Tag Archives: fiction

The One-Way Mirror, by Carole Howard

Violinists sometimes claim they play the most difficult instrument. After all, there are no keys to press that automatically produce “C#.” Nor are there frets, as on a guitar neck, for guidance. You need to just know where to put your finger. For every single note – and there are so many of them. (Have you guessed I’m a violinist?)

I have to admit, though, that pianists have it rough, too, with two different lines of music, one for the left hand and one for the right. As if that weren’t enough, the two lines are written in different clefs. (Non-musicians: let’s just say that black dot on one of the five lines of a musical staff can mean different things depending on which clef it’s in.)

Each group has a point. Or, as my friend’s mother used to say, “There are pros and cons on both sides, and they’re all bad.”

Having been a fiction writer who dove, somewhat naively, into memoir-writing, I see that there are pros and cons in both genres. In this case, of course, they’re not all bad. But they sure are different.

My first novel was character-driven. I could use incidents from my own life, but got to pick and choose, and had the freedom to make up whatever I wanted. Having come from the corporate-writing world, it seemed heavenly to give free rein to my imagination, my creativity. Readers didn’t know which parts were fact-based and which were fictional. When people asked if the protagonist was really me, the short answer was no.

And yet, there was that intimidating blank-canvas thing.

The second novel was a murder mystery. Only a little was drawn from my life, and the canvas wasn’t so blank because mysteries have to be constructed in a certain way so they wind up being….. mysterious. Red herrings, false clues, buried truth. So the “rules” were comforting. But they were difficult, very difficult, to follow.

Like I said, pros and cons.

My most recent book is a travel memoir about five volunteer trips, each two months long, to the developing world. It’s not a travelogue: no recommendations for hotels or restaurants. Yes, it recounts experiences I had while traveling – some funny, some inspiring, some surprising, some sad. There was the time I was twenty feet from a silverback mountain gorilla with nothing between us except trees. Or the time I coached sex workers on their presentations to colleagues about the correct use of condoms. We used wooden props – use your imagination!

But the point of telling about these moments in the memoir is not necessarily, “This is great – you should do it too.” There’s a lot more. Character. Reflections. Truth. Certainly, the tools for writing fiction were also crucial for memoir: setting the scene with physical description, creating tension, using punchy dialogue. But making it all into a story was quite a hill to climb.

The strangest thing about having written a memoir, though, is realizing there are a whole lot of people out there who know some pretty intimate stuff about me. Not only do I not know intimate details about them, I don’t even know who they are!

When I’m speaking at a book store or library, this asymmetry is particularly disorienting. And there’s irony, too: People in the audience, if they’ve read the book, know how uncomfortable I feel about public speaking, and yet here I am, speaking publicly. Through the looking glass, or should I say the one-way mirror?

I guess it’s like being naked when everyone else is clothed, aka EVERYONE’S WORST NIGHTMARE!!

  •     *     *     *

Carole Howard wrote Deadly Adagio, a mystery with a musical undertone set in West Africa, published by Indigo Sea Press.

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The Real Story of Labor Day

It’s Labor Day. I bet you think I’m going to hash over that age long debate over who founded it. Some say it was Mathew Maguire of the International Association of Machinists others claim it was Peter McGuire from the Brotherhood of Carpenters.

Maguire vs McGuire, really?

I am going to settle this dispute right here and now. The idea of Labor Day had been kicked around for years but unlike Maguire and McGuire, the real story of Labor Day has no mention on the official Department of Labor website. The real story of how Labor Day was signed into law started with The Pullman Palace Car Company.

The Pullman Co was a manufacturer of luxury railroad cars on the Southside of Chicago. In efforts to deter labor agitators George M. Pullman created a company town for his workers in 1881 and named it, oddly enough, Pullman. The press hailed him as a humanitarian and a visionary but George Pullman’s saw an opportunity to control and exploit.

He charged high rents, inflated the cost of utilities and increased the prices of goods sold at the company store. He allowed only churches of his own denomination, banned public speeches, independent newspapers and within 10 years his town was valued at five million, over six times his initial investment.

Workers had little enough to live on during prosperous times but when 1893 saw an economic downturn Pullman responded by cutting jobs and reducing wages. Paychecks were cut by a quarter. His rents and prices remained unchanged.

As Pullman squeezed, families could no longer afford to heat their homes or feed their children. Out of desperation many of the workers joined the American Railroad Union (ARU) led by Eugene V. Debs and attempted to bargain collectively.

George Pullman refused to negotiate. He fired them on the spot and gave them ten days to vacate their homes. This action led to the Pullman Strike of 1994.

Riots broke out from Ohio to California as 125,000 other union workers supported their plight. Railways were disrupted, damage was done and this led to the first federal injunction to stop a labor dispute (teach them to delay the US Mail and interstate commerce).

That year, on the Fourth of July, President Grover Cleveland sent twenty-five hundred US Army troops to Chicago to break that strike. He is reported to have said that if it took the entire US Army to deliver one postcard to Chicago then he would do so. In the aftermath thirty Americans were killed and an untold number were wounded. Within a week the strike was crushed.

As opportunistic as it may have seemed, it was time to make that old idea of a special day to honor the workers real. Congress voted unanimously to approve and six days after the end of the Pullman Strike President Cleveland signed the bill into law. Labor Day became a national holiday celebrating the social and economic contribution of the American workers and you get a long weekend, yay!

Pullman died 3 years later. His casket was encased in eighteen inches of reinforced concrete then topped with more concrete, a layer of steel rail and another layer of concrete. Two full days of burial to ensure that this hated man’s body would not be dug up and desecrated by the masses.

So cast your vote, was it Maguire vs McGuire who founded Labor Day or was it George Pullman’s greed, Grover Cleveland’s violent response to people demanding fairness and his immediate efforts to appease them?

 

I would like to wish you all a Happy Labor Day. Enjoy the day, eat a burger, shop the sales and raise a beer to all those who died in labor disputes to make our lives a little better. We have much to appreciate.

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Writing Romance for Baby Boomers

It’s been great to get to know Australian blogger,Lana Pecherczyk  from Author Zoo. Lana asked me to write about romance novels from an aged perspective for her series on “How to write a Romance from A to Z”. Google Author Zoo and check them out!

 

Baby Boomer LOVE

by Jonna Ellis Holston

If you are writing romance then chances are that a large percentage of your readership will be of the baby boomer age. Infrequently is a romance novel written specifically for this generation, so in rarity we find value. If written well the rewards are great.

This is the population who met the Beatles, the Woodstock women who eased the way toward sexual freedom. They lived through the sixty’s and now they’re in their sixties. If you are interested in writing about and for the boomers then, author, know thy sub-genre.

Writing an older woman protagonist has undeniable appeal. In her you discover a character of complexity and depth. She has confidence, wisdom… experience. Imagine the possibilities for characters, setting and plot.

-Feel the energy between a silver cougar and her prey. Is her motivation lust for his hard body or is she damaged and hiding her need? Is he drawn to her mystique, living MILF fantasies or does he plan to steal her money? What do they talk about? Where is the conflict? Who gets hurt and who is healed?

-A similarly aged couple finds a second chance love. Can two households merge? Do their adult children worry about the wills or cringe in disgust with each kiss. Which is worse? Which is real? Can their love survive their offspring?

-An older woman is polyamorous. Is she honest or deceitful? What will the neighbors say about multiple partners? Would she care? Will her lovers meet in conflict then end in a threesome?

What about writing physical limitations and the body image issues that millennials have yet to discover? Tread lightly here lest you break the spell. Use softer images, shimmering fabric catching candlelight or try something risky like a shared vape under moonlight and they end up naked in the lake.

Her body is no longer perfect. You might describe the grace of her movement, the curve of a shoulder or the shape of his arms but consider what point when physical description must yield to expressions of feeling. The softness of her breast, the warmth of his skin, the magic of losing self-awareness in the moment, the urgency in knowing that this could be the last time either one experiences this feeling of love in their lifetime.

Age creeps on, choices lessen. Lovers sicken and die. When you write a character that a boomer identifies with she escapes more readily in your work. Once again she’s made beautiful, desirable and loved. They value this feeling for its rarity. They are greatly mindful of the moments ahead and appreciate each one all the more.

If you wish to write such a romance, understand that She is not your grandmother’s grandmother. She is Women’s Liberation in the Age of Aquarius. She’s the bra burner, the Great Mother and the flower child of love.

Do her justice. Write her truth. Write her well.

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What’s in a name?

A little more than a decade ago, I wrote my first novel. I had no idea if I was going to be able to finish it, or if it would ever end up in print. It turned out I enjoyed writing enough to finish the manuscript, and I went the route of self-publishing. Now, many years later, I am re-editing and publishing it piece-by-piece on my website (www.ajackmccarthy.com)as a blovel (no, this word is not in the dictionary).

I continued to write, and last year I published another novel, Betrayal, with Indigo Sea Press. Another book, another experience.

I certainly don’t consider myself a seasoned writer, but I think the subject of my discussion today may have been experienced by the large majority of writers.

When I wrote my first novel, in my innocence and ignorance, I decided it would be fun to create some of my characters using names and personalities of people I know. After all, it was likely no one would ever read it. But, people did read it, and many of those who knew me were able to pick out the significance of the names and the characters. Some people even went so far as to imagine significance when, in fact, there was none.

I learned my lesson. The second time around, I was extremely careful when naming my characters, and I went to great pains to make sure they didn’t closely resemble anyone I knew. That didn’t stop people from looking for connections. When they couldn’t find them among the characters, they looked for them among the places. Since Betrayal was set in my hometown and the surrounding area, they tried to guess whose house I was describing or where the cabin was situated. It was amusing to see people looking for clues which didn’t exist.

As I said, I’m fairly sure this is a common occurrence among writers.

Something which I am now experiencing are people asking to be a character in my next novel (don’t worry, Kenny and Tim, I won’t mention any names). Sometimes, they even would like to have specific roles. Perhaps, this is not so common. Maybe I simply have friends who want to be implicated. If they are looking to be famous, or infamous, whatever the case may be, they should perhaps try something different. I’m not likely to be the conduit for their fame. Besides, I like them just the way they are.

Sorry to disappoint, guys, but I’m not going to make the same mistake twice. It could lead to too many complications, and it restricts what my characters can do or not do. I don’t want to be tiptoeing around, trying not to hurt anyone’s feelings.

However, I’m curious to know, among the writers out there, if you use or avoid the use of names and characteristics of people you know.  Do you have any stories to share? Do you have a few friends like mine?

*******

A.J. McCarthy is the author of Betrayal, published by Indigo Sea Press.

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On Writing, Editing and Forgery… by Sheila Deeth

Once upon a time I wrote computer programs.

Did you know, a good program should always be designed to be read by human beings as well as machines? Why, you might ask, and the answer is: so that when you, the programmer, have left the company, the human being who replaces you might know what you thought you were doing.

Good programs are also designed to be read by machines, of course – think two-year-olds. The instructions are written in code – think “Yes” and “No.” And instruction lists are broken into short and clean subroutines – like chapters in a book.

Finally, good programs are supposed to be impossible to misread, which brings me to my next job – breaking computer programs. Technically I was a Quality Assurance engineer at the time. I ensured the quality of programs (or at least tried to) by searching for every possible case the programmer might have missed, then breaking things in every way my limited brain could imagine – failing to test for Divide by Zero was, of course, a classic example (and became the title of my first novel). Since I was married to one of the programmers, we’d often joke – “No dinner tonight unless you fix this bug!”

But now I write and edit books.

There are similarities. Mostly I don’t write for two-year-olds (human or mechanical) anymore; but I still hope to write clearly enough so when I, the author, have left the page the human replacement, or reader, can easily work out what I was saying. I still use code, or symbols, to evoke feelings and memory. I still try to simplify – never use two words where one will do? And I still break my tales into chapters and scenes. Then I edit.

I’ve learned that editing uses those same “break things” muscles as being a QA engineer, looking for ways a reader might misunderstand, misread, or wrongly imagine the interpretation of words. “Time flies like an arrow,” is a classic example here – was time flying, or was little Freddy following the flight of bugs? The editor irons out bugs from the program, or book (sounds rather messy) and then…

But editing for someone else has another aspect too – one that came into play for me, somewhere between writing and breaking programs. I spent quite a number of years at home with small children then, in preschool with small children, in elementary school, in chess club, and more. And during those years I learned to be a forger of children’s art.

You see, these were the days before scanners and Photoshop, and we wanted all the kids’ self-portraits on a tea-towel to be sold in a fundraiser. But how would we get the artwork from scraps of torn paper onto one two-foot by three-foot paper template? The answer is, yours truly took the pictures home; studied the way the lines were drawn – where did the pencil hit the page… did this kid use smooth curves or sharp angles, press hard, press lightly, make holes in the paper… and did the eyes fit in the face? Then I copied the pictures, one by one, redrawing and resizing into equal spaces on the template. Neither moms nor kids could see the difference – except in size – and that was the idea.

That’s the idea with editing for someone else as well – no one should see the difference between the editor’s suggestions and the author’s original ideas. And perhaps it’s the idea with writing too – no one should see the difference between the author’s words and the character’s thoughts. But forgery might pay better.

Sheila Deeth is the author of Infinite Sum, soon to be released by Indigo Sea Press. And Sylvia Steepleton, the protagonist of Infinite Sum, was a character in Divide by Zero who demanded to tell her own story. Read Divide by Zero, meet Sylvia, and ask why she let it happen. Then  find the answers, as told by Sylvia and written down by Sheila, in Infinite Sum.

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The Woods by L.V. Gaudet

The Woods

The Woods

It is an ordinary forest, as far as spooky looking woods go, filled mostly with craggy twisted oak trees, their gnarled branches reaching like skeletal fingers and deeply wrinkled cracked-bark covered trunks. The trees cluster together, their branches twisted and tangled together, daring any to enter their midst.

The land here lies low and wet in the spring, leaving the stand of trees a small island of cragged haunted-looking trees bordered by stick-like saplings and sparse tall yellow grass invaded by wild roses with their sharp thorns standing in a shallow bath of melt water throughout the springtime months.

They are far from a silent woods. A small stretch of thick growth surrounded by fields of crops interspersed with some areas abandoned to grass, weeds, and stray crop seeds. Against one side of this stretch of trees, amidst the farm fields, is also nestled a small happy community. The woods team with life, red and grey squirrels, rabbits, mice and voles, and a range of birds. With the damp ground, the woods are a haven for frogs and toads, and of course, the ever-present blood-sucking mosquitoes.

It is a typical small town community lying nestled against the miniature forest. It grew from centuries old land of grasslands mixed with forests. The old forests and grasslands were slowly chopped down, turned over, and settled as the world slowly populated with mankind; the landscape of humanity changing from hunter-gatherers to farms, towns, and villages.

Eventually towns and communities grew together to become cities, family homesteads populated into small farming communities, and untouched land became rare pockets of unsullied old growth forests scattered about in tiny fragments bordering farm fields and stretches of small community homes.

Some of these tiny pockets of untouched woods still hold secrets. Some of these secrets are perhaps best left that way.

 

The woods sit silent and brooding, an ugly tangle of dead looking leafless skeletal branches that look like they belong in a darker and more sinister world, the world of the dead. The clouds hang heavy, dark, and grey on this day; a suffocating thick blanket hanging low in the sky to cast a pall over this small piece of the world.

The snow still lies heavy and wet here where it takes longer to melt away, crystalline flakes shrinking and melding into a dirty slush as the temperatures slowly warm. In time, the snow will vanish and be replaced once again by the murky stagnant melt waters that will take a few months to dry up.

Most of the rodents, birds, and other small woodland creatures are conspicuously absent on this day, having chosen to hunker down and wait out this gloomy day. Nevertheless, a few squirrels and birds still flit about the skeletal trees.  A small rabbit nervously twitches its nose as it sits motionlessly waiting to find out if that sound was a predator.

Two children playing in their back yard off the woods dare each other to go exploring into the spooky trees.

“I bet you can’t go to the fallen tree,” Kevin smirks, the older and taller of the two boys.

The younger boy blanched, his stomach turning sickly, but stares stone-faced at the fallen rotting tree laying nestled within the narrow strip of woods beyond their yard. You can see the tree only because there are no leaves on any of the branches.

“I am not going to let you know how scared I am,” he thinks. He can already smell the mossy rot of the long dead tree, although he has never been near enough to it to catch its odor. It smells in his vivid young imagination like death and decay and something even darker. He watches a small red squirrel flit around the trees, untouched by the dark brooding sullenness and the spooks, ghosts, and monsters his mind screams must surely lurk hidden inside these scary woods. He swallows.

“Can too,” he said, his voice cracking with fear. “I bet you can’t go stand on that old stump,” he countered.

The old stump is a rotting remnant of an even older fallen tree that has long ago vanished into the mud and scraggly growth of the woods. The stump remains, standing defiant and threatening beyond the fallen tree now laying discarded and tangled in the woods, sharp splinters and points of shattered wood sticking up as though waiting to impale any foolish boy who tries to climb it and falls. Its wood is soft and crumbly now with rot, the sharp jagged edges unlikely to be capable of impaling anything for years.

Kevin humphed at his younger brother. He is just as scared, but is not going to let his little brother know that. He nervously hikes up his pants, which did not need it, and steps forward on a mission. He marches purposely into the woods, careful to keep his back to the younger boy so he will not see the paleness of his waxy fear-filled face.

With a scuff and a shrug, Jesse reluctantly follows his older brother.

A little red squirrel scampers up to the high branches as they pass, pausing to chitter down angrily at the boys.

They reach the first point, the fallen tree Kevin dared his younger brother to venture to. It’s no victory for either boy.

On a forced march of pride, determined not to reveal his fear of some silly trees, Kevin continues on. He crawls over the fallen tree, its rotting length sagging with a soggy cracking beneath his weight. His forward march slows more the closer he comes to the wicked looking ancient broken stump.

He stops; staring at the stump like it is some otherworldly thing. He dares not touch it, yet also dares not refuse to touch it, lest Jesse think him weak or afraid.

Unable to let his older brother face the woods alone, Jesse follows. As he draws near the old stump where his brother has stopped to stare motionlessly at it, he notices something unusual looking at the base of the stump.

“What’s that?” Jesse asks nervously.

Kevin pries his eyes from the stump to look lower.  He kneels down, reaching for what lies there.

“Don’t touch it.” Jesse’s voice is a little too shrill.

“It’s nothing.”  Kevin picks it up, turning it over in his hand.

Jesse turns at the sound of a cracking branch.

The boys are never seen again.

 

Follow The Woods installments

 

L.V. Gaudet is the author of Where the Bodies Are
where the bodies are

 

What kind of dark secret pushes a man to commit the unimaginable, even as he is sickened by his own actions?

 

The McAllister Farm-cover 1

 

 

Watch for book 2 of the McAllister series coming soon at Indigo Sea Press:  The McAllister Farm.  The secret behind the bodies is revealed.

 

 

Book 3 is in progress, title to be determined.  The third book will bring the characters of Where the Bodies Are and The McAllister Farm together for an intense climax.  You are pulled deeper into the mind of the killer as he spirals further into madness, and will find yourself rooting for him as he faces a bigger challenge; he has competition.  A new killer comes on scene, bringing a new level of evil and cruelty.  You will learn the fates of the McAllister Family, and maybe the secret pasts of Detective Jim McNelly and everyone’s favorite unscrupulous reporter, Lawrence Hawkworth, will be revealed.

 

Links to purchase this and other upcoming L.V. Gaudet’s books

 

Link to reviews of Where the Bodies Are on Angie’s Diary

https://angiesdiary.com/bookoftheweek-web/081-botwoct262014.html

 

Follow L. V. Gaudet:

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LV Gaudet, author

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Gratitude

Gratitude.

A simple word that carries so much power. As the launch date for Root draws closer, as I tick down my to-do list to get ready, I can’t help but think about how grateful I am to all the folks who made releasing Dormant memorable. Of course, there are the folks I expected to be grateful to – my parents, my sister, my husband, my critique group – but it’s the surprises that come to mind today. From the woman at work who sent out an email blast on the day my book was published to the high school classmate who invited me to speak to her middle school students. The support I gotten from my old school mates almost makes me miss high school (almost…OK, not really).

I remember the sweet ladies in my mother’s book club who read Dormant and discussed it with me via Skype. I’m grateful to my mother for buying a lot of copies and giving them to her friends. I appreciate all of the people who invited me to speak at their book clubs. It’s humbling to have serious conversations about ideas and characters I created. I’ve been awed and amused at some of the reader theories.

I think of the people who griped at me for killing off Hugh. As one reader pointed out, “he’s the only one with any sense.” Any author will understand the feeling of glee when a reader is upset over a character’s death. Means we made an impact.
And to the people who kindly listen to me natter on about my writing process, my latest book, and my experiences, I’m grateful to you for listening!

And there are the people who live far away from me but still wanted signed copies and were willing to pay a little more one. The bookstores who host readings and are so kind to nervous authors. And I will never forget those of you who come to my readings!

Self-promotion is very difficult for me. I constantly doubt the worthiness of my stories, I hesitate to add my voice to the clamor of promotion requests, even though I know it’s an important part of the process. So when I do, I’m very grateful for the support I receive from the likes, retweets, shares, and comments.

I don’t write my stories so you’ll like me but I would be lying if I didn’t admit to feeling a rush when someone tells me they enjoyed Dormant. Writing is a combination of transcendent and nonsensical moments. Sometimes I love what I wrote enough so I don’t think I need feedback from readers. Then someone tells me how much they loved Dormant or how much their daughter or son loved it and I realize that, yes, I do need to hear what you think.

Gratitude is humbling. Gratitude reminds me that people are generally good. Gratitude reminds me to say thank you. To my now and future readers.

LeeAnn Elwood McLennan twitter photoLeeAnn Elwood McLennan is the author of Dormant, book 1 in the Dormant Trilogy (www.indigoseapress.com, Amazon and Barnes and Noble). Root, Book 2 in the trilogy will be released soon so you should pick up a copy of Dormant today to get to know Olivia Woodson Brighthall and her family.

 

Follow LeeAnn on Twitter and Instagram @atticusmcl and on Facebook at LEMWrites.

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Middle Children (or Books, really)

Root, book two of my Dormant trilogy, is completed and at my publishers! It’s bittersweet letting go of a story I’ve been absorbed in for so many months. However, it’s time to release Root into the wild and see how it fares.

Recently a friend commented that the middle book was usually her least favorite of a trilogy. It got me thinking about trilogies in general and middle books specifically. As I ticked through some of my favorite trilogies I realized that frequently my favorite book is the middle book. (The same holds true for movie trilogies in many cases.)

In the first book, the author has done the work of introducing the reader to world and the characters who inhabit that world. There’s often a lot of world building and character-building. Always interesting and necessary but sometimes the action can get a little lost. In book two of a trilogy, the assumption is the audience read the first book, so the author can spend a few lines on the events from book one, and then dive right into the action. The action is usually leading up to the climatic events in book three without having to resolve everything.

In no particular order here are some trilogies where the middle book is my favorite (no spoilers – though it was hard!):

The Tony Foster Trilogy by Tanya Huff. The middle book is Smoke and Mirrors, which takes place almost entirely in a haunted house. I relish Tony’s view of the world and he’s so accepting of the events that unfold around him that it makes scary scenes more enjoyable. This is my favorite in the series for it’s humor, tension, and deep character development.

The Old Kingdom trilogy by Garth Nix. The middle book is Lirael. The focus shifts from the characters in book one and ups the stakes for the Old Kingdom’s’ survival. Lirael and her companion, the Disreputable Dog, are delightful together and I cheer for Lirael’s hopeful success in achieving her desires. I love this book because we get to know more about the folks in the Old Kingdom, Lirael is an appealing character and her problems feel familiar, even though I’ll never have the opportunity to be a seer.

Daughter of Smoke and Bones trilogy by Laini Taylor. The middle book is Days of Blood and Starlight. We know Karou’s secret and now all hell is about to break loose between two worlds. Taylor finds a good balance between our world and the alternate fantasy world.

One notable exception is The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – The Two Towers is my least favorite. Though, I do love the Ents and it establishes Pippin as my favorite hobbit.

Does this hold true for some of your favorite trilogies? Let me know in the comments!

Now, about the third book…

LeeAnn Elwood McLennan twitter photo

 

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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Woody and Margot by Chuck Thurston

After our early dinner, the interstate rush hour traffic was mostly in the other direction as I pulled onto the interstate, but I-77 is never a picnic and I had to watch what I was doing. I merged into the lane I wanted and relaxed a bit.

Margot was offering some light chat about the dinner and the evening, and I was trying to catch enough syllables in my bad ear to offer coherent responses. Stay in the game, I thought. Then, out of the blue, she said, “This is the fourth time we’ve been out together. Are we in what you might call a relationship?”

“Not sure,” I said. I didn’t know where she was heading with this and figured that deflecting the question was the best stalling tactic. Mistake. She was silent and I sensed her eyes on me, but I had to concentrate on the fast traffic and couldn’t risk a peek at her. Nothing works like silence, though, and I felt that I had to expand on the topic a bit. “I guess I thought that maybe a relationship was defined by maybe some more intimacy or something…” I was botching this badly. Where was Almonrico when I needed him?

“You mean sex,” she said.

“Ah, yes…I guess so.”

“I suppose we could pull into a rest area and consummate it,” she said.

Well, that lowered the level, I thought. I tried to elevate it a bit. “Want to stop at my place for some coffee?”

She did, and we did. We had finished a bottle of wine at the restaurant – three glasses to one in her favor, since I would be driving. I had to catch up, and back at my place I popped the cork on another bottle of Napa’s finest and poured us each a glass.

“I think I am falling in love with you,” I said.

“Well, fall away,” she said. “I won’t stop you.”

“Thanks, but the big question is…will you join me?”

“Ha…nice try, but I’d never make a decision like that while I was half drunk.”

‘Decision’ came out sounding a little bit like ’decishum.’

“I see two strategies for that. I can work to get you all of the way drunk and ask that question again, or…”

“Or what?” she asked.

I got up and headed for the kitchen. “I’m going to put on some coffee,” I said.

Chuck Thurston is the author of two collections of Senior Scribbles available from Amazon or Indigo Sea Press.  “The Coroner takes a Ride” – the first book of a Woody Stanton mystery series will be published later this year. Wife Heidi is tackling the followup to her novel “The Duchess, The Knight and the Leprechaun.”  She won’t commit to a finish date.

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Never Doubt I Love

Sad blue eyes and a fine even smile, his build bragged of gym dues and vegetables. A friend of a friend, that’s usually how these things start, he said he was recently divorced, forty years void of love. I believed him. If any man seemed starved for affection it was he and if anyone’s self-esteem had been ruthlessly damaged, it was his.

hugBoth over sixty, an odd age for a summer love but astounding beauty like his was a gift. Was my judgment clouded by perfection, my sight blurred by superb? I wanted him and I wanted him to know that I wanted him, and the tastes of his kisses were pastries of sensory delight. I savored each one, found joy in his touch. I devoured this man from each graceful finger to his strong lovely legs, gave him the tenderness he had learned to live without. Freely, without shame I admit to loving this man with all my might.

I guarded him jealously because I knew he would not be mine for long. As soon as he understood what a commodity he was in a world full of women, he’d be gone. Someone younger and prettier would get him that is exactly how it happened.

I got to love that man for only six months before he found her and it was painful as hell when he left. For three full months I cried, spent sleepless nights writing bad poetry, I even considered Prozac till I began to recognize a small spark of joy between each tear. I could be pleased for him because I knew that if anyone deserved happiness it was he. If anyone deserved to be appreciated, if anyone ever deserved to be loved it was this man.

Maybe Rumi was right when he said, The wound is the place where Light enters you.” Or maybe Bob Marley when he said, “Truth is everybody is going to hurt you. You just gotta find the ones worth suffering for.” But I clung to one thought, maybe she deserved him.

I am impressed with my heart. It’s still open, still willing to endure injury in order to love. I’m proud that this weird world hasn’t jaded me and no barriers protect from deep feeling. I’m only slightly crazy, I don’t drink… and I’d give all the Prozac in Walgreen’s to have a chance like that again, to help a deserving man grow in confidence and realize he is worthy of love. This was life affirming and there is no experience more existential than skin to skin, heart to heart, face to face contact and sharing vital breath with someone you love.

Then I did the math. Six months of bliss minus three months of melancholy, I’m ahead by three months. Net positive, bliss, hell, ya, I’d do it again. It beat the heck out of crocheting shawls by lamp light.

If you must lose in love, lose to a woman half your age with long gorgeous legs and a doctorate. A large house on acres of land is a plus, an heiress maybe with a sports car or two for good measure. Or to a kind, sincere, loving soul who rescues animals, volunteers with the elderly and keeps a vegetable garden.

I saw them in the analgesic section of Walgreens. I peered through the endcap gaping. She had a fake set of boobs like two fishbowls, her hem was crooked and her eyelashes came from a box. I wished them well (him more so than her). Perhaps he has found the woman of his dreams or an adolescent-like crush on a cheap shiny piece or maybe, just maybe she recues kittens between hair appointments. So goodbye to my handsome, make your life happy… and love… love willingly, love passionately, love with everything you’ve got.

But, damnation, if I had lived forty years of neglect and had a body like his, I’d keep looking. In truth, I’d probably be messing around like Tiger Woods on hell fire.

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