Tag Archives: Claire Collins

A Book Store is Born

Hello! I am Tracy Beltran, Manager of Barnhill’s Books, Wine, Art, and Gift store in Winston-Salem North Carolina. You may also know me by my author name of Claire Collins. My work with Second Wind Publishing since it’s inception has been a lot of hard work but worth every moment I’ve spent with the authors and the readers.

And now, this relationship with Second Wind has allowed me to branch out and open a bookstore and it’s a dream come true for me. When other little girls were having tea parties, I was using my vast collection of books to start a library in my bedroom and I would loan my books to my younger sister this way. The golden look look books were labeled with check out cards and I would hold her stuffed animals hostage if the books were late being returned.

In college, I worked in the library. In February, I resigned from my position in Phoenix, packed up the family, and drove across the country to come to Winston-Salem and be part of Barnhill’s. I don’t regret that decision at all, even when we were supposed to be open on March 1, and now it’s looking more like March 20 or so. Who knew getting permits and revamping a 104 year old building would be so time consuming and difficult?

So that’s where I’ve been lately. You can follow the progress here: http://onlyatbarnhills.com/ and here: http://onlyatbarnhills.wordpress.com/

I have boxes and boxes of Second Wind Publishing books, and they are truly beautiful to hold and read. (When are you guys going to come visit me and do booksignings? Do I have to beg?) I have to remember that they are stock and belong on the shelves. Soon, they will be nestled among the bestsellers as well as other independent publishers. Speaking of which, if you are an independent publisher, email me: Tracy@onlyatbarnhills.com

We will also carry art from local artists and gift items including jewelry. Stop by and see me if you get a chance.

Tracy Beltran – Barnhill’s Manager


Filed under books

Time Warp

I’ve wrestled with what I should write about today.

The words don’t always immediately fly from my fingers, although when they do, it’s a fantastic feeling.  I’m not a big fan of writing about writing so if you’re really interested in how I write and what makes my fingers itch, you may have to go to the archives.

Instead, today, I’d like to give you a glimpse into my world by sending you on a little trip over to my regular blog. Don’t worry, you don’t have to pack a bag or arrange for a pet sitter and the transportation from here to there won’t be painful. If you don’t like the ride, you can easily return back here.


Claire’s WordPress 

Claire Collins is the author of Fate and Destiny and Images of Betrayal.


Filed under life

Happy Bloggiversary to Us!

One year ago today, we at Second Wind Publishing started to blog. Many of us had never blogged before, but we wanted a forum to connect with our readers, and so we learned. While learning how to blog, we also learned how generous readers are with their comments, and we would like to thank all of you for your support. Click here for: Goodies and Giveaways.

To celebrate this anniversary, Second Wind authors talk about their experiences with blogging.

More Deaths Than OnePat Bertram, author of More Deaths Than One and A Spark of Heavenly Fire: I have more blogs than one, so I was familiar with blogging when I joined the authors here at Second Wind Publishing Blog, but it has been a wonderful experience participating in the growth of this blog with its fantastic array of posts. Wishing us all — authors and readers alike — a happy new blogyear!

Images of BetrayalClaire Collins, author of Images of Betrayal and Fate and Destiny: I’ve never been afraid to try new things, but my biggest problem has always been time. I didn’t know where I would find time to post blogs every few days in my already tight schedule. I started slowly, writing about writing and posting every couple of weeks to my blog and the Second Wind blog. Now, I actually enjoy blogging and I spend a lot of time on my own blog. Visit me if you get a chance.

Loving LydiaAmy De Trempe: author of Loving Lydia: For me, posting a blog was harder than writing a novel and it took some time before I became comfortable.  I wondered what I should write about and if I had anything intersting to say.  Now I find it to be a fun activity and have enjoyed posting to both Second Wind and my personal blog.  More importantly, I’ve found I really enjoy reading the posts of others and comments from readers. It has opened up a world for me that I barely knew existed.

False PositiveJJ Dare, author of False Positive: It’s been an interesting blog ride for me. Finding something new to say was daunting the first couple of times. I got over the initial “oh-my-gosh-what-am-I-going-to-talk-about” reaction fairly quickly. Instead ofagonizing over a post (and rewriting and rewriting the week prior to my turn atthe blog), I’m at the point where I can zip a blog post off with only a littlebit of editing. I’d have to say blogging is helping me in my own writing – I’m honing a fast write and never look back style 🙂

front-sta-195x304Deborah J Ledford, author of Staccato: I appreciate being able to tell followers of the Second Wind Publishing blog the evolution of my debut thriller Staccato from inception to publication to promotion. Sharing the journey through a series of articles in order to show the entire path this writer took, as well as what pitfalls I encountered along the way, has been a pleasure.

Buried in Wolf LakeChristine Husom, author of Murder in Winnebago County and Buried in Wolf Lake: Last year I barely knew what a blog was and hadn’t read one. Pat Bertram asked if she could post an article I had written for my fellow Second Wind authors about my first book-signing experience on her blog. Okay, sure. Suddenly, a link appeared on an email. I clicked it and there on the Book Marketing Floozy blog was my article. It was like magic. I have learned a bit since then, but haven’t been able to carve out the time to develop my own blog, or update my website. I post blogs on the Second Wind Publishing WordPress site. Mostly, I enjoy reading what the other authors write, on WordPress and Facebook. I recently joined Twitter and will try to figure that out one of these days. Blogs have opened a whole new world for me!

Badeaux KnightsSuzette Vaugn, author of Badeaux Knights and Mortals, Gods, and a Muse: In my first blog I talked about my extended family which just keeps growing. Every month it seems we get new authors in our mix that fit with the rest of us. Over the last year we’ve added several authors that seem like they’ve always been here. Amy, Lucy, Deb, Eric, Jennifer, Jerrica, Pat, Sherrie, Mickey, Juliet and the newest member J. Conrad have officially doubled my Second Wind Family. Then we have all you wonderful readers that make our family possible, thank you.

I’ve learned a lot since then too. I’m still working on the whole blogging thing but since I’ve figured out it doesn’t always have to be about writing, I’m doing better. I’ve featured favorite music, books, and slight jabs at my sister on my personal blog and actually have articles in the drafts waiting for those off days where I can’t think of anything.

Hand-Me-Down BrideJuliet Waldron, author of Hand-Me-Down Bride: Blogging seemed one of those internet “too much information” things until I got into it, and began to read the blogs of other Second Wind writers. Blogging keeps you focused on your craft and gets you to work in a briefer, but just as interesting, medium. It feels just one short step beyond the world of the campfire story teller. Personally, it’s been a sort of archeological project. A way for me to excavate  my own store of memory, from times now considered “historical.”  🙂

Thank you everyone for stopping by! Don’t forget to check out our goodies and giveaways.


Filed under books, life, writing

Why are we here?

For my blog post today, I’m going to cheat.

That means I’m being lazy.

I recently wrote a post on my personal blog page and I ask the question, “Why do you blog?”

The responses are eye-opening, humorous, and entertaining so that’s what I’m doing for our blog here as well. Read the post, then come back here or hang out over there, and let us know why you blog or why you read the blogs.

As a side note, Second Wind Publishing and many of the authors including myself have our own Pat Bertram to thank for getting us started on blogging. I pick on her in my post, but I really am grateful, and it’s okay because she paid me back.


Claire Collins is the author of Fate and Destiny as well as Images of Betrayal.


Filed under marketing, musings, Pat Bertram

First Chapter of Fate and Destiny By Claire Collins

I can’t die like this.
The man reached across her and flung open the truck door. With her last ounce of strength, she opened her eyes and looked at him, trying to reach out and grab him. The giant of a man shoved her through the door as her arms flailed helplessly. Her numb body tumbled down the embankment from the road. She couldn’t have stopped the momentum, no matter how much she wanted to. Her body wouldn’t do as commanded and her mind wanted to follow it into the dark, unfeeling place.
Pain shot through the fog in her head as her leg cracked against something stuck precariously from the snow.
I won’t die here. I won’t die alone.
If determination alone could have saved her, she would have rose from the snow and walked down the mountain. Fate wasn’t on her side.
Determination gave way to surrender as her head slammed into the landscape. Before her eyes shut to protect any remnants of sanity, she saw the truck turn and disappear down the road as barking from the hounds of hell erupted around her.

With the temperature dropping by the second, Andrew Greer slid as much as he walked, risking broken bones with every step. The end of his scarf slipped from around his neck, loosening enough to allow the demanding wind access to his nose. He glanced back wistfully at the cabin. A finger of smoke curling from the chimney beckoned to him, calling him in that direction. Warmth. Security. Coffee.
Wrapping the coat tighter around him, Andrew walked around the corner of the cabin. Across the clearing, Shadow leisurely sniffed a frozen tree stump. It must be nice to have a built-in fur coat. Although a pelt of fur ten inches thick would not ward off the cold today.
He set his mind back on getting the supplies from the shed as soon as possible before the blizzard resumed its fury. He’d been snowed in for the last two days.
Andrew cocked his head, standing still, and listening. The vehicle passing on the roadway sounded bigger than a snowmobile but it was hard to tell with the sounds echoing from snow banks and carried on a howling wind.
Assuming someone dared to clear the road, a fresh batch of slick, wet snow and ice would soon recover it, wasting the effort.
Piling the last of the provisions in the cabin, he made one last trip around the edges of the building looking for damage. Convinced the structure was sound, he pulled the scarf down from his face, piercing the frigid air with a long whistle. The sharp sound was an alert to Shadow that it was time to go back to the cabin.
The stark trees mixed with the full varieties of fir and rocks poked from the mounds of white. The wind ruffled the dunes of snow. Dog tracks disappeared into the forest, but nothing emerged from the trees at the familiar call.
Keeping an eye on the edge of the trees, he returned to the front of the little building, calling the dog’s name. The wind stung more fiercely the farther he went from the cabin.
Barking erupted from the woods.
“Here I am working and he’s out chasing rabbits.”
An uneasy feeling slithered through his stomach at the fierce barking. He reached into his pocket, his hand circling the Smith & Wesson .38 he carried for protection in the wild. His feeling of security renewed, he pulled the scarf tightly around his head and delved into the woods in search of the dog.
The dense trees along the path blocked some of the wind but not all. Icicles shook loose from the tops of the trees. They rained down on Andrew as he dragged one foot and then the other out of the snow. Bracing against trees helped him wade through the white quicksand. He progressed about twenty feet before Shadow appeared on an elevated patch of ground where the snow was not as deep.
Instead of lumbering up to Andrew and begging forgiveness for wandering off in the middle of a storm, the dog sat down and whined; much to Andrew’s discontent.
“It’s about time, you stubborn animal. C’mon Shadow, let’s go back inside.”
Shadow refused to budge and whined again. He looked at Andrew, let his tongue lag to the side, wagged his tail, but still refused to move.
Logic failing, Andrew tried again. “I put food in the cabin. How about a nice big bowl of warm water?”
Shadow whined. Andrew sighed, moving towards the dog.
“Shadow, I’m too old to be chasing you through the snow.”
At thirty-three, Andrew was far from old, but the dog didn’t need to know that. Andrew could not believe he reduced himself to using a guilt trip on the dog. He also couldn’t believe it didn’t work.
For every step he took closer, the dog grew more excited. When Andrew was within a few feet of the dog, Shadow began to bark again and turn in circles.
Frowning, Andrew looked at the dog.
“Why are you being so weird? You’ve seen animals in the woods before.”
Andrew followed the dog through the snow, retracing the path the dog took to find his master. Soon, they would reach the road.
Suddenly, the dog ran to a large rock, urgently spinning in circles, sniffing and barking. Curious, Andrew followed the crazy dog around the side of an enormous rock jutting from the landscape.
Expecting to see an animal carcass left by a larger predator, he began to pick apart the scene in front of him, sorting out the vision in his mind between his expectation and reality. His feet stopped moving.
A body lay crumpled against the boulder. Tennis shoes, a pair of jeans, a leather jacket, and a pale face. None of which belonged a few hundred yards from his cabin. Andrew did not know this woman. He stood frozen in place, disbelieving what he was seeing as the memory of another body in a car flashed through his mind.
Morbid curiosity pulled his attention to the body in the present, pushing away thoughts of the body in the past. Feminine features and deathly white skin framed by hair pulled into a ponytail. Long lashes graced high cheekbones over the closed eyelids. A bright red slash trickled down from a gash just below the hairline and flowed into a darker, drying patch that was pooling near her ear.
He gripped a glove with his teeth and yanked the leather from his fingers. He felt along her frosty skin for a pulse, but the freezing temperatures quickly absorbed the feeling from his hands.
He couldn’t find a pulse.
With his heart thudding and nausea rolling over him, he turned his face from the body. A furrow marked the snow where the body had rolled down the embankment. The hill sloped sharply up from the boulder to the road that led from the lake, past his driveway, and down into the small town. The cold and snow nipped at his nostrils and stung his eyes, reminding him of the temperature.
There didn’t seem to be much hope for the poor woman tossed carelessly against the rock; however, there may be others still alive in a wrecked car.
Regaining his ability to move, Andrew climbed up the side of the hill to the road, slipping on ice patches and steadying himself with his gloved hands. Reaching the road, he glanced left and right. Nothing was there, the vehicle he heard earlier long gone. Like the groove down the hill, snow started to erase the tracks left in the deep, quickly refreezing slush.
From the traces remaining, a truck with snow chains covering the tires turned around on the narrow road right at the juncture of the driveway to Andrew’s property. His cabin sat far enough from the road and down the hill that even in perfectly clear weather, passersby could not see it from the top of the driveway. Deep snowdrifts still blocked the road going up the mountain while the road heading downhill was clear.
He stepped into the tread pattern and his boot slipped. The road was turning into ice under the snow from the exhaust of the truck that came up to his driveway before turning around.
Insistent barking pulled Andrew back to reality. The barks became loud whines as the dog sniffed around the body and began licking the face.
“No! Shadow!”
Andrew scrambled down the slope.
“What are you doing? Leave her alone!”
Shadow ignored him and continued licking and whining. The dog seemed to be running out of patience with Andrew and his lack of interest in the body.
Halfway down, Andrew’s foot caught on a hidden tree root. He stumbled and slid the rest of the way down on his backside. Reaching the bottom, he scrambled to his feet, swallowing hard.
His boots found no traction. One foot slipped just as Shadow moved, splaying Andrew down flat on the ground. He found himself face to face with the unknown woman.
Before he could jump up, back away, or even breathe, there was a slight movement over the woman’s face.
Andrew stopped moving. He held his breath and waited.
There it was again. He focused his eyes just above the slightly open lips.
“Oh my God.” Andrew let out his own breath. “She’s alive.”

The entire book of Fate and Destiny is available at http://www.secondwindpublishing.com


Filed under books, fiction, writing

WhoHub Interview with Claire Collins

Interview with:

Claire Collins [clairecollins]


What did you first read? How did you begin to write? Who were the first to read what you wrote?
My love of reading and writing began before I started elementary school. It’s always been a part of me. As an adult, I put that love aside for several years while I started my family. When the children got old enough, I once again turned some of my attention to writing.
What is your favorite genre? Can you provide a link to a site where we can read some of your work or learn something about it?
I don’t have a favorite genre to read or write. I read anything and everything. So far, I have written mostly romantic suspense novels because that’s been the mood I’ve been in lately. I also have ideas for straight suspense and a twist on the romance.
What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to write?
I don’t have much of a process. Whenever I can find some quiet free time, I tend to sit down, open a manuscript and start typing. The story evolves as I write. When I’m unable to sit and write, the details of the story are working their way through my mind while I’m driving, cleaning, shopping, or working.
What type of reading inspires you to write?
I don’t think reading inspires me to write. My brain is overactive and doesn’t seem to need a lot of stimulus to come up with an idea.
What do you think are the basic ingredients of a story?
Beginning, middle, and end. Strong plot and subplots. Likeable characters and realistic situations. The reader has to be involved in the story and they need to care about what happens and they should feel fulfilled at the conclusion.
What voice do you find most to your liking: first person or third person?
I’ve written in both. I don’t have a preference. It depends on what the story calls for.
What well known writers do you admire most?
Do they have to be well known? I admire anyone who has had the will and determination to create a quality novel-length manuscript whether they are famous or not.
What is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours?
Characters come in all shapes and sizes. They have every personality trait imaginable. Wow, so do real people. Just like real people, my characters have an entire life even though I may only tell the reader about a small piece of that life. They are born, have siblings and parents. They are creatures of their environment. They aren’t perfect and they don’t pretend to be. They are the same as normal people the reader knows. Mine start as a glimmer of a person and then they tell me their life story.
Are you equally good at telling stories orally?
Actually, I am horrible at telling stories in person. I talk too fast and blurt out too many clues or I skip too much. Writing it all out is so much better because I can edit myself before anyone else knows the story!
Deep down inside, who do you write for?
I write for myself. It feels good. It’s also a nice boost when readers come back and tell me they loved my books. There’s no other feeling in the world like that.
Is writing a form of personal therapy? Are internal conflicts a creative force?
Writing is absolutely a form of personal therapy. Parts of my personal life are dispersed throughout the pages of my novels.
Does reader feed-back help you?
Of course! When someone reads the book and tells me they enjoyed it or if they ask what I have coming out next, I get a thrill.
Do you participate in competitions? Have you received any awards?
I have participated in the past and my first novel “Fate and Destiny” was chosen as an editor’s pick and made it to the top 25 semi-finals. I have also received excellent feedback from other contests.
Do you share rough drafts of your writings with someone whose opinion you trust?
I have at least 4 people who always read my drafts as I write. They tell me what works, what doesn’t and always help me over the humps when I get stuck. These people are as valuable as the final readers.
Do you believe you have already found “your voice” or is that something one is always searching for?
I think my voice changes with every book. Each book is unique and my voice changes with the characters and plot.
What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc.?
My life is too hectic and busy to impose schedules on myself. I fit writing in whenever I can.
What do you surround yourself with in your work area in order to help your concentrate?
My work area changes with my mood. Sometimes I’m sitting at my desktop pc and other times I’m roaming around with my laptop.
Do you write on a computer? Do you print frequently? Do you correct on paper? What is your process?
It’s all on the computer. I have a reader who prints everything off. With my first book, I printed it and marked it up with a red pen. With the second book, it was easier to edit on the computer.
What sites do you frequent on-line to share experiences or information?
I blog at http://clairecollins.wordpress.com/ and the authors from our publisher blog at https://secondwindpub.wordpress.com/. We are also on Facebook, myspace, Gather. etc.
What has been your experience with publishers?
I submitted a ton of queries and hunted for publishers before I was picked up by a small publisher called Second Wind Publishing. www.secondwindpublishing.com

My experience with my publisher has been fantastic. The people are great and I’ve watched the company grow. It’s an incredible journey.

What are you working on now?
My next novel is called “Seeds of September”

In 1956, Tommy Benson left the plains of Kansas for a new start in California. Little did he know when he started driving down Route 66 that his childhood friend Lainey had stowed away in his truck. Seeds of September relates the story of Tommy and Lainey’s life together through fifty years of joys and sorrows and an everlasting love.

What do you recommend I do with all those things I wrote years ago but have never been able to bring myself to show anyone?
Take them out, dust them off, and read them. If you still love them, find someone else to read it. Submit it to contests and see what kind of feedback you get from an impartial audience.
If you don’t love them, either rewrite them or use them to inspire you to work on something new. Just don’t give up.

[clairecollins] Claire Collins




© Claire Collins
Web address for this interview: http://www.whohub.com/clairecollins


Filed under books, fiction, fun, life, marketing, musings, writing

First Chapter of Images of Betrayal by Claire Collins

 “Ty honey, I’m getting married!” His voice was strange, almost like when he was drunk, except he didn’t slur his words.

“You are? To who? Dad, where are you?”

How was I supposed to feel? Relieved he was alive? Angry he vanished and called to tell me he was getting married?

“Vegas, Baby! I met this great woman and I love her so we came up here for a vacation and decided to get married. Isn’t that a hoot?”

“Yeah Dad, a real hoot. What about the apartment and the bills? I’m barely hanging by a thread here. When are you coming back?”

The silence from the other end was impacted by the constant ringing of bells and rolling slot machines. Someone won big and a group of people yelled. Finally Dad broke the silence.

“I don’t think I’m coming back, Ty. Marlene has a nice house out near Springfield and I’m going to live there with her.”

I noticed pretty quick that he didn’t expound on that bit of information.

“What about me, Dad?” I tried not to cry. “Where do I go?”

“You can stay in the apartment. I’ll send you an allowance every month to pay the bills. You’ll be fine.”

I couldn’t keep my voice from breaking. “But why can’t I come with you?”

He sighed loudly on the other end like I was forcing him to do something he didn’t want to.

“Ty, Marlene has three kids of her own and she just doesn’t want any more in the house. You can’t come with me. Besides, you have all your friends and high school to worry about. You need to finish out school there where you know people. Move back in with your mom and do all the things teenagers are supposed to do.”

My tears became angry. How could he do this to me?

“What friends Dad? What high school? You disappeared and I had to go to work full time to pay the bills. Thank God I get to eat at the restaurant or else I would’ve starved to death! Mom won’t even talk to me when I call or go over there. And now you’re getting married to some woman I’ve never heard of and never coming back?”

I had to gulp in air and fight to breathe. My anger squeezed my chest like a vice.

“Ty, you listen to me. Marlene makes me happier than your mother ever did. I’m not going to give up this chance because you think I owe you something. You’re a stubborn headstrong kid who thinks she knows everything. You’ve always been that way. You’ll figure out how to take care of yourself. I have to go now. They’re calling my name for the wedding to start.”

The line went dead before I could even reply.

I slid down the wall and sat on the floor with the phone still in my hand. At my age, I was supposed to be out with friends, going to the movies, hanging out, gossiping with girlfriends, talking about boys, dating, and going to high school. Instead, I sat alone on the floor, surrounded by furniture bought at second-hand stores.

Life changes so fast, even when you’re only sixteen. Maybe it changes even faster at that age. All I know is that in a matter of a few months, I went from a nice house in the suburbs of Independence, Missouri to a tiny apartment in Kansas City. I went from having two parents who I thought loved me to having no one. I went from high school to the working world, and it just got worse from there.

Mom divorced me just as much as she divorced her husband. There was no custody battle. Mom took the four younger kids and Dad took me.

We moved into a tiny two-bedroom apartment in the worst neighborhood I had ever seen. The first few nights, I stayed awake all night; shivering and scared of the noises I could hear through the walls. Dad said it was all he could afford since he paid out most of his check to Mom so she could support the other kids.

I still went to high school, for what it was worth. I didn’t learn anything there. My grades plummeted from straight A’s to D’s. I didn’t really care. I stopped going to the debate club meetings and the high school football games. Instead, I worked waiting tables at a steakhouse after school. Somehow, in the middle of everything, my seventeenth birthday came and went without fanfare. Even I missed it. It was just another day of working.

Dad lived in the apartment with me for a while even though he was rarely there. His new passion after the divorce was to spend as much time as possible at the bar. Sometimes he came home laughing and would dance me around the living room. He tripped over the furniture, stumbling, falling, and taking me down with him. Other times, he would sit in the darkened living room and cry. He didn’t even know if I was there or not.

One day, he stopped coming home at all. This monumental occurrence had little effect on me. I was already paying all of the bills since those pesky notices threatening disconnection didn’t faze him. I got tired of taking cold showers in the dark. Around that time, I stopped going to school so I could work full time. Like I had any choice.

Then the phone call came from Dad.

And I cried.

I cried for my torn up family and for my lost youth. I cried because I missed my brothers and sisters and my parents. I cried because I knew there would never be a prom or graduation or college. All of my silly little girl dreams died with that phone call.

At least Dad was right about some things. I was stubborn and I would find a way to get through this. I got off the floor and sat on the faded flowery couch, my checkbook on the table in front of me.

Maybe I could find a roommate and split the costs of the apartment. I already walked the rent up to the front office in cash. The receptionist always gave me such sad looks since my father was working so much. Or at least that was the story I told her. I mailed the checks for the other bills. As long as I put the account numbers on the checks, the utility companies didn’t care that the checks said Tysan Reynolds instead of Frederick Reynolds.

Along with rent and utilities, I had a thirty-year old car that ran but sucked down gas. Dad bought me the car so I could get to school and work since he wasn’t home much. Some friend of his had it sitting in his barn for years. Dad snapped it up for a few hundred dollars and presented it to me like it was a Porsche.

“They don’t make cars like this anymore Ty. This baby’s a classic. Built like a tank.”

It looked like one too. A tank that had been through a battle and lost. Huge rust spots ate through the back fenders of the old Plymouth like a starving parasite. The seals around the windows leaked every time it rained and puffs of black smoke billowed from where the tailpipe used to be. At least he paid for a year of car insurance before he disappeared. A copy of the policy resided in my dresser drawer along with the rent contract and other important papers. I placed my checkbook in the drawer next to the insurance papers and the bills. I didn’t have enough clothes to fill the dresser so the entire top drawer was empty except for the papers defining my life.

I left my room and wandered across the hall into the room my dad used to sleep in. I hadn’t really noticed before that he didn’t have anything in there. The dresser was empty except for a few holey socks, some rumpled shirts and a ton of losing lottery tickets. The closet didn’t look much better with a pile of trash on the floor and a bunch of old work shirts hanging up. I flipped off the light and went to bed, falling asleep with tears on my pillow.

The next morning, I stood in the bathroom wrapped in a towel. I used another to wipe away the steam condensing on the mirror. Through the clear streak, my light brown hair and round face came into view. Despite the baby fat still lingering on my cheeks, my eyes looked older than they should have. They portrayed the age I felt instead of my real age. I was too young to be old and too old to be young.

I combed my long wavy hair out and pulled it into a tight bun at the back of my head. No loose hairs strayed out to get caught up in the customer’s food. I applied makeup, an art I only discovered a year earlier. I still thought I looked funny with makeup on, but I needed to look old enough for the patrons at The Country Steakhouse to decide that I deserved the tips they gave me.

I scrutinized my appearance. Brown eyeliner did set off my hazel eyes nicely. A pair of jeans, a western shirt, the dreaded boots, bandana around my neck, and I was ready for work. I threw my winter coat on over the whole thing and pulled the hood over my head. Taking one last look around the empty apartment, I locked the door and walked through the snow to the Plymouth. At least I got to park right in front of my door since we lived on the lowest level.

I unlocked the doors and got in the freezing car. On the third try, the engine caught and roared to life. Okay, so maybe it didn’t really roar to life. It hiccupped and gurgled to life. I breathed into my hands to try to warm them. Soon, I would have to break down and go buy a pair of gloves to keep my hands frostbite free. Midwest winters were unforgiving and didn’t care if you could afford gloves or if your car didn’t have heat.

Maybe I really shouldn’t say it didn’t have heat. Heat poured off the engine and raced into the front seat through the vents. It smelled a lot like oil, but at least it was warm. I sat in the car for fifteen minutes while it ran and the engine warmed up. I used the pliers on the seat next to me as a handle to roll the window down slightly to let the fumes out while I waited. I didn’t dare let the car warm up while I stayed inside the apartment. If I did, someone would steal it for a joyride.

The engine settled to an inconsistent rumble and I dropped the shifter into reverse. After a quick stutter forward, the car decided it would do as I requested and it lurched back, finally realizing the gear it was supposed to be in. I let off the brake and coasted backwards out of the parking spot. I put the car in drive, and after another pause, a lurch forward told me the car was ready to move that direction now. The parking lot was a huge sheet of ice. Salting it or plowing it was too costly for the cheap bastards who ran the place, so tenants took their chances in the parking lot. There were lots of fender benders and cars sliding the wrong way. Thankfully, I had never slid into anyone yet. My tank would easily flatten any modern tin can car in its path.

The city streets weren’t as icy as the parking lot, so the ride smoothed out once I got away from the apartments. I drove past homeless huddled together in back alleys and muddy snowmen in front of shacks passing as homes. At a stoplight, a man with a squeegee walked past the front of my Plymouth to attack the windshield of the SUV in the lane next to me. The driver tried to wave him off with a look of disgust. Knowing he wouldn’t be getting a tip for his effort, the vagabond walked around the front of the SUV to the safety of the sidewalk, and spit on the windshield as he went. The driver cursed him and opened the door of his truck. The light turned green and he drove off instead. I pushed the gas and Tank took a minute to decide it was okay to actually go.

Arriving at work, I parked in the back with the other employees and used the cowboy boots like ice skates to slide to the back door. The snow was falling as fiercely as snow can fall without a strong wind pushing it. I shook the snow from my hood and coat as I hung it on a hook and turned to say good morning to Mark. He ran the machine that washed the dishes. It was his job to make sure everything came out clean and ready to use.

Light brown hair fell over his eyes as he nodded at me before tipping his head back to throw the hair out of his face. His adam’s apple protruded from his too thin neck. One hand sprayed specks of food off dirty plates and the other threw the plates machine-gun style into the rubber racks to run them through the dishwasher. They came out at the front of the machine and Mark stacked them into slots in the wall that separated the kitchen from the dishwasher. Despite his proximity to the back door, Mark stayed warm from the heat rising from the hot water of the machine. It was pointless to try to talk over the noise in this section of the kitchen when the machine was running. I grabbed a clean apron from the stack at the door and walked into the kitchen.

 I started working here the week after I turned sixteen and now my eighteenth birthday is less than two months away. I’m no longer a new employee, but most of the staff accepted me as one of their own right away. The people here were the closest I had to a family now. The only stability I knew.

Brian Phillips was the morning cook, but everyone called him Chop because somewhere along the way, he missed while cutting vegetables and lost the ends of two fingers. As the story goes, he was showing off his culinary skills to a group of pretty women at a party. He had been drinking a bit. Okay, a lot.

When he cut them off, he actually busted out laughing before passing out. It all happened before I ever met him, and his fingers healed up a long time ago, but he loves to tell the story of how he lost the fingers and gained the nickname.

Chop was frying steak and eggs in one pan and an omelet concoction in another as I walked through the kitchen, tying the apron around my waist as I went.

“Miss Ty! Good mornin’ to ya young lady.” Always cheerful and exuberant, Chop expertly flipped the steak and filled the omelet without missing a beat. His hands moved non-stop despite the relaxed expression and his wide grin. His girth proved his love for food and his calm demeanor showed his love of life. Nothing ever got Chop down.

I paused in the walkway at the end of the row of ovens and open flames. There was a strict rule that if you didn’t cook, you didn’t walk down the rubber matted aisle where the stoves were. He only had the new grill fired up. The old grill at the end sat cold. That meant the dining room was busy but not so bad that I was going to have to jump out there and start racing from the tables to the kitchen.

“How’s life today, Chop?” I couldn’t help but smile as he winked at me. His black eyes shone with mischief, one hand rested on his ample belly.

“Darlin’, I’m a big black man livin’ in a tiny white world. What could be better? Life is always good!”

He said something similar every morning, and every morning, I laughed.

“Good to hear it. Be careful with those knives today, okay?”

I winked at him and he laughed with me, just like every other morning.

I started walking down the walkway to the front of the kitchen as Chop called out, “May God bless you today with lots of tips to fatten your pockets, Ty!”

I gave him a thumbs up and pushed through the swinging door to the waitress area, which ran the length of the front counter. At the other end of the area was another door to enter the kitchen so no one ran into each other coming and going. I made sure all of my hair was still secure, smoothing any unruly tendrils trying to escape as I surveyed the front dining area. There were two party rooms off to the side of the restaurant. Both were closed at the moment because breakfast was never as busy as dinner.

Sheila McKee was the only waitress on duty from the time the restaurant opened at five o’clock in the morning until I got there at six. She spent twenty of her forty years of life waiting on other people. If she wasn’t waiting on people in a restaurant, she was waiting on her husband and kids. She liked it. Taking care of everyone else made her feel good. She was useful and needed. She explained it to me many times.

“How’s it going Sheila?”

“Been a typical morning, hun. All these grouchy old men making demands on me.” 

The frown and disapproving look on her face was obviously fake and given away by the smile in her brown eyes. She pulled a pen from over her ear, barely disturbing the wavy, brown-from-a-bottle hair that framed her face. It was probably naturally brown when she was younger, but the gray crept in over the years.

Appreciative chuckles rolled out of the men at the counter. No one made Sheila do a thing she didn’t want to do. There were a couple of old timers sitting at a table near the window, and seven customers lined the counter, most of them talking to each other or Sheila. These were our regulars. It was too cold and snowy for new patrons to be wandering in. I waved and smiled at them as they acknowledged my presence.

I grabbed a pot of coffee and made my way down the counter, automatically refilling every cup before heading to the table at the door. Crocker was the old man sitting closest to the door and his friend’s name was Bill. They lived in the retirement community down the street from the restaurant and ate almost every meal here. Both were widowers and old enough to be my great grandfathers.

“Little girl, every mornin’ I tell you to get your butt out of this restaurant and get back to school, but every mornin’, you show back up here.”

Black coffee poured into his cup as I gave him my most innocent smile.

“Yes Mr. Crocker, and every mornin’, I remind you that you didn’t even finish the fifth grade and you did just fine in life.”

Bill smiled and I winked at him as Crocker tried his most fatherly tone on me. “Girl, you know things was different then and you can’t use that as an excuse!”

Despite the gruffness of his aged voice, Crocker cared about my welfare and I knew it.

“Things are the same as they have always been Crocker. People still need to eat and pay bills, even little girls.” I walked away with the coffee pot as Crocker just shook his head. They would tip me well. They always did.


Images of Betrayal is available in book and ebook from www.secondwindpublishing.com

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Featured Author

I am the featured author at Second Wind this week! That’s pretty cool. It means that they put my face up there and the cover of my book, Images of Betrayal. There’s also a little about the book, and a little about me. And as a bonus, the entire first chapter is posted! There’s even another nice little surprise, a sneak preview of my next book, Seeds of September.

First, go to here, (But make sure you come back to wordpress): Second Wind Publishing Featured Author

See? That’s cool, huh? You can look around a little. I’d really like that. You can buy Images of Betrayal as a book or an ebook. You can pick it up on Amazon for the kindle too. My other book, Fate and Destiny is out there in those formats too. And if you want it for the Iphone, or palm reader, or in a ton of other formats, you can buy the books from Smashwords.

Okay, there’s more. Come talk to me. I hosted a discussion on facebook, too. You don’t have to discuss my topic if you don’t want to. I’d be tickled pink if you would just come say “hi”!

And while you’re on Facebook, I’d love to be your friend, so click on my name and add me and leave some graffiti on my wall. Claire Collins

I have a couple of blogs too. One is for all of the Second Wind Publishing Family, and the other is All Mine.

How about videos? Here’s the trailer for Images of Betrayal.

I think that’s most of it. Thanks for coming to visit and my little tour of the Internet and Images of Betrayal. I’d love to hear from you!



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Images of Betrayal by Claire Collins (Review)

Images of Betrayal
by Claire Collins
Published by Second Wind Publishing, LLC
ISBN# 1935171011

Abandoned and betrayed by her family, seventeen-year-old Tysan Reynolds supports herself the best she can with tips from the diner where she works. Into her lonesome life come two men: photographer Walker Sandoval and high school heartthrob David McKee. What should have been a magical time of romance turns into a time of horror; the photos Walker takes foretell violence and disaster. When Tysan receives a picture of her bound and gagged sister, she must fight to save the girl. And she must put her trust into one of the men. But who is the villain? And who is the hero?

Though billed as a romance, Images of Betrayal seems to be more of a suspense novel. I didn’t feel the urgency of the romance, but that could be due to Tysan’s age — at seventeen, love is seldom undying and true. Still, the easy flow of words and the well-constructed plot make this an enjoyable read.

Claire’s publisher says: “Claire Collins possesses the ability to weave heart-rending plots and hair-raising thrillers, all the while making readers wonder how things will work out for the couple who find love in the midst of life’s turmoil.”

See also: Pat Bertram Introduces Doug From the Novel Fate and Destiny by Claire Collins

Pat Bertram is the author of More Deaths Than One and A Spark of Heavenly Fire, available from Second Wind Publishing

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On Any Given Sunday

In today’s busy world, many of us flit from one activity to another without taking the time to reflect on the small events that shape our lives.

Last Thursday after working all day, I drove home in rush hour traffic, picked up my second oldest son and took him shopping with me to buy all of the pieces to make Easter special for my family of six. I raced through two stores, buying eggs, Easter basket goodies, groceries, coloring kits, and the other miscellaneous items on my list. I arrive home and unload groceries while my husband begins dinner. My evening slows down just as it’s time to get the little kids in bed. I repeated this entire scene again on Friday, this time returning to the store with my daughter to purchase the items I forgot to purchase on Thursday as well as birthday presents for parties on Saturday.

During all of this, I received a message from a dear friend who told me to “Enjoy the joys of my little ones.”

That thought gave me pause.

My seven year old daughter has been excited all week. Saturday, she went to her very first birthday party that her brothers were not invited to. In her eyes, this was her first show of independence, that she got invited to a birthday party with other little girls, and her brothers couldn’t go. She’s watched with envy for years as her popular older brothers went to parties and had friends come to the house. She and I went shopping alone on Friday. She picked the birthday present. She picked the wrapping paper, the card, and the bows. Early Saturday morning, she was dressed and ready for the party before her brothers were even awake. She behaved well all morning in spite of her bubbling excitement. I thoroughly enjoyed my daughter’s joy.

So this Easter Sunday, or on any given Sunday, or any moment that you can, enjoy the joy of those you love.


Claire Collins is the author of Images of Betrayal and Fate and Destiny.


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