Tag Archives: mystery

Witty Writer Book Buttons

I discovered early on that a really good way to learn about becoming a mystery writer was to attend writers’ conferences and conventions. Not only did I learn a lot, but I made lots of friends and had the opportunity to meet my favorite authors as I scampered between classes and also sessions where authors talked about their careers and experiences, and I saw awards being presented and interviews and speeches being made and then there was—shopping! Shopping? What’s shopping got to do with anything? Well, let me tell you.

Conventions always have a book store so fans can purchase the books authors talk about during the event and I did plenty of that. But not all book stores only sell books. One of my favorites sells puzzles, jewelry, clothing (including T-shirts), even tea pots and book buttons!

I have a small collection of clever book buttons mounted on ribbons that hang from a shelf in my office, just to the right of my work space. Whenever I pause to think or rest, I can’t help seeing those buttons. They make me smile, bring me back to where they were purchased, remind me of those writers who have fulfilled my life with their stories and friendships. But I digress.

Topics of book buttons are as varied as the authors who create them. Some are about writing itself, while others have to do with a furry pet assistant, or perhaps the problem of owning too many books, or they may be quotes by famous people.

The following fit that category:

“But for my own part, if a book is well written, I always find it too short.” —Jane Austen

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” —C.S. Lewis

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”   —Jorge Luis Borges

“To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.”  — W. Somerset Maugham

Since I write in the mystery field, cats are common in that genre.

To a cat, “No!” means “not while I’m looking.”

Cat hair is the new black.

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Or catchy phrases:

Books: the original search engine.

Lit Happens!

Grammar Police: To correct and serve

Grammar Ninja

Warning! Anything you say can and may be used as dialogue in my next book.

The book was better.

Don’t judge a book by its movie.

First drafts don’t have to be perfect. They just have to be written.

Writer’s block: when your imaginary friends won’t talk to you.

Some of my best friends are fictional.

My weekend is all booked.

If you walk a mile in my shoes you’ll end up at a bookstore.

Some more of my favorite book buttons below. Do you have favorites, too?

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Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.

Join her here each 11th of the month

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Book Review for DEADLY ADAGIO by Carole Howard

Title: Deadly Adagio
Author: Carole Howard
Publisher: Second Wind Publishing, LLC
Genre: Mystery
ISBN: 978-1938101373

deadlyadagio

Deadly Adagio
by Carole Howard

Book review by Maribeth Shanley

Don’t underestimate this author as, in true adagio fashion, she soothes your mind with her characters.

As quickly as your mind begins to drift into sweet repose, the author jolts you to life as she garrotes you just as the character Margaret is garroted into permanent rest with a violin string. Suddenly all your senses are wide awake and you find yourself in the middle of a perfect storm. Ms. Howard commands you to sit down, shut up and pay attention as she rubs your face and mind in African traditions that rivet refined senses, leaving the reader stunned at the insanity of it all.

I love Ms. Howard’s writing style. When the main character, Emily plays her murdered friend’s violin, one can’t get any closer to the heart of how she felt about her friend. “Emily tucked Margaret, in the form of her violin, under her chin and smiled.” That passage made me smile.

Ms. Howard’s intimate relationship with the English language results in her painting facial features and expressions, human thought and bodily language with strokes that left me thinking … when I grow up, I want to write like her.

Click here to read an: Excerpt From “Deadly Adagio” by Carole Howard

____________
MaribethMaribeth Shanley lives in Myrtle Beach, SC with her husband Bob Bibb. They have three furry and three feathered children. Maribeth is now retired from McCormick and Co., Inc. of the famous spice brand. Once retired she decided to try her hand at writing. “I’ve always loved to write and dreamed of becoming a writer. Never did I imagine, however, it would actually happen.” Shanley is the author of the novel Crack in the World, which is based on her own experiences as a sexually abused child.

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Excerpt from “Where the Bodies Are” by L. V. Gaudet

42221362058-20141202195135What kind of dark secret pushes a man to commit the unimaginable, even as he is sickened by his own actions?

A young woman is found discarded with the trash, brutally beaten and left for dead. More bodies begin to appear, left where they are sure to be found and cause a media frenzy.

The killer’s reality blurs between past and present with a compulsion driven by a dark secret locked in a fractured mind. Overcome by a blind rage that leaves him wallowing in remorse with the bodies of victim after victim, he is desperate to stop killing.

The search for the killer will lead to his dark secret buried from the past, something much larger than a man on a killing spree.

Coming: book 2 The McAllister Farm. The secret behind the bodies is revealed.

Excerpt from Where the Bodies Are:

Out of the corner of his eye Harry spotted a hand, the arm visible halfway up to the forearm, sticking out of the rubbish pile at his feet. The dainty hand was dirty, streaked and splotched with some sort of red-brown paint, and dangling in a shallow puddle of dirty rain water. It had been raining on and off all day.

Looking down at the hand for a moment, he merely registered that someone had thrown out an old mannequin and thought nothing more of it.

He was adding his garbage to the pile, shifting one foot forward for balance as he leaned over the garbage bin to place his bags on top of the mound.

His foot bumped the mannequin’s arm.

It moved slightly with the impact, but it moved soundlessly, felt soft not hard. It did not scrape against the concrete like a plastic mannequin hand should.

Harry pulled back from the pile, trash bag still in hand.

Bending forward a little, he studied the hand more closely. He pushed it with his foot, listening for the scraping sound, feeling for the hard plastic. It moved soundlessly, felt soft but firm, not hard.

Startled, he took a hurried step backwards, almost dropping his trash bag.

Gathering his courage, he knelt down to examine his find more closely. He reached forward with his left hand and discovered, to his surprise, that he was still holding the trash bag. Tossing it aside, he tentatively poked at the arm. It was firm, giving only slightly, yet felt soft, like flesh. He placed his hand on it. The flesh was cold. Too cold to be alive, he was sure, but still soft.

The words “fresh kill” leapt unbidden into his mind.

Shaking his head to rid it of this morbid thought he pulled some of the garbage away, digging it out.

The rest of the arm appeared, obviously a young woman’s arm. The top of the head appeared, then a face. It was a badly bruised and swollen face, unrecognizable through all the crusted dried blood. Rivulets of blood had dried as they seeped from her cracked lips and bloodied nose, like streams frozen to ice, caught in a sudden chill that stopped its flow mid-gurgle.

Harry staggered backwards, almost falling over. His pale face looked like a terrified ghostly phantom in the darkening gloom.

The shadows were long and getting deeper as dusk chased away the sunlight, preparing for the blackness of night.

Unable to quit, he attacked the pile of debris, trembling, drooling slightly, his eyes crazed. Digging frantically, he threw garbage into the air.

The rest of her body appeared, dishevelled and beaten.

Gagging, he turned and ran in a stumbling shuffle back to the store’s rear entrance. He fumbled the keys from his pocket, dropping them with a merry clink on the pavement. Trembling, he tried three times before his fingers could coordinate enough to pick them up.

His mind began playing tricks on him, imagining he heard the soft sound of shoes scraping on the ground behind him, heavy breathing approaching, and a menacing presence just out of sight. His head swivelled, looking around fearfully. Not seeing anything, he turned back to the locked door, frantically trying to open it.

The wavering key could not find its way into the lock. It glanced off the side, hit the top, and finally bounced out of his hand to the pavement at his feet.

This time it took him only two tries before his palsied fingers finally grasped it firmly enough to bring the key back to the lock. It hit home on the first try. He almost pulled the key out of the lock before he realized that he finally did it.

Bio:

42221362058-20141202191758LV Gaudet is a Canadian writer and mother of two. Her writing endeavors range from stories written for her young children to the realm of adult horror.

Some of her short stories can be found scattered in the dark void of the internet.

Link to Second Wind Publishing where you can buy my book
http://www.secondwindpublishing.com/#!l-v-gaudet/cdwd

Link to reviews of Where the Bodies Are on Angie’s Diary
https://angiesdiary.com/bookoftheweek-web/081-botwoct262014.html

Facebook – author page
http://www.facebook.com/pages/L-V-Gaudet/42221362058

Twitter @lvgaudet
http://twitter.com/lvgaudet

Google+ – author page
https://plus.google.com/b/105997630536794217325/105997630536794217325/posts

LinkedIn
ca.linkedin.com/in/lvgaudet

Instagram
https://instagram.com/lv_gaudet/

Pinterest
http://www.pinterest.com/LVGaudet

WordPress
http://lvgwriting.wordpress.com

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Pia Pucknucker On Hold For Now by Linda Lindsly

So for now “Pia Pucknucker And The Mystery Of The Indian Treasure” is on hold and due to come out in May, not March as I originally thought.    But that’s OK, because I’m still excited to have it published.  Lately, I have been conjuring up some new ideas that will take Pia Pucknucker on a new adventure.  Pia’s interest in solving mysteries as a private eye, include everything from a stolen bike (who done it) to unraveling mysteries of the past (the Indian treasure) or just finding answers to strange circumstances that keep Pia wondering why.  And Pia will also include her best furry friend, Thumbelina, on every new adventure she encounters.  Any ideas of  past childhood adventures that anyone has to share would be great.  A simple idea can spark a whole new adventure for Pia.  I remember growing up and playing with the kids in the neighborhood until we were called in for supper.  Everyday my friends and I would get together and do plays in our garage and charge neighborhood kids a dime to come and see what we were up to.  We also played softball and dodge ball on the street with our teams in place.  Every now and then a new kid on the block would join.

As  I think about all this, life was much simpler and we always would interact with each other, even fight and argue with one another.  But it was always understood that we were friends despite our differences.  We would just make up and go on.  Children don’t get to interact with others the way we did back then.  Most parents today both work and outside of school, not much social  interaction.  Activities are scheduled  and planned, which is good, but not much freedom from time restraints.  Also, the world is unfortunately not a safer place to have kids playing unsupervised or playing in the streets like we did back in the old days. We didn’t even have to wear helmuts to ride our bikes!

Well, enough of memory lane stuff.  As my ideas flow I’ll be jotting them down and envisioning what I’ll be illustrating and just go from there.  I’ll share my ideas and anyone who reads this can critique me on these ideas as well as share stories of their own.  I think that would be cool!

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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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Excerpt from A SPARK OF HEAVENLY FIRE by Pat Bertram

ASHFborderStraight from today’s headlines! In the novel A Spark of Heavenly Fire by Pat Bertram, hundreds of thousands of people are dying from an unstoppable disease called the red death. In an effort to stop the disease from spreading beyond the state of Colorado where the disease originated, the entire state is quarantined. In this dangerous world, Kate Cummings struggles to find the courage to live and to love. Investigative reporter Greg Pullman, is determined to discover who unleashed the deadly organism and why they did it, until the cost — Kate’s life — becomes more than he can pay.

Excerpt:

After an uneventful day at work, Kate hurried home through the silent streets. More than half the houses she passed had fluorescent orange dots splashed on their front doors indicating that someone had died within. Beside some of those doors were small shrines or memorials—artificial flowers, crosses, dolls, teddy bears. Other houses were unlit, mute testimony that entire families had died.

A white unmarked delivery van stopped in front of a house that already had one fluorescent dot on the door. When two men jumped out of the truck and ran up the porch steps, she knew that soon another orange mark would appear next to the first.

She could hear the men lamenting the loss of the Broncos while they waited for someone to answer their knock. It seemed strange that they spoke of such a prosaic matter. Shouldn’t they be crying, “Bring out your dead. Bring out your dead,” as their counterparts during the Black Death had done?

As she neared the house, she could see the door open. An old woman with bowed head and trembling shoulders stood aside to let the two men enter.

Kate had passed the house by the time the men emerged with their burden, but she could hear the thud of the body when they threw it into the van.

She thought of Greg and how he had cradled Mrs. Robin’s body in his arms as he carried her down the alley and how he had gently laid her under a tree.

And how he had said he liked her, Kate, very much.

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Until November 23, 2014, A Spark of Heavenly Fire will be available at 50% off from Smashwords, where you can download the novel in the ebook format of your choice. To get your discount, go here: A Spark of Heavenly Fire and use coupon code ST33W when purchasing the book. (After you read the book, posting a review on Smashwords would be nice, but not obligatory.)

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

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Ordinary mysteries

It’s no secret that I enjoy a good mystery.  Heck, that’s what I write.

And it probably won’t come as a surprise to those who know me, but I really like those stories where the “ordinary people” find themselves doing something extra-ordinary.  You know, like the woman accused of witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts, who managed to survive captivity.  Or the man who fought for the Union during the Civil War while his brothers enlisted in the Confederacy.

To me, those are more interesting stories than Wonder Woman.  And I love Wonder Woman!
Plus, everyone’s got a story.

Do you ever wonder how those stories shape you?  For example, did your tenth-great grandfather help start one of the original 13 colonies?  Or did your third-great grandfather work in a chocolate factory?   Or is your sixth great-grand uncle pictured on the one dollar bill?

All of those things would have shaped the people closest to them.  Which in turn shaped the people they touched.  All the way down to me.  (Although I think the chocolate factory thing shaped my waist more than the others…)

Recently author Stephen King was on PBS’s “Finding Your Roots”  (an episode which focused on long-lost fathers) and learned that his family name isn’t really King.

Another mystery.

Another everyday, ordinary person, mystery.

What’s your mystery?

Nichole

Nichole R. Bennett has been an avid mystery reader from a young age.  Her novels, Ghost Mountain and Sleeping Bear, are available from Second Wind Publishing. When she’s not writing, Nichole can be found doing a plethora of crafty things, drinking coffee, eating chocolate, or spending too much time online.  Oh, and researching her family tree.

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Excerpt – Death in a Small Town by H.V. Purvis

This is an excerpt from chapter 2 of my new murder mystery, released September 6.

 

John slowed the airport rental car to a stop in front of the building. He did not get out. He was not sure he could. He sat there. The motor running. His heart raced. It was cool inside the car, but beads of sweat covered his brow. He flexed his fingers. Make a fist. Then straightened his fingers. He did this over and over. It was an exercise his shrink had given him to regain control of his nerves. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly through his mouth. He had flown from DC. Driving still tied his guts in knots. He rarely drove anymore. He rarely even left his apartment anymore. Now that he was here, he did not know if he could make himself go inside.

He knew before he left that this trip was going to be difficult, but it was something he had to do. He owed it to Stan. Now he sat in the car, his hands shaking, his heart racing, feeling sick to his stomach. His leg throbbed, even though the doctors said it should not. He cursed at himself and stared out the side window at the hundred year old southern colonial which loomed over the business end of a street of impressive older houses.

John had grown up further down this street. All the lawns were immaculate. He remembered that on Saturday mornings the older ladies, in their “working in the yard” clothes which looked just as nice as their “going to the store” clothes, would put on their straw hats and tend their roses and flower gardens. His hands shook as he raised the soda he bought after leaving the airport. It was warm, but he took another swallow, trying to work up the courage to turn off the engine and go inside.

He smacked the steering wheel with his hand. This is stupid! I’m a grown man, for God’s sake! He stared at the double front doors of the colonial building. A gut wrenching dread knifed through him. He looked away. There were too many ghosts in this town and particularly inside that building. He had spent the last five years avoiding those ghosts. He reached for the keys. His hand stopped short.

Horrible memories of his last visit to this town ripped him apart, but he owed Stan. They had been best friends since first grade, played football together, double dated together. When John went off to college, Stan joined the Parkwood police department. After college, John joined the bureau and moved to DC. Stan was always the one who reached out to make sure they did not lose touch. After the wreck, he called John in the hospital every day to check on him. At least once a week he drove the two-hour round trip Chapel Hill to visit and sit with him. Now Stan was dead. John leaned his head back on the headrest and closed his eyes.

Someone tapped on the window. John jerked upright. He had been lost, drifting in numbness land, and the tap startled him. His heart pounded harder. He looked over and saw his sister, Helen, standing in the street. Traffic moved slowly to go around safely. No one honked a horn. No one stared angrily at her. No one raised a fist or middle finger. Most of the people did throw up their hand, but it was a friendly wave. This was the way people were here.

Hoyle Purvis

Author of Extinction            http://www.hvpurvis.com, facebook page H.V. Purvis, twitter @hvpurvis

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The Coroner Takes a Ride: Prologue

When I took the chief’s job at the West Hepzibah Police Department – 21 years ago – I spent some time looking at town and road maps of the area to get the lay of the land, so to speak. I reasoned if there was a West Hepzibah there must be an east equivalent – maybe even a north and south. In fact, where in hell was Hepzibah proper?

Everett Hartsell set me straight. He was 62 then –20 years older than I at the time. He knew everything about everything – and everyone – it seemed to me. Amazingly, neither he, nor his wife Jane, was a gossip. He was the county coroner and had survived every election challenge for so long that he ran unopposed most of the time. Jane was a couple of years away from retirement as principle of the East Sykes middle school. Between them, I am sure they knew all of the town’s betrayals and selfless loyalties – all deeds scandalous and laudable – but they kept their own counsel.

 I latched onto Everett as a mentor almost immediately, to help me understand all things West Hepzibah. Margot and I became friends with Everett and Jane. They loved to play cards, and we occasionally went to their big house on Upper Linwood Avenue – they had better hosting facilities than we did at that time – for a few games of pitch. We mixed and matched our playing partners, had great conversations and learned a lot about our new hometown.

 Everett and I would frequently meet at Nelly’s downtown for coffee. I brought up the question of Hepzibah’s whereabouts during one of these breaks. Everett laughed, then said, “Come with me.”

 He led me to his pickup truck outside, and we headed out of town. Up Main Street, left on Linwood Avenue, and then a couple of miles up the hill until Linwood turned into Foster Mountain Road – a two lane black top not particularly distinguishable for anything but a nice view of the Brushy Mountains to the east, and the ramp of the Blue Ridge to the north. In another two miles or so, the blacktop road narrowed. Maintenance was spotty. The shoulders were crumbled and potholes more frequent. We passed several mobile homes. They weren’t arranged in the rows and columns of a conventional trailer park. Many were in small clan-like groupings that suggested family compounds. At some point we passed a sign that marked the entrance to North Carolina Game Lands, and a couple of miles beyond that, we came to a crossroads. Everett turned left onto the gravel road intersection, and parked his truck. “Here we are,” he said.

The remains of an old gas station were on one side of the road. A Sinclair gasoline sign was hanging by one chain and swung in the light breeze. A pump island was still there, but the pumps were gone. Weeds grew up through cracked and broken paved sections around the station, and most of the windows were shattered or missing. The stone foundations of a half dozen other structures clustered around the crossroads. Over one of the larger ones, a lone chimney stood above the remains of whatever it warmed at one time. Cater-cornered from the gas station on the other side of the crossroads was an abandoned church – a framed derelict missing most of the windows and doors and much of the siding. A sign had been spared. It hung on the skeleton of the church next to the front steps. The primitive lettering ‘Hepzibah Baptist Church’ was faint, but still legible.

There were blackened spots dotting the landscape here and there. Some on bare ground; some on whatever paved sections still existed. They looked like the remains of old campfires, with dark ashes, and partially burnt sticks and pieces of scrap lumber. Bottles and cans were strewn everywhere and broken glass littered the area. I looked to Everett for an explanation. He told me the story:

Colonel Jonathan Foster got out of the Confederate Army toward the end of the Civil War. His own little piece of that army had dissolved around him somewhere in Virginia shortly before Appomattox. He and many of his men – yeoman farmers – were reluctant combatants. They knew well what North Carolina Governor Zebulon Vance meant when he characterized the conflict as “a rich man’s war, and a poor man’s fight.” Foster headed back to claim the plot of land in the North Carolina mountains that his family had owned for generations. He married Hepzibah Bennett – the daughter of a Charlotte businessman – to help him run it. They raised two sons.

He found a promising seam of granite and used it for the foundation of the large house he built – then decided to make a go of the quarry, and hired workers. He timbered the land and planted tobacco. A settlement grew around him and he opened a small store. A church was built, but the region was sparsely populated, poor, and poorly defined – as were many North Carolina counties at that time. Foster named his little outpost Hepzibah and lobbied for its designation as the county seat of Foster County. The state legislature didn’t grant it.

His enclave gradually disbanded, even as his army of farmers had. The winters were harsh, the tobacco migrated to lower sections of the Piedmont and granite was found in Mount Airy.The road builders preferred the land below and to the west of him. A West Hepzibah began to grow and prosper. His wife, in what might have been a final indignity, moved away from her namesake town to a fine house in West Hepzibah and began efforts to improve the cultural climate there. Foster stubbornly clung to his mountain.

He set out one day to plead his case, yet again, to the legislature. His apparent intention was to ride to Morganton and make his way by rail to Raleigh. His horse returned the next day, but he did not. The remaining settlers, with an occasional reinforcement, clung to the site for a few more years as automobiles improved accessibility, but all eventually moved to more promising locations. The not-quite town became a collection of tumble-downs, furnishing fuel for the campfires of hunters and hikers. Locals scavenged the quarry for their own projects, until even that was too much trouble. Two boys drowned in the water that collected in the bottom of the quarry and a gate was put across the single road leading in. Hepzibah vanished from the maps.

Chuck Thurston

 

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Teaser of Things to Come

My next book is a collection of short stories that the publisher, Mike, has promised would be out in the spring.  I sincerely hope this will, indeed, be true.  For today’s Blog I thought I would give a little teaser to one of the stories: A Death of Convenience.  This story takes its inspiration from the rash of robberies that have hit these stores more and more.  I thought about the punks who rob them, the clerks who work in these places for pittance wages and the choices they have in any life threatening situation.

 

Here is a taste of this next book.  You can let your imagination take the story where you will.  Look for this book by S. M. Senden soon from Second Wind Books.  My other publications include Clara’s Wish and Lethal Boundaries. 

 

A Death of Convenience

Jerry Wall peered through the heavy cloud of smoke that haloed about his head as the three teenagers made their way to the door of Cathy’s Convenience Store where he worked the graveyard shift.  He hated the punks who came out after dark like grimy rats climbing out of the sewers.  They were usually prowling for trouble dressed in their pseudo gang-style clothes of torn t-shirts with skulls, fake blood spatter and dirty words emblazoned on the front, and scuffed pants falling down from their hips revealing soiled underwear.  Worst of all, their hairy butts were exposed too.  Their profusely tattooed bodies complimented by multiple body piercings.  As Jerry exhaled, then sucked more smoke into his lungs he wondered what female in her right mind would find any of these punks attractive.       

Jerry wished he could have been more like Clint Eastwood and tell the kids: “Go ahead, make my day,” before blasting their sorry little asses to kingdom come as they deserved.  But Jerry knew he qualified as a first class wimp.  He’d always been afraid of confrontation so he endured their taunts and insults and even turned a blind eye to their petty thievery rather than confront any of them.   

It wasn’t worth his life.  

The three punks pushed open the door and stood in the doorway looking around as if the world owed them something.  Jerry had seen so many young thugs think they were entitled to something just because they were breathing.  He also knew that attitude would catch up with them one day.   

 

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