Dreaming in the Pages

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Broken Pieces

Jack Canon's American Destiny

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Altors (Zinc Trilogy) by Nastasia Peters

4. Calycanthus Esquivel

“Are you wearing lip gloss?”

The Ring was a sport that took place once a year and was quite popular. There was a wooden stick that was about the length of your arm and from there you had to create your own moves, combos as we called them, to beat your opponent. The rules clearly stated you weren't allowed to hurt one another; it was expected that you learned how to handle the stick properly so you managed to avoid doing any serious damage. It was all about tapping your opponent with the stick on specific body areas. The upper arms received fewer points as it was the least protected region, while a tap on the thigh or side got more points.

We called the game 'The Ring' as it took place in the gaming ring of Lithium Village. This was also where the elderly held their chess tournaments and where college cheerleaders showed their latest routines. The Ring had been invented by a couple of bored local kids nearly fifteen years back and they'd planned it as if it were a true hero’s tournament. It became big and a favorite among the LV teens. When you didn't know how to kick a ball, or pull off a pyramid, this was the sport you turned to.

Parents had protested it, saying that the adults shouldn’t be encouraging kids to participate in such violent sports, but in the end, football actually did a lot more damage than The Ring did. They’d relented when the council had agreed to give masks to protect the faces of those who entered the tournament and each wooden stick was to have rounded ends. They were made in a way that if you actually were evil enough to decide to beat someone with it, they’d break on impact. Basically, you couldn't even properly bruise your opponent.


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Genre – Fantasy / Young Adult

Rating – PG

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Website http://zincuniverse.com/

Friday, September 13, 2013

Promise Cove by Vickie McKeehan


Chapter Two

Holding a tray laden with sandwiches and a pitcher of iced lemonade, Jordan assessed her work force from just inside the front doorway as Nick, saw in hand, cut another piece of two by four replacement wood to put the railing back together. After she’d directed him to Scott’s plethora of tools kept out back in the overstuffed garage, Nick had been out here hard at work for hours as the miter saw buzzed and the busted balustrade, once again, took shape. She watched as he picked up a hammer and began to nail the wood in place, the muscles bunching in his arms with each whack of the mallet.

She sucked in a breath. It had been a long time since she’d felt attraction to a man. Not only was Pelican Pointe a small town without an overabundance of single guys, most of whom were thirty-plus years her senior, she lived pretty much out in the boonies. The closest thing to a hunk she’d seen recently was the UPS man. He gave her a three-minute-thrill once in a while when he delivered whatever she managed to order online.

But even though she hadn’t had sex in forever, Jordan appreciated watching a fit, in-shape male swing a hammer and work a saw. He’d shed his black jacket, which had hidden a set of ripped abs. Now, the thin fabric of his T-shirt clung to his sweaty body in clumps. Since the day had grown quite warm, she found herself wishing he’d simply take off the shirt. She watched, though as he seemed to delight in the work at hand as though he enjoyed being outdoors. Every so often he stopped to bask in the sunshine holding his face up to the cloudless sky while his longish black hair hung around his face in damp curls.

While he seemed to take pleasure in the ocean breeze cooling off the heat from his body, Jordan took delight in the way he packed himself into a pair of jeans.

She needed to get a grip. And fast.

The minute she stepped out onto the sagging porch, their eyes met. She didn’t imagine the pull in her lower belly because it all but yanked her out of a lust-packed daydream. “You’ve been out here for hours. How about a sandwich?”

“I could eat. Thanks.” He set down the hammer, took the tray from her, put it down between them on the steps. As soon as his butt hit the wood, he picked up a ham and cheese sandwich and dug in. “Mmmm, this isn’t the cold sandwich I expected.” The ham was warm and covered with melted mozzarella, the bread crusty and smeared with a tangy dollop of some kind of tasty spice.

A little insecure when it came to her culinary skills, Jordan couldn’t help but ask, “How’s it taste?” Tentative, she sat down on the other side of the tray on the top step, watching him eat. He must have been ravenous, she thought, as she picked up one of her own concoctions and dug in.

“Delicious. What’s that spice in the mayo?”

“Pesto. It gives it a little extra kick.”

“I’ll say.”

“I got the studio clean, well, clean-er.”

After two tours in Iraq, he could sleep in a barn. “I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

An awkward silence descended. She’d spent such a long time here alone, it felt strange to be in a position of having conversation with someone other than Hutton. “You finally got all that peeling paint sanded off, makes it look better already.”

“After a couple of coats of stain it’ll look even better.”

“You did a good job putting the railing back together.”

“Getting there. It’ll need a couple coats of paint though.”

Nick polished off his sandwich, downed a glass of lemonade and poured another. “I’ll finish the railing after we eat.” He dusted the crumbs from his shirt and hands, zeroed in on the chunky, chocolate chip coconut macadamia nut cookies on the tray. He broke one in half, stuffed it in his mouth. “You make these?”

“I did.” Pleased he liked the food, she added, “Desserts are my specialty.”

“Best cookie I ever ate. What all needs doing around here?”

That made her laugh. “How much time do you have? And where do I start? Up to now, I’ve been concentrating on the inside, getting the guest rooms ready upstairs.” When she saw the willing look on his face, she reluctantly added the bad news, “But the bathrooms, they need a lot of work. Old plumbing. I’ve put that off too long. I know that was a mistake. Do you know anything about plumbing?”

“Some.” Another white lie. What he knew about plumbing would fill a thimble.

“If you think it would help, I have a how-to book on plumbing. And every other book on do-it-yourself projects known to man,” she said with a nervous laugh.

Nick drained his second glass of lemonade, suddenly craving a cold beer. The lies, he thought, could make a man thirsty. Knowing he should keep his mouth shut, he asked anyway, “Did you have a plan when you started all this?”

Jordan looked away, drew in a breath then calmly blew it out. “The plan was...for Scott, my husband, the plan was for us to turn this place into a B & B. But that only lasted until his unit got called up to Iraq. From that point, from the time I found out…he wasn’t coming back…things got…” She took another deep breath. “Since Scott died, I haven’t had a plan. But, if I don’t get this place up and running by May first, get paying guests in here, get a cash flow coming in to show the bank this is a real business, I’ll lose everything that meant anything to Scott. The bank has given me several extensions already. You might say I’ve hit the proverbial brick wall.”

“May one, huh? There’s still time. How about this? I’ll read your plumbing book, see what I can do to get the house ready and we’ll take it from there.” He stood up. “Why don’t you show me around, show me where to start—after the porch that is.”

She started with a walk around the grounds. To her, it was better if she showed him the hidden cove below the cliff, the beach, the grounds, hoping he’d see the potential of the place right off rather than hitting him over the head with all the work that needed doing inside the house. For some reason it became all important to get him on board with seeing the house as a legitimate B & B and all it had to offer.

Since he’d already dug around in the black-hole-filled garage firsthand and since she’d pointed out the garage apartment earlier, they bypassed that and crossed a grassy courtyard. The quad included an outdoor eating area set up with several teak tables all sporting a variety of colorful umbrellas. Flower beds filled with an assortment of moonbeam coreopsis, day lilies, lanky bromeliads, and purple peonies lined the walkways, bursting with color and fragrance. The place looked like a snapshot out of a garden magazine.

“How many acres?” Nick asked trying to take in the picturesque setting.

“Fifteen,” she advised, as she continued down a well-worn path, past blossom-laden dogwoods and magnolias, shrub vines filled with plump wild blackberries and strawberries just beginning to ripen. Jordan led the way following another trail through the grove of cypress trees before reaching the cliff where they began their descent down to the cove and the beach.

The hike down the side of the cliff was steep and intimidating but the steps built into the side of the slope made the climb down much easier.

As they started down, a little pang hit Jordan’s heart when she remembered how long it had taken Scott to build the wooden steps into the side of the rough terrain. He’d spent months on the project before adding the iron-pipe railing just weeks before his unit had been called up to leave for Iraq. Over her shoulder, she reminded Nick, “Be sure to hold onto the railing. The footing here is tougher than it looks and even the most seasoned hiker can sometimes get a little winded.” She hoped he wasn’t insulted by the reminder.

But she had no sooner gotten the words out than she glanced back and noticed he looked as if he might be having some sort of panic attack. His face had turned a clammy gray as beads of perspiration formed on his forehead. “You okay?”

“I’m fine,” he whooshed out.

When she reached the last step, Jordan jumped onto the loose, sandy soil and looked back at Nick, who stood on the last step a little breathless.

Like a bubbly tour guide, Jordan hit the high points, anxious to show off what the place offered. She spread her arms out and said, “Nick Harris meet The Cove, forty yards of pristine private beach hidden away from public access that no other house in the area offers. This place is ideal for surfing, whale watching, picnicking. What with six guest rooms, which is more than most B & Bs offer, and with beach access, something even some of the larger hotels in Santa Cruz don’t offer, I shouldn’t have a problem keeping this place full during the summer. At least that’s what I’m hoping.”

She stood watching him walk up and down the stretch of sand near the water. A little nervous, she went on, “That’s rosemary and sage you smell along with Monterey pine. The trail is lined with the stuff. It grows wild here along with plenty of ginger, beach grass and alfalfa. There’s a tide pool, all kinds of cool rock formations in the area.” But as Jordan went on with her pitch it appeared as though Nick wasn’t listening but trying to recover from the climb down. Relieved that he didn’t seem to be as pale as before, she went on determined to give him the full treatment. “Scott planned to offer the guests surfing lessons. He’d be the instructor, of course.” She chuckled almost to herself before adding, “I used to tell him I thought it was a sneaky way to get to go surfing. When we got things up and going, he wanted to offer scuba diving, too. There’s a shipwreck just off the coast not far from here. He thought it would be an interesting selling point to lure guests.”


“Yeah, you know, stay at the B & B, dive while you’re here and explore a shipwreck during your stay.” She pointed offshore toward the horizon. Jordan saw Nick take his time, scope out more of the cove. It was after all a spectacular spot to just sit and enjoy nature. But the guy seemed to be distracted, a little preoccupied and a whole lot winded. With that body, she wondered why. As she watched him walk to the water’s edge and back, checking out the rocks and shells along the way, she finally shut up long enough to give him time to get his breath back.

The climb down told Nick what he’d known for months, after several surgeries, he still wasn’t yet back to full strength. But even so, he had to tamp down the urge to shed his clothes and take a dive right then and there into the blue water.

Standing there at water’s edge he wondered how many times Scott had walked this same beach. His heart clutched at the thought.

To get his balance back, he took several gulps of ocean air, filling his lungs with the salty smells of the sea and reluctantly admitted to himself the place was as beautiful and peaceful as Scott had described. He’d talked about this place so much it made Nick feel like an imposter, which he was. He knew he’d have to pay for posing as a carpenter slash handyman. Maybe he needed to come clean. That idea crashed and burned when he looked over at Jordan. She was obviously off in her own world. It wasn’t until the wind whipped her hair from her face that he realized she was politely waiting for him to recover enough for the trek back up. He shook off his melancholy mood, gave her a brief nod to let her know he was ready, and turned to head back up the cliff.

Once they got back to the top, he followed her along another path that took them past a vegetable garden, where she instinctively checked on her neatly planted rows of fragrant onion, thyme and basil. “I’ve got rabbits. Trying to keep them out is like trying to keep a vampire away from blood.”

“Why would a rabbit stay away from a readymade smorgasbord like this?”

She laughed. “Exactly. But there has to be a way. I’ve tried all the natural remedies, mothballs, marigolds. I’m down to trying vinegar.” She stood up to continue the tour.

“That explains the pickle smell.”

He continued to tag behind as she led him past still more well-tended flower beds filled with pink blossomed hydrangeas, purple delphinium, and native blooming yellow and white ice plants. They passed budding magnolias, ancient pines, and another row of cypress where a couple of rope swings swayed in the breeze. To Nick the entire fifteen acres looked like something out of a travel guide, an idyllic snapshot of coastal living. It sure wasn’t smog-infested L.A.

No wonder Scott hadn’t been able to shut up about the place.

When they got to the house, they entered through a sunny mud room with banked high windows on one side, and a roomy, well-organized laundry space on the other. They made their way into a bright, airy open kitchen. A commercial six-burner stovetop and double oven took up one side of the room, while a spotless marble-topped island planted in the middle held an array of ancient, well-scrubbed pots and pans overhead. A desk took up one corner, a stone fireplace the other.

Brand-new chrome appliances complemented chestnut cabinets. The newness of everything, including a spotless Italian tile floor, told him this room had already been remodeled. “You must have started in here.”

“It needed the most work. It made sense to get the kitchen up and going before we did anything else.” She didn’t add that the remodeling had pretty much ended here in this room when Scott left for Iraq.

They moved on to the back staircase and up to the guest bedrooms. He listened as she pointed out the rooms she’d already painted, light fixtures she’d already replaced, a bathroom floor she was ripping up before putting down new tile. “The larger bedrooms are on the back side of the house with the view of the ocean.” She walked into one, stood at the double French doors looking out. “You can see the trail we walked through earlier leading down to the cove just beyond that grove of trees. And then of course there’s the ocean.”

For some reason, Nick got the impression she wanted him to see the possibilities of the place. He wasn’t sure why his opinion mattered. He wanted to tell her he understood the plan, and that what she was trying to do out here without Scott wasn’t crazy or impossible for a woman here alone.

But as she stood nervously twirling the simple gold chain dangling from around her neck, all he could do was think about Scott’s hopes and dreams for this place. After all, he knew Scott’s plans almost as well as Jordan. But he couldn’t mention that.

Instead, he wanted to know, “Jordan, where do you and the baby sleep?”

“Downstairs. There are two bedrooms off the front of the house. I’ll show you the rest of the downstairs as soon as Hutton wakes up.”

She opened one of the French doors. They both stepped out onto a long, wooden deck running the length of the back of the house. The ocean breeze instantly made an impact. The cooling, aromatic wind rustled through the colorful pots of flowers lined up along the wall where patio chairs waited for guests to sit outside and either enjoy a sunset or maybe stargaze through the telescope already pointed skyward.

“That’s some view,” Nick remarked, as once again, he filled his lungs with the smells from the ocean. It was obvious why Scott had talked so much about home. He’d had so much to come back to, any man who’d had all of this waiting would have talked about it nonstop.

Nick had nothing like this back in L.A., not even close. Not this woman, certainly not a child. Nothing in his life remotely resembled Scott’s. For whatever reason, Nick’s life had been spared that day in Iraq while Scott’s had not. It made no sense. For years, Nick had distanced himself from commitment, from serious relationships while Scott had settled down, made a life here with Jordan. And for what?

Jordan’s voice brought him back from questions with no answers.

“The smaller bedrooms across the hall don’t have this view, of course, but they’re nice size. Hopefully these larger rooms will be my bread and butter.”

Nick kept his thoughts to himself as they went back inside, down a long hallway where he noticed three of the rooms stood empty. He wondered how she intended to have guests without furniture. “Aren’t you missing something in here?”

She laughed nervously. “I wanted to paint each of the bedrooms a different color so they’d have their own special theme.” She smiled tentatively. “Now all I have to do is come up with one and finish painting before I bring up the furniture. My aunt’s been generous enough to donate some antique pieces that will go well in here. My sister and her husband are bringing the last of the stuff down first chance they get. As you saw, the rest of the furniture is stored in the garage. It’s out there gathering dust.” But looking at the bare rooms now, she should have already furnished these rooms. There was so much she should have already taken care of, seen to. How could she explain to anyone how difficult the past year had been, the grief, the depression?

He was staring at her.

She sighed. She might as well level with him and get the bad news out in the open. “The building inspector was here yesterday. He said I’ll have to bring the wiring up to code.”

“Whew! I’m no electrician. You’ll have to hire a professional for that.”

Terrific. The do-it-yourself vibe he gave off didn’t include wiring hundred-year-old houses. “Murphy gave me the name of several in Santa Cruz. I’ll start making some calls this afternoon.”

But suddenly, Nick thought of another way to help. “I could handle that part for you. I might know someone who could do the job.” He was certain, Ben Latham, and a former Guard buddy would have no qualms about helping out. And he could also arrange to pay him without Jordan ever knowing about it.

Her eyebrows rose. “Really? That’d be great. Umm, any idea how much he’d charge?”

He shook his head. “No idea.”

When they got to the first bathroom off the front landing, Nick looked in, came to a decision of his own. The room needed a new toilet, a new sink, a new faucet, and new flooring. Had to be four for four, he thought, anything less would come off as unfinished and tacky. “You weren’t kidding. What made you think you could fix this place up?”

“Scott grew up here. The house belonged to his grandparents. But they lost the house in the early ‘90s and had to move out after his grandfather made some bad investments. When his grandpa died, Scott promised his grandmother he’d get the house back for her. Of course she died before he could. But when we got married, we bought the place and moved back here to raise our own family. Six months after we moved back, his unit got called up.”

“You’ve been living out here alone,” he declared aloud, not really expecting her to comment.

“Until Hutton came along, yes.”

A pregnant woman, alone, living all the way out of town like this? No wonder Scott had worried himself sick. What if she’d gone into labor out here? When he saw the shadow of worry flutter in her eyes, he did his best to make her feel better. “There’s still time to get it done, Jordan. It can still happen.” And by God he’d make it happen for Scott, for her.

“I don’t know, there’s an awful lot left to do. I should have had the place ready to open by now, been further along with everything.”

For some reason, he desperately wanted to reassure her. “You shouldn’t be that hard on yourself. This is a huge undertaking for one person to handle. Together, we’ll pick up the pace.”


images (5)

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Genre – Romance

Rating – PG13

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Blog http://vickiemckeehan.wordpress.com/

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

#Free #AmReading - Masters' Mysterium: Wisconsin Dells by R.R. Reynolds

Masters' Mysterium: Wisconsin Dells by RR Reynolds
Genre – Fantasy
Rating – PG13
4.4 (10 reviews)
Free until 16 September 2013

In the distance the Beast noticed the fisherman that Azael had pointed out earlier was now running down the center of Main Street towards the fight. A mist began swirling around him that quickly turned into a rotating cloud that continued to brighten. The Beast watched the man as he was enveloped in the whirlwind. Lightning crackled across the boulevard, bouncing between streetlamps as thunder shattered shop windows, raining glass upon the ground. Accompanying the storm was the sound of the roadway being reduced to rubble under the rhythm of a syncopated pile driver. Over the din another sound could be heard, one that it had forgotten about for so long--the battle cry of the cherubim. The cloud parted and the Beast realized that all hope was gone.

Five Times More Jesus - Jim Adam

Chapter 2:
What the Old Testament Says

Love is patient, love is kind....  [I]t is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Belief Versus Approval

One afternoon when I went out to collect the mail, I got collared by a pair of Mormon missionaries.  Unable to escape, I decided that the best defense was a good offense, and I started in with, “Do you believe the story of the Great Flood?”  That was the wrong question, but I quickly recognized my mistake and asked the question that I should have asked to begin with:  “Do you approve of what happens in the story of the Great Flood?”

For the two young Mormons, the answer to both questions was an unqualified, unhesitating “Yes,” but however similar the two questions seem, they are quite different.  “Do you believe in the Great Flood?” is a question about whether an event happened or not; it is a question about rainbows and animals going up two-by-two.  “Do you approve of the Great Flood?” is a question about an act of global genocide; it is a question about three year olds floating bloated and blue atop the flood waters.

Approving of the OT is a more serious matter than merely recognizing the OT as part of God’s ongoing revelation.  Approving means saying things like, “Yes, drowning those toddlers was the right thing to do.”

Approving of the OT is where people sometimes stumble.

Violations of the Two Commandments

Critics of the OT sometimes complain that it isn’t compatible with the NT.  Using the Two Commandments as the test criteria, if the OT portrays God as doing something immoral, then it is in violation of the First Commandment, which Jesus called the greatest commandment:  to Love God (Matt. 22:36-40).  Similarly, if the OT promotes unloving behavior toward people, then it violates the Second Commandment of Love your neighbor as yourself.

Raymund Schwager is a Bible scholar who has written several books about OT violence, and by his calculation the OT contains about a thousand verses where God performs violent acts, while in another hundred passages God orders others to kill on his behalf (Pinker, p. 10).  Listing all 1,100 of these acts of violence is outside the scope of this book, especially since violence isn’t the only source of discomfort for readers of the OT.  As a result, I will be picking and choosing.

In selecting which OT passages to list, my goal is to focus on scriptures that have caused the most trouble throughout Christianity’s history, as these scriptures will be referenced in later chapters by both critics and defenders of the OT.  I have included some lesser-known selections here as well, with the goal of showing how widespread these problematic passages are.

Acts of Violence

Some acts of violence in the OT seem to violate the commandment to Love your neighbor as yourself.  And when an act of violence is ordered by or perpetrated by God, God sometimes seems immoral or monstrous, which thereby violates the commandment to Love God.

God inundates the world with the Great Flood, which eliminates all but eight people from the planet.  (Gen. 6-9)

God destroys the twin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.  (Gen. 18-19)

God kills all the firstborn of Egypt.  (Exod. 12:29)

God kills the army of Egypt so that “Not one of them survived.”  (Exod. 14:28)

Two priests are burned to death by God for using “unauthorized fire.”  (Lev. 10:1-2)

An unspecified number of Israelites are killed at God’s command “so that the Lord’s fierce anger may turn away from Israel.”  (Num. 25:4-5)

Twenty-four thousand Israelites are killed by a plague sent by God.  The plague is ended only when Phinehas, grandson of Aaron, takes it upon himself to kill an Israelite man and the Midianite woman the man has married.  (Num. 25:6-11)

The army kills all the adult men of the Midianites “as the Lord commanded,” but takes the women and children as spoils of war.  This infuriates Moses, who orders the elimination of the women and the boys, but allows the army to keep the virginal girls for themselves.  (Num. 31:7-18)

Several cities of Amorites belonging to King Sihon are wiped out, “For the Lord your God had made [Sihon’s] spirit stubborn and his heart obstinate in order to give him into your hands....  At that time we took all his towns and completely destroyed them — men, women, and children, we left no survivors.  But the livestock and the plunder from the towns we had captured we carried off for ourselves.” (Deut. 2:30-35)

Sixty walled cities belonging to King Og of Bashan are pacified with God’s blessing, along with “a great many” unwalled villages.  As with King Sihon’s cities, only the livestock and plunder are taken as prey of war.  (Deut. 3:3-8)


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Genre – NonFiction

Rating – PG13

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Website http://fivetimesmorejesus.migdalin.com/

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Disappearing in Plain Sight - Francis L Guenette

Chapter 2


Izzy had been awake for almost three hours. Since Caleb’s death she never seemed to sleep much past five a.m. She filled the time marking papers, responding to emails and going over counselling case files. It was never hard to fill time. She grew to enjoy being present when the dark sky gradually turned to a grey light over the tops of the mountains. She anticipated the moment when the dawn quiet would be shattered by the incessant squawking of stellar jays as they perched in the tall trees, vying with the distant crowing of Liam’s rooster to announce a new day.

After a well-deserved stretch she returned to her chair at the writing table. She saw Justin disappear along the trail toward the greenhouse garden on the other side of the cabin. Justin was a very attractive young man. It was more than the dark-golden glow of his hair or the brown eyes flecked with warm hazel tones; more than the generous mouth and slow smile that lit his whole face; more than the clean muscular lines of his broad shoulders and lean hips. Beyond all of this he possessed a quality that seemed untouched. Izzy’s grandmother had once described the sensation of looking into some people’s eyes as being in the presence of old souls. It was this quality – like something shiny and new but older than time – that caught Izzy’s attention.

Justin had certainly turned out to be a golden triumph for Micah Camp. Not all the kids who came to the Camp were raving success stories but a large number were. They screened for success – that was part of the Board’s mandate. Their client base was young people who were coming out of the foster-care system. They were looking for kids between the ages of eighteen to twenty who had a certain edge. Sometimes it was an artistic interest, drawing or music maybe; other times it was a high math or science score or advanced computer skills; or maybe that edge was the passion of a kid who had read every book that ever came her way. A year at Micah Camp would help fill in educational gaps, smooth the way to post-secondary opportunities and kick-start what would be a lifelong process of dealing with emotional baggage.

That was where Izzy came into the picture. Though she was not the type to brag, it was due in large part to her skills that so many of the young people who came to Micah Camp emerged a year later ready to capitalize on their talents. She was a gifted trauma counsellor and her skill was born of her ability to enter totally into the stories her clients told her. In the end it was all about hearing the story. Izzy believed that people had their own answers to what they needed in order to heal and that these answers were embedded in the stories they told. She knew she was good at what she did but was at a loss to explain how or why simply listening and bearing witness to someone’s story was so powerfully healing. She often felt tongue-tied when asked by colleagues to explain her therapeutic skills and counselling methods.

Izzy glanced down to consult her daily list, a proverbial burden she couldn’t do without. She carefully crossed off tasks already completed and then took a moment to write in a task done that hadn’t made the list. She diligently crossed it off as well. She contemplated the day ahead. Beulah would be picking up the new tenant in Dearborn in the late afternoon and Izzy needed to be on hand to welcome him and get him settled in at the guest cabin.

Two months ago she had made the decision to put an ad on the internet offering the guest cabin for rent. There weren’t many guests in the offing and having a cabin that sat empty day after day was a waste. She was surprised to get a response so quickly and even more surprised at who had responded. When she shared the news that the person who was going to take the cabin for a year was a Catholic priest, Liam had raised an eyebrow ever so slightly. Izzy could only describe his face as mostly inscrutable, all angular planes and dominated by those blacker-than-black eyes. That was it though – just a raised eyebrow.

Consulting her leather-bound daybook, Izzy noted back-to-back counselling sessions scheduled for that morning. After she got the Reverend Patterson settled in she needed to prepare for the monthly book-club potluck. It would be a larger gathering than usual. Justin was invited. At Izzy’s suggestion he had read Alistair MacLeod’s novel, No Great Mischief. Bethany’s niece, who had picked Beulah’s copy off the table and apparently wolfed it down in a day, would also attend. The Reverend Patterson would be invited as well. It would be a good time for him to meet everyone and a convenient opportunity for Izzy to appear hospitable.

She leaned her elbows on the desk and cupped her face in her hands, glancing down the lake that was starting to ripple lightly in the breeze. The morning sun glinted off the top of each tight roll of water like row after row of sharpened steel blades. The book-club nights always took a toll. She missed Caleb when she had to plan or be part of a social gathering and book-club potluck night had really been Caleb’s thing. He entered into each monthly gathering with a gusto that totally belied the fact that he would be the only one attending who had barely skimmed the novel in question. He would search out theme potluck dishes and would often come up with a prop or two to emphasize the book’s theme. No doubt for tonight he would have had a Rankin family CD playing during dinner or maybe a Rita McNeil song or two. He might have served up a traditional Cape Breton meal and convinced Liam to join him in some spoon playing around the table. That level of planning was far beyond Izzy’s capacity.

Book-club night stopped abruptly when Caleb died. For almost a year and a half, as if by some type of tacit agreement, they all knew they couldn’t be in the same room at the same time. It was as if their collective grief would multiply, rebounding endlessly within any closed space like an image in a house of mirrors, until the pain would overcome them all. Then, as if emerging from some type of fog, Liam casually suggested the title of a book to Izzy and the monthly gatherings resumed. The first time, without Caleb, was as painful as they all knew it would be. But now that the ball was rolling, Izzy would make sure it kept on rolling. She would take her turn at picking a book; she would act as hostess; and she would make one of her trademark, potato dishes. The evenings obviously suffered in comparison to what they had been when Caleb was around, but at least it was a suffering for which they were now developing some tolerance.

A frown tightened Izzy’s features. Every encounter, even the most innocent, was affected by Caleb’s absence. This was as clear to her as if the others were shouting it to the mountaintops. A sharp line had been drawn across all of their lives that clearly defined every moment now as being less than it could have been if only Caleb hadn’t died. Nothing she could do would change that. She knew that after the book club she would end up sitting alone on the cliff deck drinking too much wine and regretting it all when she woke with a splitting headache at five the next morning.


Bethany stood by the kitchen counter slowly drying the lunch dishes. She felt comfortable and totally at ease in her kitchen. She gazed with pleasure at the neatly arranged row of potted herbs on the ledge of the dormer window set in over the sink. The ceramic pots were painted with delicate sprays of flower blossoms. She brushed her fingers across the small leaves of one of the plants and the scent of chocolate mint filled the air. The window afforded a rare side-view of the mountains that formed the backdrop to the cove. Bethany loved the view of the trees marching up the slope in alternating bands of colour, from light to medium to dark-green and finally giving way to bright-white patches of snow on the mountaintops.

The screen door slammed and Beulah came across the length of the A-Frame’s main floor. She stopped just slightly behind Bethany. Brushing the long blond hair from the side of her neck, Beulah kissed her softly. Bethany turned to rest her head on Beulah’s chest. Tipping Bethany’s chin up with her hand, Beulah said, “You OK, Bethy?”

Bethany smiled faintly and nodded, “Ya, I think so. I want to get out in the boat today. I probably won’t be back when you come home from town.”

Beulah was resting her hand lightly on Bethany’s cheek and thinking about how blue Bethany’s eyes were – the softest blue of a robin’s egg, flecked with motes of darker-blue that seemed reflected over and over into their depths.

At that moment, Lisa-Marie came through the door and took in the scene across the bar in the kitchen. “Gross, go to your room or something . . . OK . . . have some consideration for your house guest. I am an easily influenced teenager, after all.”

Bethany broke away from Beulah’s embrace with an uncomfortable laugh, “Where have you been Lisa?”

“Been to London to see the Queen, Auntie Beth,” Lisa-Marie sailed by them and out to the veranda to plop onto a deck chair.

Rounding up the Ford keys from the hook on the wall near the door, Beulah shook her head at the sight of Lisa-Marie sprawled out on the deck and then called back to Bethany, “Tonight’s the potluck. What are we bringing?”

“I’ve got some chicken out. I’ll fry it, I guess. People usually like that.” Bethany’s mind was already wandering to thoughts of her fishing tackle box. She wondered if she had the right lures for what was promising to be a warm afternoon.

“Sounds good . . . chicken and whatever potato concoction Izzy comes up with. We won’t starve. I suppose that free-loader Liam will bring pickles or something. Maybe he’ll outdo himself and bring a loaf of our own bread.” Beulah ignored the way Bethany shook her head sadly at the reference to Liam. “I’d better get moving. That bread won’t deliver itself.” Beulah called out towards the deck, “Hey, impressionable teenager, help your aunt with that chicken for tonight. Make yourself useful.”

Lisa-Marie wandered into the kitchen from the veranda when she was sure she could hear the ATV near the top of the trail. She sat down at the table and looked across the kitchen bar to catch her aunt’s eye. “I went over to the Camp to check it out. I met this woman – Josie. She said she could use me for a few hours every morning to knock soap out of the forms and to do other jobs like that. They pay minimum wage but that’s not bad.”

Lisa-Marie was absentmindedly tracing the design that ran along the border of the tablecloth when Bethany looked up from whipping eggs and milk in a pie plate, “You didn’t have to do that just because Beulah ribbed you, sweetie; you don’t need a job. Maybe it would be better to hang around and help with the bakery.”

Lisa-Marie caught the concern in her aunt’s voice and she suspected that what she really meant was that it would be better if she stayed close where they could keep an eye on her. She wasn’t sure how to handle the feelings that suddenly turned her face a hot-red colour and made her breath hitch in that awful way that could only mean one thing – tears. Lisa-Marie hated crying almost more than all the other things she hated combined.

“There’s nothing wrong with me, Auntie Beth. You don’t need to keep an eye on me like I’m a mental case or something.”

Bethany began to dip the flour-drenched chicken pieces into the pie plate of frothing egg and milk and then into the dried bread crumbs. Each piece was on the way to the heavy, cast-iron frying pan that was already on the stove. Lisa-Marie rose from the table and walked around the bar to stand in front of the stove. She silently took the large metal fork her aunt handed her and began pushing the browning pieces of chicken around the pan. The kitchen was quiet except for the sound of the sizzling chicken.

Lisa-Marie spoke without raising her eyes from the frying pan, “I wish you wouldn’t worry about me Auntie Beth. That’s all. You know it will only make Beulah more pissed off, right?”

Bethany reached over to turn off the burner under the chicken, “It’s good enough for now.” She took the fork from Lisa-Marie’s hand and laying it down on the counter she put her arms around her niece. “I’ll try not to worry, sweetie.”

She stroked Lisa-Marie’s soft brown hair and they stood together like that for a few moments. Bethany was thinking of the effort she had put in over the years to be a long-distance aunt to Lisa-Marie. She wrote tons of letters. When Lisa-Marie was small the letters were on big pieces of paper in all sorts of bright, felt-pen colours with funny little pictures drawn in the margins. Lisa-Marie responded with pages of childish printing. These pages slowed to almost nothing when Lisa-Marie entered her teens and went to high school. Bethany wasn’t daunted by the silence. She was rewarded for her patience with a birthday card each year – Lisa-Marie’s large and looping handwriting declaring her love.

Bethany was not one to pray but if she were, she told herself, she would pray now. She would pray with all her heart that the closeness she had worked so hard to achieve with Lisa-Marie, over the miles and the years, was going to be enough to carry them into a new, more complicated relationship.

She wondered how to put together the thing she wanted to say to Lisa-Marie. It was a bit like a complicated fishing lure. It would have to be arranged just so if it was to go down with any sort of smoothness. She began to clean up the dishes while Lisa-Marie was putting the chicken into the baking dish. Slowly Bethany began to speak. “When I first came here to Crater Lake to live with Beulah I was pretty screwed up but I didn’t really know it.”

Bethany continued to talk as she ran water into the sink, “I knew that some bad things had happened to me in the past and I had seen a lot of counsellors and social workers and people like that and I felt like I had told a lot of people about stuff, but . . . I don’t know how to say this, Lisa. It was like someone else was saying the words and sometimes it was like I wasn’t really here at all.” Bethany paused to see if Lisa-Marie was listening. Though her niece’s back was turned, Bethany could sense the quietness in her and she saw Lisa-Marie nodding her head slightly.

“Beulah was pretty good friends with Izzy’s husband, Caleb. He said maybe it would help if I talked to Izzy sometime. Beulah wanted me to and I didn’t really care. Like I told you, I had talked to lots of people before; it wasn’t a big deal to me. But when I talked to Izzy it wasn’t like any of the talking I had ever done before. Izzy’s different. I can’t really describe it.” Drying her hands on the towel hanging on a hook at the end of the counter, Bethany turned to pat Lisa-Marie on the shoulder, “I was thinking that maybe you might like to talk to Izzy sometime. It’s up to you of course. It wouldn’t work if you didn’t want to do it.”


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Genre – Contemporary Fiction / Literary Romance

Rating – PG13

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Website http://disappearinginplainsight.com/

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

INCEPTIO (Roma Nova) - Alison Morton

Part I: Departure



The boy lay in the dirt in the centre of New York’s Kew Park, blood flowing out of both his nostrils, his fine blond hair thrown out in little strands around his head. I stared at my own hand, still bunched, pain rushing to gather at the reddening knuckles. I hadn’t knocked anybody down since junior high, when Albie Jolak had tried to put his hand up my sobbing cousin’s skirt. I started to tremble. But not with fear – I was so angry.

One of the boy’s friends inched forward with a square of white cloth. He dabbed it over the fallen boy’s face, missing most of the blood. Only preppy boys carried white handkerchiefs. Aged around eighteen, nineteen, all three wore blazers and grey pants, but their eyes were bright, boiling with light, cheeks flushed. And their movements were a little too fluid. They were high. I dropped my left hand to grab my radio and called it in. Passive now, the second boy knelt by the one I’d knocked down. The third one sat on the grass and grinned like an idiot while we waited. If they attacked me again, I had my spray.

Keeping my eyes fixed on them, I circled around to the slumped figure lying a few steps away on the grass. Their victim. I laid two fingers on his neck and thankfully found a pulse. After a glance back at his tormentors, I bent my face sideways and felt his breath on my cheek. He groaned and his body tensed as he tried to move. A battered, brown felt hat lay upside down by the side of his head of long silver and black hair stiff like wire. He opened his eyes. Dull with sweat and grime, the red-brown skin stretched over high cheekbones showed he had to be an Indigenous. Well, damn. What was he doing this far east, away from the protected territories?

I heard path gravel crunching as Steff appeared through the cherry blossom cloud, driving his keeper’s buggy with Tubs as shotgun.


‘One with a bloody nose, and all three for banning. Tell Chip I’ll do the report as soon as I finish here.’

They herded the three delinquents onto the buggy. Before they left, I helped myself to dressings and swabs from the emergency kit in the buggy trunk. I had to get back to their victim. He sat up and put his hand to his head. He shrank back, his eyes full of fear when he saw me. Maybe it was my green uniform, with its park logo and ‘Autonomous City of New York’ stamped on the shoulder.

My hand started to throb, but I managed to unscrew the top of my water bottle and gave it to him.

‘C’mon, old guy, drink this.’

He lifted his face, grabbed the bottle and drank it in one go. His Adam’s apple bounced above a grimy line on his neck around the level of his disintegrating shirt collar. And he stank. But, right now, he needed my swabs and Band-Aids. Under a diagonal cut on his forehead, a bruise was blooming around his eye to match the one on his jaw. His hand was grazed, with bubbles of blood starting to clot. I cleaned his wounds, speaking calming words to him as I bandaged him up.

‘Okay, let’s get you to the nearest hospital,’ I said, but, as I lifted my radio again, he seized my wrist.

‘No,’ he said.

‘It’s okay, there’s a free one, the other side of the park in Kew Road West.’ Which was just as well, as he plainly couldn’t pay private.

‘No. Thank you. I’m well. I can go now.’

The anxious look in his dark eyes swung between my face and the safety of the tall trees. I’d have to call in for the Indigenous New York Bureau number. As I spoke to Chip, I looked over the lake at the old wood boathouse on the far side. Beyond the trees behind it, the windows in the red-brick Dutch highhouses along Verhulst Street threw the full sun back. When I turned around, the old man had disappeared.

‘You did okay, Karen,’ Chip said later in his office. ‘Little shits. They’ve been processed and taken to the south gate. I checked with the Indigenous Bureau for reported wanderers, but they had none listed.’ He grinned at me. ‘Jeez, the woman there was so prickly and made me feel like Butcher Sherman.’

Every kid knew from school the Indigenous had been more or less protected until the British finally left in 1867, but that, almost as the door shut, a rogue officer in the new American army ordered the massacre of Sioux and Cheyenne on an industrial scale. A hundred and fifty years on, the Indigenous Nations Council in the Western Territories still reacted like it was yesterday. I was more than pleased I hadn’t had to make that call.

I filed my report among the pile of paper in Chip’s in-basket and thought nothing more of it until, after a tedious week shut in my office at my regular job, I was back on duty in the park the next weekend.

That Saturday morning, I changed into my green pants and tee in the locker room and pinned on my team leader badge. The May sunshine would bring out people in droves. I picked up my volunteer’s folder from the wall rack. Hopefully, I was back on meet-and-greet supervising, instead of patrol. I could walk all day in the fresh air, greeting visitors, giving directions, answering park-related questions, laughing with the sassy kids, and helping the lost and crying ones find their parents. I knew every corner of the park from north to south, the history back to Vaux and Olmstead, who’d founded it with a huge grant from the Royal Kew in England.

I hummed a little tune and anticipated the sun on my skin. But all there was inside the folder was a note to report to the park director. What was that about? I’d met him twice before when I’d been awarded commendations, but never seen him around the park itself. Not on weekends.

The sour expression on his face told me I wasn’t here for an award. Chip stood with his back close to the far corner, no sign of his usual jokey grin. I was not invited to sit on the green-padded chair this side of the director’s desk.

‘Miss Brown.’ The director frowned at the sheet of paper in his hand. He looked up. ‘Show me your right hand.’ He spoke in a hard, closed tone.

He took hold of my hand and twisted it over, not caring when I winced. He glanced at the purple and yellow skin around my knuckles, grunted and let go.

‘You are dismissed from the Conservancy Corps, with immediate effect. Hand your uniform, ID and any other park property to your supervisor and leave within the next thirty minutes. You have become an embarrassment to the Autonomous City of New York. We cannot stop you as a member of the public entering the park, but you will be watched. That is all.’

I couldn’t believe it. I took a deep breath and grasped the back of the chair.

‘But why are you kicking me out? What have I done?’

‘Assaulting a respectable member of the public as he and his friends were quietly enjoying a walk is completely unacceptable. Even more so when drunk.’

‘Drunk? How dare you!’ I was hot as hell with fury. ‘They were all high as kites and attacking a defenceless old Indigenous.’ I took some deep breaths. ‘I did what the training said. I remonstrated with them. I attempted to mediate. I placed myself between them and their victim. It’s all in my report.’ I threw an urgent look over at Chip, desperate for his support. He looked away.

‘Have you quite finished?’ The director looked at his watch.

‘No, I haven’t! The lead one took a swing at me. I ducked. He went for me again, so I hit him on the nose. You know I’m within my rights to defend myself.’ But this was the first time I’d ever had to do it all the years I’d volunteered here. Unlike others, both volunteer and regular, I’d chosen not to carry a nightstick when I was assigned patrol.

‘This interview is finished.’ He nodded to Chip who stepped forward, took me by the arm and ushered me out with a murmured, ‘C’mon, Karen.’

‘What the hell happened there? How can he do that? And I wasn’t drunk. Ask Steff and Tubs. It was eleven in the morning, for Chrissakes!’ I threw my folder on his desk. ‘If it wasn’t so stupid, I’d kill myself laughing.’

Chip shifted his weight from one foot to the other, no grin, his easy fidgeting gone. ‘You bloodied the nose of External Affairs Secretary Hartenwyck’s son. He’s fuming. And Mrs Hartenwyck’s not only on the board of trustees, she’s a major patron of the park.’

I sucked my breath in. Hartenwyck, the second most powerful person in the country. My heart pounded with fear. I closed my eyes and shook my head. He was from one of the old Dutch families, a privileged class who still called the shots even two hundred years after their last governor had sailed out of the harbour in 1813. Even though the British had stepped up from number two position and taken everything over for the next fifty years, the ‘Dutch mafia’ still ran everything today. And I had a British name. I didn’t have a chance.

‘Then they should make sure Junior doesn’t take drugs,’ I said. ‘Or beat up old Indigenous in a public place. The Indigenous Nations Council would wipe the floor with him.’

‘But you can’t produce him to testify.’

‘Steff and Tubs saw him.’

‘They’ve been told to shut their mouths if they want to keep their jobs.’ He looked at me, almost pleading. ‘They’ve both got families, Karen.’

I walked back and forth in front of his desk, waving my arms around, but I sensed it was no use. The decision had been made and Chip was stuck with executing it.

‘So, my four years’ volunteer service and two commendations aren’t worth jack-shit?’

He fixed his gaze on the scuffed door panel directly over my shoulder. ‘I’m so sorry.’

Heat prickled in my eyes, but I was not going to cry. I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. I walked out, shut the heavy oak door with supreme control, changed back into my jeans and tee in the locker room and left the staff building, my head up. I threw the green park uniform and ID in a public trashcan. Childish, but satisfying.


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Genre – Thriller (Alternate History)

Rating – PG13

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Helga: Out of Hedgelands (Wood Cow Chronicles) – Rick Johnson

Helga Out of Hedgelands – Rick Johnson

Amazon Kindle US

Amazon Kindle UK

Genre – Fantasy

Rating – PG

4.4 (16 reviews)

Free until 10 September 2013

Twelve-year-old Helga has more danger in her life than most beasts her age—Wrackshee slavers after her, a vicious attack by bandits that nearly kills her, a race against dragons pursuing her, and leading a daring rebellion to save her life and rescue friends and family from the insidious WooZan. And that is just the beginning. But what do you expect when you are a young beast who just can’t see the stupid rules of the world making any sense? Helga can’t accept things as they are and ends up taking on not just one, but two all-powerful, supreme tyrants in two different realms.
Helga never intended to lead a revolution. It just sort of happened because she wouldn’t go along with the “rules of normal” that keep tyrants in power and entire societies enslaved. Beginning on a dangerous quest to solve some mysteries in her own past, Helga leads her quirky comrades on a journey that will not only forever change them, but upset ancient civilizations.
As an author, I’m drawn to eccentric, unexpected characters: those who surprise because they hear a distant galaxy, see a different music, create their own fragrance rather than get hooked on a soundtrack; the child who has her own ideas about how the emperor is dressed; the lunatics and rebels who tell stories on the boundaries. Helga’s unusual story will take readers to worlds they never imagined—definitely a whole new ride.
Time and again, the unconventional heroine and her eccentric comrades overcome ominous tyrants and black-hearted slavers, not by battling to the last beast standing, but by being the first beast to think differently.
Helga: Out of Hedgelands is divided into three books which introduce the epic saga of the Wood Cow clan and their role in overturning centuries of slavery and tyranny. This story will continue in additional volumes of the Wood Cow Chronicles now in development. Over the series of current and future volumes, the entire history of the Wood Cow clan, the fall of Maev Astuté, and the coming of Lord Farseeker to the Outer Rings, will be told.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Benjamin Chronicles: Relativity by Matthew DiConti


There was a brightness in front of Conal’s eyes, a white light, almost as though he was staring directly into the sun. But his eyes were closed, squeezed tightly shut against the pain throbbing in the back of his head.

He heard someone screaming in the distance, it sounded as if the voice he heard was coming from under water. He opened his eyes slowly, and his head began to spin. He was nauseous from the pain.

“Conal! Conal!”

The voice was hysterical.

His head rolled in the direction of the sound. His vision was blurred; he could only see blobs of shapes and colors. What was the one moving toward him? The voice got louder as the blob moved.


A familiar face, a pretty face floated above him.

I know her. The face was a comfort, an image he had seen many times before. She seems worried. Why?

It all came back to him as his vision began to clear. The tunnel of light, the shock as he grabbed the handle, the shaking levers, Abby.

“Abby.” Relief shone in her eyes as he wheezed her name.

“Oh, thank God. Conal, I need you to wake up. I don’t know what’s happening. Where are we? I don’t know what to do.” She convulsed in tears, her sobs wracking her entire body.

Conal struggled to sit up, fighting off waves of nausea and the overwhelming desire for sleep. “It’ll be all right, Abby. It will be okay.” He swallowed his words as he surveyed his surroundings.

In truth, he fully expected to wake up on the floor of the gymnasium, humiliated from having hallucinated the entire thing and passing out.

He could not have guessed where he had ended up. His heart was pounding at the possibilities.

And then he was vomiting, his head exploding as his stomach retched and he clutched onto cobblestone in a futile attempt at finding stability.

Clearly he had been knocked out when they landed, or whatever it is that you do in a time machine.

Even a concussion could not keep at bay the sarcastic chuckle under his breath. He hardly dared to let himself imagine that this had actually happened.

The scent of horse manure carried lightly to him on a chilly breeze and he began to gag again. “Oh my God, okay, that’s disgusting.” Don’t worry about me. I’m fine, he thought to himself

Abby cringed bitterly as she helped him to his feet. “I’m sorry, I just don’t do well with throwing up. Are you going to be okay?”

“I’ll be fine.” I don’t have a choice. “Just shaking the cobwebs loose.”

“So do you have any idea where we are?”


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Genre - Paranormal Fiction

Rating – NC17

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Sunday, September 8, 2013

I, Walter by Mike Hartner

Chapter 1

"I, Walter Crofter, being of sound mind. . . ." Bah, this is garbage! I tossed my quill on the parchment sitting in front of me. People may question my sanity, but they should hear the whole story before judging me. I’m sitting here, now, at the age of 67, trying to write this down and figure out how to tell everything. I don’t know if I'll ever get it right, though. Too many secrets to go around. However, this is my last chance to offer the truth before I die. The doctors say it's malaria, yet I'll be fine. Perhaps. But if the malaria doesn't kill me, my guilt indeed will. Maybe if people know the facts surrounding my life, everyone will have a better understanding.

I dipped the tip in the inkwell again, and wrote:

I was born September 2, 1588, and named Walter. I didn’t belong in this Crofter family, who were storekeepers in London and not farmers as our surname might indicate to those who study this sort of thing. My parents were courteous and even obsequious to our patrons. Yet they received little or no respect. The ladies came to us to buy their groceries or the fabric for their dresses, but as seemly as they comported themselves, and some even called my father 'friend,' it was not out of regard for him. I was forced to run. Well, "forced" might put too harsh a point on it, like that of a sword, but others can judge for themselves.

By the time I reached the age of 12, I'd found another family that was more "me". They weren’t rich, but they were comfortable. The parents had several children, including a girl my age who was named Anna. Within two years, we had come to know each other quite well, and were getting to know each other even better. Her father caught us getting too close to knowing each other better yet, and showed up at my parents' house with a musket in his hand, telling them if I ever came near his daughter again, he'd use it on me--and then on them.

I paused to dip the pen and wipe my brow. Even though I was wearing a light cotton shirt, it was bloody hot in early August in Cadaques. My wife, Maria, entered the room and looked at my perspiring face and what I had just written. Between fits of laughter, she smiled at me with wide lips and said, "You can't possibly write this. You're not the only boy a doting father ever had to chase away. Nobody cares about this sort of thing."

"It will at least give a pulse to this writing," I replied. "It's too boring to say I left because I was mismatched with my own family, so much so that I was positive someone had switched me at birth. Or that I thought I was ready for more in life than what I could find at home. Nobody would read that, not even me."

"I agree, so tell the story that really means something. All of it." She sighed softly and placed the parchment she had been reading on the desk in front of me and kissed my cheek. The gleam in her eyes shed 20 years off her age and reminded me of a much gentler time. God, how much I love her.

I said, "Before I met you, I spent my life like a square peg trying to fit in a round hole. I’m just trying to make my story more interesting."

"I’ve heard the accounts of your life before you met me. Or I should say found me. It was anything but boring. So, if you insist on including in the story lines like those you just wrote, make sure they're the only ones. If you don't, I'll consider adding my own material." She winked. "You know I’ve had good sources."

She turned and walked away, laughing loudly as I called after her, "Yes, dear."
I dipped the quill and put it to parchment again.

In my earliest days, I remember my father, Geoff, being a bit forceful with other people. I also recall my brother Gerald, nearly five years my senior, and myself being happy. Or at least as contented as two boys could be who were growing up in the late 1500s in England, and working every day since their seventh birthdays. It was a time when boys were earning coin as soon as they could lift or carry things. The money could never be for themselves, however, but for the parents to help pay the bills.

Father lived as a crofter should. He was an upright man and sold vegetables off a cart like his grandfather did, and he also dabbled in selling fine fabric for the ladies of status.

One afternoon, when I was eight years old, my brother came home and got into a heated debate with my father about something. When I ran to see what was the matter, they hushed around me, so I never got the full gist of the argument. But whatever it was about, it was serious, and the bickering continued behind my back for five straight days. When I awoke on the morning of the sixth day, Gerald was no longer at home. And he never came back.

Soon afterwards, my father lost enthusiasm for his business and became generally passive. I assumed this was because of Gerald's leaving, and only on occasion would I see flashes of my dad's former self.

At the start of my tenth year, our family moved closer to London. We rented the bottom floor of a three-story building in which several families lived in the upper floors. My father said we relocated because he needed to be closer to more business opportunities. But my mom didn't believe he'd made the right decision, since he was now selling food out of a cart and not inside a storefront. One night, she greeted him at the door when he came home. She was wearing a frown and a dress that had seen better days.

"Did you bring in any decent money?" she asked him before he had time to take off his coat.
"I told you, it will take some time. It's not easy to make good money these days."
"Especially when you let the ladies walk all over you."
"I know, I know. But what am I to do when they aren't running up to me to buy what I'm selling?"
"You at least bring home some food for us?" My father had carried in a bag under his arm.
"It's not much, a few carrots and some celery." He handed her the bag.
"What about meat?"
"We're not ready for meat yet."
"That’s true enough," my mother said. "But you should at least try to feed your family. Walter's growing, and so are our other children."
"Leave me be, woman. I'm doing the best I can for now." He sat in his chair, leaned his head against the wall, and fell asleep.

I Walter

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Genre – Historical Fiction/ Romance

Rating – PG

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