am talking about a different type of lost. This lost is a feeling like life has so much more to explore and learn than society allows us to wander about in. Being a young woman in my twenties, I feel the need to seek something beyond the confines of my university and daily life. There is so much to explore and learn, but I feel like I have no idea where to start. Honestly, most of the time I dream of completely leaving society and becoming a mountain woman living in a cabin, but I don’t think that will ever become a reality. I cannot be the only person in the world with these thoughts. Sitting in that office chair, at a school desk, or even on the worn down cushion of your mom’s couch, there is a yearning for something more. Adventures. Journeys. Dreams.

Is there something waiting just beyond the fringe of the clouds? Guess the only way to know is to chase after it. This whole message of “follow your dreams” may sound like it belongs in an after school special or on the back of some kind of organic gluten-free cereal box, but it goes much further than that quick inspirational thought. The fact of the matter is, if there is no passion behind wandering about and going wherever the wind blows, nothing will gleaned from that experience. It will amount to nothing more than a stack of meaningless photographs (or Instagram posts). For instance, I could frolic up and down the South Carolina coastline all summer merely to darken the pigment of my skin but still learn less than another who only visited the coast for a day to experience the beauty of the loggerhead turtles.

How do we wander without getting lost? That’s easy, use a compass. Follow that spinning arrow. Each person has a passion within themselves. That passion is what should drive this wanderlust. This is your arrow. Follow where it points. When an opportunity presents itself, don’t ignore it or allow it to be taken away by time. Seize the moment.

Chelsea Bolt is a Second Wind author of the young adult novel Moonshine. For more information check out these sites: 

https://theonlybolt.wordpress.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Chelsea-Bolt/689158317846614

https://twitter.com/theonlybolt

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The Secret in Whitetail Lake 8th Installment

The Winnebago County Sheriff’s Department found two bodies in an old vehicle recovered from an area lake, opening up a decades old cold case. And meantime, the sheriff has gone missing. This picks up where the last one left off.

Mother was pacing outside her shop, and for the umpteenth time in my adult life I was struck with wonder at how she managed to stay so young looking despite her propensity to agonize over the darndest things. She was trim with wavy blonde hair that touched her shoulders. Most people guessed she was at least ten years younger than her actual age of fifty. Smoke told me it was good genes that helped disguise that. I had to agree that played a part, and Mother also had an otherwise healthy lifestyle.

When Smoke pulled up to the curb, I jumped out and Mother threw her arms around me and held on for dear life. I indulged her until my arms started to numb. “Hey, Mom, it’s going to be okay. Like everything else. We’ll get through it.”

I felt her tears on my cheeks, and I fought the urge to do the same. Smoke got out of the car and waited for the minutes it took before I had Mother safely nestled in the front seat then I hopped in the back. Smoke closed the door for me since there wasn’t a handle on the inside. The better to keep arrestees inside.

Smoke was barely in the driver’s seat before Mother wanted his opinion of where in the world Denny might be, and why Toby and Wendy had driven into Whitetail Lake all those years ago. “Kristen, I can’t tell you how many times I have wished for a crystal ball to help bring light to some of the tough cases over the years. Unfortunately, we have to be more patient that we think we’re capable of most of the time. Whether it be Denny’s unexplained absence, or what happened to Toby and Wendy back when, we’ll do all we can to get to the bottom of it.”

Mother nodded and a small gulp of air, followed by a hiccup slipped out. Smoke pulled into my maternal grandfather’s driveway and parked. He got out and opened both the front and back passenger side doors. I was out before Mother who needed a moment to compose herself before she faced her father.

“Mom, will you be okay with Gramps for a couple of hours?”

Her face squeezed together. “You think you’ll be gone that long?”

“Maybe. The sun will be setting in,” Smoke looked at his watch, “about ninety minutes. We won’t be doing much outside after that.”

I gave my mother a gentle pat on the back, feeling for a second like I was the parent. “We’ve got to get moving so I can’t go in with you. Tell Gramps I’ll catch him later.”

Mom gave a single nod and it looked like more tears were about to spill. She turned and headed into the house as Smoke and I pulled out of the driveway.

“Kristen really is a basket case. I hope Denny turns up sooner rather than later,” Smoke said.

“Yes. I thought telling her about your classmates might distract her, but I think it just piled on more stress,” I said.

“She went through a lot being widowed with two babies. After all these years of being single and finally finding love, I am hoping against hope nothing bad has happened to Denny.”

Smoke drove to Wendy Everton’s parents’ house. They lived in two-story home in a nice neighborhood on the west side of town. It was the same place Smoke had picked Wendy up from for the few dates they’d had. After she’d aided him in accidentally burning down his ice fishing house, he’d decided she was too hot to handle and their relationship had cooled.

“It never occurred to me I’d have to give the Evertons this kind of news about Wendy in this lifetime. Of course,” Smoke said after he’d turned off the ignition but made no attempt to move.

“I can take the lead on this one.”

He turned to me. “I think that’s a good idea. I feel kind of strange. It brings me back to all those years ago when I was a teenager and the future was one big unpainted canvas.”

“Smoke, that’s almost philosophic.”

“Yeah, well, my philosophy on that changed quite a long time ago.” We opened our doors and got out then Smoke followed me up the sidewalk to the front door. I rang the bell with one hand and reached back and gave Smoke’s hand a quick squeeze of reassurance with the other.

A minute later, a well-kept woman around seventy years old opened the door and looked from me to Smoke then back to me. “You’re Kristen and Carl’s daughter. Sad thing about your father, taken like that so young.”

My father had been gone over thirty years, but people still referenced it from time to time. It was part of my identity. “My name is Corinne, and I’m a sergeant with the sheriff’s department.”

She glanced down at my badge and gun, nodded then focused on Smoke. “And of course I know you, Elton. Aside from a little salt in your hair, you don’t look much different from your high school days. This seems like a rather unusual visit.”

“Mrs. Everton, there’s something we need to talk to you about, if we can come in.” I said.

Her lips pursed and her frown lines deepened. “Yes. Come in. But I have to tell you you’ve got me worried. Did something happen to one of my children or grandchildren?”

“Let’s go inside,” I said.

Mrs. Everton led us to the living room where her husband was sitting in a recliner with the television turned up to a volume my grandparents would appreciate, but made my ear drums throb. When he saw us, Mr. Everton moved the lever in his chair so he would be upright. He retrieved the remote from the small table beside him, hit the off button, and the room fell silent.

“Clifford, this is Corinne Aleckson, Kristen and Carl’s daughter. You know, we’ve seen her picture in the newspaper. And you remember Elton Dawes, of course.”

Mr. Everton dug his hands into the arms of his chair and pushed himself up. It was a brief struggle for him to get stable on his feet, but he managed. He shook hands with Smoke. “It’s been some time since you’ve been here, Elton.” He turned to me and stared. “You look a little like you dad and a little like your mom, like they did back all those years ago. Good kids.”

I smiled. “Thanks. Is it all right to sit down in here, or would you rather go to the kitchen?”

Mrs. Everton’s eyebrows lifted. “Oh, I haven’t even cleaned up the supper dishes yet, so why don’t we stay here.”

“This isn’t a social call, I take it.” Mr. Everton said as he got settled back in his chair.

Smoke and I sat on the gold and red striped couch and Mrs. Everton took the coordinating patterned chair next to it.

“Have you folks heard about the vehicle that was recovered from Whitetail Lake this morning?” I said.

“Why, no, we haven’t. Whitetail, you say?” Mr. Everton said.

“That’s right. There is no easy way to say this, but appears it was the Dodge Charger that belonged to Toby Fryor.”

Mrs. Everton grabbed her ample bosom. “Land a notion. How can that be?”

“Toby Fryor’s Charger? Are you sure?” Mr. Everton’s face took on a reddish tinge as he grabbed the arms of his chair.

“We verified the nineteen-sixty-six license plate, yes.”

“So they left his car behind, hid it in the lake, so no one would find it?” Mr. Everton said.

I shook my head. “Sadly, no that’s not what happened. There are human remains in the vehicle that we believe are your daughter and Toby Fryor.”

Mr. Everton’s face dropped into his hands and Mrs. Everton appeared too stunned to do more than tighten the grip on her chest.

“Are you sure?” Mr. Everton said as more of a plea.

“Reasonably sure. They are with the medical examiner now. We’ll need your help to make a positive identification.”

“We should go where Wendy is,” Mrs. Everton said.

I gave them a moment before I said, “You certainly have that right, but I’m afraid you wouldn’t be able identify her that way. The medical examiner will need DNA samples to compare with your daughter’s.”

Mr. Everton nodded.

Mrs. Everton searched her husband’s eyes with her own then moved them to Smoke and me. “I always believed in my heart that something bad had happened to Wendy.”

“What do you mean?” I said.

“I knew she wouldn’t run off and never come back, if she had anything to say about it. I was afraid Toby had done some kind of mind control. I’ve seen that on television where a person will fill another person with all kinds of lies about their family and friends.”

Striving for complete control of a victim was a typical behavior pattern of an abusive person.

“We were worried she may be dead. And in the early days we called police departments all around the country whenever we learned a young woman’s body had been found,” Mr. Everton said.

“We sent her picture everywhere,” Mrs. Everton added.

Mr. Everton rocked himself of out his chair and went over to his wife. He eased himself onto the arm of her chair and put one arm behind her shoulders and the other on her arm. She reached up with both hands and grasped his hand. Tears formed in both of their eyes.

“Well dearie, here they were just a few miles away all this time,” Mr. Everton said.

Mrs. Everton looked up at her husband. “Now we can give her a proper burial.”

Christine Husom is the author of the Winnebago County Mystery Series. The Secret in Whitetail Lake is the 6th in the series.

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Interview with Susan Williamson, Author of “Turkmen Captives”

What is your book about?

My book, Turkmen Captives, is about a 30 year old Afghanistan War widow who is trying to make sense of her life when her home explodes and a mysterious letter causes her to question her husband’s death. I knew when I started the story that I wanted to deal with a widow from that war and that I wanted at least part of the story set in a country adjoining Afghanistan. As a horse person, I was drawn to Turkmenistan and its Akhel-Teke horses.
I also decided early on that the bad guys would be involved in human trafficking. The rest of the story happened as I wrote.

Why will readers relate to your characters?

I think readers my readers will be drawn by the action and the settings.Then I hope they will fall in love with the main characters.

What challenges did you face as you wrote this book?

My greatest challenge in writing the book came when in the middle of the process, I fell off my own horse and shattered my leg. One would think this would be a great opportunity for writing time, but it didn;t work out that way. Between pain and pain pills, exercise and the effort it took just to get through the day, I was not able to write. I did however read, usually at least one book a day. I will read almost anything if I have time on my hands, but for recreation I prefer mysteries and thrillers because I find so much other fiction to be without a plot.

How has your background influenced your writing?

It is easiest to write what you know, so my background growing up with horses and on a farm shapes my approach to writing about them. My faith, my sense of morality, my love of travel all play a part in my stories.

What is your writing process?

When I am writing I become totally involved, maybe immersed is an even better word. When I can put myself in the setting, then I find out what my characters would do and say. Although I have neve been to Turkmenistan, I researched it via the internet. The more I read, the more fascinated I was. Ruins from the “Silk Roard” abound. Turkmenistan was the farthest south of any of the Soviet Socialist Republics. The Russians built schools and other facilities. The native language is Turkmen and that is also the people group name of most of the population.

When did you discover writing?

I have written non-fiction for most of my life. I was a newspaper reporter then an editor. I find that writing comes easy to me, but writing fiction with logical plot direction is harder.

Do you have a favorite snack food or favorite beverage that you enjoy while you write?

When I am settling in for a long session of writing I usually like to have a Diet Coke or a cup of tea beside me. And as to what I am wearing, it is often my pajamas and a cozy, ratty old chenile robe.

Where can we learn more about your books?

From my publisher, Second Wind Publishing: http://www.secondwindpublishing.com/#!susan-williamson/c1pj6
My website is http://www.susanwilliamsonauthor.com and my blog is Creek Side Musings.

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Filed under Author Interviews, writing

Forever a Philanderer—J. Conrad Guest

When Dain Galdikas discovers his wife’s infidelity, he doesn’t confront her with her duplicity. He decides to go back in time to murder his wife’s mother in an effort to prevent the birth of his philandering wife. When he confronts his wife’s mother, a beautiful and sexy married woman, he finds he can’t go through with his original plan. Instead, he seduces her, but returns to his own present to find his wife still in the arms of another woman.

Photo courtesy of Craig David Butler

Photo courtesy of Craig David Butler

His actions draw the attention of the Messiah, who attempts to save Dain’s eternal soul. But Dain returns to the past again and again in an attempt to change his present circumstances, in time becoming obsessed with his wife’s mother, returning each time to 2014 to find slight alterations in his present, but always his wife continues to torment him with her betrayal.

Will Dain ever be able to undo the pain she’s caused him?

Forever a Philanderer is my new work in progress.

If you could go back in time, what would you do? Prevent the crucifixion of Christ? Maybe kill Hitler before he comes to power?

If your spouse committed the ultimate act of treason, perhaps you’d return to the past to murder their mother, thereby erasing their existence in your present. But would it erase your pain, or simply serve as the ultimate act of revenge?

For Forever a Philanderer, I once again explore the paradox of time travel: how undoing events in the past affect that past’s future, as well as how obsession can be our undoing. It is also my most provocative and graphic novel to date.

Below is a short excerpt.

 

Prologue

 

“All movements go too far.”

—Bertrand Russell

 

March 2014

Dain Galdikas didn’t have to watch very long: glistening perspiration, thrashing of naked limbs, the thrusting of a pelvis, soft moans and unrestrained squeals, the calling out of a name that wasn’t his.

He closed the lid of his laptop. There was Betty Boop, and then there was Betty Bitch. Dain’s wife had just become the latter.

Dain began to suspect Betty was having an affair a few weeks ago, when their sex life changed. After ten years of marriage one expects subtle changes in marital relationships as well as relations. But Dain had worked hard to keep his marriage fresh. He kept in the forefront of his mind what it was that first drew him to Betty. He maintained date nights, brought home flowers for no better reason than Betty loved them, cooked occasional meals because, frankly, he was better in the kitchen than she. He rubbed her feet at the end of the day, and did little things for her because he understood that marriage wasn’t for him. Foreplay began with breakfast in bed on Sunday morning, loving words throughout the day, a caress here, a kiss there, a romantic candlelit massage in the evening… it was all about her and the anticipation.

Prior to their wedding, a marriage counselor asked how Dain would feel about being told “no” to sex. He told the counselor that he didn’t expect to have to ask. Given the aforementioned foreplay, Dain suspected that he’d know whether Betty was in the mood—“the rhythm’s gonna put the woman in the mood, now you definitely want to…”

It was in giving that Dain received: the warm and sensitive man every woman claims to want only to, apparently, dump him in the end for the bad boy.

If that sounds strange, that marriage wasn’t for Dain, consider that successful marriages are those where both partners understand that the contract is for the other person. When one partner sees it as only about themselves, when one begins to take instead of give, the deal is doomed.

That didn’t happen with Betty, that Dain sensed she was taking or that she was taking him for granted. But something changed in their physical relationship. It was subtle: her touches seemed more decidedly obligatory—the mother’s lesson imparted to the new bride that sex was a necessary evil, her duty to spread her legs and allow the husband to get the dirty deed done; that the sooner she got pregnant, the sooner he would leave her alone in the dark—and she seemed to retreat from his touch, as well as his caress in the sanctuary of their bedroom.

When he noticed that she was arriving home later and more often, he asked her if everything was all right. He wasn’t a mind reader. If Betty wasn’t getting something from him that she needed, and she didn’t communicate to him what that something was, then he felt accountable for asking. She replied only that everything was fine. Then, instead of telling him, “Thank you. You’re a dear for asking,” she only sighed. So he pushed her—not hard, simply a nudge:

“Everything okay at work? You seem to be coming home later more often.”

Betty sighed again and told him she was feeling stressed. “I have a major project that’s nearing deadline, and it’s not going well.”

“Well, if there’s anything I can do to help,” Dain said.

Betty remained silent and went to bed early, turning down Dain’s offer to massage away her stressful day.

Convinced her sighs were hiding something, and dreading what he might learn was behind them, Dain hired a private detective to follow her after she left work. It didn’t take long. On the morning after his second night on the job, Dain got a call from Deke the private dick:

“You’re not going to like it.”

Dain gave his own sigh into the phone, then told Deke to stop by his office to present the evidence.

After Deke left, Dain dropped the disk into his laptop’s drive and watched, amazed by the clarity of Deke’s video, shot with his cell phone through the window of a seedy motel on Eight Mile Road near Woodward Avenue—an area of town noted for its topless bars, purveyors of triple-X rated DVDs, streetwalkers, and filthy motels for which patrons paid by the hour. Dain’s mouth went dry as his suspicions were confirmed. 

You’re not going to like it was a gross understatement. What Dain hadn’t counted on was that Betty’s lover was another woman.

Another man might’ve felt excluded and popped a woody at the thought of a threesome that included a woman with different hair color and body type than his wife—like Mike Stivic on All in the Family, the episode in which he wanted Gloria to wear a black wig to bed so that he could, in Gloria’s words, “be able to mess around with a different girl without cheating on your wife.” That other man might’ve asked his wife if he could join Betty and her lover. But Dain wasn’t another man. Like his countryman Karolis Bučinskis, Dain was Lithuanian. Because of the House Un-American Activities Committee proceedings in 1954, and at the suggestion of his agent who feared that an Eastern European surname might damage his career, Bučinskis changed his name to Charles Bronson, taking the name from the Bronson Gate at Paramount Studios. Bronson of course became a major box office draw after his appearance in The Magnificent Seven, a movie in which he was cast as one of the seven gunfighters, Bernardo O’Reilly, not because he looked at all like an O’Irishman. Although Bronson married three times, Dain fancied himself a one-woman man. The idea of a life-long partner appealed to him, a rarity in the twenty-first century. Betty changed that, and he hated her for it. She would pay. How she would pay Dain didn’t yet know, but she would pay, and dearly.

J. Conrad Guest, author of: 500 Miles To GoA Retrospect In Death, A World Without Music, Backstop: A Baseball Love Story In Nine InningsJanuary’s Thaw, and One Hot January

Click to purchase

Click to purchase

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Filed under Excerpts, fiction, J. Conrad Guest, writing