Interview With Robert N. Chan, Author of “Girl”

What is your book about?

A trusted member of her ultra-Orthodox Jewish community rapes fifteen-year-old Hannah in the back room of a Brooklyn kosher butcher shop. Unwilling to succumb to her parents’ demand that she blame a homeless black man, she runs away. Alone on unfamiliar New York City streets and armed only with an indomitable spirit, quirky sense of humor, and unyielding intolerance for hypocrisy and injustice, she confronts adversity after adversity.

Blaming herself for having been raped and bent on avoiding emotional intimacy, she becomes involved with an enforcer for a Serbian mobster and embarks on a life of prostitution and hard drugs. Then comes unexpected motherhood and a son she treasures. When he is arrested on trumped up charges and almost killed in prison, her wide-ranging client base, including hoods and feds, comes in handy. But her plan backfires, her son is forever lost, and she is banished to an Appalachian backwater as a protected witness. Depressed and alone, she rediscovers her childhood dream of tikkun olam, repairing the world, and charts a path to justice and redemption. All she has to do now is emerge from witness protection, outwit vengeful hit men, and run for Congress in Tea Party country as a New York Jewish former whore. Too bad about that quirky sense of humor and unyielding intolerance for hypocrisy and injustice.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

People who’d read my novel, To Gain the Whole World told me the main character’s mother was a terrific character whom I shouldn’t have killed off early in the book. So I decided to write the same story from her point of view. That didn’t work, but I had as a starting point the main character, an ultra-orthodox girl who is raped and turned out by that very conservative closed community and forced to make her way in an alien world for which she is totally unprepared.

What about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The insights into the world of the Brooklyn ultra-orthodox, the main character’s struggles and triumphs, and the quality of writing which has already received eight glowing reviews on Amazon.

Do you have specific techniques you use to develop the plot and stay on track?

I allow my main character to take the story where she wants it to go.

What is your goal for the book, ie: what do you want people to take with them after they finish reading the story?

Mostly I want them to enjoy an exciting, inspiring, well-written story.

Is there a message in your writing you want readers to grasp?

Extremism of all types is soul destroying and the human spirit can overcome almost all adversity.

What was the most difficult part about writing the book?

Writing about rape in a sensitive and searching way.

Are you writing to reach a particular kind of reader?

One who truly enjoys reading and has many friends he or she can suggest my book to.

Does writing come easy for you?

Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.

What one book, written by someone else, do you wish you’d written yourself?

Fifty Shades of Gray. I could put up with the criticism of the bad writing, phony eroticism, and worship of materialism for the huge amount of money. I’m not looking to sell out but for the right price…

Which is more important to your story, character or plot?

Each element is crucial as is the quality of the writing.

Where can people learn more about your books?

Second Wind Publishing:!robert-chan/c1ltt
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Imagined Conversations

2014_10_05_06_47_50By: Jay Duret

These pages are frequently home to matters of writing craft; today let me describe a writing therapy.

This Spring I am going to get back to work writing a novel. As all writers know, it takes a considerable toll to turn out pages at a quantity, and with a quality, that will make the end product worthwhile. The effort reminds me of training for a marathon. Every day the need to log miles on the laptop. And not bursts – or not just bursts – but the steady, painful, foot by foot, slog forward. Day after day. Relentless. I have done it before; I know the daily efforts will come to a conclusion, but there is no denying that it is hard, hard, lonely work. To keep my spirits up, this time I have decided to cross train. I won’t just run a marathon; I am taking up a new sport, one with a very different training regimen.  Something to counter-balance the inwardness and the determined grinding of writing a long piece of fiction.

With this in mind, at the first of the year I began a project I am calling Imagined Conversations. Each day I create and post on my website a drawing and a few lines of imaginary conversation. Sometimes the words of text are created from whole cloth; sometimes I post the fruits of the eavesdropping I do in San Francisco where I live.

As I said, I began the project on January 1, 2015 and as I write this post on February 28th, I have created 59 illustrations. I began with a New Year’s message:

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

which captured my mood at the time. I followed it the next day with a cheery vision:



I do not try to for stylistic or narrative consistency; I post whatever moves me at the moment. Some days my prompt is an event on the world stage, as this one from the days just after the Paris killings:

Mourning Cartoon

Mourning Cartoon

Other days I travel where whimsy takes me:



I don’t have recurring characters and my message is never the same.

Some days I take a literary slant:



At other times I chase lines from scripture:



or from the streets of San Francisco:



I am counting on the discipline of posting a new drawing every day to be helpful to the discipline of writing my next novel, but I confess an ulterior motive. I also hope to create a bigger following for my blog, particularly followers who will be interested in reading my stories as well as viewing the drawings in the Imagined Conversations project. (You can help by following me at or on Instagram @JoeFaces.)

But the most important part of this effort is the therapeutic part. The part of the brain I exercise when I draw is a different part than the one I punish when I write. I can wind myself in knots struggling to get words on paper but turn around and sketch for an hour completely relaxed. In fact, I can feel the writing tightness in my shoulders bleed away as I draw. I am one of those sad suckers who believes in home-spun therapies, and at least for the minute, this one is working for me.


Jay Duret is a San Francisco-based writer. Second Wind recently published Jay’s first novel, Nine Digits. See the trailer here


Filed under Humor, Jay Duret, writing

Interview with Eric Johnson, Author of “Summer School Zombocalypse”

What is your book about?

Summer School Zombocalypse. After a plane crashes onto the school yard and rescue attempts turns the first responders into zombies, Tom and his motley crew of grade-schoolers fight to find their way home. But home isn’t the safe haven they have been seeking. The zombies are everywhere. Tom leads the kids on a desperate search through the town for their parents. Horrors arise at every corner. Their search leads them back to school where they discover the awful truth- aliens are turning humans into zombies for food! Now finding their parents isn’t the most important thing they have to do. They have to save the world.

How long had the idea of your book been developing before you began to write the story?

I am a panster by nature, I get an idea of a character, choose three things about him. Pick a beginning and get a rough idea of where I want to end, and go.

What inspired you to write this particular story?

Summer School Zombocalypse started as a writing exercise for my writers group.

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?

I can’t answer that, I turn the music up to 11, close my eyes and let my fingers go, fingers free.

Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite? Why?

Tom like all 14 year old boys wants to test his boundaries, he wants to be trusted that his ability to make good judgment calls about how he handles himself can be accepted.

Who is your most unusual/most likeable character?

I had no intention of making my characters likable. Likeability is over rated.

Why will readers relate to your characters?

Waves magic wand, I hope so. I enjoyed writing them. Tom is the leader, the driver of the story, Emmett and Winston are the logical and the child. Anidea she wants what everyone else does, to escape, but on her terms. She is a manipulator.

If your book was made into a TV series or Movie, what actors would you like to see playing your characters?

I’ll let the producer choose, budgets are a major factor in film. But if I could choose and had a time machine I would choose a 14 year old Wil Wheaton to play my main character.

What are you working on right now?

I am working on the third novel in the “Times Forgotten” series

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your work-in-progress?

What would you do, if you could do it all over again?

Where can people learn more about Summer School Zombocalypse?

From Second Wind Publishing:

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Without All the Love by Ginger King

My series The Lost and Found while not necessarily romance in genre, does contain some romance because the stories are all about loving in difficult situations.  Loving parents, running from a love we know is good for us.  Loving our friends who know us just about as well as we know ourselves.  Each book has a set of circumstances in the plot that are dramatic and thrilling (hopefully) on their own without romance or love.  So I ask myself why do even the best thrillers have some aspect of love and or romance? Is is because it is present even if what is experienced is the exact opposite of love?

Sometimes it is in the form of deep respect, an appreciation for an elder or mentor as in Jeffery Deaver’s The Bone Collector between Lincoln and Amelia.  Perhaps it is friendship and the lifelong bond it sometimes creates such as in the film The Sandlot as shown in the ending scene between Benny and Smalls.  Also there is familial love.  The kind that creates a good kind of crazy that only exists in the family dynamic.  Then there is heart wrenching family love found in books like Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper.  So very many stories would be less without all the love.  Even the Love Story is about so much more than the romantic love between Ollie and Jenny but in that story their love is the reason for nearly everything that happens apart from the fatherly love of Phil.  In other books, the love is a result, a complication, a game changer to the plot.  Sometimes it is a large part, and sometimes small, but it is there none the less.

In the first book of the Lost and Found series, Diamond Road the action and plot move along because of what happens to one of the main characters.  Her set of circumstances are neither romantic or driven by romance.  They are driven by her need to survive, to come out of those circumstances whole and happy.  In the second novel of the series (coming later this year) Hope in Carolina there is way more romance than in any of the other books.  It’s strategic.  These new main characters needed to have a bond that they are not willing to lose despite the odds stacked against them.  As their story completes itself in the third book of the series the plot is predominantly a drama and criminal thriller with lots of action inside and outside of a hospital and a courtroom.  But what gravity would all of that have on these two characters without all the love?

If you stop and ask yourself these same questions about your own life, you realize that if we write about humans, the kind we know, the kind we are then you must admit that every story is a love story to some degree.  Here is a short excerpt from Hope in Carolina that is romantic in nature.  It’s about how some of the details of the world around us slip away when we are in the embrace of that certain person who holds our heart in such a way as to make us believe we are one with them.

Hope asked, “I mean have you ever kissed someone and you can’t even remember what you did with your hands? I never knew what my hands were doing, where they were.  All I know was how he made me feel.  One hundred percent his, and I was so totally in the moment with his lips on mine or his teeth gently nibbling at my neck or jawline.  For the brief seconds we weren’t’ joined we were nose to nose with a slight giggle coming from one or the other of us like we knew something, held some prizze no one else could ever possibly understand.  I still don’t recall where my hands were most of the time.  It was like they melted away and his lips were all I knew.”

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Question Marks and Other Things That Make You Think by Sherrie Hansen

I had a birthday a couple of weeks ago, and I received a card from my Mom and Dad that really made me think. On the inside, it said “Lots of love from Mom and Dad. We are very proud of all your accomplishments.  Now it’s time to slow down and enjoy the fruits of your labor?”

Yes, there was a question mark at the end, which left me wondering exactly what they meant.


The card came at a time when I was working hard to finish Shy Violet, my next book – coming soon from Second Wind. I’ve been short staffed at my restaurant and B&B since last fall, and have been doing much of the cooking and cleaning myself. I’ve also been writing the scripts for our popular murder mysteries, about one a month – a very fun, but time consuming process. In the past week, I filled a large order for the cookie business I have on the side, and took my nieces and nephew out to dinner and to a school play (the favorite part of my busy weeks). In the past month, I’ve also baked 12 or 15 dozen cookies for church, practiced and played a lot of music, and written a Christmas program for our Sunday School youth. And on the day of my birthday – a Sunday, I had 23 people over for a birthday brunch after church.

Food - Cookies Noah

Even when I’m riding in the car, or watching TV, or doing something that could be construed as relaxing, I have my laptop open so I can  be working on something, or a needlepoint project in my hands. I really don’t like going to the movie theater because it forces me to do nothing but watch.

Rose - needlepoint

Let’s just summarize by saying that I like to keep busy! I’m the original multi-tasker, and very probably a workaholic. My husband says my brain has no off-switch. While I did not inherit these traits from strangers, I guess I should also listen when these same people tell me that I’m at that time in my life when I need to reexamine some of my priorities and start relaxing a little bit.

My first response, when I read the card, was that I don’t know how to relax – don’t want to relax, don’t enjoy relaxing – that I’d rather be busy than the alternative, that I like the hectic pace of my life, and find it energizing.


And then, a 16 year old girl from our old church died in a car accident on Sunday night – a girl we’d known since she was little – a sweet, talented young woman who should be the honoree at a graduation party instead of a funeral. On Monday, we found out that there’s going to be a wedding in the family – in Romania. On Tuesday afternoon, my mom ended up in the hospital with congestive heart failure – she’s been treated and is going to be fine, but it shook us all up. And on Wednesday, a dear young woman who I greatly admire – talented, beautiful, engaged to be married, just starting out in life, her whole future ahead of her – was killed in a car accident on snowy roads.

Zion 2013 Frost Close

Last Sunday, a friend from church who has 15 or 20 years on me told me, “Do it now. Once you get to be 50, things start to happen. So travel now. Have fun while you can, while there’s still time.” More good advice.

So… I’m off to start writing Sweet William, finish my edits on Shy Violet, and get my next murder mystery done – this one is called, A Taste of Murder – the Galloping Gourmet Gets the Trots – and it has to be done by March 7th. While I’m working, I’m thinking about my birthday card, and trying to figure out what relaxing and enjoying the fruits of my labor looks like for me.

Zion - bowed head

In the meantime, I am grateful to be alive, and to have had the chance to live out my life, to be loved, and to love. I am grateful for the privilege of living, and I intend to live every second to its fullest potential.

It makes you think, doesn’t it?


By day, Sherrie Hansen operates the Blue Belle Inn B&B & Tea House and tries to be a good pastor’s wife. By night, she writes. Her novels, Shy Violet (coming soon), Blue Belle, Wild Rose, Thistle Down, Love Notes, Night & Day, Stormy Weather, Water Lily & Merry Go Round are available from


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A mini-course (four points) for watching network evening news. Pay attention because each point is essential in order to wisely view newscasts. Ignore any one item and you will be greatly misinformed. Not only misinformed but  badly informed. It was Thomas Jefferson who said that in order to have a democracy you need an informed electorate. So, pay attention —


RULE ONE: Never believe the first report. Why? Because the reporter, rushing to beat the competition and/or the deadline, has probably gotten the facts wrong. After the dust has settled is the time to put credence in the “late breaking news headline.” How long? May take several days, or as long as a month.

RULE TWO: If a reporter rattles off about a thousand words per second, gasping for air as he spews syllables like a machine gun, turn to another channel immediately. Such a news dispenser is attempting to take an ordinary story – say, of Widow Smith’s cat that is stuck a tree and won’t come down — into a piece deserving the Pulitzer Prize for journalism. Be warned, the world is not going to end because that silly feline won’t descend from the tree.

RULE THREE: The more shocking the headline, the less you should believe it. TV news business is based on ratings and demographics. Increase the viewership and you increase the bottom line. News networks have learned that “shock and awe” is money in the bank. Without a doubt, The National Inquirer proved that the public loves gore – the redder, the better. So, this above all, give them gore.

RULE FOUR: Never conclude after watching the evening news that “this is the way the world.” It isn’t. The report you viewed gives a glimpse of how the bad part of the world is. The good part is usually ignored.  Examples: the story about the mother in Virginia who goes without several meals so her daughter in college can buy the book she needs for her English class. Or the father in Ohio who works three jobs in order that his son can stay in college. The only way either of the mentioned parents can get on the evening news is to plunge an icepick in their children’s brains. If the two become murderers, they will be mobbed by reporters. Sad but true.

Summary: the next time you view a network news report, take it with a grain of salt. No, a box of salt (iodized or un-iodized, doesn’t matter). Better still, a mountain of salt. And oh, yes…a smile and a sense of humor.  Otherwise you’ll end up ranting like reporters that” the sky is falling and that life as we know it will end at any moment –‘ but not before this commercial for Uncle George’s Magic Foot Lotion Rub, a miracle in a bottle’”



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Questions Wanting Answers

Well now this isn’t one of my questions, but instead a wonderful answer by Stacy Casteneda to the cover for A Shot and Futile Life coming soon from Second Wind publishing. – Thank you, Stacy!

S&FL Frnt-Thmb

O.K. 2W family, I really would like to know what you think.

Question 1 – Is there any empirical evidence that sequential excerpts from books engender sales, or are we just desperately hoping that some people will be so enamored with our writing that he or she will be unable not to buy?

Question 2 – If we conclude that excerpt do create awareness if not actually leading to sales (and no one will buy anything they haven’t heard about), then what is the optimum post length?

Question 3 – If showing them our wares themselves does not lead to sales, then what kind of blogging does get them interested in our books. The same identical hat in a dingy store will not get the same attention as it would if it were in an “upscale” store. So, what “storefront” if you will, induces the blog reader to walk in and look around?

Question 4 – How did I get “over the hill” without getting to the top? – No, no, that’s not my real question, I just had to throw that in there to lighten things up a bit. But seriously, now in my 80’s I know I am out of touch with modern reality. Hell, I don’t even have a cell phone, but why would I need one when I don’t get a dozen phone calls a month and half of those are some someone wanting to sell me something, or the drugstore reminding me that one the chemicals that keep me alive needs renewing.

My question has to do with modern communications technology. I gather from Google that MOBI is an eBook format that along with EPUB, AZW etc. are designed for small screen formats. Can DOC and / or PDF formats be converted to MOBI and if so what is a good converter.

Oh dear, I fear I have over loaded you with questions, so if you would answer any one of them I would be “over the hill” ecstatically happy. Hell, I’ll be happy if you just have a great day and don’t answer a single one of my questions.

Anyway; Good Luck, or May the Force Be With You, or Blessings, or Happiness and Light, or as my Irish mother used to say, “May your troubles be less, and your blessing be more, and nothing but happiness come through your door.”

Blessing and Aloha – pjs.


Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]Final MSS Cover frontPaul’s book The Telephone Killer published by 2nd Wind Publishing is now available on Amazon and from the publisher. Kindle and Nook versions just $4.99. – Soon to be available as an audiobook.

Murder Sets Sail  now available from Second Wind Publishing and on AmazonKindle and Nook versions just $4.99,


churchstepsS&FL Frnt-ThmbBody On the Church Steps now available from Second Wind Publishing and on AmazonKindle and Nook versions just $4.99,

A Short & Futile Life coming soon from Second Wind Publishing.



Filed under books, Paul J. Stam, writing

Boredom, by Carole Howard

When I was a kid, it didn’t take me long to learn that there was no point in complaining to my mother that I was bored. Her answer was always the same:

“Well, you could always knock your head against a wall. Then it will feel soooo good when you stop.”

Ha, ha, mom.

Back then, I wanted to fill the emptiness of boredom with fun, games, or mischief. My unquestioned assumption – that boredom represented emptiness which needed to be filled – has stuck with me. As an adult, though, I usually want to fill it with “getting stuff done.” Activity of any kind – knitting, reading, writing, cooking, exercising, making overdue phone calls, paying bills – is better than none. In terms of using time “productively,” my To-Do list can be my best friend.

But I’ve recently stumbled across a few essays with a different take. Very different. They actually seemed to be saying that boredom was a “something” rather than a “nothing.”

It reminded me a lot of a smack-on-the-the-head experience I had from “Drawing on the Right Side of Your Brain.” Before I read that book, I thought precious little about drawing or two-dimensional art. It was pretty straightforward for me: A picture of a tree is about, well, the tree. Duh.

Not so fast. It turns out there are other parts of the paper, non-tree parts, to be considered. The shapes of the spaces between the branches, or the part of the sky that borders on the tree can be important, or the space between the cheetah and the branch. They’re actually something, not nothing. They can be beautiful or harsh, smooth or jagged. They even have a name: negative space.

 507Cool negative space: a cheetah stalking a jackal in Tanzania.

Intervals between activities – previously considered absences, breeding ground for boredom – are like negative space. Presences of a different sort. I could just observe the light changing on the trees outside my window, or notice the shape of the gooseneck lamp on the other side of the room, think about a plot point in my writing, or – radically –none of the above:  I can float, stop doing, just be.  No time-filling necessary.

I like this way of looking at time, and have had some opportunity to try it out lately. (Hint: I live in the northeast. Think snow  More snow.) However, since I have many years of task-orientation under my belt, it’s going to take me a while to get the hang of it. But I can do it, I’m sure I can! I can learn! Maybe I should draw up a schedule: 5 minutes of nothing on Monday, 10 minutes on Tuesday, etc. I can keep a journal about my progress…..

Oh wait, that’s not the spirit of the thing at all. Never mind. I’m sure I’ll find a way. As a last resort, I can just force myself to do nothing by knowing it will feel so … normal … when I stop.

How about you?  Are you ever bored?  What do you do — or not-do — about it?

*  *  *

Carole Howard is the author of Deadly Adagio, published by Second Wind Publishing.



Filed under Carole Howard, musings, writing

Fifty Shades of Relationships

In my writing, the subject of human interaction – dysfunctional or otherwise – tends to be a central theme.  I admit that putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) provides an outlet for me to work through my own past and present experiences or to explore the different aspects of the interpersonal relationships that I observe.

I’ve read a lot through the years and my taste in books runs the gamut from hard science fiction to romance.  The books I love the most are the ones that actually dig into the motivations behind people fall for one another.  In other blogs, I have stated my preference for a good anti-hero or heroine over the obvious “knight in shining armor” or perfect woman.  I find perfect people boring.  Give me a tortured soul who overcomes the pain and imperfection of their life to find acceptance and love from an equally imperfect person any day.  That said, the “pretty woman” stereotype or the “reformed by love bad boy” types of tales don’t really resonate with me either.  I’m not sure if it’s the suspension of disbelief that trips me up or that I’ve seen too many good people burned by these sorts of people to truly believe it works out in real life.  The part that I find most difficult to accept in that type of story is the nice neat “and they lived happily ever after.”

Relationships are messy and there are so many factors that come into play as to why they do or don’t work out. No two relationships are the same, no matter what the negative tapes in our heads may say to us at times. I’ve come to realize that making sense of someone else’s relationship is pointless, especially when often times the people actually in the relationship have trouble figuring it out themselves.

Lately, there has been a lot of press about the Fifty Shades of Grey books and movie.  I’ve seen the movie and am trying very hard to read the books.  It’s not the subject matter that is causing me difficulty in getting through the novels, it’s her writing style.  Simply put, I can only assume she landed her book contracts based on the story and topic rather than her skill as an author.  There are at least four authors in the Second Wind Publishing stable that I can think of off the top of my head that could write circles around E.L. James and for the record – I don’t think I am one of them, so save your tomatoes and rotten fruit to throw elsewhere.

Some of my friends find the Christian Grey/Anastasia Steele relationship to be abusive and it offends them.  Some find it incredibly romantic and erotic.  Some, like me, fall somewhere between those two viewpoints.  Weird as I am, I find the choice in character names rather intriguing and wonder if E.L. James did it deliberately (in which case my opinion of her as a writer stepped up a notch) or if it was a complete coincidence.  That observation aside, I think the relationship between these two characters could tip in either direction.  It becomes a question of perspective, choices, and personal filters.  What is abuse to me may be normal for you.  What is romantic to you may be false sentiment to me.

As an example, I dated a guy who somewhere around the three months mark showed up for one of our dates with a grocery bag over flowing with fresh grown vegetables from his garden with the words, “I love you” written in black marker on the outside of the bag. He was working two jobs at the time, one as a waiter at night, the other was trying to get his general contractor company off the ground, also while working on his business degree.  In his spare time, what little there was, he saw me and gardened. Most of my friends (male and female) found this gesture to be rather lame.  In their minds, a bouquet of flowers would have been more appropriate.  To me, it was an incredibly romantic gesture.  Any guy can walk into a flower shop or grocery store and buy a bunch of flowers.  My interpretation was that it was a true from the heart gift.  He was the type that grew his vegetables from seeds, so each one of those vegetables represented time, effort, and care that he wished to share with me.  The simple words, “I love you” written on the outside of a brown grocery bag said more to me than any Hallmark card ever could.

To further illustrate, I also dated a guy who was full of the big gestures: flowery romantic cards, expensive bouquets of flowers delivered to my office, clothing, jewelry, expensive dinners, and weekend get-aways.  The problem was a lack of depth to the relationship.  He was never really interested in getting to know me on anything but a superficial level.  I felt like an accessory.  If I needed him, there was always an excuse for why he couldn’t be there for me and was usually followed up by a bunch of roses sent to my office.  When I left him, my friends and certain family members didn’t understand why I was okay with losing him.  Explaining that you “can’t lose what you never had” fell on deaf ears and got nothing but blank stares.

I was recently talking to a close friend about their relationship woes and shared my observation that the two of them spend more time talking about their relationship and the problems (perceived and actual) they have than they do just simply being in the relationship. It’s constantly either really good or really bad, it’s never just there. There is another couple I know that, individually, are wonderful people.  Together, the word that comes to mind to describe their relationship is apathetic.  They have little in common aside from their children and they seem to barely tolerate one another’s presence.  There’s no real fighting or roller coaster of emotions there, as I said, apathy is the primary emotion you get from them sprinkled with a hint of contempt from time to time.  Will either couple make it long term?  I don’t know and truly my opinion really doesn’t count.  Again, it comes down to perspective.  If this is what the two of them see as a normal functional relationship, perhaps they will.  To me, both situations border on the mentally and/or verbally abusive end of the spectrum.  I’m sure if one asked either couple if they saw their relationship as abusive at least one or both of the partners would disagree.  Again, it’s all about the perspective and personal filters.

When I write about relationships, I struggle with the happily ever after at times.  The more complex the character, the harder I have to try to bring out the little things between the couples that provide clues to a reader on how they came to be together in the first place and what holds them together as they go through whatever conflicts or obstacles my Muse decides to toss at them.  Knowing that the reader has their own perspective and filters that are applied to the story can make it a challenge to give two flawed diamonds a happy ending that doesn’t come across as forced. Writing a happily ever after for a couple of perfect rhinestones is easy.

As I stated earlier, I am still struggling to finish the first book in the Fifty Shades series.  I really hope the first book and the movie have the same endpoint because whatever criticisms I have of E.L. James’ writing in general, I have to say the movie ended the only way my filters could accept based on the character development.

Mairead Walpole is the pen name for a somewhat introverted project and contract manager who has 20+ years of business and technical writing under her belt. In her spare time, Mairead writes paranormal romance among other genres. Her first novel, “A Love Out of Time” is available through Second Wind Publishing ( or


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The Secret in Whitetail Lake 7th Installment by Christine Husom

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.

My personal cell phone rang, and when I glanced at the dial decided it was important to answer it. “Excuse me.” I slipped out and found a semi-private corner. “Hi, Mom.”

“Corinne, I’m worried sick. Ever since you called looking for Denny, I’ve tried his phone a dozen times and he hasn’t called me back. It’s just not like him to not return a call after so many hours.”

I searched for encouraging words to reassure her, but there were none. “The patrol deputies are on the lookout for his car. I know it’s odd, but there is a very good reason which we’ll find out.”

“You sound so sure, dear.”

“I am.” And hoped it was true. Thirty years ago her classmates had disappeared and we’d finally found them today. I counted on the fact that the sheriff was a resourceful man with years of experience in countless situations. Maybe he had run an errand that had taken far longer than he’d thought. And if his cell phone was dead, he wouldn’t know we were looking for him. There was a remote possibility something like that had happened.

“Mother, I’m sorry that I have to cut this short, but I’m in the middle of something right now. Hang in there and I will call the minute we get word about Denny.”

“All right, I suppose. Thank you, dear.”

I hung up and it took me a minute to steer my mind from wondering where the sheriff was to the investigation at hand. When I slipped back into Smoke’s cubicle, he was in the middle of collecting DNA from Darwin Fryor. Smoke swabbed the inside of his mouth then dropped the sample in a sterile bottle and sealed it.

“We’re going to review the files from when Tommy and Wendy disappeared, talk to some folks, and try to piece together what happened. And we’ll keep in touch with you, Mister Fryor. ”

Darwin Fryor rubbed his forehead then his cheek. “I surely can’t figure how the car could have ended up in Whitetail Lake.”

“It’s a real puzzle to be sure. And we’ll do all we can to piece it together,” Smoke said.

He escorted Darwin Fryor out and I returned to the file room. I was reading statements taken from the friends and classmates of Tommy Fryor and Wendy Everton when Smoke joined me.

“You come across something troubling in there?”

“What? Oh, no. It’s the sheriff. Mother was the one who called me. She is a nervous wreck, of course, because she can’t help herself. And in this instance, it seems like she’s got good reason.”

“I’m with you on that one.”

“I don’t want to even say this out loud, but what if someone lured Denny out somewhere, somehow took control of him, and is planning to hold him for ransom.”

Smoke’s eyebrows shot up and his lips formed an O. “Whoa. Little lady, you do have a vivid imagination at times. I can’t imagine the sheriff falling for something like that. On the other hand, the whole thing is definitely worrisome. We got a bunch of deputies scouring the county for him. The chief deputy is checking with other county employees to see if anyone saw him leave. We’re bound to learn something before long.”

I nodded, and as much as I wanted to believe that, I wasn’t convinced. I knew Smoke wasn’t either. “One thing: I know we can trust Chief Deputy Kenner to be thorough, and he’ll make sure no stone is unturned.”

“Very true. And in the meantime, we’ve got our work cut out for us.” He sat down at the table and moved a pile of documents closer to him. “So is there a golden needle in this haystack that may give us a clue?”

After reading and taking notes for a while, I said. “It sounds like Tommy was a bit of a risk taker, which led his classmates at the time to support the theory that they had run away.”

“He was. Not unlike most of the teenage boys I’ve known. Most of us feel immortal when we’re sixteen, seventeen, eighteen.”

“I have to say I pretty much did myself.”


“The investigation back then was focused on why Tommy and Wendy disappeared. Most everyone thought they must have run off together.”

“That was the talk, and the only explanation anyone could come up with.”

“A number of his friends were surprised he’d do that since it looked like he had a promising future, either as a professional athlete or a coach.”

“Yeah, when you get to my statement, you’ll see I was in that camp. Tommy was a star athlete. He was offered a full scholarship at three or so colleges. On the other hand, he was smitten, more like obsessed with Wendy Everton. A lotta other guys were, too. Fortunately, I did not go too far down that road with her.”

“I’m trying not to dislike her.”

Smoke reached over and squeezed my forearm. “Corinne, whatever Wendy was or was not is no longer an issue.”

And she wasn’t there to defend herself. “Of course. Mostly I feel awful that their families have gone through over thirty years of agony.”

“Thanks to Sergeant Warner for picking Whitetail to test his new sonar equipment, they’ll be able to bury Tommy and Wendy, and hopefully work through it.”

We scanned through the documents for another hour.

“We should pay a visit to Wendy’s parents then I’d like to examine the area where the car went in. Try to figure out what in the hell happened.”

“From what I read, there was no indication that either one of them was depressed. A few wondered if Wendy was pregnant.”

“That was the talk at the time. If she was, no one knew it for sure.”

We gathered the papers, packed up the file, and put it back in its place in the drawer. It was 6:01 in the evening and my mother phoned again. She was still at work. “Corinne, you haven’t called and I thought maybe you got busy and forgot.”

“I have been busy, but I haven’t forgotten.”

“So there is still no word on Denny?”

“Not yet, unfortunately.”

“Where are you, anyway?”

I knew she was wondering why I hadn’t stopped by her shop to see her. “I got caught up in a case. A car was pulled out of Whitetail Lake this morning.”

“One of my customers told me about it a little while ago. She happened by when they were loading it on a tow truck. I hadn’t heard of any cars going in the lake. The road is nice and straight along there, so how did it happen?”

Maybe if my mother had something else to think about, she’d worry less about Sheriff Dennis Twardy. “Brace yourself for this one. That car has been down there a long time; since you were in high school, in fact. It appears it was Tommy Fryor’s Dodge Charger.”

There was a clunking sound in my ear and I realized Mother must have dropped the phone on her counter. It took a few seconds before she was back. “What did you say?”

Smoke reached his hand out for my phone so I passed it over. “Kristen, it’s Elton. . . . No, it doesn’t seem real. . . . No, they did not push the car in the lake before they ran off. . . . Because there were humans remains in the car.” Smoke put my phone against his chest. “I think she dropped the phone.”

I took it back from him and waited until Mother said, “What?”

“Mother, I am going to pick you up and give you a ride to Gramps’ house. Okay? . . . I’ll be there in five minutes.”

“Your poor mom. We might as well take my car, and I’ll drop you off at yours when we get done for the day. Let’s go rescue Kristen.”

I nodded.

Christine Husom is the author of the Winnebago County Mystery Series.

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