Category Archives: writing

Honey-Do’s Part 2 by John E. Stack

Summer is coming to a close way too fast and I will soon return to school. After nineteen years of teaching math, this year I have the opportunity to teach 7th grade Social Studies, but that is a story for a different time. This is a continuation of my last post about my adventures in the remodeling of our master bedroom and adjoining bath.
First off, let me say that even if you pay fifty dollars a gallon for paint (with primer), there is no such thing as one coat paint. I guess if you prime the walls with a flat paint the same color, but that defeats the concept of one coat. Anyway, the job that should have taken about three days took about a week.  The eleven foot ceilings didn’t help much either.
We used a real cool paint called “Sandstone”. Feels like sandpaper. We used a light gray on three walls and an aqua blue on the fourth. I trimmed it out with white. I thought it was looking pretty good, and I was almost done when my wife suggested that we should also paint the ceiling. Did it need it? Probably. Did I want to spend another day cutting in the edges and then staring at the ceiling for a few hours? No. Did I do it? Yes, and it looks good.
I used an aqua semi-gloss in the bathroom, trimmed in white. I didn’t do the ceiling yet, but probably will before all is said and done. By this time, I was used to doing two coats, so no big deal.
About three years ago, my oldest daughter won a shower door. She could not use it, so gave it to me. She asked if I could take pics of the installation in order to show how easy the install was. Since we were re-doing the bath, I figured that this would be the perfect opportunity to install the door. Well, I took everything out of the box and started looking at the instructions, only to find out that the maximum width of the door was one-half inch less than the opening we had. So, I placed it back in the box and ordered a new door. Maybe that one will be installed within the next month or so.
Before the paint was even dry, it was time to go look at flooring. We needed new flooring for the bedroom and for the bath. It started out with bathroom flooring, but I guess the bedroom floor was jealous, so we caved and purchased flooring for the bedroom first. We found an engineered hardwood that looks like weathered planks. It’s nice, and was very easy to install. It took about two and a half days. Since we had no place to store the bedroom furniture, it was move furniture – remove carpet – lay floor, move furniture – remove carpet – lay floor, etc. I got my work-out for those three days, but it looks pretty good with the paint scheme.
The next day, we went to pick-out/pick-up the flooring for the bathroom. We found a gray vinyl plank system that was waterproof. It looks similar to marble. It took about three hours to remove the existing vinyl floor. It consisted of adhesive tiles on top of sheet vinyl. It was nasty. It took another couple of days to place and cut into all the nooks and crannies, and then replace the toilet.
Over the next couple of days, I have to install quarter-round trim in both rooms.  After that, I get to build my barn door. This was the small project that started the renovation. I previously purchased the rail and yesterday I bought the wood. I really wanted to have all this completed before school started, but that might not happen since I only have a few days before I have to go back.
Once I hang the door, I will have spent a little over a month working on this. My wife keeps reminding me that a lot of people have volunteered to help, but you know, there is just something about saying “look what I did.” (Anyway, most sane people wouldn’t want to work with me, because I’m very particular about how things are done.) Maybe next time I’ll include pictures.

 

By the way, I know that some of you readers are used to me writing about foster care, and often about our last little boy, Bill.  We had Bill for almost three years.  I won’t place blame, but the transition to the adoptive home was absolutely horrible for us, for Bill and for his adoptive parents.  It took a while, but Bill seems to be adapting and bonding to his new mom and dad.  So, my wife and I decided to take a few months off from being foster parents, and are now trying to decide if it something we should continue doing.  I am still very passionate about foster care and adoption, and maybe one day I will include a few excerpts from the book I have been working on about real kids in foster care.

 

*** John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Olivia’s Sweet Adventure, and Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo.

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What have you lost? by Sheila Deeth

Andrew Callaghan would rather not think about the past. Too many losses. Too many betrayals. It’s simpler just to live in the present until that betrays him as well. And then, maybe it’s safest to assume the worst.

Stella DeMaris would like to be a part of Andrew’s present. If that means learning about his past and helping him find his future, well, she’s ready for the task.

And both of them care very much about the future of a special-needs child who vanishes from school.

Subtraction, released this month by Indigo Sea Press, is the story of Andrew and Stella and the missing child. It’s a dance between the past and present, between threats of betrayal and promises of hope, and between the illusions and disillusionment of a lonely math teacher. Enjoy it on its own, or read the companion novels, Divide by Zero and Infinite Sum, as well – they each stand alone and they’re all set, at least in part, in the quiet subdivisions of Paradise.

Yes, there are snakes in Paradise. But there are cats as well.

As for me, I’m just the author. In January I lost my basement to a flood. It’s nothing compared to the losses suffered by others or by Andrew, but it’s dominated my year. Then, just this last two weeks, I finally moved back in. I carried book boxes from garage to newly refloored and repainted basement rooms. I emptied books onto that clean new floor. If their pages lured me like long-lost friends, the books went onto the surviving bookshelves (also lugged down to the basement from the garage). But many shelves were subtracted in that flood (likewise books which dissolved on bottom shelves); not everything would fit. So books whose pages didn’t call out to me went back upstairs in boxes to be donated to the library.

Now a new and beautiful library/reading room has been added to my life. It used to be our sons’ bedroom, but sons are grown and gone. This room is mine, and January’s subtraction has turned into August’s addition. I love the addition.

I also love the addition of Subtraction to my list of published works. Thank you Indigo Sea!

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Stop Me If You’ve Seen This Before by Chuck Thurston

I have a friend who has done a lot of writing in various media. And I’m talking Hollywood and TV network prime time script writing stuff, etc. This background will tend to lower the objectivity bar for many of you, and so, to establish his credentials as honest and grounded in reality, I have to point out that he left the glamor of this life and now does considerable technical and business writing.

Now that he’s earning an honest living, he can look back on his earlier efforts with a critical eye. He told me some time ago that TV programming was suffering because of a lack of good writing these days. I am not sure if this is coincident with his leaving that business, but he went on to say this accounts for the rise of the – now ubiquitous – TV Reality Shows. It is far easier for TV producers to get some interesting folks, put them in unusual situations, give them a few instructions on what is wanted – and record the results.

The characters are chosen because of their good looks, nice bodies, quirkiness, wiseassery, likelihood of drawing sympathy, etc.  In other words, most of the traits that would get them selected for traditional TV acting roles – if there were good writers producing these shows now! The resultant work can’t be entirely without direction, however. The producers are smart enough to know what sells and what doesn’t, and if don’t know what the big draw is, you haven’t watched much TV. Dancing with the stars is as much about dancing as bull fighting is about animal control.

The advertisements for these shows are designed to entice the viewer in much the same way that ads for traditional shows did – emphasizing the excitement, adventure and titillating possibilities to be expected. And you can bag the excitement and adventure if it dampens the titillating.

My wife showed me an ad for The Bachelor in Paradise show that read, ‘Ashley takes Jared to a hotel!’ “What could possibly be her motive for that?” she asked. I sensed a tongue-in-cheek behind that remark.

“Don’t read too much into it,” I said. “That hotel has the best breakfast buffet in town!”

She snorted. “Oh sure!

“Look,” I said. “Before I watch that show – if I thought for a minute there was some hanky panky going on – I’d ask my doctor if my heart was healthy enough for viewing!”

 

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A Rambling Man (Part four) from Chapter Eight- “Not My Time to Go” by Thornton Cline

They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way: they found no city to dwell in. Psalm 107:4  KJV

Thornton Cline, author
I am still standing today after 11 near death experiences

It was about 11 p.m., but the night was just getting started. She was in the mood for love, and I had captured her heart and mind, swiftly and magically. Sherry reached over and tightly embraced me. We kissed passionately.

It was now about 1 a.m. It dawned on Sherry that she would have to get up at 5:30 a.m. to get her kids to school and make it work at Iowa Bell. She invited me back to her house to stay for the night. I obliged willingly. When we got there, it was quiet. Everyone was asleep.

As we fell in bed together, the phone rang. It was Sherry’s old boyfriend. He wanted to come over and spend the night with her. She reminded him that they were no longer together, and then begged him not to come over because she was too tired and needed to get up early in the morning for work. Despite Sherry’s pleading, the old boyfriend told her that he was coming over anyway. He hung up on her.

Sherry worried that there would be big trouble if I were there when her old boyfriend showed up. She did not want to see a bad fight between the two of us, so she urgently rushed me out of the door and sent me home. She bolted her door and went to bed. Sherry told me later that the old boyfriend showed up minutes later and tried to beat her front door down. Sherry didn’t answer the door, and pretended to be fast asleep. After a while, he gave up and left.

Sherry couldn’t sleep a wink, she said. She felt guilty for rushing me off and sending me home. She lay awake thinking of what a great time she had with me until her old boyfriend had to call and ruin the whole thing. She would call me in the morning and try to get back on my good side.

The next morning, when Sherry arrived at work, she called me at my house. She apologized repeatedly for the awkward moment between her old boyfriend and her. I accepted her apology. We set up another dinner date.

Our relationship seemed to spiral out of control from that point. We grew closer and closer each day. We spent hours together talking, laughing, kissing and touching—everything lovers do. We held each other close in bed at night.

A few weeks later, Sherry invited me to vacation with her in Chicago. It would be a romantic getaway, just the two of us without her kids or a babysitter. I spent the entire weekend with Sherry traveling and touring Chicago. We stayed in a lavish hotel and dined at some of the finest restaurants. This weekend vacation brought us even closer together.

About a month later, Sherry had a big proposition for me. She asked me to a special fancy restaurant in the heart of downtown Cedar Rapids. Over candlelight and an expensive dinner, she asked me if would consider moving in with her. I immediately accepted the offer. It had been years since I had indulged in so much lavish female attention as I had received from Sherry. I was tired of being lonely and feeling depressed. Sherry brightened my life and was adventurous.

I couldn’t wait to tell some of my male friends about Sherry’s proposition. They sharply rebuked me for being so foolish. They warned me of how a man’s life is never the same after he moves in with a woman and lives with her.  #Notmytimetogo; #IndigoSeaPress; #ThorntonCline; #MikeSimpson; #Angels

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The Story of a Cover

Despite my hesitation about writing a murder mystery starring my dance class (killing friends is a good way to lose friends) I wanted a cover for the as yet unwritten book to help ease me into the project. Grace, the woman who’d volunteered to be the victim, agreed to be the cover girl.

On Tuesdays, ballet comes first, then Arabic. One Tuesday, we were just finished practicing our final combination of ballet steps—glissade, arabesque, pas de bourrrée, assemblé—when Grace arrived, already dressed in her green and beige silk belly dance skirt.

I waved at the older woman. “I brought my camera. I need a photo of your corpse. Will you play dead for me?”

Grace laughed. “Sure. Where do you want me? Over there by the barre?”

I glanced at the corner of the studio she indicated, and shrugged. “Sure. Anywhere is fine.”

I’d expected to have to take several shots to get the pose I wanted, but Grace sank to the wooden floor as gracefully as she did everything else, and lay in the ideal pose.

Right then I knew I could kill Grace. She was just too damn perfect.

And now, Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, my sometimes amusing, always riveting novel about fun and murder at an adult dance class is available on Amazon.

Click here to buy: Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare

***

Pat Bertram is the author of four other suspense novels: Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

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Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare

I didn’t want to kill Grace—it was her idea. I’ve literarily massacred hundreds of thousands of people, so it shouldn’t have been difficult to do away with one petite older woman, but the truth is I couldn’t think of a single reason why I—or anyone—would want Grace Worthington dead. Though most of us humans frown on murder, we do grudgingly admit some folks are so villainous they need to be eliminated, but no one would consider Grace a villain. She is charming, kind, with a smile for everyone, and the ghost of her youthful beauty is still apparent on her lovely face.

Besides, killing a friend is a good way to lose that friend, and dance class would not be the same without Grace.

I was still trying to make up my mind about killing Grace when several of us dancing classmates met for lunch. After nibbling on salads and sandwiches, we rose and gathered our belongings. I’d hung my dance bag on the back of my chair, and I yanked the bag with more force than I intended. The bag swung out and narrowly missed hitting Buffy Cooper, a tanned, elegant blonde a couple of years older and a couple of inches shorter than me.

Buffy deadpanned, “I’m not the one who volunteered to be the murder victim.”

That cracked me up, and right then I decided I had to follow through with the project. I mean, really—how could I not use such a perfect line?

I turned to Grace. “How do you want me to do the deed?” Since she’d initiated this lethal game, I thought it only right that she got to choose the means of her demise. So much fairer than the way life works, wouldn’t you say? I mean, few among us get to choose our own end. Life, the greatest murderer of all time, chooses how we expire, whether we will it or not.

Grace laughed at my question and said she didn’t care how she died.

But I cared.

Death is often messy—and smelly—with blood and body wastes polluting the scene, and I did not feel like dealing with such realities, especially not at Madame ZeeZee’s Dance Academy.

So begins the story of Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare, my sometimes amusing, always suspenseful novel about fun and murder at an adult dance class.

Now available on Amazon.

Click here to buy: Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare

***

Pat Bertram is the author of four other suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”  Like Pat on Facebook.

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“Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare” is Now Available!

Killing friends is a good way to lose friends, even if the murder is for play. When Pat’s adult dance classmates discover she is a published author, the women suggest she write a mystery featuring the studio and its aging students. One sweet older lady laughingly volunteers to be the victim, and the others offer suggestions to jazz up the story. Then the murders begin. Tapped by the cops as the star suspect, author Pat sets out to discover the truth curtained behind the benign faces of her fellow dancers. Does one of them have a secret she would kill to protect? Or is the writer’s investigation a danse macabre with Pat herself as the bringer of death?

Pat Bertram’s sometimes amusing, always riveting novel about fun and murder at an adult dance class is now available on Amazon.

Click here to buy: Madame ZeeZee’s Nightmare

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Ghost Ship (The Illopogas) by LV Gaudet

 

A pall hung over the moon, misty clouds stringing across the sky like the tattered remnants of a ghostly sail.  The endless sound of the ocean forever in motion whispered ceaselessly like the incomprehensible roar of a far away stadium crowd.  Pale light from the moon reflected weakly off the constant gently rolling water, illuminating the upward motion while casting faint shadows on the downward movements of the water’s ceaselessly flowing surface.

A sound moaned softly somewhere in the darkness.  It was the creak and groan of ancient lumber flexing and bending with the pressure of the waves pressing upon it, trying to bend the wood to its will.  With it came the soft lapping of the waves licking against the slowly rotting timber, carrying it on an endless voyage across the sea.

Within the dark confines of the ancient ship’s hull, the air hung heavy and stale.  Dead.  Throughout the empty cargo hold was the rotten wood remnants of long ago stalls and pens for the transporting of livestock.  The spaces between these broken lumber remnants were filled to capacity with tightly packed rows and rows of shelves from ceiling to floor.  Littered among these shelves were shackles.  Some were red-brown with the rust of ages, some seemed black as a new cast iron pan and freshly oiled.  Many lay within the ranges in between.  There were shackles on the shelves and lying discarded on the floor like dead metal vipers.  Still more hung down from the low ceiling, swinging casually with the gentle rolling of the ship on the sea, swinging silently except for the occasional light ching when two touched briefly in their never-ending dance.  A thick gritty and greasy dust clung to everything.

“Is the cargo secured?” a voice called out.  The captain was feeling nervous about the dark clouds looming on the horizon.

“All secure,” called back the first mate.

“Secure the masts,” the captain called out, “bring in the sails.”

The sounds of men scurrying about the deck, voices indefinable and vague, echoed down to the hull below.

On the vacant deck above, the pale light of the moon caressed across the ship from bow to stern.  The sails hung limply, tattered and shredded, stained and rotting.  The planks of the deck lay clean and dry, repeatedly washed by the waves as though by invisible deck hands.  Endless days under the sun had left the timber bleached.

The moans and groans of ill and discontented souls oozed up from the bowels of the ship with the creaking and groaning of the timber, the only sound other than the waves and shifting of what remained of the rotting tack that touched the deserted deck.  Sometimes a terrible scream would be carried on the wind, fleeing the terrors locked within the weeping timber of the ship’s hull.

This is the Illopogas, a cargo ship that was once used for transporting many different types of cargos over the years, the last of which was livestock that was not of the four-legged variety.  Stories of the Illopogas migrate like some of the denizens of the waves, travelling from port to port, whispered in the darkened corners of inns and pubs by sailors who have drunk too much.  Even in the telling of these tales, these drunken louts eye the room suspiciously through narrow slitted eyes, making protective gestures behind their backs, wary of jinxing themselves and bringing the Illopogas across their path when next they sail.

Few sailors have crossed paths with the legendary ghost ship, The Illopogas, and lived to tell the tale.  None has been able to hold on to their shredded sanity.  Some say that the ship is haunted by vengeful ghosts, others that the ship itself seeks revenge.

There is something about ghost ships, forever sailing the seas manned by an invisible crew, which strikes fear into the hearts of men.  None as much as the Illopogas.

Beware the ghost ship.

Beware the Illopogas.

 

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Honey Do’s by John E. Stack

School has been out for a few weeks now, and being a teacher, I have tried to read, rest and accomplish a few things around the house. Actually, I have rested a lot, read a number of books, but have gotten little done in in the way of honey-do’s. I have an extremely long honey-do list.  I had good intentions and I thought about it a lot, but sometimes life gets in the way and you have just enough time to read a few (hundred) pages in a book.

Well, before I could accomplish any of my chores, vacation time came along and we spent a week in the mountains of North Carolina. We visited the city of Franklin and stayed in a log cabin on top of a small mountain. It was absolutely beautiful. There were lots of antique shops, gem mines and waterfalls. In other words, there was something for everyone, even a bookstore for kids. The town was quaint, but had lots of attractions.

Several gem mines were located within 10-15 minutes so we took our little ones to screen for gems. They had a blast. We found rubies, emeralds, and lots of other stones.  I need to learn to cut and polish some of the gems. To pay what they wanted at the mine was crazy.

One afternoon, we spent several hours driving on cut-back mountain roads to look at waterfalls. It was sharp right, then share left, etc. Yeah, all the way up the mountain. We were able to walk behind one waterfall and there was another just off the edge of the road. On the way back down, we saw a group of people sitting on boulders in the stream. We decided to join them. The water temperature was about 50 degrees or below. I had never put my feet in water so cold.

Well, vacation ended way too quickly.

Oh yeah, honey do’s. Have you ever had a small project transform and mutate into a much larger project? My small project turned into a renovation of our master bedroom and bath.

It all started with a general comment from my lovely wife. Something like, “I think an old fashion barn door would look nice between our bedroom and our bathroom.” I responded that it shouldn’t be too difficult if we could find the hardware and rail.  I located a kit on-line and ordered it. That was my original project.

Suzanne started thinking and decided that our bedroom could use some freshening up. She started looking at colors and finally selected the correct combination. So, I needed to hold off on the door until I completed the painting. Okay, no problem. Then, it was decided that the bathroom needed to be repainted also, with colors similar to the bedroom. We also needed to replace the flooring in the bathroom, and the shower door.

Okay, now I was ready to start to work. Slap up some paint, replace a shower door, place some tile and then I can build my barn door. No, no I can’t. It seems that the carpet in our bedroom won’t match, plus it needs to be replaced anyway. Instead of carpet, we are going with an engineered hardwood. After that, I can build my door… maybe.

Looks like I’m going to be a little busy for the rest of the summer.  Gotta go for now, I think I hear my paintbrush calling.

By the way, since you have time to read, check out the link below. If you enjoyed my writing, share it with a friend and/or give me a comment. Have a great rest of the summer!

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo, and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.

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Can Subtraction be a Positive? by Sheila Deeth

It’s coming soon. The release date is August 1st. And the title is Subtraction. So now I need a blurb for the back of the book. But what’s in a blurb?

Subtraction - cover concept

Subtraction – cover concept

  • I could precis the story, beginning, middle and end. But then why bother reading all the rest?
  • I could precis the setup, but what should I include; how much, where, when and why?
  • I could give you a character sketch but the characters change… well, apart from the middle-grade misfits who plan on misfitting for several more years yet.
  • I could tell you it’s related to Divide by Zero and Infinite Sum, and no, it’s not about math… well, apart from the protagonist teaching subtraction to those middle-grade misfits in his class.
  • I could give you a sentence–Schoolteacher takes a road trip in search of missing child and finds himself…. maybe add love and cats for added interest (the cat’s important).
  • I could expand on the sentence, but that’s just just extra words.
  • I could ask you a question: Can Subtraction be a Positive? Then I could try to answer the question. And then…

Actually, I kind of like the question idea. If I subtract a negative number it’s the same as adding positives, so what if I subtract a negative thought? What if Subtraction is the story of a life worn down by negatives then turned around by subtracting negativity? Or is that too complex (I’m still working on book 4 of my Mathemafiction sequence, Imaginary Numbers).

Anyway, here’s what I’ve got so far… Three completely different blurbs, and a request that you tell me which (if any) makes you more interested in reading the story. Go on, please… subtract those negatives from my blurbs, send positive vibes, and help me make something great!

Version 1:

On a road trip to look for a missing girl, a schoolteacher finds himself. Love, cats and colleagues remind him the world’s not all evil, but can he truly forgive the darkness it hides? Is trust just weakness in disguise, or is it a gift, a freedom and a hope that things subtracted might yet be restored?

Version 2 (with questions!):

Can subtraction be a positive? Can loss be a gain? And can a lonely schoolteacher find himself (love and cats) on a cross-country road trip in search of a missing child? Subtraction is a story of love, loss and hope as strangers prove to be sometimes kind, dark places hide light, and middle-grade schoolchildren learn about math, acceptance, and generosity.

Version 3 (less existential, but still with questions):

When a misfit student disappears from math class, her teacher embarks on an epic cross-country journey to find her. But who is he really looking for? Why is the pretty new art teacher so keen to help? And where do all the cats come from?

Sheila Deeth is the author of the Mathemafiction sequence of novels. Find Divide by Zero and Infinite Sum, both published by Indigo Sea Press, where good books are sold, and look out for Subtraction, coming August 1st!

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