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Interview with a Supernormal: About Those Abilities

As I write Root, the next book in the Dormant series, I draw on clandestine interviews I’ve had with the only supernormal I’ve met. I know her as Kate Brighthall but that’s not her real name. It’s the name she gave me when she recused me from a house fire when we were both teenagers. Over the years she’s trusted me with details about her world and allowed me to write about it. I suspect she wants to make sure at least some facts are correctly reported to counterbalance the rumors swirling around — mostly in the tabloids.

Below is an excerpt from notes I took when Kate told me about how supernormal abilities develop. She was unusually chatty that day.

…………………………………………

As told by Kate Brighthall…

Supernormal children aren’t born with their active powers. Our children aren’t distinguishable from normal children at all. Not at first.

Our children start showing signs of the basic package abilities around age three. The basic package abilities (my daughter Zoe’s term) include super speed, sight, smell, hearing, and strength. As a child grows up, we do some light training to hone the basic package skills, however intense training begins at age thirteen when a child’s significant ability manifests. A significant ability can be one of many different skills — it could be an extension of the basic package or something very different. For example, Zoe’s significant ability is super speed. She can run the 120 miles from the Portland warehouse to Mt Hood and back in fifteen minutes. Others gain significant abilities such as the power to manipulate objects without touching them. I can manipulate objects weighing up to 5 lbs. Others can handle heavier objects. Other abilities include fire starters, like my niece Olivia. My brother, Alex, is an empath — skill often used for healing. Supernormals can heal more rapidly than normals but we occasionally need a little help. Alex also uses his ability to help normals heal — surreptitiously, of course.

Most abilities are easy to hide from normals but some of us manifest abilities that require we stay hidden. It’s not unheard of for a supernormal to manifest wings, gills, or other physical changes. Once, a long time ago, we were less successful at staying hidden. That’s how some myths got started — normals saw supernormals in action. Nowadays we stay below the radar; it’s safer that way — for us and for normals.

As teenager supernormals manifest their significant ability, they focus on honing their new skill. There are tried and true exercises for each ability, but my brothers and I challenge ourselves to find new ways of training. It’s been particularly interesting training Olivia’s fire starter skills — her range is amazing but her control still needs work. Good thing her grandfather built a fireproof training room.

Once a thirteen year old supernormal manifests her significant ability it takes about six months for full development. After that period, our significant abilities are set and don’t grow any more. Of course, we can refine our skills. For example, only being able to manipulating object of 5 pounds or less might seem like a limitation but I’ve learned that it depends on what that object is.

There’s only one forbidden ability — mind reading. Any child who manifests this ability must learn to suppress it — almost all supernormals who manifest this ability develop the power to control minds as well. They usually end up going insane. About two hundred years ago, a supernormal with the ability to read minds destroyed most of the supernormal population globally. Because of this cataclysmic event, there are less than a thousand of us worldwide. Fortunately, mind reading is a rare ability; typically, only one child per generation manifests it. I’ve only known one personally and he is in a medically induced coma to protect himself and others.

Every family lineage has a role in the supernormal world. For example, Brighthalls often train to be hunters, seeking and containing the monster population while protecting normals from these creatures. Sometimes we have to kill the monsters; for example, it’s very difficult to trap and contain a Mongolian Death Worm due to its acid spewing abilities. Usually we try to capture and then release a creature in a safer habitat. Recently we tracked a firebug — a small tentacled critter who emits sparks and sometimes flames — usually harmless in a remote desert setting but not in an urban environment where it can harm normals. We were able to use Olivia’s ability capture the firebug and now it’s on its way to a safe habitat.

As the normal population has grown, it’s becoming harder and harder to keep monsters away from normals. Sadly, due to encroaching populations we’ve had to kill more creatures than we did in the past. I’m trying to find better ways for us to capture and contain these monsters. Most of the creatures are harmless when kept away from normals.

My family is atypical because we integrate into the normal population while most supernormals live in remote locations around the world. My family’s job as hunters means that we usually live in cities so we find have to work hard to blend in among normals. In fact, unusually among supernormals we often marry normals. Supernormal genes are dominant so our children have abilities. I remember when I told my normal husband about supernormals — he was stunned but has adapted very well to our double life.

I think it’s good to stay connected to the normals — keeps us grounded in both worlds. Not everyone agrees. Most supernormals keep themselves separate from normals as much as possible. Historically, the few times we’ve come out to normals, it’s been a disaster for us and we’ve had to go back into hiding. Normals either want to control us out of fear of our abilities or use our abilities to make their lives easier. The crash of the Hindenburg, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake –examples of normals trying to control my kind in the early part of the 20th century.

……………………………………………………….

At this point, Kate received a text message. I don’t know what it said but she gasped and abruptly ended our interview. As she rushed off I heard her mutter, “Olivia what have you done now?”

 

LeeAnn Elwood McLennan 05 Color (2)LeeAnn Elwood McLennan is the author of Dormant, the first book in the Dormant Trilogy available on http://www.secondwindpublishing.com, Amazon and Barnes and Noble. She’s diligently working on Root, book two in the trilogy. Follow LeeAnn on Twitter @atticusmcl and on Facebook at LEMWrites.

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Spring is finally here!

This past week was spring break for my chidren.  I was lucky enough to have the week off from work as well.  Much of the time was spent with my girls doing all sorts of fun things.  We did Carowinds one day, (Yes, I rode The Fury) saw a few movies, and went out to eat a couple of times.  I wanted to ensure my girls had a fun spring break since we weren’t going away for the week like we did last year.

Like most days off, my daughters will sleep in until almost noon each day so I have time every morning to spend by myself doing whatever I choose  j

This past week, the weather was absolutely perfect for pretty much any outdoor activity.  Since I”m a homeowner, my activity of choice is usually working in the yard, planting flowers, grass or my vegetable garden, particulary around this time of year.  So while my children slept in, I hauled yards of mulch from my front yard to the back, in the hope of transforming my barren wasteland into something I would be proud of.  Plants were purchased, holes were dug, edging was placed.  I am pleased to say that in one week, my yard, while not worthy of an HGTV photo shoot, is ready for entertaining.

I love springtime, like most people.  After a winter like the one we had this year, seeing the tulips and the daffodils poke their heads out of the ground makes me feel happier than a teeny plant ought to.  But isn’t that what spring is all about?  It’s a re-birth; a chance to begin anew.

Once we feel certain there will be no more snow, we can all store our winter clothes in the far corner of the closet, since we’re pretty confident we won’t need to reach for them again for several months.  The boots are tucked away in the attic, right next to the Christmas decorations.

With the longer days and warmer sunshinse, people begin to spend more time outdoors.  My neighborhood is a flurry of activity.  People are outside with their babies, walking their dogs, or just strolling along with their significant other.  Every year I look forward to seeing my neighbors once again after the winter hibernation.

And there is a change in everyone’s demeanor as well.  During the winter months, each of us drives by the other in our cars, waving to each other as we slowly navigate through the slushy streets.  Windows are rolled up and we are buried beneath several layers of clothing.  It’s all we can do to lift our hand up to wave.  With the wamer weather, gone are the bulky jackets and knitted scarves.  Instead, we are walking in our shorts and t-shirts along streets that are bursting with color.  We actually stop to speak to one another instead of driving by as though we are terrfied of opening our car window a mere inch.

To me, this is yet another re-birth.  Neighbors are renewing the friendships that were left dormant during the winter months. People begin standing in their front yard in order to speak to their neighbor about the new plants or the sod that was recently laid down.  I find myself simply looking for a reason to be outside instead of sitting inside on my couch.  Just the feeling of the warm sun on my back as I survey all that i’ve done to my yard is all I need to feel a sense of accomplishment.

So now that spring is here and in full bloom, get out there!   Plant something.  Meet a neighbor.  Walk your dog.  Or just sit outside and enjoy the re-birth you see all around.

Donna Small is the author of Just Between Friends and A Ripple in the Water.  Her next novel, Through Rose Colored Glasses, will be released this summer. 

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

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

MM - Taste of Murder

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

Food - Cupcakes

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

Zion - 2013 Sunset

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

Sunset 2014 Grass

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

228 Fence - Hairy Coo babies

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

139 Scotland - Mull sunset

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

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

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

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

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

Scotland Sunset

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

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

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

217 Scotland - Celtic Cross1

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

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

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

Food - violet tarts

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

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

ShyViolet Final Front Cover

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

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

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The First-Ever by A.J. McCarthy

I’m a newbie. This is my first-ever blog. But, since this seems to be a period of many first-evers for me, I think I’m probably up for it. After all, I had my first-ever phone conversation with a book publisher a few months ago. It was followed by my first-ever offer of publication, with two more following quickly on its heels. This, of course, led to a few other very pleasant first-evers, and I can hardly wait for the rest.

However, for now, I am dealing with the blog. How should I approach it? Throw in my first chapter? No, it’s too soon for that. Should I try to portray myself as a scholarly, experienced author, quoting Shakespeare or Hemingway? No, I don’t think I would be able to pull that off.

The truth is, I have never referred to myself as an author even though I have been writing for years. Until I had an actual contract in hand from a real publisher I couldn’t bring myself to associate my name with that elite group. I felt like a pretender to the throne. Even now, with only a contract and a book waiting to be published, I’m not shouting to the hills that I am an author. I still don’t have a copy in hand to use as proof.

Since I came on board with Second Wind Publishing I have been regularly checking out the website, the blog and the authors. And, even though I have never met any of them in person and only a few by e-mail, for some reason, I feel an affinity with the group. I feel like I will be joining a family. As in any family, each one of us will have our different techniques, our different way of approaching challenges, our unique personalities, but that doesn’t mean we can’t live harmoniously and learn from each other.

The last part of that statement is currently my biggest challenge. I have a lot of learning to do. I have to learn the processes involved in publishing a book, from the editing to the cover art. I have to learn to think like an author. But, perhaps most of all, I have to learn how to market my novel, or at least do as much as I can to help. I have to become a more diligent Facebook person. I need to learn to tweet, post, like, and share on a regular basis.

For now, I am learning to blog. I have read many blogs in the past, but have never been an active participant. For my first-ever I feel it’s premature to offer my first chapter, and my other experiences as an author are too limited to speak of as yet. So I will begin by telling you a little about myself.

I am a married mother of two beautiful girls, Rachel and Brianna, aged 21 and 17 respectively. Since they are the bright point of my life I’m sure I will be writing about them frequently in future posts. I live just north of Quebec City, Canada, and I work as the vice-president of finance for a manufacturing company. My name is followed by the initials CPA CMA which identify me as an accountant with a specialty in management accounting. My husband, Steve, works in computers and donates a large amount of his time as a volunteer fire chief in the small municipality where we live. I consider this to be my real life.

My fantasy life has only just begun to bear fruit. It began about 10 years ago, when I decided to try my hand at writing, and I discovered a new activity which was surprisingly enjoyable. Over the years, I built a small inventory of books that live communally and passively on my computer. I sent out submissions, mostly to agents, to no avail. Last summer, I pulled out ‘Betrayal’, a manuscript I had written years ago, dusted it off, and reached out to a different segment of the publishing community, the small publishers.

To my great delight, I received three offers for Betrayal. A decision had to be made, and I have to say, a lot of my deliberation was based on my gut-feeling. And that is where Second Wind Publishing comes in.

I have a feeling I will be joining a new, exciting, and accepting family. So far, I have been very fortunate with my families, both immediate and extended. My hope is that this new group of people, most of whom I will never meet in person, will become a different type of family. Some will inspire me to write better, some will help me to focus my energies where they should be focused, some will point out my mistakes, and some will applaud my successes, however large or small they may be.

Another decision to make (heavy sigh). What will my next blog be about? Will it be time for the first chapter? Should I post a picture of my dog and rant about how cute he is? Maybe I’ll think about it a bit longer and I’ll send out a tweet to let you know what’s coming next.

***

A.J. McCarthy is the author of Betrayal, a suspense thriller published by Second Wind Publishing.

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Seasonally Green and Counting, by Sheila Deeth

I used to write drabbles, back in my innocent youth; a hundred words at a time and a new dream every day, but buried underneath was the dream of being published. Writing a thousand words came fairly naturally too, but, like my hundreds, they lacked a place to go. Then came the moment of crazy discovery when I strung my thousand word chapters together into 75,000 and called it a novel. Years of editing followed, timelines to be fixed, names and spellings, and the colors of their eyes (amongst other things). Then Divide by Zero was released on the unsuspecting world. Soon it will be followed by Infinite Sum. Meanwhile I’m writing a hundred words, or a thousand, or editing more, as another novel, Subtraction, continues to grow. But I’m feeling green, appropriately for the season, because somehow it’s all that much scarier when the words have got to be seen to be believed. It’s not just a story struggling to be released; it’s a contract that needs to be fulfilled. So I write words and weed them and find, underneath, still that dream that somebody will read them.

Meanwhile here are some drabbles inspired by the month:

*****

“Will you march with me?” Caesar asked. Brutus stepped to his side.

“The rabble,” said Caesar, looking around at the crowds that followed. “See how they run, in need a guide.”

“The pomp and circumstance.” He observed the marbled senate hall, where waiting senator’s flocked “Like a bride for her groom.”

“How true,” said Brutus, hand on his old friend’s arm, guiding his path. “How true.”

They laughed at an old man’s wrath and feeble woman’s prophesy. Meanwhile a black widow spider skittered away into shadows where night-webs grew. She knew and she waited, like a bride for her groom.

*****

To fields of green, green grass he came, who once had fled in fear. He brought his tales of hope. He planned a future. Peace came near. The serpent-tongued he cast into the cold and held his staff, snake-bent but shepherd’s molding. He welcomed prince and pauper to the fold.

In fields of green, green clover then, he told of three-fold God. He promised fatherhood to fatherless, son-hood to all. He promised spirit’s truth to conquer lies and rescue lives.

In fields of grass he held his staff placed firmly at his feet. Its roots grew strong, Aspatria, Patrick’s ash.

*****

The sun was shining—perfect weather for a party. Jugglers juggled. Mimes mimed. Kids and kittens ran wild. Soldiers guarded the streets of course, with so many pilgrims around, but even they couldn’t dampen the spirits of the crowd.

Dignitaries rode on champion steeds or marched with following cliques. Sometimes the kids said, “Who’s that?” when their mom’s said to cheer.

Then there was the man on a donkey, his feet trailing the ground. Funny the way the moms and kids went wild. We’d heard he was some great preacher, hero-style—looked like a clown, but you never can tell.

Sheila Deeth is the author of Divide by Zero, published by Second Wind Publishing. Infinite Sum is the second novel in her series,with a release date coming soon. And she’s working hard on Subtraction and Imaginary Numbers. Just for the record, yes, she is a mathematician.

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The Secret in Whitetail Lake 7th Installment by Christine Husom

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

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

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

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

“You sound so sure, dear.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You come across something troubling in there?”

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

“I’m with you on that one.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ditto.”

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

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

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

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

“I’m trying not to dislike her.”

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

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

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

We scanned through the documents for another hour.

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

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

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

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

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

“So there is still no word on Denny?”

“Not yet, unfortunately.”

“Where are you, anyway?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I nodded.

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

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The Secret in Whitetail Lake 6th Installment

An old Dodge Charger with the remains of two victims has been recovered from an area lake in the latest Winnebago County Mystery. This entry picks up where the last one left off.

Chapter Four

After the remains of the victims were safely removed and on their way to the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office in Anoka County, our team vigilantly worked to remove every item, mucky as they were, from the inside of the car, including the glove box and the trunk. It was painstaking. At three o’clock, Captain Randolph phoned Smoke to tell him he had ordered pizzas, and we all needed to take a break. I hadn’t though about eating since the granola bar and yogurt I’d had for breakfast. The mention of food made my stomach growl in response.

“You guys go ahead. There are only a couple more items to mark, and then I’ll secure this cart of things in the evidence room,” Matsen said.

“I’ll help you,” Mason told him.

“And if someone could hang a ‘do not enter’ sign on both the outside of the garage doors and on the inside entrance, that’d be good,” Matsen added.

“I’ll do that,” Weber said.

Smoke and I got out of our coveralls then I followed him to his desk and waited while he gave the sheriff’s cell phone another try. “I know Randolph has half the county looking for him, but I keep thinkin’ he’s gonna answer one of these times.”

“Should I call my mom again?”

“Maybe you should.”

When Mother answered the phone, I could tell she was flustered. But it wasn’t because she hadn’t talked to Denny Twardy. “Corinne, people are flocking in for the winter clearance sale. I haven’t had a chance to catch my breath all day. I should have scheduled one of my helpers to work today. I never dreamed I’d be so swamped. It hasn’t been busy enough to keep two of us busy lately.”

“Well, in one way that’s a good thing, huh? Mother, I’m checking to see if you’ve heard from Denny, or if you remembered he had an appointment, or something, after all.”

“Oh my goodness. No, I haven’t, and I was going to call him, but haven’t had a chance. Why, what’s wrong?”

“We don’t know if there is anything wrong. It’s just that we’ve got a big investigation here and we don’t know where he is.”

“Corinne, I hear the concern in your voice. Now you’ve got me worried.”

“Mother, there’s got to be a good explanation. Take care of your business and if Denny calls, or stops in, tell him to call the office, okay?”

“Okay. But Corinne—”

“I have to go now, but I’ll talk to you a little later. Bye.” I hung up before she could pump me for more information, and then shook my head back and forth at Smoke.

Smoke bounced his fist on his desk. “Our deputies certainly know his vehicle.”

“And Randolph said they checked his house.”

“Yeah, but it wouldn’t hurt to check again.” Smoke phoned him and learned deputies had made several stops at the sheriff’s house throughout the day. “Well, let’s get some nourishment, and figure out our next course of action. We need to talk to Tommy’s and Wendy’s families, that’s a given. And I’d like to run over to Ramsey to see how Doc Bridey Patrick’s team is doing on that end. But since there are only so many hours in a day, that’s not going to happen today. First off, we’ll pull the original missing persons file and review it.”

“I definitely want to read that.”

“Then talk to the families.”

“Right. Besides notifying them a-sap about what we got so far, we’ll need them to help us make positive identification.”

“Besides DNA, I’m wondering about dental records. I don’t suppose they’d have any after all these years. Do you remember the legal requirement for a dentist to keep them? Is it six years, seven years?”

“I remember from a past case I was on that it’s six years after a patient’s last visit. And I know a few of the old docs that never throw anything away. We won’t know for sure until we check.”

“We need to ask the families for DNA samples so the medical examiner has them for comparison.”

“We’ve come a long way, baby.” Smoke put his hand between my shoulder blades and gave me a mild push. “Let’s go scarf down some pizza.”

After running through each detail of the steps involved in recovering the old Dodge Charger from Whitetail Lake with about a dozen sheriff’s department personnel, between bites and swallows of a late, lukewarm lunch, Smoke and I broke away from the group and headed toward the records room.

“Since the case files go back to the beginning of time, they need to make room in the drawers from time to time and archive the old ones. I’ll take a look in the computer to see if the one we need has been moved to a storage box yet.” Smoke sat down at the computer and typed in Tommy Fryor’s name. I resisted looking over his shoulder, and instead checked my phone for messages in the minute it took Smoke to pull up the information.

“Yup. It’s in the storeroom with the other records from that year. In box number Seventy-three dash nine, which makes sense since it happened in the ninth month.” He logged off the computer, stood up, and pulled a set of keys from his pocket.

I followed him to the door of the records room and waited while he keyed in. The storeroom was about twenty feet by thirty feet and held cardboard boxes on shelves that started from a foot off the floor and climbed to a foot from the ceiling. We located the one we were looking for on the west wall, six feet up. I grabbed the ladder that was equipped with wheels and rolled it to the shelf. Smoke jumped on the first rung, climbed up a few feet then hooked his hand on the opening in the front of a box and pulled it toward him. He held it in one hand and climbed back down. I took it from him and carried it to the table in the center of the room. “This is heavy,” I said as I heaved the box down.

“The Fryor-Everton case alone must weigh a few pounds.”

Smoke lifted the cover off the box and was able to find the file with a quick glance. He reached in with both hands and pulled out the five inch expandable file that was filled to limit with papers. He laid it on the table. “Divide and conquer?” he said.

I set the box on the floor, giving us room to spread out the papers as needed. “Holy man, I mean, where do we begin?”

“Same as always, one step at a time, one page at a time.”

I reached over, picked up the top half of the pile, set it down then slid onto the chair behind it. A little shiver ran through me, and it wasn’t because it was a cold case. It often happened to me when I worked to solve a mystery, most notably a crime. “Someone interviewed in here knows something.”

“That would not surprise me. We just gotta figure out who it is.”

Smoke’s phone rang. “Dawes. . . . You don’t say. Well then, I will come out there and talk to him.”

“What?” I asked when he’d disconnected.

“Darwin Fryor—Tommy’s dad—wants to talk to us.”

“Word zips around pretty fast.”

“With or without social media. I’ll meet him at the front and take him to my cubicle where we can talk. It’ll be less formal than an interview room. You want to join us?”

I stood up. “Yes I do.”

Smoke left and I made sure the door was secure when I closed it behind me. I waited in the corridor outside his cubicle for the two of them, and when they walked toward me, I was caught slightly off guard by Mr. Fryor’s appearance. He appeared to be around my Gramps Brandt’s age, but he looked even more feeble. He was bent over at the waist and his spine was twisted so one hip had a forward tilt and the other was tilted more to the back. He had to swing his right leg in a painful looking way to walk.

After introductions, we settled in around Smoke’s desk and I held my breath while Mr. Fryor sat down, knowing it must be a challenge for him. He let go of a drawn out “huh” when he was finally in the chair. Smoke sat behind his desk and I pulled up a chair on Mr. Fryor’s side.

“I got a call from a friend of mine who’s friends with Harry Gimler, the one who lives up there on the hill overlooking Whitetail.” Gimler was the man who had rushed to the scene when we were recovering the vehicle.

“Sure,” Smoke said.

“Is it true? Was that Tommy’s car you pulled out of the lake?” He leaned in, and rested his elbow on the desk. A dozen wrinkles fanned out from the corner of his milky brown eyes.

“We don’t know that for a fact just yet, but that’s the way it looks.”

Mr. Fryor lifted his hand and dropped his forehead into it. When he raised it again there were tears on his lower lids. He pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped his nose. “We thought they’d up and run off. That Wendy sure had a way of turning a boy’s head when she wanted to.” He thought for a moment then stared at Smoke. “Well I guess I don’t have to tell you that, Elton. She caused a problem for you. A pretty big one, as I recall.”

Smoke shifted in his chair, clearly uncomfortable the attention had switched to him and a past indiscretion. “That’s true enough.” He cleared his throat. “We were planning to pay you a visit yet today, let you know what was going on. My apologies you had to track us down instead, Mister Fryor.”

Fryor nodded. “You know, Tommy disappearing like that caused a rift between the missus and me that we couldn’t mend. I tried, but she didn’t. A couple years later, she moved out. Was living over in Emerald Lake until a week ago Friday—” He quit talking and his eyes teared up.

“Where she go?” Smoke said.

“Passed on. We buried her last week.”

“I’m sorry, Mister Fryor.”

“If she’d a held on a little longer at least she could have known what happened to her son. Back in those days, she’d go off by herself every now and again for a day or a weekend for what she called some meditating time. It really stung that she shut me out of her life, wouldn’t let me help her. I was hurting too. But Tommy was her baby. They were like two peas in a pod. You try not to favor one kid over the next, but she couldn’t seem to help herself. It was pretty obvious to the other two kids, so I did what I could to be fair, and loved each one as much as the next.”

What my mother told me is that she loved my brother John Carl and me the same, but liked us for different reasons. That made sense to me because that’s how I felt about my three living grandparents, and my grandma who’d died.

“We used up a lot of our savings trying to find Tommy. But one day Ellen—that’s my wife—said we’d spent enough on two separate private detectives and needed to save some in case we ever needed to help the other two.”

“How long did you work with the private detectives?” Smoke said.

“Six weeks. I knew we’d used up a lot of our savings. I was surprised she had made the call is all. I figured Tommy and Wendy would tire of each other one day and they’d come back, so I agreed and we called off the search. And I know you folks did what you could to find them. Now we know why it wasn’t meant to be.”

“People disappear way more often than you could ever imagine,” Smoke said.

I thought back to the case we’d had the previous November and the staggering statistics I’d read about missing people and unidentified remains. If I had a loved that disappeared, I would never give up hope until I was convinced there was none.

“Mister Fryor, we’d like to collect a DNA sample from you so the medical examiner can make a positive identification.

Mr. Fryor swiped at a new tear. “You never really get over a thing like this. This is probably going to sound strange, especially now, but I still think of Tommy being alive out there somewhere.”

Self-protection was natural when a tragedy occurred, I’d learned during my years with the department. It was difficult, sometimes impossible for some people to accept the worst.

Christine Husom is the author of the Winnebago County Mystery Series

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Hazel

The leaves are red and green and gold and brown… and mud-colored on the ground. And the sky is blue, or gray. I used to imagine people’s eyes were all natural colors too–not red, of course, but green, gold, brown, blue, and gray… Then there were mine, the ones that didn’t fit in, like a murky muddle of everything rolled into one. I’d write “gray” on one application, “blue-gray” on the next, then on to “gray”; rarely green or brown because somehow that sounded presumptuous in a family where everyone’s eyes were clear and bright as the skies above. When I moved to the States there were so many applications to write my eye-color on; I’m sure one day someone will declare me illegal because I can’t have eyes in two colors at once, but I never know which color I used last time.

Then I had coffee with Sharon, a friend in our local writers’ group. She took one look at my eyes and called them “hazel.”

“But they’re nothing; they’re mud-colored,” said I.

“They’re a bit of everything,” said she, “with flecks of gold” (hey, that sounds cool!), “and hazel can be more green or more brown or more, well, anything…” She liked my eye color! She named it! And the name’s kind of cool.

But will I have to change the eye color of Lydia in my novel now? In Divide by Zero, like me, she couldn’t work out what they were and called them mud. Still, I could always introduce her to her own Sharon in one of the sequels. Meanwhile, I’ll introduce you to Lydia in this excerpt from the book:

It’s time… It’s here… It’s a boy. You’re a mother of three! Lydia struggled to open her eyes and gazed at her baby son’s face. A lifetime seemed to have passed in a flash, while everyone else assured her the world would go on. No way. No way. Warm lips sucked leaking milk and Lydia asked herself, Do all mothers close their eyes when they feed their babies? Somehow eyes, hers, the baby’s, seemed more important than anything else. The baby’s eyes were fastened shut, damp arcs of lashes on his cheeks. She didn’t even know what color they were.

Mother of three? No way. She wouldn’t think about that.

If anyone asked about Lydia’s eye color, she’d refuse to answer. Yucky and mud-colored maybe—not an option on forms—or greenish brownish bluish gray. She could never remember which box she’d checked on driver’s license or passport application. One day someone might collect all her data on computer and decide she was fake, because the answers disagreed.

Occupation: mother of three. Open your eyes. Close them. Feed the child.

Lydia’s oldest son had beautiful blue eyes, like his father’s and grandmother’s. “They’ll change,” they told her when he was born, but they didn’t. Nearly seven now, blue-eyed, red-haired, narrow-faced Jeremy was the image of his Dad, apart from the hair—he even loved the same subjects in school. Daddy’s boy, for sure.

Lydia’s second had deep gray eyes to draw you in and trap you like bottomless pools. His chin was square not pointed, hair dark brown, wide nose, flat cheeks. “You’re not him,” she’d say as she changed his diaper, but it wasn’t Troy she meant. JC was the image, though nobody noticed, of Lydia’s deeply resented grandfather, who passed away before she was pregnant. She didn’t dare believe in reincarnation. “You’re not him. I know you’re not, and I love you little guy.” Then deep gray eyes would gaze up into sky.

This third infant, contentedly sucking her breast, was unique—

but of course, we’re all unique, and so are our eyes, even hazel ones.

Sheila Deeth’s novel, Divide by Zero, has just been released by Second Wind Publishing. Watch out for Infinite Sum, coming soon, Subtraction, still being written, and Imaginary Numbers, almost real…

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A Little Tease…

Each month in my blog, I write about something that has either happened to me during the month or something that I find interesting and want to share with my readers.  Since the bulk of this past month has been trying to complete my latest novel, I thought that instead of trying to figure out what to write about, I would instead give everyone a sneak peek at what I’ve been up to.  Below, you will find the first chapter of my latest novel, tentatively titled, “Through Rose Colored Glasses.”

Read it for me, would you? Does the first chapter tease you?   Does it make you want more?  Are you intrigued?  Let me know what you think.  I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

Rosalie

The first time I saw Reid Hamilton, I might have actually gasped.

The moment that man walked into my line of vision I felt things I’d only read or heard other women talk about when they spoke of the rush they felt when they met the man of their dreams.  Although my experience with the crap found in romance novels is slim, I’ve had countless friends who spoke of the man who took their breath away, caused their pulse to quicken and made their nether regions actually ache with desire.  And while I’ve had my share of boyfriends, none of them, despite countless dates and too may intimate sessions to count, never made me feel anything close to the instantaneous, powerful attraction I felt when he walked into the room.  Truth be told, I felt like I’d been hit by a ton of bricks.

Reid is beyond striking.  He is well over six feet tall and his suit simply cannot hide what I felt certain was a better than average physique just lurking beneath his overly starched shirt and crisp pants.  Looks aside, there’s something much more intriguing about him – something that drew me to him immediately.  It was his confidence.  When he strolled into the room that first day, I knew he was a man who was very comfortable in his skin.  And when his eyes met mine as he reached out to shake my hand, I felt the strength there and immediately began to fantasize about what those hands would feel like roaming my body.

But, since Reid was interviewing me for a position in his department, I forced myself to table my fantasy for the moment.  A difficult task, to say the least.

He sat down across from me and began to ask several questions about me and my expectations for the job I was interviewing for.  A job that suddenly, I was desperate to have.

What I didn’t know then was that there were several openings in the company for the position I was interviewing for.  Each manager was meeting with the candidates to determine which of us would be best suited for each team.  Had I known just how slim my chances of working for Reid were, I would have been even more nervous than I already was.

He asked me several questions to which I’m sure I gave appropriate answers – though I can’t remember one bit of what I said.  I was too busy watching his lips move around as he spoke.  When the interview finally ended, he stood up and grasped my hand with both of his, enveloping my hand within.  Despite the warmth of his hands wrapped around mine, I shivered.

When I got the call two days later telling me I would be working on Reid’s team, I nearly wept with joy.  The thought of working with him all day, every day was more than I could’ve ever hoped for.  I envisioned the two of us working long hours together and developing a friendship that would, inevitably, turn into something more.  The workplace nowadays, is more like your own personal Match.com and more and more people are falling for people they work with, simply because of the amount of time they spend working and getting to know their co-workers.  I felt certain that would happen with Reid.  Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to begin my employment.

Now, the fact that he was going to be my boss might pose a bit of a problem but I was willing to overlook any of these teeny details.  If things progressed with Reid and I hoped they would, I’d simply transfer to another department.  But I’d worry about that later.  Right now, the only thought I could focus on was the fact that I’d be in close proximity to Reid Hamilton for the better part of forty hours every week.

I was grinning from ear to ear.  I couldn’t wait to start.

When I arrived at work that first day and discovered that my cubicle was a mere ten feet from his office, I nearly did a cartwheel.  I contained myself; not wanting to appear giddy and immature and probably lose my job before I’d even sat down in my chair.   So I gathered my giddiness and stored it for a more appropriate time.  However, I did find it rather difficult to wipe the smile off my face the entire day.

Once my cubicle was identified, I got to work organizing it so that I could furtively glance at him over the top of my computer if I stood, or simply lean back in my chair and glance into his office.

Since that day nearly two months ago, I have spent countless hours monitoring his movements and generally speaking, all things Reid Hamilton.  From in the safety of my cubicle, I can casually glance his way and watch him cross and uncross his legs, stare at his computer screen or stand and walk around his office.  Even the simplest of tasks are made sexy when they are performed by him.  It’s ridiculous really. The other day I lost complete track of time watching him slowly sip on his coffee.

By now, I know his routines so well by now that I can predict within three minutes when he’s going to grab that next cup of coffee, which days he’s going to be late, and even when he’s going to take a restroom break.  I have been known, on occasion, to time my trips to the rest room or break room so that I can walk with him part of the way

By now, you might think that I’m a bit obsessive and that I’m not able to complete my work because of this…er, hobby, but strangely enough, I find that because I am so excited when he’s around, I have an abundance of energy that makes me incredibly efficient.  I only wish this enthusiasm bled into my personal life.  I could use some of it to clean my apartment, which, at the moment, could be condemned if anyone were to step inside of it.  But frankly, who has time to clean their apartment when there is so much work to be done?  Not work, work.  Reid word – not that I’d call it work…more like the best hobby in the world.

When I’m at home, my time is spent doing any number of productive tasks. For instance, Reid is a Yankees fan so I make sure to watch any game that is on TV so I can be sure to mention that to him the next day.  And I have to watch the whole game.  No highlight shows for me.  That just won’t do.  As a matter of fact, I consider it cheating.  How can you possibly speak about a professional sporting event when you haven’t watched the entire thing?

Why do I spend my time watching any number of sporting events, you ask?  It’s simple really.  Men love their women to be interested in sports, and particularly, be a fan of the team they cheer for.  They imagine her beside him at an outdoor arena.  She is wearing her ball cap, her ponytail peeking neatly through the hole in the back.  He is wearing the team shirt and she’s wearing one as well, though not the same exact one.   Men never want to do the matchy-matchy thing.  They think it’s cheesy and I have to agree.  Nothing worse than seeing a couple walking together wearing matching outfits.  I mean, what other indication that a man is pussy-whipped than walking around in public wearing an outfit your significant other clearly picked out to match hers.  It’s sad, really.

In addition to watching the sporting events that are favorites of Reid’s, I’ve made it my mission to discover all I can about him and his interests so my office, as a result of this research, is littered with Pearl Jam concert ticket stubs, Big Daddy Love paraphernalia, and anything New York sports related.  I’ve got a Yankees mug that I purchased recently and it is the only mug I will drink out of when I’m at the office (It’s a great conversation starter).

I’ve also begun to watch his favorite shows – The Soprano’s and Breaking Bad – repeatedly, so that if I find myself in his office (as I do quite regularly), I can prolong our little visits by discussing the shows.

You might think my interest in Reid is a bit extreme, but I have to disagree.   All smart, goal-oriented women do this type of research when they find a man they are interested in.  It’s just part of the process.  You’ve got to show the man in question that the two of you have so much in common, you’ll never run out of things to talk about.

Now, you might think all of this “work” isn’t necessary but I assure you, it is.  It’s all part of the game we call dating.  I mean, I’m only doing what any smart women do.  It’s not as if I’m taking advantage of him somehow.  I’m not some lion about to pounce on the limping gazelle in the herd and eat him for dinner:  I’m just doing my best to show him how much we have in common.

So far, however, all of my work has produced very little results.  Granted, I’ve been moving slowly and cautiously so as not to scare him away.  Men like Reid tend be skittish.  Conversations between the two of us are kept to “safe” topics; the weather, the latest project we’re working, or as previously mentioned, the game that was on the previous evening.  Occasionally, I’ll ask about what he did the night before or what he did over the weekend.  In turn, he’ll ask about my evening or weekend, as the case may be and that’s an opportunity for me to allow him to get to know the outside-of-work Rosalie.  I reply politely but I’m cautious not to bore him with the minutia of my life.  Everyone knows that men really don’t have an interest in the things we women do so I simply answer Reid’s questions with as few words as possible, then turn the conversation back toward him.   He is always very pleasant and professional in our exchanges and I’m certain that as of right now, he has no idea how I feel about him.

And that’s just how I want things…for now.

I have to admit, when I first started working here, I wasn’t entirely sure this was what I wanted to do with my life.  After all, marketing isn’t what you think it is.  It’s not coming up with the next greatest Superbowl ad or finding a new Chihuahua for Taco bell. Sure, some people do those things but most of us are simply trying to find a new way to describe orange juice or a pen.  And because our advertising company only focuses on print work, we’re never looking at hot actors or cute little dogs.

It’s boring.  Well, mostly it is.  Admittedly, Reid and I spend a lot of time together discussing ideas and possible slogans and that part of my day isn’t boring at all.  Still, mainly we’re just trying to write a paragraph or two for a local business to use in their advertising and despite ogling my boss during the entire time I’m seated in his office, even I have my limits.

He does his best to keep me entertained though, and without even really trying.  Reid is hopeless at typing.  He’s one of those hunt-and-peck typists, only using his index fingers.  We always start out with him trying to type but then I end up pushing him out of the way and sitting down at his desk to take over.  It’s like we have our own little joke between us.

Now, don’t for a minute think that I’m not aware my quest with Reid isn’t without its hurdles.  I’m fully aware that the man is my boss.  If…when, when we are finally together, I will get another job.  And of course, I’ll do this before we tell anyone about it. If I can’t find something here in Winston Salem, I’ll look in another city nearby.  Like Greensboro.  Heck, that’s only thirty minutes from here.  Besides, while I don’t know Reid’s actual salary, I’m certain he pulls in a sizable one.  It just wouldn’t make sense for him to find another job; not with all the years of service he’s got with the company.

Oh, and there’s one other teensie-weensie bump in the road that prevents Reid and I from being together.

His wife.

Donna Small is the author of two novels; Just Between Friends and A Ripple in the Water, both available from Second Wind Publishing.  http://www.secondwindpublishing.com/#!donna-small/c1ewn

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The Good, The Bad, and The Useless

Just like gossip, give a story to five different editors and you might get back five different edited copies. When this happens to me, I try to find a common theme in the critiques. In one instance years ago, a novella I wrote was reviewed by seventeen different classmates and received seventeen wildly different edits. This was the first, and so far, only time I’ve had that happen.

When you submit your writing for editing and critiquing, what advice do you consider accepting? What do you reject? And what editing do you merely shrug your shoulders and laugh at?

In some cases, it may depend on the type of person you are. Do you follow the crowd or do you break out of the pack? Do you believe everything or do you always have questions? Or, like most of the rest of us, are you a little of both? Whatever your personality, taking advice from someone else concerning your writing should always be taken with a grain of salt and a good sense of humor.

Individuality makes a story glow. If the advice you receive from someone else changes your story too much, then it ceases to be your story – it turns into someone else’s writing.

I have a friend who is a literature professor and he’s just like that: the only high grades in his classes are from those students who learn to mimic my friend’s writing style. I’ve never let him edit any of my own efforts because I already know how it would turn out: my story would cease to be my own and would mutate into his version.

That’s not to say some stories don’t need major overhauls – some of mine have and I’ve redone them accordingly when I’ve received good advice. However, when a good story you’ve written is edited with the intent to change the theme or style, that’s when it’s useless advice. Stick to your guns, or pens, and get a second or third or fifteenth opinion.

Bad advice is just that: bad, mean-spirited and it follows a dark path.  Bad advice is recognized by its very personal overtones: phrases like “This really sucks” and “I’ve never heard anything so stupid” or, the classic, “You call yourself a writer?” and other direct attacks.

Good advice is free of personal diatribes and has a very constructive style to its critique. This type of advice will help you turn your story into a work of art. Like a good mechanic who gives your car a tune-up that lasts, a good editor/advisor will help you fine-tune your writing. Instead of personal attacks and instead of trying to turn your writing into a clone of their own, good advisors will help you polish your work into a diamond.

How often do you get bad or mediocre advice? Are you able to “read between the lines” and recognize when someone is purposely trying to mislead you? What is the best advice you’ve been given and by whom?

J J Dare is the author of two published books, several short stories and about thirty works-in-progress.

Current enthusiasm is co-authoring at Rubicon Ranch

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