Dreaming in the Pages

Books ... where dreams are better than reality

Broken Pieces

Jack Canon's American Destiny

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Author Interview – Owen Banner

How did you develop your writing? From a combination of reading Romantic poetry, Stephen King, and Marvel Comic Books, writing rock lyrics, getting a Masters in Rhetoric, and living with and engaging people from cultures all over the world in conversation.

Where do you get your inspiration from? Struggle. I find the difficult questions, morally complicated decisions, and challenging life situations that we each deal with to be a major source of what keeps me writing. I want my readers to see themselves in my characters and ask themselves what they would have done in that situation or whether the essential question that Shirley is battling is something that resonates with them.

What is hardest – getting published, writing or marketing? I think it depends on who you are. If you’re a marketer by nature, then writing might be difficult, because it requires solitude, taking you away from people. If you’re a writer, then marketing is going to be the hardest, because you just want to spend all your time writing and marketing feels like a distraction.

Do you plan to publish more books? Definitely. I have 7 projects on the backburners right now. At present, I am working on a novel that is closely connected to Hindsight. I can’t say much more, though. You’ll have to read Hindsight and tune into the blog to find out why.

What else do you do to make money, other than write? It is rare today for writers to be full time… I’m an exotic dancer. Just kidding, though some have called my dancing very exotic (okay, the word was “strange”, but it’s close enough). I actually work for a non-profit in Thailand.

If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be? Oh, that’s hard. The Philippines, Thailand, Ireland, Maine or Oregon, I could do any of those places. I once spent a few weeks on an island in Greece. Islands, beaches, ruins, warm people, good food–its got a lot that I’m looking for in a home.

How do you write – lap top, pen, paper, in bed, at a desk? I wrote Hindsight with pen and paper. I prefer it, because I feel more connected with the words. But now I have a permanent knot just above my knuckle from gripping the pen so hard in all those adrenaline fueled scenes. It also took me a lot longer, because I had to retype everything that I wrote. So, this time around, I’ve taken to writing it on the computer. I’ve bought this brilliant program called Scrivener, designed specifically for writing. It lets you create index cards for your characters, store research, and go into a composition mode which allows you to pick whatever background you want to write against. Those are just a few of the features. Anybody who does a lot of writing will tell you how blinding that white screen can get after an hour. So far, it’s been working beautifully.


“I am hurtling eight stories to the pavement. There’s a bullet in my left shoulder and another chewing through my lung. I am going to die.” – Shirley O’Shea

When Shirley got out of prison three years ago, he committed himself to being there for his sister, Haley, and his aunt, Winnie–the only family he has left. Then he met Isaac, a man with connections to his grandfather and to the IRA. Isaac said he owed Shirley’s family a favor: deliver a package and get some money. But things are never that simple, are they? What should have been an easy drop-off blows Shirley’s world apart. Now he’s on the run, a continent away from those he loves, trying to figure out what he’s gotten himself into, who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in order to keep his family safe.

But Shirley has a few skeletons of his own banging on the closet doors, and the hinges are starting to come off.

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Genre - Thriller

Rating – R

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Connect with Owen Banner on Facebook & Twitter

Website http://www.owenbanner.com/

Women’s Obsession with Shoes by River Maria Urke


  Women’s Obsession with Shoes clip_image001

A woman’s love for shoes has no boundaries. Million’s of women from all lifestyles and ages, crossing borders around the globe, care not of the necessity of shoes as much as they care of the aesthetic quality of them. The likelihood is high you know at least one friend or family member that has a love for shoes. In fact, you may be captivated yourself.

A woman’s love of a pair of shoes has been known to trump comfort for many an occasion. Some women hold the view shoes are the glue that binds an outfit together, while others base their outfit on their favorite pair of trendy shoes. The fashion of trendy and designer shoes is seen in our media traveling the globe with Stilettos on top. Carrie Bradshaw from Sex in the City is known for her obsession with designer shoes like Manolo Blahniks and Christian Louboutin. She estimates she has a $40,000 shoe collection in her New York City apartment. Carrie is a fictional character that portrays women’s obsession with shoes to an extreme. The Consumer Reports National Research Center for the shopping magazine ShopSmart conducted a poll in 2007 on women and shoes. They found that the average American woman owns 19 pairs of shoes, while 15% of women own more than 30 pairs. “Women obviously love their shoes and are willing to go to great lengths for them,” said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart.

Why are women obsessed with shoes? When did this fascination begin? A brief look at the history of shoes along with cultural factors and philosophy will help glide us a step further in understanding women’s obsession with shoes.


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Genre – Creative Non-Fiction / Memoirs

Rating – PG

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Special Feature - Jessica Bell

Have you been told there’s a little too much telling in your novel? Want to remedy it? Then this is the book for you!

In Show & Tell in a Nutshell: Demonstrated Transitions from Telling to Showing you will find sixteen real scenes depicting a variety of situations, emotions, and characteristics which clearly demonstrate how to turn telling into showing. A few short writing prompts are also provided.

Not only is this pocket guide an excellent learning tool for aspiring writers, but it is a user-friendly and simple solution to honing your craft no matter how broad your writing experience. With the convenient hyper-linked Contents Page, you can toggle backward and forward from different scenes with ease. Use your e-reader’s highlighting and note-taking tools to keep notes as you read, and/or record your story ideas, anywhere, anytime.

The author, Jessica Bell, also welcomes questions via email, concerning the content of this book, or about showing vs. telling in general, at showandtellinanutshell@gmail.com

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Genre – Non-Fiction / Writing Skills Reference

Rating – PG

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Blog http://thealliterativeallomorph.blogspot.com/

Have you been told you use too many adverbs and clichés in your writing? Want to remedy it? Then this is the book for you!

In Adverbs & Clichés in a Nutshell: Demonstrated Subversions of Adverbs & Clichés into Gourmet Imagery, you will find thirty-four examples of prose which clearly demonstrate how to turn those pesky adverbs and clichés into vivid and unique imagery. Extra writing prompts are also provided at the end of the book.

Not only is this pocket guide an excellent learning tool for aspiring writers, but it is a user-friendly and simple solution to honing your craft no matter how broad your writing experience. With the convenient hyper-linked Contents Page and Indexes you can toggle backward and forward from different examples with ease. Use your e-reader’s highlighting and note-taking tools to keep notes as you read, and/or record your story ideas, anywhere, anytime.

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Genre – NonFiction

Rating – G

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Website http://www.jessicabellauthor.com/

Note: This cyberpunk/dystopian short story is an experimental work of fiction written in verse. Page count: 30. Word count: 2000.

It’s illegal to wear clothes. In some streets, it’s also illegal to sing. Concetta, a famous Italian a capella singer from before “the change,” breaks these laws. As punishment, her vocal chords are brutally slashed, and her eardrums surgically perforated. Unable to cope living a life without song, she resolves to drown herself in the river, clothed in a dress stained with performance memories. But Concetta’s suicide attempt is deterred, when she is distracted by a busking harpist with gold eyes and teeth. Will he show her how to sing again, or will the LEO on the prowl for another offender to detain, arrest her before she has the chance?

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Genre – Cyberpunk / Dystopian / Short Story in Verse

Rating – PG13

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Website http://www.jessicabellauthor.com/

This book is not The Book. The Book is in this book. And The Book in this book is both the goodie and the baddie.

Bonnie is five. She wants to bury The Book because it is a demon that should go to hell. Penny, Bonnie’s mother, does bury The Book, but every day she digs it up and writes in it. John, Bonnie’s father, doesn’t live with them anymore. But he still likes to write in it from time to time. Ted, Bonnie’s stepfather, would like to write in The Book, but Penny won’t allow it.

To Bonnie, The Book is sadness.
To Penny, The Book is liberation.
To John, The Book is forgiveness.
To Ted, The Book is envy.
But The Book in this book isn’t what it seems at all.

If there was one thing in this world you wished you could hold in your hand, what would it be? The world bets it would be The Book.

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Genre – Contemporary Fiction

Rating – PG13

More details about the author

Connect with Jessica Bell on Facebook & Twitter

Website http://www.jessicabellauthor.com/

Aundes Aura (The Válkia Chronicles) by Ryan Sullivan

Aundes Aura

Saera is afflicted. Seven years ago, while venturing into a cave behind a waterfall with her brother Eoin, she unwittingly absorbed the Aura of Aundes, the Goddess of Light, who cultivates war by making men blind to one another.

Their father, the village blacksmith, languishes in the dungeons for refusing to fight in the Duthonian army, so the siblings must fend for themselves, begging for coin by day and stealing into houses for food by night. Meanwhile, the power-hungry Church Regency prepares an army for an all-out attack on neighbouring kingdom, Meira.

When the Aura reveals itself within Saera, the Regency pursues her relentlessly. She and Eoin take flight and with the help of Faine, a mysterious traveller they happen upon, they elude their pursuers. Making alliances they would never have dreamt of, they find themselves swept up into a struggle against the kingdom they once called their own.

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Genre - Fantasy

Rating – PG13

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Website http://www.thedarkcornerofthemind.blogspot.com.au/

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Author Interview – Lindsey Fairleigh & Lindsey Pogue

Have you started another book yet?

LP: When I’m not working part time for a non-profit organization, I am working on my chapters for book two, Into The Fire.

LF: Along with Into The Fire, I’m just putting the finishing touches on Echo Prophecy, the first book in my debut solo series. It’s a paranormal romance slash time travel novel with strong mythological connections to Ancient Egypt. It follows a young archaeologist, Lex, as she uncovers a historical mystery, a terrifying prophecy, and an ancient, powerful species that has been hiding among humans for millennia. I’m aiming to release it in late summer.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

LP: Writing full time and enjoying life. Hopefully I’ll have the time to get back into horseback riding again as well. I miss it, a lot.

LF: Writing, globe-trotting with my husband, and spending a lot of time in my garden.

Are you reading any interesting books at the moment?

LP: My guilty pleasure is reading J.R. Ward’s, Black Dagger Brotherhood. I’m catching up on her latest books in the series, anxiously waiting for the Blay/Quinn story to come out.

LF: I’m totally addicted to George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series. I also just started The Iron King, by Julie Kagawa and am loving it.

Are there any new authors that have sparked your interest and why?

LP: We’ve met Tahereh Mafi a couple times and she’s so quirky and fun. I think in a lot of ways she reminds us of…us. Watching her grow and succeed as an author has definitely been inspirational. We loved Shatter Me and can’t wait to see where the rest of her series leads us.

LF: Good answer. Ditto.

What are some of the best tools available today for writers, especially those just starting out?

LP: I just discovered Scrivener and I love it! It keeps me organized and I need that to stay focused.

LF: Yeah, I’m on board with Scrivener too. Also, post-its are the greatest outlining and plotting tool ever invented.

Do you have any advice for writers?

LP: Go with your gut and keep in mind that you will NEVER please everyone–that latter is something I’m coming to terms with during this process.

LF: Put your manuscript aside for several months–like lock it away in a safe and don’t peek at it even once–and then when you look at it again, you’ll have all these new ideas for improving it. I know a ton of people have already said it, but there’s a reason–they’re right!

What do you do to unwind and relax?

LP: I love curling up and watching movies with my man or drinking wine and laughing with my friends.

LF: I spend a lot of time cooking–like several hours a day–and I listen to an audiobook while I’m doing it. It’s akin to meditation for me. Also, gardening, walking, and running…also while listening to an audiobook. Haha, I’m totally an audible.com junkie.

What dreams have been realized as a result of your writing?

LP: That I am capable of achieving my dreams.

LF: Writing something that other people can connect to…a story and characters that make them feel something. Even though it’s what we were trying to do, I’m still astonished. It feels amazing.

When you wish to end your career, stop writing, and look back on your life, what thoughts would you like to have?

LP: I did everything I wanted to and have no regrets. I want to have enjoyed the path I chose, my life.

LF: I would like to think that my work, my writing, meant something to somebody else. That would make all of the time and effort worth it.

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Genre – Science Fiction

Rating – R

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Friday, August 9, 2013

The Practical Guide to Happiness by Margaret Curley Sanborn


Can You Learn to be Happy, with Who You Are, Where You Are and What You Have, Now?

If you are willing, YOU CAN, regardless of the cards you have been dealt.

The “pursuit of happiness” is a human right so basic that it’s named in the US Constitution. Unfortunately for most, it is little more than a pursuit, as happiness is elusive to many. The Practical Guide to Happiness: If you don’t like how you’re feeling, Think Again delineates, in a concrete way, the direct link between perception, thinking and feeling.

By using highly relatable stories, readers of the book are able to form a concrete link between abstract ideas regarding how they perceive and think, and how they feel. Realistic characters deal with real-life circumstances to demonstrate how the same situation and events, perceived and thought about differently, can yield different levels of happiness.

The Practical Guide to Happiness educates the reader on the number one challenge to their happiness, the human ego. The reader learns about the power of the human ego to provide a continuous negative diatribe that makes constantly holding positive beliefs about the future, in the face of the challenges of ordinary life, almost impossible. It explains how the ego will impede and thwart most people who chart a course to manifest the type of results that experts, in leading positive thinking books, cite. It then teaches the reader how to curb the ego, and to Think Again.

By using the Think Again strategies, the user learns to create happiness now, regardless of less than ideal life circumstances.

The first half of the book contains engaging stories that directly address the greatest illusions to American happiness, including: personal weight, beauty, wealth, relationships, work, retirement, and child-bearing.

Through these realistic stories, the reader is shown how even small shifts in perception and thinking create happiness and/or misery for the stories’ characters. The stories do not all have a happy ending as shifts in perception may impact the ultimate outcome, but the point of the book is to show the reader that lasting happiness is not tied to people, events or circumstances.

After drawing the reader through interesting examples of how perception and thinking create feelings, the book shifts to a practical guide the reader can use to identify, analyze and change their own negative thinking. The second half of this book is a detailed guide for changing perception and thinking to increase happiness. This section includes 8 practical actions the reader can take every day to curb their negative thinking, as well as the 6 steps required to Think Again (or change their mind).

Unlike many good books on this subject, The Practical Guide to Happiness does not have a religious bent. Although it acknowledges spirituality and God, it expressly gives readers the ability to proceed from their own beliefs, including atheism.

This book is exclusively focused on empowering the reader to become happier today, regardless of their current life challenges.

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Genre – Self Help

Rating – G

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Connect with Margaret Curley Sanborn on Twitter

Website http://www.ifuthink.com

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Sex and Death in the American Novel by Sarah Martinez

My apartment was near the Arboretum in Seattle, hidden back from the road beneath a canopy of dark green trees. When I got home, I slept for the rest of the day. A week with my brother had been draining. When I woke the next morning, I sat in my study staring at my laptop, flipping through my books, unable to call forth the buzz that usually came from three separate ideas fighting it out while I slept. This focus I normally had in abundance early in the morning. The books reminded me of how Tristan helped me move into my apartment downtown after Dad died two years ago. When I set up my office, he said there was too much light, but I loved it. I had a bedroom with tall windows down one wall, a study that was smaller but just as bright. There was a large living room with a kitchen bar attached. We arranged my bookcases both in the living room and study, going over all the books we had in common. He fingered the shiny, new, unread books he sent me after he got into this big literary phase.

“Jesus, this is some collection,” he said as he unpacked the boxes of erotic novels.

“Those are for the study,” I said, and he obediently dragged the boxes in there. When I followed him he said, “Don't you have a bunch of dishes to put away? I can handle this.”

I was suspicious, he seemed to want to be alone with my books, many of which he joked about destroying. “What are you up to? If you do anything to my erotic space operas…”

“Relax Max.” He used a term our father used to use on us both as children. It made me smile. “I can alphabetize quicker than you. And don't worry, I will put your Marquis with the S&M, the dick burners with the dick burners and so on.”

Skeptical, but unwilling to turn down his offer to help on what was in fact a large job, I moved toward the kitchen. After a few moments I heard the comforting and familiar knocking of the books against the wood of the bookcase. He was in there most of the afternoon, long after I moved on from the kitchen to my bedroom. I was just finishing up putting away towels and sundries in the bathroom when he finally announced he was done. I inspected his work while he sat in my swivel chair, checking out the contents of my drawers.

“You did a great job,” I told him. “Everything appears to be in the right place.” I fingered the shelf above my head where my father's books stood like a stand-in for his wrinkled disapproval.

He held up Chronicle, a short story I'd written that was more about family life than sex.

“This isn't bad, Slug,” he said, holding one page up. “I can feel the hatred coming off the page.”

“Yeah, so far the only non-romance stuff I write about is about Dad. There is still a dick in it though.”

He nodded and pushed his lips together, but didn't say anything.

“It's like I don't have enough middle fingers you know?”

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Genre – Literary Erotica

Rating – X

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Website http://www.mywildskies.com/

Author Interview – Samantha Warren

What do you hope your obituary will say about you? “She was epic.”

Location and life experiences can really influence writing, tell us where you grew up and where you now live? I live with my grandma on a farm in the house I grew up in. I get myself up at 4am to milk the cows, then come in and write. My grandma is a huge reader and I inherited that from her. I always had a book with me when I was a kid. I remember sitting in the barn reading a lot. We lived out in the middle of nowhere and there were few kids around, so I spent most of my spare time with people like Laura Ingalls Wilder. Somewhere along the line I discovered fantasy and science fiction books, and they became my obsession.

How did you develop your writing? I try to read a lot of craft books, books from authors that are considered the best, even really terrible books so I know what not to do.

Where do you get your inspiration from? Inspiration can come from anywhere. It can come from a dream, a book I’m reading, a weird discussion with friends. Some ideas seem to come from nowhere at all. You’re thinking about one thing and the next you’re thinking, “I should write a book about zombie werewolves.”

What is hardest – getting published, writing or marketing? Marketing, by far. I actually find the writing part pretty easy if I set my mind to is. And I really enjoy the publishing aspects as a selfpublisher. It may be weird, but I really like editing and formatting my books. I can make them look all pretty and any mistakes are solely my own. Marketing, however, is a beast I have yet to tame.

What marketing works for you? Marketing is a tricky fella. It’s always changing. What works for one person or book may not work for the next. Social media is key, though. These days you have to have a social media presence of some sort. The trick is to balance your time between writing and social media. I have trouble with that balance some days.

The Iron Locket

She was raised to hunt faeries. He was raised from the dead.


Aiofe Callaghan comes from a long line of faery hunters. Hired by one of the faery queens, they protect the human world from chaos and destruction. But when Aiofe stumbles through an open door into the land of Faery, she discovers the job isn’t as simple as it seems, and neither is she.

Arthur Pendragon spent centuries in blissful nothingness, until the day the four queens banded together to raise him from the dead. Along with his twelve most talented knights, he leads the warring armies of Faery against the greatest enemy they have ever known: one of their own.

Can they overcome their differences to confront the greatest challenges either of them have ever faced?

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Genre - Paranormal Romance

Rating – PG

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Website http://www.samantha-warren.com

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Author Interview – DV Berkom

How do you promote this book? Blog posts like this one, my website, some paid advertising, book giveaways and trailers, word of mouth, Facebook, Twitter, the kindness of strangers…

Will you write others in this same genre? Absolutely. I’ve had several readers ask when the next Leine Basso’s coming out. I love writing her character (and Santiago’s).

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? Human trafficking is not something that happens only in other countries. It’s happening here, in the U.S.

Have you included a lot of your life experiences, even friends, in the plot? No. All the characters are strictly from my imagination. Some of the scenes in the book may or may not be attributable to an imprudent nature on the part of the author.

How important do you think villains are in a story? Their role is huge. The villain not only helps to drive the story, they also help to define the protagonist. Can you even imagine Harry Potter without Voldemort?

What are your goals as a writer? To write the best, most entertaining book I can, and not bore myself or the reader.

Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)? I’ve taken several research trips in order to incorporate as much realism as possible in all my books. My latest research trip was to Mexico, much of which I’m incorporating into the book I’m currently working on.

Can we expect any more books from you in the future? Yes. I’m currently working on book #6 in the Kate Jones Thriller series, and will work on book #7 after that. I hope to have book #3 in the Leine Basso series available by the end of the year.

Where do you see yourself in five years? Hopefully, still doing what I’m doing, with several more Leine Basso thrillers available, along with more Kate Jones. Maybe another couple of standalone novels, too.

What are some of the best tools available today for writers, especially those just starting out? There’s so much information online for new writers. I’m a contributing author at the supremely helpful blog Indies Unlimited. Their entire raison d’être is to help new indie authors navigate the ever-changing publishing landscape. There are several other helpful blogs about writing, grammar, structure, scene and sequel, characterization, promotion, you name it. I have a list on dvberkom.com as well as on my blog, dvberkom.wordpress.com. They’re not exhaustive by any means, but a good place to start.

What contributes to making a writer successful? Persistence and a thick skin. Belief in yourself and your ideas. The ability to engage in complete and utter denial. And, you really have to enjoy making stuff up.

Do you have any advice for writers? Write. Revise. Write. Revise. Take a writing class. Identify your weaknesses. We all have them. Then, find out a way to turn it into a strength. Becoming a good writer never ends. You’ll always be learning. Don’t get complacent. Always try to find new ways to express your ideas. Be open to change. Don’t write when you’re drunk, because if you find out you’re a better writer after a few drinks, then you’ll have to stay drunk to have a career. That can get expensive.

Do you have any specific last thoughts that you want to say to your readers? Love what you write. If you don’t, neither will readers.

What do you do to unwind and relax? Reading, cooking, gardening, hiking and camping. I’m a photographer, so I also enjoy getting out and shooting pictures. Having dinner with friends is another activity that’s pretty high on my list. I’m also quite fond of hot tubs, massages and red wine—not necessarily in that order.

What dreams have been realized as a result of your writing? The ability to make a living doing what I love. That, and being able to write research trips off on my taxes.

If you could leave your readers with one bit of wisdom, what would you want it to be? If it smells bad, don’t eat it.

When you wish to end your career, stop writing, and look back on your life, what thoughts would you like to have? I don’t intend to stop writing until I’m dead, and I NEVER look back. Something might be gaining on me.

Buy Now @ Amazon & Barnes and Noble

Genre – Romantic Suspense

Rating – PG13

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Connect with DV Berkom on FacebookTwitter

Blog http://dvberkom.wordpress.com/

Website http://www.dvberkom.com/

The Forth Conspiracy by THOMAS THORPE

The Forth Conspiracy by THOMAS THORPE

A thin red trail flowed over ivory-colored marble.

It curled left and crossed a second tiny stream before pausing to expand at a seam between tiles. The fluid resumed its course until a new stream snaked to join the current, sprouting from the pool of blood three feet away.

William watched the pattern evolve with morbid fascination.

The house was unusually quiet. He stood still; head cocked, listening, no sounds of servants moving or clatter of pans from the kitchen. He glanced at the pendulum clock in the hall. Ten to six.

He crouched by the body sprawled beneath the upstairs balcony.

The back of John Forthwait’s head was an ugly mass of brown twists and maroon paste. His face lay turned toward the half-parted doorway, staring with a lifeless eye and open mouth. A crumpled nightshirt draped onto the stained floor, which transformed the white cloth to a shade of burgundy.

Shuffling sounds filtered in from outside.  William straightened, hearing his brother-in-law climb the front steps.  The door swung open with a blast of morning light. Charles’ quiet conversation with Emily and Elizabeth abruptly ended.

“My God, it’s Forthwait!”

Charles twisted to shield the women’s wide-eyed glimpses. He looked back quizzically over his shoulder.

William glanced once more at the corpse, and shook his head with sudden impatience at his timid relation. “Don’t bother about that, help me roll his body over.”

They lifted the sagging flesh. Splotched fabric fell away revealing an ugly gash at the victim’s midsection.

Elizabeth darted upstairs.

Emily stood behind the men, rubbing her pale arms in an effort to stop trembling. “How could this happen? We were outside for less than an hour.”

She looked up to see her two sisters start down the curved stairway. Elizabeth clutched her sibling tightly, forcing the cringing girl to take each step toward the tragedy below. When they reached the landing, eighteen-year-old Victoria stopped to behold her boyfriend’s rumpled mass. Color drained from her face with eyes looking as lifeless as those of dead man. Abruptly, she fainted.

Charles lunged to keep her sagging head from hitting the floor. He carried her limp torso into the adjoining room and settled it onto a chesterfield. Relieved of his burden, he headed to the servant’s quarters, shouting names to arouse the household.

Cold nausea gripped William. He shot a worried glance at Elizabeth.  Neither his years at Oxford nor a sizeable fortune would do them much good in the face of a murder investigation. They had enough to worry about without this unthinkable crime at his brother-in-law’s estate.

He took his wife’s arm and looked up at the balcony above. “The wound suggests he was stabbed, and pushed over the upstairs railing,”

Elizabeth put a hand to her mouth. “No! Who would do such a thing?”

“It’s these damn Forth’s. They won’t let up until they have everything we own.  Now, somehow, one of us has killed their relation. They’ll come after us for this.”

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Genre – Historical / Mystery / Thriller

Rating – PG

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Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Dumb White Husband by Benjamin Wallace (Excerpt 3)

Dumb White Husband

vs. The Grocery Store Cont.

John scared the neighbor’s cat as he pulled into the driveway. He opened the mini’s gate, slid his wrist through the handles of the plastic bags, hefted the dog food on his shoulder, grabbed the kitty litter and carried the groceries to the house, hurting himself only a little.

Inside the door was his recliner, his snacks, his sports and his beer—he’d be damned if he was going to make two trips.

He shuffled past the Mustang and up to the back door.

Carefully balancing the dog food on his shoulder, he reached out with his left hand and fumbled with the knob. Tension started to build within him. He could picture his son wandering into the living room, seeing the TV “open” and changing the channel to something stupid.

The door opened and he grabbed the dog food just as it was slipping off of his shoulder. He rushed inside to the kitchen and let the kibble fall to the floor. He tried to slide the bags off of his wrist, but they snagged on his watch. His hand turned purple as he tried to undo the knot of plastic straps on his wrist. It wasn’t easy. If he could recreate the puzzle that now constricted his arm, he could sell the thing at Cracker Barrel.

Every time he moved a handle another one took its place and seemed to hold tighter. The two gallons of milk now dangled from his arm. He couldn’t feel his hand. Grimacing, he worked his way around the island. The milk caught on the corner and pulled tight against his progress. Was his hand fuchsia?

With his free hand he pulled open the utensil drawer and blindly dug around for scissors or a knife or anything but a rubber spatula. His hand found a handle. He smiled and pulled the tool from the drawer and set to work on the plastic bags.

The pizza cutter wasn’t the optimal instrument for cutting plastic bags from an ensnared wrist but it was easier than finding something else. The blade kept spinning as he sawed furiously at the straps. Placing his thumb on the wheel he was able to make better use of the pizza cutter’s edge and began to free himself from the bags.

The last strap gave way and his hand popped free. It tingled. The contents of the bags spilled across the floor. Thankfully, the milk jugs didn’t leak. They just rolled in two separate directions.

Free at last, he placed the pizza cutter in the sink and ran cold water over his numb hand.

“Jimmy,” he called for his son. There was no answer.

He turned the water off and found a dishtowel.


His oldest child entered the kitchen from the living room.

“Yeah, Dad?”

“I need you to put the groceries … What were you doing in there?”

“In where?”

“In the living room.”


“Did you change the channel?” John ran past the boy into the living room.

“No. I didn’t touch the TV.”

John stood before the TV. It was off.

John glared at his son. He tried to say things: “I was watching the game. But, the game was on. Your mom promised.” But, only sputtering sounds escaped from his mouth as he stared blankly at the dark screen.

Jenny stepped into the room as words were finally beginning to form. She spoke before he could.

“Relax, John. I just turned the screen off.” Jenny grabbed the remote from John’s favorite chair and powered the TV back on.

The screen hummed to life and revealed the game, just as he had left it. He kissed his beautiful wife, rustled his teenage son’s hair and kicked off his shoes. He felt the carpet through the hole in his sock.

Jenny handed him the remote. “Come on, James. Help me with the groceries.” The pair left the room with only a little attitude from the teenager.

John hit play. His sports team roared to life. He dropped the remote in the chair and quickly gathered his snacks and his drink. He backed up to the recliner, straddling the extended footrest and collapsed into the La-Z-Boy. That’s when his ass hit the remote and changed the channel, hurting him only a little.

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Genre – Comedy / Humour

Rating – PG

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Website 1 http://benjaminwallacebooks.com/

Website 2 http://www.dumbwhitehusband.com/

Bedtime Stories for the Insomniac by Matthew Yaeger

Later his father came home, tired from searching for his friend.  Jimmy saw the look on his face and knew that they had not found Ryan even before his father could say anything.  After returning from the shack Jimmy knew that they would not find him.   There was something larger going on than his parents could understand that even Jimmy did not understand.  He only knew that his dream was more than just a nightmare that would disappear in the sunlight.

His father explained that they had not found Ryan, and that Jimmy's mother would be staying with Ryan's mother overnight while they waited to see if he would come home.  Since they were on their own and his father was tired, Jimmy made a microwavable dinner and ate it while watching TV.  The microwavable dinner had no taste and no matter how he tried to pay attention to the TV his thoughts kept turning back to the origami creature in the shack, trying to make sense of it all, then retreating from those thoughts in horror.

Night came and there was still no sign of his friend.  His father put him to bed and sat on the side of it for a moment looking down at Jimmy.

“You okay son?”

“Yeah.” Jimmy lied.

His father nodded, then surprised Jimmy by leaning down and kissing him on the forehead in a way that he had not done since he was a child.

“We will find your friend, don't let that worry you.  I love you.” his father said.

“I love you too Dad.”

He father then left and went down the hallway.  Jimmy stared at the ceiling, wondering what was happening to his friend at that moment.

Jimmy realized he must have drifted off to sleep.  Time had passed and his digital clock showed that it was close to two o'clock in the morning.  Before he could roll over and try to return to sleep, he heard an odd noise.  The strange music from the night before was playing again.  The rhythmic beating swelled and crashed, and grew louder.

Jimmy stood and went to his window.  Down the road the streetlights were off, the darkness too thick to see anything through.  The music was coming from that direction, and as the music became louder and moved closer more streetlights turned off.  They would flicker like candles in a strong breeze, and then the light would cut off completely leaving the street below them in shadow.  Jimmy felt his heart speed up and tried moving away from the window, only his legs wouldn't respond to the thought and felt as though encased in concrete.  He wondered if this is how a deer felt when caught in a pair of headlights.

The strange music continued to grow louder, more sounds became clear, though not the sound instruments would make.  It sounded like screeches and howls, screams and growling, all flowing along the deep bass beat that had now grown to such a volume Jimmy was wondering why his parents or neighbors were not awake and storming out of their houses to see what was going on.

The streetlights towards his house continued to flicker and die.  As the darkness crept closer Jimmy realized he could make out a shape walking down the street.  Jimmy knew right away what the shape was.  It was his friend, Ryan, and he was walking down the middle of the road as though the leader of a parade.  Behind him the darkness was no longer the empty shadows of night, but the silhouettes of larger things moving from within them.  The darkness itself seemed alive, twisting and folding into itself like the paper that Ryan had fashioned origami monsters from.

The procession carried onwards, until it reached the streetlight right in front of Jimmy's house.  That streetlight stayed on and the darkness stayed back though it continued moving and shifting in ways that made Jimmy's mind hurt.  Ryan stepped forward from the shadows until he stood under the streetlight, and then turned his gaze upwards to the window where Jimmy was standing.  They locked eyes and at that moment the moving shadows and crazy dreams meant nothing.  He best friend was there, looking at him with an expression on his face that was both pleading and scared.  Then Ryan held his hand up, spit into his palm and stretched it out in Jimmy's direction.

The message was clear.  Jimmy found he could now move away from the window.  He went to his closet, put on a hooded sweatshirt over his pajamas, slid his feet into his sneakers and headed downstairs to the door to join his friend.  There might be punishment for messing with the book they had found, there might be creatures in the shadows that made him feel as though he was losing his mind, but his friend needed him, and he had made a promise.

Best friends forever, no matter what.

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Genre – Horror

Rating – PG13

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

They Still Call Me Sister by Deborah Plummer Bussey

Chapter 1

August 15, 1977,
Feast of the Assumption

As Daddy drove twenty miles an hour down the driveway the tires of our family Mercury station wagon grabbed and spewed the gravel onto the recently cut grass. The brick, split-level ranch-style house that I had lived in for the past four years with my parents, three sisters, and our Great Dane, Gentle, sat an acre back from the highway. Soon my home might as well be on the moon instead of thirty miles outside of Cleveland, for I was on my way to enter the convent. Nestled in the backseat of the car between my two sisters, I leaned down to shake out a small gravel stone still in my black leather pump that had lodged there on my Olympic run over to our neighbor’s house to use the phone. If I were superstitious, I would have been begging my parents to turn the car around right then. There were too many signs that what I was about to do—become a bride of Christ—was something I should seriously reconsider. First, the car would not start. However, this was not necessarily something to send up a red flag because our car not starting was normal for any day in the Carpenter household. We never had a brand-new car ever, so a prayer accompanied every turn of the key in the ignition. While Daddy opened the hood to perform magic and get the car to start, I pushed past my sister CC, who had bounded out of the car to get through the back door of the house first. My heart was pounding with panic. I had to call Sister Mark Therese to tell her that I would be late. I was only the first black postulant to enter the community in eight years (Tammy Hawthorne, the first and only before me, left after only five months), and I had to be late. Nothing like starting by reinforcing stereotypes!

To make matters worse, there was no dial tone when I picked up our home phone. I glared at Mom, who was entering the kitchen. “Mommy, there’s no dial tone. Is the phone turned off again?” I didn’t wait for a response. Why put her in a position to lie to my face? I could tell from the look of her face that she hadn’t paid the bill again, and the phone company had turned off our line again. “That phone company is so unreliable out here in the country,” she would probably say. I assumed that she was robbing Peter to pay Paul (always) for the phone bill payment that equaled our mortgage. The cost of the long-distance calls with her Cleveland friends that she missed so much, even after four years of living in the small rural town of Huntsburg, population 6,400, was astronomical. The phone bill always exceeded her ability to pay. Daddy never used the phone, so without his immediate scrutiny Mom could have up to a month to find and rob Peter and get the bill paid before Daddy would even know. We often met “Peter” as cut-up, fried hot dogs with pork and beans “doctored” with ketchup for dinner, or her machine-sewn empire-waist dress that she convinced us looked exactly like the one in Higbee’s that we had picked out for the school dance.

I knew how attached Mommy was to her friends and how much she needed to have those conversations out here in this godforsaken place with hardly any black folks, so I took pity on her and didn’t confront her about the phone being turned off. I chose instead not to waste time. I needed to get to a phone, so I tore out the screen door again, this time nearly knocking over Dana and Tina, who had decided it might be awhile for Daddy’s magic to work and that it was best to come in the house. Rolling my eyes at them in response to their sneering glares, I raced down the driveway, headed for the Adams family home across the street and down the road about an eighth of a mile. We had a golf course to the left of our house, and the owners of the course, the LaContises, lived at least a half mile down the road. Unlike the Houstons, who lived fifty feet from our house, the LaContises were friends and they would let me use their phone. Judging from the cars parked in the driveway, the Houstons were probably home, but to go there I would have to jump the barbed wire fence—papered with no trespassing signs—that separated our properties, knock on their front door adorned with a Confederate flag, and then ask to use their phone. The probability of the response being yes was very slim. Their lifetime membership in the John Birch Society, the barbed wire fence, and Confederate flag pretty much assured me that the answer would be no. I had no time to mend race relations in America. I just needed a phone.

I prayed that the Adamses were home. They owned a dairy farm, small by rural America’s standards, with two small white-framed homes on the property—one where Mom Sue and Dad Joe lived with the four Adams kids, and the other where nineteen-year-old Tom Adams lived with his eighteen-year-old wife, Bonnie, and their two-year-old toddler, Tommie. I started yelling to get their attention as I ran up their driveway as more gravel lodged itself into my stupid black pumps. I was now concerned about my hair sweating out the chemical relaxer more so than the sweat forming under my arms onto my white blouse. Sweaty armpits and sweat circles on a white blouse I could hide. I would not know what to do with nappy hair for convent entrance day.

The chances of both sides of the Adams families not being home were next to none, but today was the day for none. I didn’t think it appropriate to start swearing, given what I was attempting to do with my life, so I took a deep breath. It must have been the breath of the Holy Spirit, for I remembered that the Adamses had a phone in the cow barn behind Tom’s home, and I headed for it. Sure enough, the heavy, grand black phone was anchored at the far corner of the barn just past the last stall. I ran down the barn hall, my heels clicking on the concrete floor, and I aggressively picked up the receiver. As I dialed, I reminded myself that I would have to have Mommy leave a few dollars with Mrs. Adams to pay for the call. Even though the motherhouse was only six miles down the road, it was in another township and, therefore, a long-distance call. I knew the number to the motherhouse by heart, having called my favorite nun and soon-to-be sponsor, Sister Caitlin, numerous times. Like clockwork, after the required two rings, Sister Saint Matthew, the motherhouse receptionist, picked up. Sister Saint Matthew had what my mom would call a motor mouth, so any phone call to the motherhouse required a brief conversation with Sister before you could be connected to your party. Today was no exception.

“Hi, Sister, this is Kathy Carpenter. I am supposed to be there at four thirty, and it’s four twenty now, and our car won’t start, so I guess I will be late. Is Sister Mark Therese around?” I turned away from the wall and found myself face-to-face with a black-and-white Holstein cow.

“Oh, sweetie! I am so sorry to hear that you are having difficulty getting here. Did you let the engine cool a bit? It is so hot outside today.”

“Ah, Sister…I really need to get going,” I murmured. “Could you just tell Sister Mark Therese I will be there as soon as I can get a ride?”

“Do you want someone to come and get you? I am sure we could send one of the men who work on the property under these circumstances”

“No!” I screamed perhaps a little too loudly, but with that scream, I was able to kill two birds with one stone, and the heifer starting moving away back into her stall. “I mean I am sure we can get the car started. Please just tell Sister. I will be there soon. Thanks! Gotta go!”

Great! Now I smelled of cow manure. I looked down at my black gabardine A-line skirt covered with bits of straw, my twisted black hose, and dust-covered black pumps. I had no time to worry about appearances especially in that outfit. It wasn’t like I would have a chance to attract the opposite sex in that getup. Who worries about your appearance when you are entering a convent? It is not like another postulant dressed in the same black skirt and white blouse would turn to say, “I really love your black skirt, and the blouse goes so well with it!”

I hurried back across the street up the driveway to the welcomed hum of the car motor, my parents and sisters neatly packaged back in the car. We were on our way.

I sat in sandwiched between my older and younger sisters in the backseat of our family car. The small cloth duffel bag, which now served as my purse, rested on my lap. For some stupid reason (maybe to get my mind off what might happen because I was late—did they give demerits in the convent like in my high school at Regina Academy?), I thought about Mary Tyler Moore who was in the movie we had watched last night. It would probably be the last movie I would see in my lifetime. I suppose I could have had loftier and holier thoughts since I was on my way to enter the convent, but I didn’t. I thought about Mary Tyler Moore. Since I was “leaving for good,” I got to choose the movie that my sisters and I went to see with a group of my high school friends the previous evening. My family and friends were acting as if entering the convent was equivalent to dying, so I matched their reactions to the family in the movie where one of the sons had really died.

Mary Tyler Moore was this crazy mother Beth and appeared to be so together after the death of her son. And the dad, Calvin, was in-between healthy and crazy. He, at least, was willing to talk about the fact that his oldest son had died. The younger son, Conrad, was the only one in therapy and was made out to be the craziest one when he was really the healthiest of them all. Conrad’s grief oozed out all over the place, and he suffered from misplaced guilt and even tried to kill himself, which was why everyone thought he was crazy, but I knew, along with his cool therapist in the movie, that he was not. We knew that he was doing what he needed to do to survive such a tragedy. Of course, my sisters hated the movie and more so the fact that they had to pay the two dollars for my ticket.

My mom was having a bit of a Mary Tyler Moore crazy reaction to my entering the convent. On the advice of her Ladies’ Guild friends she was acting as if it was OK because my vocation was obviously “God’s will,” but in reality, she was going bonkers about it. The only thing saving her from utter despair was that she was counting on all of the promised blessing that were certain to be showered on her for having “sacrificed” her daughter. She turned around again for at least the fifth time, her eyes glazed over, her brow furrowed, examining me as if she had just found out that I had leukemia. Tina, in the front seat with my parents, matched my mom turn for turn, only crossing her eyes and sticking out her tongue at me, which I translated to mean, “You would go to any lengths to get all the attention; you may be smart, but I am cute and fun.”

Daddy, like the movie dad, was both healthy and crazy about the whole thing. He didn’t like the fact that his daughter was going to live with a bunch of white people. But when he learned from my “vocation interest interview” that the good nuns would be paying for my college education and taking over all living expenses, even as I was a postulant and novice in formation, he was really glad about my vocation and began praising God for his blessing.

I would be stretching it more than a bit if I said that my three sisters, Tina, Cecilia, and Dana, were overridden with guilt and contemplating suicide on my decision to become a nun. For the last couple of weeks, their energy had been devoted to fighting over who got the only piece of clothing of real value in my wardrobe—a fuchsia-colored satin jacket with two white stripes on the collar and wristband. Since I wore a uniform daily to Regina Academy, one could accurately say that I really did not even possess a “wardrobe.” There were not many outfits needed for the twice-a-year “Dress Up Days” when you got to wear your own clothes as opposed to those designed by School Belles. The satin jacket was the only item of cool value in my closet. I really only purchased it in a failed attempt to project a personality other than my own. The fact that it was the only piece of clothing my sisters wanted was testimony to my accomplishment. I would only miss the bangle bracelets. They would lay unworn by my sisters. The bracelets were “so not cool” in my sisters’ minds because they too closely resembled the “Panama bracelets” my mom wore and often tried to use as good-behavior bait when we would misbehave as kids.

“I won’t leave my bracelets for you when I die if you keep acting that way. My bracelets are reserved for my best daughter.” My mom was from Panama, and the bracelets were, I guess, a big deal and always considered the height of fashion “even before women caught on to their beauty in the States.” Her bracelets were actually made out of sterling silver, whereas mine were plastic. Still bangles were bangles in my sisters’ eyes, and they didn’t want them.

Nobody wanted my leg warmers either. The leg warmers were—well, just leg warmers. Since I was required to wear a skirt every day to school, even in near-zero temperatures, the leg warmers were not a fashion statement started as a trend by cool New York dancers, but a Catholic schoolgirl necessity. My two older sisters went to public schools where pants were not only acceptable but considered the only sane attire for near-zero temperatures. Thus, in their minds, nuns invented leg warmers as a form of birth control for Catholic high school girls. If you wore those ugly gray and red plaid pleated skirts that had to touch the knee in the era of miniskirts, and the winter accessories that completed the ensemble were thick, bulky, knit gray leg warmers worn in a cast-like manner around your legs, no boy in his right mind would want to have sex with you.

This time, when Tina joined my mother in the “check on Kathy in the backseat to see if she will change her mind” look, she had a question.

“Why do they have to have a prayer service when it is Sunday and we already went to Mass?” It was evident that my sister Tina was unhappier about having to spend her Sunday afternoon in church as a part of my entering ritual than she was about my leaving home. It was already a complete embarrassment that she had a sister dressed like a square in a black A-line skirt and white blouse with nylons and black low-heel pumps, but that now she would be considered holy by association was more than she could bear.

Her question startled me out of the world of Hollywood to my world of Country Negroes. I chose not to try to explain. Dana, my youngest sister, decided she would offer an explanation.

“She is offering her life to God, and we have to be there to see her give herself up.”

Well, it wasn’t exactly the explanation that Sister Mark Therese gave about the entrance ceremony, but she had least gotten the gist of the family being part of “leaving all things to follow Christ.” Actually, I thought it would be easier just to say good-bye to them at the door after they unloaded my trunk of staples for nun living. I had dutifully purchased items from the list in the “Preparing for Entrance Day” packet: five white long-sleeve blouses, two short-sleeve white blouses, three floor-length white cotton nightgowns (luckily, Mommy found a pattern and sewed them for me since white floor-length nightgowns were impossible to find even in the old lady departments), five white bras, five white brief panties, three white full slips, five white handkerchiefs, two blankets (no color specified), white twin sheets and pillowcase, one robe (pastel color), brush, comb, toilet articles, Jerusalem Bible, stationery, two pens, and two pencils. I guess you could say that aside from the content of what was in my trunk and the entrance ceremony prayer service, there really was no difference between me and any other seventeen-year-old going off to college. Well, maybe a few more differences.

Despite all of the commotion, we arrived at the mother-house only about ten minutes after the designated time. The formation team of Sister Mark Therese, Sister Mary Joseph, and Sister Catherine Mary, along with my sponsor, Sister Caitlin, was waiting at the door. The Mother Superior, Sister Elizabeth Mary, would also have greeted me, but she had already gone up to chapel so as not to give the nuns bad example by entering the chapel late. Tina was laughing hysterically about something Cecilia had said, and Dana was clinging to Mommy and Daddy just in case God decided to zap her with a vocation and give the good nuns a two-for-one.

Sister Mark Therese was smiling broadly. Apparently, they were afraid that I had chickened out and were thrilled that I had arrived to validate the community as open and non-discriminatory. Each of the nuns gave me a friendship hug and whispered to me, “Welcome.” They had sealed the deal.

In your senior year at Regina Academy, the nuns made a full-court press for getting girls to enter the convent. Vocation week was around the same time college applications were due; your anxiety was high, and your self-esteem low enough that the only ounce of confidence you had was that you would never be able to make it to any college. The multiple prayer services during the week not only had you praying for vocations, but by the time you finished only two of the services, even the brattiest girls like Nicole Rini actually believed they were hearing God or Mother Mary talking directly to them. The weekly assembly featured a panel of nuns from various orders who passed out enough reading material on religious life to rival the volumes at the county library. Homeroom bulletin boards that once displayed pictures of fall scenes and study tips for the SAT now had calligraphied quotes like “Today is the first day of the rest of your life,” with pictures of young postulants praying in the motherhouse chapel, gardening, playing volleyball in full habit, and eating ice cream sundaes. Our class’s individual senior pictures were placed around the border as if to shorten the degrees of freedom between the postulants and us.

This year Sister Caitlin landed a three-pointer, having talked me out of signing up for two years with the Peace Corps but instead encouraging (or was it directing?) me to not go “halfway with God” but to give myself up totally. Now Sister Caitlin was directing my family and me to follow her and the other nuns up the marble stairs to the main chapel where we would join the community in marking my official entrance into religious life. Climbing the marble stairs, hearing my heels clicking on the surface while holding hands with my mom and dad, I thought about that quote on the bulletin board in my senior class homeroom. Today was the first day of the rest of my life.

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Genre – Cozy Mystery

Rating – PG13

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Website http://halfdozenpublications.com/

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Jack Canon’s American Destiny by Greg Sandora


I’ll never forget the look on my dad's face. We were stopped at a checkpoint by dangerous looking men in military uniforms. Soldiers hollering back and forth waiving weapons, searching through our things, taking anything they wanted. One guerilla was approached by an emaciated little boy with skin so thin it strained to cover his veins. Crying out, eyes bulging from hollow sockets, the child’s spindly arms grasped for the soldier’s leg. The helpless act was answered with the butt end of a rifle, sending the child violently to the ground. Semi convulsing, blood gushing from his head, the boy curled up in a tiny brown ball and went to sleep. At least that's what my mom told me.

That scene played over and over in my head growing up. It made me sad, but mostly furious, that life could be so unfair. Our family missionary trip to Africa meant to teach us love, compassion and understanding had burned a fire in my belly so intense it stayed with me throughout my life. Even at the tender age of ten, I knew someday I’d change this cruel and unjust world. That was forty years ago.

A long recession has brought desperate times. Many in the working middle class are unemployed or have fallen below the poverty line, millions have lost their homes. People lucky enough to have jobs are doing triple the load, working every day with a lump in their throat, feeling disposable, fearing they’re next. In a sick twist, Big Business and Big Banks got bailed out, but the government screwed the people. Honest Americans are feeling anxiety, shame and hopelessness as suicides, domestic violence, and homicides are climbing to an all time high.

Oh yeah, there are still plenty of guys buying Ferrari's, but the disparity between rich and poor has become obscene. The wealthy have become fatter, picking off the laboring carcass of a foreclosed middle class. The underlying greed is unconscionable.

I’m the Senior Democratic Senator from Kentucky. My name is John Canon; people call me Jack. Though my once brown hair has turned a little gray, I can’t complain, having served nearly three terms in the most powerful city on earth. I’ve gotten a bit softer around the middle, but I’ve learned good clothes can hide it. The biggest eye opener of my political career so far: an unsuccessful bid for the Presidency. It was a major shock to find out--what it’s really going to take--to fulfill my destiny:

To someday have the power, to dedicate the highest office in the land, to make things right. This time I’m all in.

Sandy Collins, my assistant, sticks her head in, peeking around the door, "Morning Jack, how you doing?”

“I’m alright, just working on some lines for my stump speech.” Sandy’s my right hand and more importantly my best friend. It only makes sense though, even at eight years old my best friend was a little girl, I just loved holding her hand.

Men are hard-wired to want women like Sandy. She’s a drop-dead knockout. She likes her high heels, which put her about five-nine, and wears her blonde hair straight, pulling it into a ponytail at least part of the day. Her only negative, she’s a bit naïve for someone turning thirty-seven.

“Jack, did you want me to do all your Christmas shopping again this year?” Sandy had great taste in gifts. She put a lot of thought into her choices, usually hitting a home run with my family, especially the kids. It’s like she was tuned in to what my girls would want.

Ignoring her question, “Listen to this,” speaking my notes as I’m writing, “this country is being run by elitists who could care less about ordinary Americans.”

I’d actually written, couldn’t give one sweet shit, but adjusted it for a broader audience.

“The system is badly broken, the wealthiest Americans have profited unfairly, taking advantage of an increasingly helpless public.”

Bud, my campaign manager, chief of staff, and close friend for the past 15 years, enters the office listening, mid-sentence.

“Devastated by the economy, the rich have gamed the system, bought everything up on the cheap. Greed threatens our way of life.”

Sandy commented, “It sounds so bleak Jack.”

“Jack, I’ve arranged for the transfers.”

Bud was being careful with Sandy in the room. He’d gotten me elected to the senate, but despite several tries going all the way back to McGovern he’d never won a presidential campaign.

“Bud, just say it straight, if we can’t trust Sandy we’re done already.”

“Alright Jack.” Bud turned to Sandy, “We got our asses handed to us the first time around cause Jack here didn’t want to break the law. This time I’m funneling huge donations into Super Pac’s that we’ll control. ”

“Bud, Sandy’s in the thick of this with us. Honey, you know we aren’t supposed to be getting the money for them. Let alone this crazy kind of money. If anyone finds out we’re all going to jail.”

Sandy said, “Give me some credit boys, I get it. Besides you’re only doing what everybody else does already.”

Bud cautioned, "Never before to this degree. When the Republicans are coming after us we’re gonna need every dime to fight off the attack.”


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Genre – Political Thriller

Rating – PG

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Website http://www.gregsandora.com/

The Granite Key by NS Wikarski

Chapter 9 – Lost In Translation

The morning after he acquired the key, Abraham was waiting for a visitor in his prayer closet. He called it a closet but the dimensions were the size of an average living room. It was the space where he conversed directly with God. Heavy drapes barred the passage of sunlight through the room’s two tall windows. Abraham liked cloaking the closet in shadow. It helped his concentration. There was an oak stand between the windows which supported a heavy leather-bound Bible.  The wall to the right of the windows consisted of a series of built-in cabinets with locked doors. They contained sacred documents that were intended for his eyes only. A prie-dieu occupied the corner to the left of the windows. In a rare concession to comfort, the kneeler was padded. On another wall hung the portrait of an elderly man with a white beard. He bore a strong resemblance to Abraham but the cut of his suit hadn’t been in fashion for at least fifty years. His eyes stared down on the room. They were humorless and disapproving. A plaque embedded in the bottom of the picture frame announced that he was Joshua Metcalf—Diviner. Positioned directly below the picture was a small round table and two hard-bottomed chairs.

Abraham was leafing through some pages of the Bible when he heard a gentle knock on the door. He absently said, “Enter,” without looking up from the page he was reading.

A man of about thirty came in. He was of medium height. Although his hair was cropped short, it insisted on asserting its curliness. No amount of combing could straighten it out completely. His eyes were dark brown behind horn-rimmed glasses, his complexion sallow. He wore the usual white dress shirt, black tie and black trousers but the clothes didn’t seem to fit him properly. They seemed too big for his slight frame and rumpled even though they had been newly pressed. His shoulders sagged.

“Good morning, Father,” he said tentatively. “You wanted to see me?”

Abraham turned toward his guest. “Yes, that’s right. Sit down, Daniel.” He indicated one of the two chairs.

The visitor glanced up briefly at the portrait before he slid into his chair. He sat forward anxiously, his hands grasping the seat.

Abraham remained standing near the windows. “Daniel, remind me again which of my sons you are.”

The younger man didn’t seem to consider the question odd. “I am your twentieth son, Father,” he answered readily.

“And which of my wives is your mother?”

“My mother is Deborah, your fifth wife,” Daniel looked down, “though she has passed from this life.”

The older man’s expression was vague. “Hmmm, yes, I do seem to recall now. She’s been departed, what is it, nearly two years? Never mind boy. She has gone to wait for me in the next world.  We will be reunited there. How many wives do you have now?”

Daniel cleared his throat uncomfortably. “You have blessed me with three wives, Father.”

Abraham looked pleased with himself. “That’s a good start though some of your brothers at the same age have collected more.” He paused to consider. “Still it’s a good start. And how many children?”

Daniel seemed to be fighting the urge to squirm in his chair. “Three so far.”

“Three?” Abraham registered shock. “Are any of your wives barren?”

“N…no, I don’t think so, Father.” Daniel stared hard at the table.

Abraham took a pace or two forward. “And when did I give you your first wife?”

“When I was twenty,” Daniel mumbled.

“Ten years,” Abraham mused. “In ten years your wives have only produced three children. That’s unheard of!”

Daniel shifted his position slightly. “I’m sorry, Fa—”

The old man cut him off. “We are charged with the obligation to be fruitful and multiply—to extend His dominion over the earth. We must increase our numbers. You cannot hope to claim a place of glory in His kingdom otherwise. Surely, you don’t wish to bring shame on your family.”

Daniel shrunk back in his seat.

Abraham was standing above his son now. “Remember who is watching.” He gestured toward the portrait. “Your grandfather is watching you even now from heaven. God, himself, is watching you.” He paused for effect. “He is watching us all. He sees the secret sins of our innermost hearts, Daniel. He sees all and he will punish all!”

Daniel gulped and nodded. “Yes, sir. I understand. I will pray for more issue.”

“And instruct your wives to pray as well!” Abraham observed his son silently for a few moments. He seemed satisfied that he had made his point. “Good, that’s settled then.”

Metcalf walked to the wall cabinets. He took a brass key out of his pocket. “I am told you are quite the scholar. You have distinguished yourself above your brothers in the study of ancient languages.”

Daniel seemed to puff up a bit at the encouragement. “Yes, it is the subject I love above all others. Translating the word of God.”

“That shows a proper spirit,” Metcalf nodded approvingly. “Come here, I have something to show you.”

Daniel obediently walked over to join him.

Abraham unlocked one of the cabinets and withdrew the stone ruler. “What can you make of this?” the old man inquired, handing the object to his son.

Daniel held it up to the meager light coming through the windows. He examined the markings with great intensity. When he looked up again, his expression was one of dismay. “The script isn’t Aramaic, or Hebrew, or Greek, or Latin. Not even Egyptian judging by the pictograms.” Daniel now seemed a bit afraid of the ruler. He held it out toward his father as if he thought it was contaminated. “This is some heathen relic.”

Abraham made no move to take the object back. He stood with his arms folded across his chest. “Yes I know, Daniel, but the Lord has charged me with the task of finding out its secrets. And now I charge you with the task of translating these strange markings into some language that a Christian can understand.”

The young man scrutinized the pictures and lines and loops again. “Do we know where it comes from?” he asked tentatively.

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Genre – Archaeology / Thriller

Rating – PG

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