Monsters & Angels: The Series

Halloween is in the Air!

 

A lone soldier on night watch. A single bullet through the heart. Every light in Paris flickers—the city’s thundering silent scream.
When Commander Raimond Banitierre was assassinated, French Revolutionaries lost their gallant leader. After a villain’s offer of eternal life condemned him to slavery, Raimond rebelled again, driving his vampire comrades to freedom.
Raimond escapes to Savannah, Georgia where his dream of becoming a doctor comes true. During his trial-by-fire residency on the Civil War’s battlefields, he discovers his true calling—the power to preserve memories and dignity in the face of death. His chance meeting with a beguiling mortal nurse ignites passionate nights and a long overdue crack in the door to paradise.
Vicious flames and an unholy miscalculation deliver Raimond back to the depths of hell. Being arrested for treason makes him wish for death and the arrival of Prince Draven Norman appears to be the final nail in Raimond’s coffin. Will the prince’s eccentric judgement grant Raimond a true reprieve? Is Draven’s invitation to join New Orleans mystical royalty an extension of his own treachery, or the next step in Raimond’s miraculous journey?
Has the legendary Crescent City found a spirit noble enough to protect her future?

♦♦♦♦♦

 

Fledgling nurse Sorcha Alden knew she had the skills to save lives, but she never dreamed that her own life would be the one in danger.

Driven by tragedy to honor her family name, Sorcha embarks on a journey that takes her from the bleak but familiar streets of New York, through the sultry and seductive city of New Orleans, and into the brutal jungles of Nepal. Forging friendships and carrying on her mother’s mission of healing was her dream. Plunging into a love affair with the mysterious Dr. Ashayle, could have been a fairytale.

Being murdered and waking up as a blood-thirsty monster—became her living nightmare.

Torn away from a life that had just begun, Sorcha returns to New Orleans as a newborn vampire, forced to start over in a cutthroat underworld of devilry and decadence. Complicated politics, bitter rivals and jealous ancestors stand between her and the promises she’s still determined to keep.

In a realm where the boundary between good and evil is as murky as the Mississippi River and immortal does not mean invincible, will Sorcha ever risk her shattered heart and love again? Can the magical harmony of the Crescent City give her enough courage to fulfill her eternal destiny?

Sorcha’s final word will make your jaw drop!

 

AnneMarieAndrus.com

 

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Short Story Friday

A New Love Blooms in Old Age

by
Victoria Clapton

 

I walked the dusty path that led to the family cemetery located beneath some spindly old cedar trees on the expansive property of the looming Eirewood Plantation. On my way, I stopped to eat a few of the tart bitter blackberries growing there and pondered on how I’d come to such a quiet place.

The sprawling white Greek Revival sat imposing in the sunlight. The tall, thick columns stood stately, supporting the two story gargantuan house while the rocking chairs on the front porch silently invited someone to relax and rock a spell,taking in the beauty of the Southern landscape. Though I had trekked some distance from the house, I could still see the majesty of the house patiently waiting for something, or maybe someone. It’s empty loneliness bothered me very little. At first sight, I was overcome with the feeling of having always been here, having belonged. Whatever the reason, this home was not alone anymore.

Three weeks ago, I received a letter in the mail requesting my presence at McAllister and McAllister Law Firm to claim an inheritance from an anonymous benefactor.

Upon meeting with them, Misters McAllister and McAllister led me to a polished long cherry table in what must have once been the dining room in the old Victorian house they’d converted into their law firm, and there over tall glasses of ice tea, they informed me that I’d inherited the two hundred year old house and the surrounding land that made up Eirewood Plantation from an absolute stranger. Despite my fervent attempt to refuse such a preposterous gift, the McAllisters presented me with the deed, already in my name, and bid me to have a good day.

Now, I stood somewhere between the hulking house and the graveyard filled with crumbling tombs all sporting the name “O’ Brady”, trying to figure out what I was going to do with this unasked for and unusual gift. Unaffected by my presence, a large, husky squirrel bounced from one oak tree to the next as if rejoicing at my arrival.

For a spring afternoon, it was a bit chilly beneath the shade of the trees, and just like the house, this piece of land had a feeling of waiting. A solitary rusted out shovel discarded by the old stone wall surrounding the graves solidified the feeling of a space frozen in time.

“Welcome to Eirewood, Ms. Endicott.” From behind one of the twisted oaks, stepped a nice-looking gentleman wearing light pants, a blue cutaway coat and holding a top hat that he’d just removed from his head in his hands.His cream colored silk cravat accentuated his dapper look. “I’ve been waiting for you to return.”

Startled by his unannounced presence, I took a step back from him but not before I noticed his uniquely light colored eyes. The color of frozen ice, just barely blue, they were visible even in the dappled afternoon light.

“Thank you. Wait, return? I’m sorry, Sir, but I have never been here,” I insisted then introduced myself. “You may call me Eilene I have recently acquired Eirewood Plantation, so I’ve come to see what it’s all about.”

The man moved closer to me. His handsome looks struck a chord in my heart, a memory I couldn’t quite grasp, even if his clothing and manners were two hundred years out-of-date. Perhaps he was here for one of those reenactments I’d heard about history buffs having. Either way, something about his demeanor drew me towards him. My fingers tingled, itching to reach out and touch this mysterious stranger.

“Eilene,” He said my name slowly as if he was savoring his favorite sound. “Then you may call me Jonathan. I’m Jonathan O’Brady.”

“O’Brady?” I recalled the names on the tombstones just behind Jonathan, and the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. The intensity he watched me with was unnerving and somewhat alluring. There was just something about him, something I couldn’t exactly put my finger on. “Jonathan, are you kin to the people who owned this house? Do you know why the previous owners would leave it to me?”

“You kept your promise,” was his reply. “You vowed that you’d return, that not even death could keep us apart.”

My heart sped up as I processed this stranger’s words. “You have me confused with someone else.”

“Oh?” Jonathan offered his hand to me. “Then let me show you, my love.”

I should have ran off, gotten away as fast I could and called the cops on this crazy anachronistic man. Instead, without any hesitation at all, I rested my hand in the crook of his offered arm and allowed him to guide me back into the shaded cemetery. We weaved around graves, one O’Brady after another, until we reached a battered Celtic cross. At the base was the epitaphs and memories of two.

Eilene O’Brady                 Jonathan O’Brady
Born April 30, 1832              Born November 1 1825
Died May 14 1862                  Died May 14 1862
Eternally Yours

Something in my subconscious stirred, awakening memories of someone else’s life, promises made by a woman I was not. I should have fled. I should have gotten away as fast as I could. I didn’t know what this man was trying to pull, but I wanted no part of it.

Then I made the mistake of looking up from the tomb into Jonathan’s love-filled eyes. Within their pale depths, I saw that he, too, had been waiting. Just like the house and this land, he had been waiting for his love from an old age long gone to begin again-new.

♥♥♥

 

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Short Story Friday

Bright Lights & Chilly Nights

by

Anne Marie Andrus

 

Setting sun trickled through colored glass, illuminating mirrored letters behind the bar until LEGENDS sparkled like lost gold from an enchanted city. The bartender brazenly whistled off key and polished curved mahogany with a vintage rag. According to the calendar, autumn was still two weeks away but last night he felt “it” for the first time this year. That fleeting bite of a rogue breeze and rustle of dying leaves followed by a whiff of fragrant firewood. His favorite season was right around the corner—exciting and bittersweet—ruthless and glorious, all at the same time. Baseball was more than a game; it was a way of life that lasted from February all the way through October. Only one team would win their final contest and then silence would descend until next season.

Behind the bar, numbered beer mugs hung from pegs. The bartender glanced over his shoulder at a still empty parking lot and picked out the prized #7 and #42 mugs for two regulars who would arrive first. Always gleeful Yankees fans. Grumpy Boston #34 would be close behind followed by perpetually hopeful Mets #31. A lucky few would be in attendance at the big ballparks in October. The rest would be on bar stools watching their teams pack up lockers and lug golf clubs through private airports while arch rivals padded win-loss records and secured coveted home-field advantage.

The bartender eyeballed bottles of top shelf bourbon—the perfect elixir to calm nerves that would be frayed moments after the roar of the pre-game flyover faded. As players waxed poetic about fan appreciation and stadium acoustics, experts sounded alarm bells over statistics and injuries. Lifetime baseball addicts agonized over traveling ghosts and whether the powers of aura and mystique would be making a nightly appearance. Despite all the famous curses being broken, from The Bambino to The Billy Goat, dread of the jinx never really vanished, it merely slunk into the shadows ready for ambush on a supremely pivotal play. Innings would crawl by, pitch by agonizing pitch, unless the home team was losing of course…then it seemed to get late early. A wise quote from a true legend so many years ago.

Outside, music blared and tires screeched to a stop on loose gravel. The bartender waited for the door to slam open before he shouted. “Most important pitch of the game?”

“Strike One.” Mug #42 tossed her auburn hair back and slid into her usual seat. “Most exciting two words in sports?”

The bartender picked up the TV remote and grinned. “Game Seven.”

 


October 18, 2003…2 nights after the Game Seven, Aaron Boone home run…

 

Short Story Friday!

Circus Folks Are People Too

by
Christian Terry

 

” They don’t pay to see you, Chuck! No one who comes to the circus pays to see some rinky dink clown!” Paul said as saliva flew from his lips nearly landing on Chuck’s face paint. “It’s all about the danger, getting their hearts pumping, not some sad freak spraying with a seltzer water at people.” He continued.

Lauren, the featured trapeze artist stepped in between the two men to end the confrontation. “Leave Chuck alone!” She barked. “If only you knew what it took to make an entire arena laugh and to keep them entertained.”

“If it isn’t little Lauren, the professional tumbler no one asked for. I wish I had the time to tell you how much you weren’t needed, but the show is starting.” With that, Paul brushed passed them both exiting the curtain tightening the grip on his leather whip.

“Don’t worry about him, babe. The people love you, you’re naturally clumsy so that helps. The show needs you.”

“Thanks for that coach. I’ll see you after the show.” Chuck said, his voice low from the encounter.

Lauren, sensing that her boyfriend was upset, tugged him by his checkered handkerchief scarf, pulling him toward her face, planting a deep, intense kiss across Chuck’s red colored lips. “Hey, is that my lipstick you’re wearing?” Lauren asked.

“Would you look at the time , I have to go on stage now. ” Chuck said while running through the curtain.

The show had started like it had done a million times before. Chuck mingling with the crowd, soaking some poor kids with his bottle of seltzer water. Lauren performed her high wire act to an standing ovation. The elephants marched in a circle dancing around the center ring of the three ring circus. To the left of the elephants the jugglers were flinging flaming torches at one another in a frenzy.

A thunderous roar shortly accompanied by sharp cries halted all of the action. Chuck glanced to the third ring and saw Paul lying on his back as the giant lion had him pinned to the ground. Chuck zoomed to the third ring clutching his seltzer bottle. Paul eyed the clown while wrestling with the lion, the lion’s teeth inches from his face. Chuck was afraid, but he couldn’t let Paul die.

“Hey, Mister lion didn’t you know that eating coworkers is bad for digestion, I’m going to write a stern letter to human resources about this.” Chuck said nervously. He sprayed his bottle, nearly emptying it unto the beasts back causing the mighty feline to remove himself from on top of Paul and rest his sights on the clown that wet him. Chuck dashed on to the platform behind him as the lion gave chase. Near the edge of the ring Chuck saw familiar highlighted marks in shape of a large rectangle on the ground near his feet which were inside of it.

He then turned to see the lion several feet away. Chuck raised both of his hands. That was the cue. As he raised his arms, the lion launched towards Chuck as he rolled out of the way. What the animal didn’t see was an iron cage falling from above him lining up with the highlighted marks on the floor. The beast was captured. Paul glared at the bewildered clown for a moment before starting the slow clap. The entire arena joined in. Chuck took a well deserved bow.

♦♦♦

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Short Story Friday

SUSPENDED ECHOES

by Elizabeth Lemons

I rode silently in the carriage
An evil henchman at the reins
Towards escape, relief upon arrival
Fleeing abuse and tear-dried stains

Deeper into the ghostly forest
Near others, I would no longer dwell
For soon, my home would become solitude
A personal, but necessary hell

Seemingly, it felt like a repeated journey
A complete reversal of my way of life
Over hills, and vales, and forgotten trails
Closing the door on earthbound strife

My arrival day was misty and forlorn
Driving through stalagmite trees without leaves
Decaying on the autumn ground beneath weeping limbs
Curled dying oak and maple with moss sleeves

I felt as though I was returning
To a place where I have always been
Though I’d never walked in these woods before
Like an echo, something magnetically drew me in

Stopping the clock, this place speaks of agelessness
Suspending time, one gains all the time in the world
Making my way forward, by learning how to stand still
Sacrifice becomes all these, unfurled

Recognizing the pall of great mourning here
Arrival brought to my eyes, immediate tears
My heart wailed with overwhelming sadness
Unspoken sorrow I’d hidden away for years

Through veil and premonition’s myst
The hangman’s card reveals waters clear
Insight known by gypsy gift
Revelation scryed by ancient seer

Intuition arrives and parts the filmy lace
It calls this inconsolable place our home
It is a gateway which exists for those of us
Forgotten, afraid and left alone

I’m the Keeper, the Watcher, the One who Waits
Countless souls seem drawn to me
For they walk these hills, never really escape
Without exit, repeating eternity

Voices whisper, and moving shadows near the Willow
Require healing, clearly seen as I see you
White images, dark figures gather on this hillside
Stand with non-living wounded, I enjoy the same view

Late at night, near the woods I can often hear
Wheels of a turning carriage, as it comes down the road
Bringing more lost souls and broken hearts
To dwell in this forsaken abode

Delusion descends upon arrival
Entombed inside the deep wounded woods of iniquity
Loss promises a quiet tomorrow
Embracing this repetitious portal of necessity

~~~~~~~ * ~~~~~~~~ * ~~~~~~~

 

HER BLEEDING HEART

 

a poem and short story by Elizabeth Lemons

 

As the night-black carriage winged its way around the curving gravel road, Madeleine was immersed in a moldy, damp leaf smell, it was earthy and mossy. A slight chill wove its way through the half-light hills, through the “holler” where two hills surrounded the road, and the sun was just a couple of hours away from setting behind the trees. The trees were not welcoming; they were tall, looming and a bit foreboding. It felt as if eerie eyes were peering at Madeleine as she drove by in the rolling carriage with an evil henchman at the reins. They were unseen, these eyes, well-hidden behind the dark pallor of fallen limbs and piles of colorful but beginning-to-rot Autumn leaves. There was a sense of oppressive loss in this place. Madeleine shivered, feeling as if she was being led to her own death, that nothing good at all could possibly come from being drawn to a county work farm. It made her want to cry.

Madeleine McBride glanced down at her young thin hands, fraught with worry. Since she was a child, she had maintained a persistent habit of balling her fingers into tightly-made fists when she became anxious or annoyed or afraid, and right now, she was squeezing so hard, that her fingers were turning crimson blood red. Riding in the back of a somber black carriage, dark-haired Maddie leaned back into the luxurious burgundy-colored leather seating and she gazed out the window. They drove deeper and further into the Tennessee backwoods, away from the smoothly paved town streets and clusters of cheerfully painted clapboard houses and were now slowly traversing down a rocky and rough country hillside road known as Rural Route 4, with scarcely a home, barn or soul in sight. This forlorn area was remote, far, far away from the gentile southern life she had known growing up with her father, Thomas Riley McBride, for the past twenty-five years. It had broken his heart when he, a small-town doctor, had been unable to come to the aid of his own dear wife. Sadly, Madeleine’s mother, Sarah, had died very quickly and tragically with yellow fever in 1814, when Madeleine had been just 7 years old.

Years had passed, and now, her father was gone, as well. T. Riley’s life had recently been insanely cut short upon a senseless pistol duel with a foul-mouthed gambler from town named Ezra Evans. The two men had been rivals since their childhood school days. Ezra was almost always cruel and thoughtless and downright mean to everyone, while T. Riley McBride was known as being generous, kind and a good friend to all his neighbors, and so charming, even when he was being mischievous.

It seems that T. Riley and Ezra had played an “all or nothing” game of poker at the local dance hall on one fateful late summer evening, and a desperately-short-on-luck T. Riley had come up without the winning hand. Not believing that Ezra, his old school chum, (Ezra was secretly jealous of T. Riley) would hold him to their “drunken” wager shenanigans, T. Riley refused to sign the deed to relinquish his and Maddie’s lovely Southern farm and home. Consequently. Ezra had challenged T. Riley to a duel of “honour”, in which the winner would take undisputed ownership of the green rolling pastures, grand home and outbuildings.

Ezra Evans shot T. Riley so quickly that Maddie never even got to say goodbye to her father. The day had been a lovely, it was in September of 1832, on a day in which the sky was clear blue and the leaves had faintly begun to tinge golden, and the apple harvest was abundant. With the winner taking the spoils, Ezra had generously allowed Maddie just three weeks to vacate her family’s old Southern home place. Daily, she packed and sorted and gave away things to workers on the farm or to neighbors, trying to make something good out of foul circumstances, if she could.

One stormy afternoon as she was packing, Maddie was shocked to discover amongst her father’s stored-in-the-attic papers, not a death certificate of her long-gone mother, but instead, a deviously-contrived document which stated that her mother, Sarah, had been committed to an asylum for the mentally ill. Madeleine could not believe her jovial father had concocted such a blatant farce. Why had he stolen her mother from her? Madeleine had been quite young, but, even so, she remembered her mother to be gentle and kind. She had been a thoughtful and good mother, certainly not unstable!

Digging through more papers, she realized that her father had made other reckless decisions that involved their security, he was in horrific debt due to his generosity with his patients across several counties who lacked proper means for medical care, and other poor investments, and so he had been compelled to sell the 2000 acres of the good farming land that was given solely to Sarah upon her marriage to him. It would not be missed, he justified to her as he pleaded for her to sell, “we will still have another 700 acres on which to farm”. When she refused to sell her land to cover some of T. Riley’s bad debts, he diabolically plotted a way to be able to sell the property, with or without his wife’s consent. Her mother had not died of illness but had been put away, as women often were, often being deemed hysterical in those days when they challenged their husbands or felt inclined to disagree with authority, and there was no one to help her. He told authorities she had died, and that was that.

In all reality, T. Riley had had her mother committed to a County Poor House farm, basically it was a rural asylum, a forgotten residence where orphans, indigents, undiagnosed ill and insane, and in general, the county’s “unwanted” were left on their own, to muster up their own survival the best that they could off the land. As Madeleine read the description, she learned that the Poor House was where people who had no other family or money were put “aside” so that they could try to make it together instead of being alone in the world. They were expected to work in whatever capacity they could to earn their keep. The county provided land and shelter, sometimes seed, and sometimes a kind neighbor or two would gift the farm with a hog or surplus cloth, jam., vegetables, whatever they could spare. The father Maddie had loved and thought she had always admired and adored suddenly became a horrific fiend in Maddie’s mind and with this revelation, she wanted nothing more than to leave this now-empty home that she now-knew had been built and maintained upon years and years of lies.

Upon writing a letter to the County Poor House Farm overseer, Maddie made a request to be allowed to stay at the farm along with her mother for a short while, just until she and Sarah could formulate some kind of plan for what would be next in their life. She was so hurried; she did not have time to await a reply. Maddie quickly abandoned the grand abundance that filled McBride Hall, and now she had made it her only mission in life to go and find her mother’s whereabouts. She prayed that after all this time, Sarah was still alive.

How could her mother possibly be happy in a place so desolate, away from all she had ever known? One week after she had sent the letter, Maddie sighed and wrung her small hands once more. As her carriage slowed and then pulled into a well-worn barn lot, a man in worn denim overalls, all wrinkled, with dry dark skin that appeared to be dusted in soot ash, stood up from a large cloth laid flat across the ground where he was hulling some pecans. The cloth had caught a huge mound of brown shells, and a small red bucket held the bounty, fresh meaty pecans.

“You must be Miss McBride,” the tall dark-skinned man greeted, as Madeleine stepped down out of the carriage. She wore a sensible traveling outfit, a dark navy gaberdine skirt and matching waistcoat which was sturdy and would hold up to much wear. The carriage driver, an employee of Ezra Evans, who expected his horse-drawn conveyance to return to the estate just as soon as it dropped her off, tossed down a large black flower-embroidered carpet bag. Maddie glanced at the simple traveling bag and in her mind flashed all the remaining lovely antiques she would no longer enjoy. She was thankful that all the help had been compensated before she had vacated the McBride Hall, the monies taken from harvest crop dividends. There was some money left over to help Madeleine and Sarah make their future.

“Good afternoon, yes, I am Madeleine McBride, I have a paper regarding my mother’s whereabouts that I found in my father’s things, and I am hoping to speak with a woman here,” Maddie looked down at the crumpled document in her hand, “named Hannah.” She shyly smiled and looked at the looming tobacco barn with its hanging hands of tied tobacco that hung precariously from the rough-hon wooden eaves. There was an attached outside rock-wall milking parlor. (I don’t see any cows, she thought.) Maddie smiled when startled upon finding a small little girl unexpectedly surrounding her huge skirt with her tiny arms giving a huge hug. “And who might you be, sweet girl?” She asked the frail child who greeted her with a willing but timid smile. The tall man, who had been working on the nuts as the carriage had arrived, answered for her. “Why she’s little Charlotte, Miss, and I am Sugar Dog. Sugar Dog Paxton, they call me.” He picked up the little red bucket of hulled nuts and handed them over to Charlotte. “Go with her, follow her up to the Big House, and she will take you to Miz Hannah. I’m proud to have met you, ma’am,” he spoke as he knelt down to what Madeleine first perceived to be a loveless and forlorn child with big lost eyes and long snow-blonde hair. No telling what had happened for this child to end up here. She imagined she would soon be hearing all sorts of tragic stories about the people who had no one, no money and no place else to go except to come to live on this farm. “Now, you be careful, Lottie, don’t spill it. Take this batch to Miz Hannah and tell her I will bring another bucket full tonight.” “See you both at supper,” he smiled at both Madeleine and Charlotte, then, as the silent carriage driver turned about and headed back down the dreary chert road, Sugar Dog went back to his nut cracking task at hand.

Charlotte and Maddie silently walked up the road a bit from the barn lot. To the left, through a large patch of wild elderflower bushes, Queen Anne’s lace and black-eyed Susan blooms, up a rather steep hill, stood a solemn white 2-story wooden house, with a shabby balcony and 4 tall posts. It could use some fresh paint and a few repairs. Its countenance held no cheer, no one had cared much for it in years. Even the earth around the old home was scraggly and unkempt. It looked a bit decrepit and forgotten, most likely haunted.

“Dear God, it’s the The House of Doom,” Maddie thought to herself and she giggled just a bit at what drudgery was soon to become her life, and the thought of this seemed to urge Madeleine to suddenly teeter a bit towards insanity. Maybe it was just exhaustion from all the loss and shock recently. At the sound of hearing Maddie’s soft, fearful laugh, quiet little Charlotte, with her thin, long, colorless white hair, smiled an impish smile and eerily commented, not as a question but as a matter of fact, “you didn’t bring much with you.”

“No,” Maddie replied. “There was nothing left but me.”

*~~~~~~~*~~~~~~~*

“Just put your bag over there by the stairs,” Hannah said in a rather stern voice as Madeleine and Charlotte walked slowly into the kitchen of the old house. She was slicing some fresh bread with her right hand as she gestured, pointing towards the carpet bag in Maddie’s right hand. Hannah was the kind of person who got a lot done, and liked to do things her way, without any sass. “Henry, come in here and take Miz McBride’s personals up to her room.” The old kitchen was warm and something delicious bubbled away atop a big cook stove.

Madeleine should have realized just how well this old farmhouse was run by simply noting the expediency of Henry’s long legs. He immediately “hopped-to-it” when commanded by domineering Hannah. He seemed to be afraid of her. Henry had been orphaned when he was 7 years old and had lived here doing just as Miz Hannah said going on 9 years now, Charlotte whispered to Maddie. Responding immediately, he was up the stairs with the bag in just a flash and it was when she turned around that Madeleine realized Hannah was standing on just one leg. Her left side was held up by an old wooden crutch, yet the middle-aged coffee-colored woman worked about her kitchen as if it were as ordinary as rain. Hannah noticed Madeleine trying her best not to stare at her missing leg and subsequent crutch. Hannah explained, “This? This is what my rotten old man did to me. He was choppin’ wood out back, and when I came up behind him in the yard, he threw that damn hatchet at me for sumthin’ I never did. He accused me of philandering’s’, but I never did. After I crawled up in my house, with that hatchet stuck still in my leg, I grabbed his pistol and I shot him dead. Wasn’t too long after that my leg festered; gangrene set in. It sho was a terrible thing, everyone said I wouldn’t make it, but I still can do what I needs to do.”

She continued. “I reckon you will learn to like it here, most of us does. There’s a wash bowl and fresh water from the creek in your room and a clean towel,” Hannah said. “You can go up there and rest for about an hour until supper is ready, if you want. Lottie can show you up.”

“Um, thank you, Hannah. I am sure we will get along fine,” Madeleine sort of stammered. She could not believe that Hannah had not uttered the simplest of welcomes, or mentioned her mother, not even once. Hannah had just stared and stared as though she was sizing Madeleine up. Madeleine had never met anyone with a briefer introduction, someone with so few manners. At first sight, Madeleine was scared of Hannah, but she couldn’t put a finger on why just yet.

A well-built set of sturdy wooden stairs were located just out the back door, you went up on the outside of the house, though the staircase and a 6- foot wide landing were still enclosed and had a tin roof over head. “You’re lucky, you get the best room,” sweet Charlotte explained to Maddie. “this is Rachel’s old room, but she doesn’t sleep here anymore. So now, it is yours.”

“It is a very nice room, Lottie. Is it alright if I call you Lottie?” I looked around, investigating the sparsely appointed bedroom, orienting myself for really the first time since my father had been killed. “Where is Miss Rachel now?”

Lottie never told me anymore about Rachel… A little stuffed handmade rag doll with yellow yarn hair lay against one of the pillows on what was to be my old iron bed. A nine-patch quilt made from all variety of colors covered the white sheets, as I smoothed the quilt with my hand, I reached to pick up the doll.

“That’s Amy. She is mine, but you look like you need some company so she can stay with you for a bit, she will sleep with you and keep you safe,” Lottie said to me. “Put your dirty clothes here (she indicated a handmade basket that sat in the corner by the door. Annie does up all the clothes and she will check your basket for the washing on Mondays. When it’s dry, she brings it all back and leaves it in your basket.”

“Oh, well that is nice of her,” I replied. “But I can take care of my own laundry, I don’t wish to be an imposition on anyone.”

“A impo-what?” That’s her job. Miz Hannah says we all must have a job. Idle hands are the devil’s playground, Miz Hannah says. My job is to go and fetch. I take lunch down to the barn or fields for the men while they are out working. I bring things like the nuts back to the house, go get some eggs, or help Miz Hannah in the kitchen sometimes when she needs me. We all have a job. Old Annie’s is washing up dirty clothes.” Lottie dismissed me as she eased quietly out the door, shutting it behind her. I breathed in some air, determined to do the best I could with what life was now offering me, at least until I could find my mother. A roof over my head, food, and space away from the home and life that I had previously loved. I lay my head down on the pillow upstairs in that still room and instantly fell asleep. As I slept, unbeknownst to me, someone rocked in the rocking chair that sat in the corner of the small room, back and forth, keeping watch over me.

“Supperti-i-i-ime!” Lottie hollered from downstairs. My eyes immediately jolted, opening wide as I quickly tried to remember where I was. I was lying in my “new” bed, in my “new” room, here on the County Poor House Farm, I recalled through my disorientation, and my mind began to rehash my first brief moments here, when I suddenly realized there was someone there with me in my room. Sitting in a small rocking chair by the window, a beautiful, dark-haired girl with very pale skin, she was just a few years younger than my own 25. She stared right at me, her eyes seemed trouble, haunted, even. “Hello,” I said to her. “I am Maddie, I just got here a bit ago. What’s your name? Are you Rachel?” A startled look crossed her face and as I turned to put my feet onto the poplar hardwood floor, a small cry emitted from this young woman, and then, she vanished. Into thin air, she completely disappeared, leaving behind the faint scent of lavender.

Well, blame that on being somewhere unfamiliar, with losing my home so tragically less than three weeks ago, with the very fact that I was destined to live here in this destitute home, for at least a while until I could figure out a way to get back on stable financial feet, and make a home for myself and my mother. This was temporary, I wouldn’t be staying here forever. I surely was exhausted as my trance-nap had just proven, and now I had just imagined a pleasant-smelling apparition in my room…Probably because the last words I had heard before I fell asleep was Lottie mysteriously saying that Miss Rachel no longer needed my room with no clue whatsoever as to why. That HAD to be it, I wasn’t seeing things, I was just imagining them. The sweet smell of lavender must have filtered in through the open window.

I splashed a bit of cold water over my face, tried to comb my hair smooth, then I headed down the stairs to the dining area. A very long home-made bench style table filled a room, and already there were people sitting there waiting to eat. “Come on in here and find a seat,” Hannah said.

“Lawd, girl, you look like you done gone and seen a ghost! So pale! Are you alright?” Sugar Dog inquired as I made it down to the dinner table.

“She’s fine,” Hannah brusquely replied from the head of the table. “Pass some of these green beans and those good fried apples down to her”. “The girl needs to eat.” “David, you go run out to the spring house and get Madeleine some of that good moss lemonade I made”.

I slowly sat down, taking it all in. As the sliced bread made its way around the table after we all had hefty servings of fresh-grown vegetables piled on our plates, each so-called “inmate” of the County Poor House began to introduce themselves as they took their bread from a round chipped plate.

“I got your letter, child,” Hannah says. Just like that, the friendly faces gathered around the long table suddenly became silenced, they seemed distant, distracted as if they existed in some other world. They didn’t want to hear about Miss Sarah. “I can tell you some about Miss Sarah,” she continued, “but you ain’t gonna like what there is to tell”.

“I’m sorry to share with you at dinner time such fretful news, but you’re a grown woman, and well, child, the truth is that your sweet mamma was beaten and raped by an escaped convict, name was Stephen Crory, who was running and hiding up here in these woods years ago. The law and some other men caught him, hung him high in an old tree near the top lookout on Crawly Ridge. He had murdered another man, and was on the run, and had been living in a cave down by the creek. Your mother made the mistake of wandering off on her own one day, though I told her more than once not to, she was gathering some wildflowers for our table when that bastard Crory found her.”

“Did, tell me, did she die?” Maddie hesitantly inquired. She held her breath.

“Poor thing woulda been better iffn she had,” Sugar Dog spoke.

“Then, she IS alive? You’re saying she is still alive?” Maddie was incredulous at the news. “Where is she?” Maddie stood quickly beside the table, anxious to reunite with her long-lost mother.

“Now, hold on, sit back down, Miz Madeleine,” Hannah calmed her. “There is more you need to know.”

“But, I want to SEE her!” Maddie passionately insisted.

“You will, you will, child.” Hannah patted Madeleine’s soft warm hand with her icy cold one, in an attempt to console Maddie’s disappointment. “Your mamma,” she continued, “is not the lady you remember, miss. She has never really recovered from her woes. Being abandoned by your father, a fine lady such as her hidden away in these haunted dark woods with strangers. Miss Sarah was wild with despair over this tragedy, far before she was later attacked.” “Doc Wakefield (oh, he drives through about twice a year to check on us down here,” Hannah said while air tapping at her missing leg), “says all that shock and fear she endured brings the fits she suffers from today.”

“Miz Hannah says Miz Sarah’s got the Devil in her,” Lottie giggled, then shyly smiled, as she lifted up the top piece of bread, then took out from under it another slice that she deemed more suitable and laid it onto her plate, then she passed the bread on to a couple of boys who looked to be about 12.

“Hush, Lottie,” Hannah interrupted.

“I will take you to see her in the morning, Miz Madeleine,” Sugar Dog vowed.

The introductions continued. “I’m Henry, I’m 12. Me and David are twins.”
Madeleine saw great sorrow in their young faces. “Miz Hannah wants us to gather up wood for the fireplaces, kindling, and take out the ashes, and I run back and forth from the hands, to the field workers, to the house. And I have a pet fox named Wiley and …”

“Okay, that’s enough for now, Henry,” Hannah laughed. She was creepy and a bit harsh, but still, she could smile, I noted.

Next was David. “You won’t see me and Henry much, usually just at supper time, for every day we apprentice down at the blacksmith shop in the little community over the ridge.” He pointed past where the barnyard stood. I nodded an acknowledgment towards both of the twins, who, coincidentally, smelled like smoke. They had the greenest eyes, those two.

A blacksmith shop? Maddie hadn’t seen a blacksmith shop as she had driven through the nearest settlement where there was general store which also served as the post office. She also had never seen paler skin on human beings, with unruly shocks of Irish red hair. These orphaned boys both could use some time out playing in the sunshine, instead of hard hours laboring inside the smithy’s. Some heartier meals wouldn’t hurt the thin twins, either, Maddie thought.

Next, a yellow-skinned sickly woman sat at the side end, next to Hannah. She had very little food on her plate and passed on the bread. “My constitution can’t handle much food,” she told us. “I am Annie, I came here because my man died when he was cutting down trees and I didn’t have any family living near here. It’s not fancy as I suppose you are used to, but it’s alright… I couldn’t work a regular sort of job due to my constant stomach troubles, they ain’t much to do for a woman with no schooling anyway, so the county folks brought me out here. I take care of the launderin’.” When she spoke, Annie gasped each of her words out, as if each one might be her final breath. She was weak and she was at death’s door.

“It’s very nice to meet you, Annie.” If we could find some milk thistle near here or slippery elm nearby, maybe we could make a tonic from these that might help you feel better”.

“Slippery elm, is it?” Hannah muttered as she cut her eyes quickly toward Maddie. “And what do YOU know about slippery elm and milk thistle?” “You’re not a bit witchy, are you, Madeleine?”

“Oh, no! I used to spend a lot of reading an old Medical encyclopedia in my father’s library,” Maddie replied. “Father had a small pharmacy at home. I sometimes helped him as he created remedies for his patients.”

“That is very interesting, sho is,” Hannah allowed. I could see she was already formulating in her mind what my jobs would be. She didn’t like me.

On the opposite side of the rustic table sat David who had returned with a large glass of the chilled lemony moss lemonade just for me.

Sugar Dog beckoned for me to come and sit on that side of the table by him, so I did. “David, here, he is learning to be carpenter when he is not at the blacksmith’s. He likes building and wood working of all sorts. I am teaching him all that I know, which ain’t much,” Sugar Dog laughed.

“Thank you for the lemonade, David,” I greeted.

I had never dreamed that being “sentenced to the Poor House”, as it were, would be filled with so many people with no family or means or that there would be such an abundance of food on their impoverished table, but from perusing the kitchen shelves and items hanging from the ceiling, I could see that they dried what they could, canned some and thus were able to preserve all matter of edibles. A few stories were told around the table about that long day of happenings and troubles, seems the menfolk were quite worried about the lack of rain.

“We have a huge patch of pumpkins that we take and sell down by the store but if it doesn’t hurry and rain, they are gonna be puny and too dry inside!” spoke Peter who was about 80. He resembled a Gothic Father Christmas with his big old belly and long white beard and wonky glass eye. Peter sat away from the table, more comfortable in his own larger chair away from the rest with a small table beside to put his drink and plate on. “The kids count on us for their jack-o-lanterns,” he stated.

“Almost pumpkin pie time!” laughed David. Despite my utter exhaustion, my first night and first meal turned out to be mildly pleasant amidst strangers who seemed a little bit familiar by the meal’s end. And even though I felt myself warming to this makeshift spooky little backwoods family, not once did I make mention of my earlier upstairs vision. I didn’t want them to think I was crazy or something.

Night darkness descended, and everyone went their own way to their gloomy little bedrooms throughout the house. Sugar Dog kept his bedroom in the milk shed located behind the old barn and he left the table first. When Maddie questioned the remaining diners, no one seemed sure why Mr, Paxton was known as Sugar Dog. Lottie took Maddie by the hand and led her up the stairs. “Don’t be worrying none, you have the softest feather bed.” I fell asleep as soon as my head touched the pillow.

Slept came immediately. But later, in the wee still hours after midnight, Madeleine’s eyes flew open as she was jolted from sleep. A piercing scream had come from outside, she supposed it must be a wild cat, maybe a panther or bob cat.

“Come on, I will show you.” Little Charlotte had heard the terrifying noise and rushed up to Maddie’s room, in case she was frightened. She reached out once more for Maddie’s hand. After slipping on her shoes and a crocheted warm shawl, Maddie and Lottie tip-toed together down the outside stairs.

Once they stepped off the wooden landing, Lottie turned and held her pointy finger to her lips. “Shhhhh!” Striking a match, Lottie lit a metal lantern, and the two together stepped lightly down the hill, walking back towards the barn.

Eerie was the chilling, golden full moon that night, though clouds edged its light with lacy dots in the shades of darkness. An underground stream could be heard as it trickled through one side of the old barn. Inside were stalls that held 2 pigs, a work mule for the garden and haying, and an old nag of a horse that was used for the only farm buckboard wagon they owned.

“This here is Buck,” Lottie gestured towards the reddish-brown horse. “He got some new shoes today, didn’t ya, Buck? And this old mule here, this is stubborn Jack, watch out for him, he is a kicker.” She continued to whisper about the mule, but I had tuned out her tiny voice. As I had been reaching out to pet the horse, my eyes discerned an oddly shaped box against the far back wall of the barn.

“Lottie, what IS that?” Before I could finish my question, we suddenly heard a wild animal mewling from inside the box. It sounded like it had been hurt. I began to walk towards the wretched sound, but Lottie held tightly to my arm and sleeve.

Lottie wailed, “No, Maddie, don’t! We shouldn’t have come; this is a bad time! Sometimes it’s not so bad, we gotta go. I’m sorry! Sugar Dog is gonna keeel me!! We have to go, NOW!” and with this, Lottie turned and flew out of the barn, running as fast as she could back towards the big house, taking our only lantern with her. Now, with clouds passing over the moon, only the slightest light illuminated my destination, I could barely see my hands in front of my face.

I reasoned, “why would Sugar Dog keep a hurt animal in a pen without seeing to it?” I planned to give him a strong talking to first thing in the morning. This seemed inhuman to let a creature suffer so. For now, I wondered if there was anything that I could do to help the tortured animal in its misery.

As I slowly made my way nearer to the tall box, a horrific foul stench filled my nostrils, bringing the waste odors of urine or worse. I was almost right beside the large container when I spied what looked to be Lottie’s little rag doll, lying forgotten on the barn’s dirt floor, with its yellow yarn hair all mussed in the muck. Perhaps Lottie had brought it to comfort whatever hurt creature suffered inside?

I bent to retrieve the doll, intending to return it back to the box, but when I raised my body up, holding the doll, suddenly, a piece of hard metal struck a piercing blow through my unsuspecting heart. In horrific disbelief, I was stunned as my head turned up towards that wooden cage to look into wild, frenetic eyes. Dear God in heaven, they were the beautiful violet and quite dead eyes of my Mother, trapped in hell on earth in this damning cage.

I crumbled to the dirt. My poor Mother and I were at last reunited. I cried out to her one last time as I expired. I would never rescue her.

~~~~~~~~ * ~~~~~~~ * ~~~~~~~

As the Full Moon tumbled quietly behind the obsidian trees, the sun cheerfully arose on another crisp October morn. It was Sugar Dog who found my body after having his breakfast at the big house. He and Hannah had remarked over coffee how I needed the extra sleep, after my previous day’s journey when I didn’t come down and join them.

He gave a loud shout when he walked into the barn. Soon, everyone made their way down to the old tobacco barn. Possessing my new form, I had now become what my mother used to call a “haint”. I sat on the edge of the hayloft, with my ghostly feet dangling back and forth, and I watched as all the other apparitions tried to figure out what had happened in the night while they were “sleeping”. The other lifeless inmates had walked down to witness the death scene of their latest “family” member who now would remain trapped here on this land forever, just like all of them, at the County Poor House farm, hidden away for eternity in the dark, silent backwoods of Tennessee.

“I guess Maddie couldn’t wait for me to bring her down here, she must have somehow stolen her way down to the barn in the night to find her mamma.” Sugar Dog had suspicions about how Miz Madeleine had made her way down to the barn by herself and he quickly glanced over at Charlotte, but little Lottie was busy pretending to talk and giggle with Buck. “Miz Sarah must have been waiting for someone to come. Only this time, instead of harming herself as she had previously done many a time, she instead volleyed her fury at Madeleine. She must have found her weapon lying forgotten on the barn floor. Sarah had easily stabbed Maddie with one of the horseshoe nails. Its long, sharp, hand-forged shank must have fallen within her reach, too near the protective pen meant to keep her from harming herself or others, when the farrier had come to put new shoes on the horse named Buck yesterday.”

“Oh, Sarah, how lonely you must be, to murder your own daughter.” Sugar Dog shook his head in pity as he handed, from his pocket, to Sarah a biscuit he had brought from the kitchen. It had just a little bit of honey spread inside. She was sitting in lotus position inside the wooden box which had been her sanity’s undoing. Sarah reached for the fresh baked morsel being offered, took a bite, then, while rocking back and forth a little, she smiled.

~~~~~~~~ * ~~~~~~~ * ~~~~~~~

Most of this story is based on true facts and a real place. I made up the tale, but the characters are based on names and descriptions of real souls who lived and were buried here and were mostly forgotten in this southern holler. “Holler” is dialect for “hollow,” which perfectly describes the valleys between hills or mountains.

One hundred and eighty-seven years have now passed since this partly fictional story took place (we now know that our sweet Sarah was afflicted with what we now call PTSD and epilepsy, which was a disease sadly undiagnosed until the year 1929). Sarah suffered from seizures, anxiety, bit her tongue, she would fall suddenly or her limbs would jerk, she reached out to hurt others, she lost consciousness sometimes and suffered from incontinence and confusion, aka “The Devil’s in her”, as Charlotte put it. She was not crazy when she had arrived at the Poor House, but the desecration and abandonment and lack of light over the years had entirely squelched her soul. They just didn’t know what was “ailing” her in that time period. The County Poor House Farm really existed with indigent residents, orphans, the undiagnosed sick and a farm “warden” overseer up until the 1950’s.

On the land that once was the County Poor House Farm, there remains today a “white” burial ground located at the top of the Ridge above the old house where only the white folks rest, and past the barn and on up into the next field on the hill where I now reside,
the “black” cemetery is mostly consumed by overgrown brush beneath looming cedar trees. There are rocks that serve as head and foot stones there. Sugar Dog has been seen on more than one occasion as he walks by in his overalls, headed down the lane that leads to the underground spring. He is quite tall. The shabby old house where they all lived eventually burned down and cheap little shanty houses were built as replacement dwellings for the inmates.

If you sit quietly on a chilly October evening after a cold rain, you might sometime still hear the creaks and splashes of an old carriage as it makes its way down the old chert road through the holler and towards the old tobacco barn that stands in the bend down on Poor House County Farm.

THE END

 

The Weaver & Interview With Author Heather Kindt!

Happy Release Day to

The Weaver!

 

Most writers choose the endings to their stories . . . most writers are not Weavers.
Laney Holden is a freshman at Madison College whose life goes from normal to paranormal in a matter of seconds. When the antagonist in the book she’s writing shoves her down the stairs at the subway station, she learns she is a Weaver. Weavers bridge the narrow gap between fantasy and reality, bringing their words to life.

Laney soon meets William whom she also suspects is a character from her book—one she’s had a mad crush on since her pen hit the paper. But he’s in danger as her antagonist reveals a whole different ending planned for Laney’s book that involves killing William. Laney must use her writing to save the people closest to her by weaving the most difficult words she will ever write.

THE WEAVER is the first installment of The Weaver trilogy. It is an NA paranormal romance set in a small town on the north shore of Boston. It will leave you wanting more…

Read The Weaver Now!

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Getting to know Heather Kindt…

What inspired you to write your latest work?

The Weaver was the first book I wrote. I put my heart and soul into it. I had just finished my Master’s degree in Education and realized I must be a pretty good writer because I’d do really well on the projects I had due every week. At the same time, I was reading the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyers. The books had me hooked. I was up well into the night reading. I’ve since to find a book that has hooked me as much as those. She inspired me to create my own world. I wasn’t interested in writing about vampires, but about real people. I completed the Weaver in 2008.

Tell us about your latest work? What is special about it?

Like I said above, it has my heart and soul. The Weaver is about a college student named Laney Holden who loves to write about history because she’s been around antiques her whole life in her parents’ antique store. She finds out in the course of the book that her characters, the good and the bad, come out of the book and into her world. It is the first book in a trilogy that will be published through Parliament House Press. The first book introduces the reader to the world of the Weavers and starts the world building. I’m super excited about the places the trilogy takes the reader in the second two books.

How long have you been writing? Did you always know you wanted to be a writer?

When I was in sixth grade, I was asked by my teacher to be in the writer’s club. It’s funny because I still have the book we created at Derry Village School. My writing is terrible! I’m a fourth grade teacher, so I love reading my writing to my students so they can see how far I’ve come. As far as writing books, I started in 2008. In the course of two years, I wrote The Weaver and Ruby Slips and Poker Chips. I worked a little on The Watcher, the second book in the trilogy, but I didn’t get serious until I published Ruby Slips. Now, I have three more books ready for editing and to be published after The Weaver.

Tell us about your writing process. What is the journey from idea to a published piece?

When I think of an idea, I start a folder inside my writing folder on my computer. That way, if I think of things related to that idea, I can add them. Right now, I’m working on a series that I thought would be a children’s book series, but I decided to go YA/NA with it. That folder was sitting there for a while. Beyond that series, I have at least three other ideas waiting to be written.
When I start my writing, I think about who the main characters are going to be and their personalities, but these also develop over the course of the book. My husband would love for me to plot out my entire book before I write, but I don’t. Sometimes, I take a step back and ask myself, “Heather, where are you going with this?” But for the most part, I let my characters drive my story and hope they don’t lead me too far off track.
After the drafting is done, I send it to my editor and I check over it many times as well.

Where do you do your writing?

About two years ago, my husband surprised me for Christmas by renovating the office area in our house. Before, it was kind of the catch all room. Now, it is gorgeous. A year ago, he bought me one of those standing desks to put in there. The sad thing is, I’m more comfortable writing in bed, on the couch, on the back porch, and in the comfy chair in the office. I think if I wrote full time, I’d have to be more official about it.

Do you have a writing goal you want to achieve?

YES! I want to do this full time. I’m part of a Facebook group called 20 books to 50k. The inspiration I get from that group is mind blowing. I know to get to the point that some self-published authors have attained. I have to publish more books. So, right now my goal is to write, write, and write.

What helps you most when it comes to writing?

Quiet. Some authors like to listen to music, but it distracts me. Sometimes, I’ll take a personal day from work to write so I can have the house to myself all day.

What are you working on now?

Right now I am working on a YA fantasy series called The Green Door. It’s a cross between the Hunger Games and the Chronicles of Narnia. The fun part about the series is that each book is a whole different world with the common thread of the main characters interacting within that new world. The first book is complete and I’m currently working on the second book The Red Door. I’m hoping to publish in early 2020.

Who, or what inspired you to be a writer?

I wanted to write a story. I’ve always loved books … Narnia, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games. I get lost in the worlds. I wanted to do that for others—give people a world to get lost in. So, I guess you’d say that my future readers inspired me to be a writer.

How do you feel about critiques? Eh, or bring them on!

I like critiques with backbone. If you are going to give me one star, tell me why so I can get better. I had one person say that Ruby Slips had too many plot holes. That confused me, so I asked her what she meant. She said that the term was the wrong one to use. Her husband was a teacher and she couldn’t imagine a principal acting that way. Well, she hasn’t been part of my life. So, yes, critiques with backbone I will definitely take.

Which character in your book are you most like? Unlike?

I am most like Laney from The Weaver. She’s an introvert and unsure of herself around others. She’s also loyal and stands up for the people she loves. I am least like Dottie from Ruby Slips and Poker Chips, other than we’re both teachers. Unlike, Laney she’s an extrovert and not afraid to speak her mind. I could also never wear heels!

How often do you write? Do you have another job besides being a writer?

I try to write everyday. Right now it’s the summer, so I’m not teaching. I’ve been trying to write at least 1,000 words a day. During the school year, I shoot for 10,000 words every twelve or so days.

Do you plot out your entire story, or have the characters drive it?

My characters rule my stories. Once in a while to please my husband, I’ll stop and write out a few things I think might happen in the story, but if a character takes me a different direction, then that’s where I’ll go.

Which book that you have read has had the most impact on you? Why?

I have to say the Twilight series. It has had the most impact because it started my writing career. Other than that the Bible. My faith is very important to me and is the foundation for everything I do in my life.

What’s the best piece of writing advice that someone has given you?

Don’t stop writing. I think authors get discouraged when they receive rejection letters or don’t sell a lot of books. They give up. I know, because I did ten years ago. Both of my books sat on my computer for a lot of years. It was funny because I had to update them with things like cell phones. I finally entered a contest and won. My book was indie published with help. After that, I found a publisher for my other book and since that time (2017), I’ve written three more books and have another one in the works.

Do you have a favorite review of your book? Can you share why you liked it?

My favorite review said that Ruby Slips and Poker Chips is worth more than five stars, but that’s just my ego talking. I love that a lot of the reviews talk about my no-holds barred characters and how funny and twisted they can be.

What else do you like to do besides writing?

I love to travel with my family. One of our favorite places is Disney World. We’ve also been to Europe a couple of times and traveled in our car around the United States. I also love to read, hike, and play with our golden retriever puppy, Maggie.

 Who is your favorite “secondary” character to write?

In Ruby Slips and Poker Chips I enjoyed writing all the secondary characters – the witch, the scarecrow, the tin woman, and the lion. It was so much fun thinking about how their character traits could play out in real life. Out of them, I think the lion was my favorite. He literally shows up at the door with dishwashing gloves on because he’s afraid of germs—think Howie Mandel.
In the Weaver, my favorite secondary character is Missy. She reminds me a lot of my roommate in college and she’s just plain fun.

What is you most interesting writing quirk?

Hmm … I’m not sure if I have one of these. There’s a twenty-one year old avid reader in the basement who I hash out ideas with. We’ll sit and talk for an hour or so about where the books might go. He REALLY wanted me to kill off a character, and it may or may not happen.

What common pitfalls trip up aspiring writers?

Don’t go cheap on your cover. Make sure it is genre specific and eye-catching at thumbnail view. Hire an editor. If you are not publishing traditionally, make sure you have multiple eyes on your manuscript. You can’t catch everything, and you might glance over things since you know the story so well. Keep growing. You are never an expert. I’ve learned this in teaching, if you’re not growing, you’re stagnant.

What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading a fiction book called The Fall of Lilith by Vashti Quiroz Vega. It’s about the angels Lilith and Lucifer and their fall from grace. I’m also reading Write to Market by Chris Fox. Even though I love weaving tales, I’m not the best at marketing them to others. It’s an area I’m trying to improve.

Find and Follow Heather Kindt!

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Website/blog: www.heatherkindt.com

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Heather Kindt grew up in Derry, New Hampshire, but now resides in the mountains of Colorado with her husband and two children. She loves writing YA fantasy and humorous fiction. Her debut novel, Ruby Slips and Poker Chips, won the Dan Alatorre Word Weaver Writing Contest. The first book in her NA paranormal romance trilogy, The Weaver will be released in August. To learn more about her and the great things that are coming in her writing world, visit her website at

http://heatherkindt.com


 

 

 

Short Story Friday

The Love of Each Other’s Lives

By

Arbor Barrow

 

Rudy is literally a fish. Rudy wants people to know that because when he implies that he is a metaphorical fish, most people are confused. Rudy is a fish and lives in a saltwater tank at a fancy restaurant on the west side of a big city. He only knows this because he can see a sign outside the tank that says “Welcome to the West Side” and beyond that he can see the tall and pointy skyscrapers of a huge city. In his tank is a miniature version of the city with little cubby holes he can pop out of. Before his time in the tank the little miniature had the name of the city printed on the side, but the salt water of the tank had long since worn it away all that was left were the letters R U D and Y. His name.

Rudy is literally in love with the owner of the restaurant. Rudy wants people to know that because metaphorical love is meant for poetry and Rudy is not a poet. The restaurant owner is a man named Finny. Finny is a part time chef, part time sea captain, and full time love of Rudy’s life. Finny comes to Rudy’s tank and feeds him every morning before the restaurant opens and every evening before the nighttime rush. But most importantly of all Finny tells Rudy stories about the outside world. The last story Finny told Rudy was about the time he was thrown into the “drink” (this is a term that Rudy has come to understand as a place called the ocean which from what he can gather is a very large fish tank somewhere out there in the world) and had to swim back to shore with nothing but his wits and the clothes on his back.

Rudy was born in a tank in a pet store on some other end of the city, the only thing he remembers about the pet store is the ceiling fan above the tank clacking noisily, he doens’t remember his siblings, they all looked the same honestly, and he doesn’t really remember his parents. What he does remember is the moment Finny’s face appeared before his tank and he said to the shop owner, “I want that one.”

Rudy was in love the moment he was lifted out of the tank and his second sight of Finny literally took his breath away. Though, if Rudy was being totally honest with himself, fish can’t breathe out of water so it might have just been a coincidence.

On a particular Tuesday morning, and Rudy only knows it’s Tuesday because his tank is right next to the flip calendar the wait staff use to mark special requests from customers, Finny came with a gift at the same time he came with breakfast. Finny reached down halfway into the tank, where Rudy took great fun in swimming back and forth through Finny’s very long arm hair, and dropped something in an open space in the tank.

The little ceramic piano settled to the bottom and Rudy thought his whole world was about to change again. He loved music. The piano player at the fancy restaurant could always play the most delightful tunes and now he had one of his very own. Rudy swam a couple circles around the tiny piano.

“Oh Finny!” Rudy sang enthusiastically. “You make my world so spinny!”
Fish can’t sing, but don’t tell Rudy that.

Finny grinned down into the tank. The tattoos on his very wrinkled neck stretched happily as he smiled. “Lookie here Rudy, happy birthday! It’s been a year since I got you!”

A year? A year was like forever! Had it really been that long? Rudy desperately wanted to give Finny a hug but was again irritated that he didn’t have legs.

“Alright, Rudy. Behave yourself!” Finny said as the last bit of fish kibble floated down from the surface of the water.

Rudy didn’t know how he could possibly misbehave, he was a fish!

Other than apparently being his birthday, Rudy didn’t expect a Tuesday to be anything more than a normal day, but Rudy and Finny, and most of the city that Rudy had pulled his name from was about to get a very interesting surprise.

+++

Rudy is a small fish, a yellow tang about three inches long, so it should come as no surprise that it was small thing that changed Rudy’s life. It wasn’t the new piano, it wasn’t the little kid who found his tank halfway through the day and decided that a fun game was letting Rudy follow his finger across the surface of the glass (as fun as that was), but instead it was the arrival of a magician. Not one of those run of the mill illusionists, but an actual wand and magic word magician. The guy showed up outside the restaurant and stared at Rudy through the glass. He looked more like a hobo than a magician but when he waved his hand across the glass Rudy was captivated. The man came inside, requested a glass of water and then stood above the tank looking down at Rudy with a thoughtful look on his face. There was glitter coming off his fingers and his wand was a bent metal straw. When the maitre d’ gave the man a cup of water the magician dropped his wand into it and sucked loudly at the straw. His eyes never left Rudy and Rudy didn’t look away either.

“You’ll do,” the magician said and when his cup of water was drained he tapped the metal straw on the glass tank. It was a small event in the scheme of things, a tiny tap on the glass, a little glitter magic falling to the floor beneath his tank. But that’s all it was. The magician left, the restaurant went about its business, and when the restaurant closed for the night Rudy felt the change begin. He started to grow, and at first he didn’t notice but when he was as big as the miniature city in his tank he knew something was wrong. WHen he was so big that the tank broke under him he knew he was in trouble.

Or so he thought. Instead, he found himself on the floor, and he had HANDS. Rudy stared at the hands like they were tumors. They were tumors, fish don’t have hands!
More than that, he was breathing IN THE AIR. Rudy stood up and stared around the closed restaurant. He was as big as a human person now.

There was something wiggling at the back of his mind. An urge to walk out into the street and just destroy everything around him. But that didn’t make sense to him. He was very fond of all the sights and things around him. He didn’t want to destroy anything, especially not this restaurant. It belonged to Finny, the love of his life… FINNY! Rudy looked around the restaurant and tried to get a sense of where Finny might be. He usually only saw Finny in the restaurant but he knew Finny had a home somewhere with his wife and three children.

Rudy didn’t want to break anything more so he found a seat in the restaurant and waited. He would wait for Finny to arrive.

+++

Finny, short for Finnegan, had worked really hard to building his restaurant, his brand, and his life. And he didn’t realize just how lucky he was that a tiny fish named Rudy, his favorite yellow tang, loved him as much as anyone could. When he arrived at his restaurant to open up that Wednesday morning he was startled and shocked to find Rudy’s tank demolished and a tall yellow man sitting in a booth drawing on the back of a menu with some crayons. When the man saw him, he stood and grinned crookedly.

“Finny!” The young man yelled.

“Uh… Who’re you?”

“Rudy,” the man said.

“Rudy,” Finny said, and stared at the man. He was as yellow as his Tang, but he was a MAN. He looked between the destroyed tank and the yellow man. It was impossible. But there was no way he could have gotten in here without breaking anything and the only thing broken was Rudy’s tank.

Finny blinked a few times, then wandered to the back where the security cameras could tell him the real story. And the real story was just as the yellow man said. In the camera he could see Rudy growing and bursting open the tank and slowly transforming into a human-like creature. He turned to see that Rudy the former fish was standing behind him, naked as a jaybird.

Finny sighed and wondered what he had done to deserve this oddity. He pulled out the lost and found and retrieved a sweatshirt and an apron from the kitchen.
“Oh! Clothes! I’ve always wanted clothes! Thank you, Finny.”

“You’re welcome Rudy.” Finny helped Rudy get sort of presentable and started to clean up the mess from the broken fish tank. A shadow crossed the window outside and Finny looked up to see the old hobo from the night before staring into the restaurant. His face was a mask of anger and confusion.

Finny poked his head out of the door. “Can I help you? Do you need another glass of water?”

The man pointed past Finny at Rudy and shook. “You! Where have you been? What have you been doing all night?”

Rudy blinked and then pointed to the table where he had sat all night. “I was drawing a picture for Finny. Who are you? Where were you all night?”

The old man balked. “What… why… I am a chaos magician! You’re supposed to be wrecking chaos!”

Rudy just stared perplexed at the magician. “But that would destroy things. I don’t want to do that. Also, Finny told me to behave, I think that falls into the territory of misbehaving.”

The magician stared at Rudy incredulously. “What is wrong with you!”

Rudy frowned at the old man. “I’m a fish that is now a human person, what isn’t wrong with me?”

The old man made an angry squeak and turned on his heel. He limped down the street and shouted nonsense into the air.

Finny glanced back at Rudy and laughed. “You know, I knew I picked well when I saw you at the pet store. You are a special fish, Rudy.”

“Oh, thank you. I’m sorry about the tank.”

“It’s alright.”

“I don’t have to go back to the pet store do I?”

“No, I don’t think they have a tank big enough for you. Besides I think you deserve to be family.”

“Can we go fishing? Can I meet your family? Your kids?”

“Of course. I think they’d love you just as much as I do.”

Rudy is a literal fish. But he has the heart of a human, and the soul of someone who loves the people who love him. Things could have been different, and for another unfortunate fish in another part of the city they were. Because not a few days later, a huge, hulking puffer fish the size of a barge wrecked up the east side of the city and shouted angrily at everyone “how about I puff you up!”

 

♦The End♦

 

Find and Follow Amber Barrow

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Short Story Friday

The Gala Event of the Season

A short story by Johi Jenkins

Words: Cater waiter, Suspicious, Architecture, Money, Switch, Imagine, Yawn, Blot, Lilac, Program

 

The grand hotel ballroom is prepared. Dinner is ready. The servers have their instructions. The guests have arrived.
Someone will die.
I know this, and now you know it, too.
One person in the party knows it.
The gala has begun.

***

The cater waiter nearly trips over his own feet. The flutes filled with champagne atop the silver tray he carries sway dangerously for one second, but miraculously remain upright and not a drop spills. He stops for a minute to compose himself, with the pretense of offering his tray to a cluster of nearby guests. He’s not usually clumsy but he’s nervous today. He’s helped cater important fundraising events before, but never one like this. This is the gala event of the season. So many important people and celebrities are here tonight, and so many of them are gorgeous women. The waiter must be flawless, obliging, and ingenuous. He straightens his vest with his free hand and carries on with his job, equally nervous but confident no one saw his near stumble.

Except his boss did. The gala director shakes her head at the awkward blond waiter. Where did her hiring staff find such incompetence? If anything went wrong today her ass would be fired quicker than you could say Well fuck you I hated this fucking job anyway.

She didn’t always hate her job. Her bachelor’s degree is in Architecture, but she found her calling in event planning. She loves envisioning perfection and making it happen—part of the reason why she wanted to become an architect—but, she regrets that her talents were “discovered” somewhere along the way and she was offered a huge salary (which is still nothing compared to what these rich people make) to put together these extravagant parties. She was so delighted and proud at first, of course, but then eventually realized that she sold out. Her supposed glamorous job is just well-paid servitude, really, ultimately for the benefit of entitled assholes. Today the biggest of them all is coming. The CEO of Sarang Industries, Daniel Hoffmann. She hates that guy and his giant tech company, his gigantic money, disgusting influence, and how he pretty much gets away with whatever the hell he wants to do.

Grumbling internally, she continues her rounds, smiling and pretending. She wears the mask to the world. The mask of complaisance.

The top aide is expertly multi-tasking on her phone getting updates on the CEO’s whereabouts, reviewing his schedule for the next twenty-four hours, and confirming his daughter’s lodging situation when the event planning director approaches her. Yes, everything is going great, she affirms to the overly helpful woman. Thank you very much for your attentions. She dismisses the other woman with a polite nod and goes back to her phone to fix the CEO’s daughter’s small mishap. The daughter arrived this morning from her year-long overseas trip and her penthouse hadn’t been cleaned. But this aide was currently fixing that; she was always on top of things when it came to the CEO’s business, and often took care of his personal matters as well. She took pride in being such an important part of such an important corporation. Sarang Industries provides energy to millions, even to those who can’t afford it. For over two decades the company has been the lead in energy technology, always in the quest for fossil-fuel independence by the use of truly clean green energy. The multi-billion-dollar company often sends relief to poor economies after natural disasters. One such disaster struck her hometown when she was in high school, and she and her family saw firsthand the benevolence of Sarang. Right then she decided she wanted to work for them, and indeed she was able to join the company right after college. After a few short years her dedication shot her right into an executive assistant position to the new CEO. The aide may be biased, but she truly believes she works for the best company in the world. She smiles as she fixes the daughter’s issue in mere minutes and moves on to the next item in her endless list of tasks. The CEO is arriving soon, and she needs to be in position, ready for him.

The limo pulls up to the front of the majestic Victorian hotel and Sarang Industries CEO Dan Hoffmann frowns at the small gathering waiting outside. He was expecting a bigger reception; but then again, he was an hour late and probably all the flaky leeches had already gone inside. He puts on his billion-dollar smile and steps out of the limo. Time to give them what they craved—his presence, his attentions for a few hours. And a small speech, probably. His top aide was good at handling those. She would have the teleprompter set up and all he would have to do was read. She was quite resourceful, the young assistant. Very pretty, too, in a nerdy type of way. Too bad the world had suddenly turned to shit and a boss couldn’t just fuck his staff like he used to—someone finds out and waahh, they go all out crying harassment. A resourceful man worked his way around that, of course, but it was still an inconvenience to have to go through all that trouble—he pretty much needed a sort of dealer and all the secrecy that came with that, just to get some ass these days. Gone were the days when he could just smile at whomever he wanted and get his way with her in his office within the hour.

But on the bright side, staying out of his aide’s panties meant that he could keep her as a real aide, and she was very good at her job. She’s already waiting for him as he enters the building; she quickly approaches him to go over the details of the program. He fights the old instinct to smack her ass when she finishes; instead he smiles at her warmly as a compliment. The security men follow him into the ballroom and he’s announced with a grand flourish. The guests clap and cheer for him while he gives them his best smile and a classic presidential wave of his hand. The show has begun.

The blond waiter fixes his eyes on the super classy girl in the lilac dress clapping softly along with everyone else. He’s carrying a tray of hors d’oeuvres now, the all-time greatest appetizer dish out of the hotel’s five-star kitchen: spinach and feta mini pies. He can already imagine her smile as she would gasp in happy surprise. Oh, these are my favorite! What’s your name, so I may thank you for this wonderful treat? He would tell her, and offer to keep them coming, so that he could be by her side all night delighting her with his finger foods. His fantasy playing in front of his open eyes, he jumps in shock as his boss appears right in front of him, blocking his path.
“Where do you think you’re going with that?” she whispers furiously. “You’re going to offer those to Minerva? Did you forget she’s vegan?? Where the hell were you yesterday when we went over this? The one dish you’re not supposed to offer her? Fucking feta cheese!” She tilts her head slightly to the left and points with her eyes. “That group of suits over there will eat your fucking spanakopitas. Go!” And she all but pushes him in their direction.

Ugh, that woman was so mean. But the waiter complies, hurrying to empty his tray so he may switch to something vegan. Yes, it was his fault; he’d forgotten the instructions they’d all received last night. But he’d been high as usual during these power trips of his boss, the events director, who was always up somebody’s ass about something, always dropping F-bombs for no reason. She was a micromanager and perfectionist and nobody liked to work with those people. He thought she could use a joint to chill down. She had anger issues, dude. She needed to control those emotions or someone was going to wind up dead.

The waiter shakes his head as he enters the kitchen and is given a tray of little rose-shaped savory pastries. This time he makes sure to ask if they’re vegan, only to get a glare from one of the handlers and a condescending reminder that everything is vegan except for the spinach and feta pies. Oh, right. His boss had said that yesterday, too. Ugh. He grabs the tray and goes back out in the ballroom in search of a lilac dress.

But the girl in the lilac dress won’t be eating the rose-shaped tartlets. She has seen them being passed around and the pain has already settled again in her heart, like an old friend. Those were her mother’s favorite, and she has avoided them since her passing last year. The loss of her mother wholly changed her; not just her party food preferences but also the way she saw the world. Her mother’s husband was to blame for her death, the girl knew; now she’s distrustful and suspicious of everyone. Because if her stepfather, whom she had thought of as an honorable man, had deceived her for so many years, how could you trust anyone ever again? The memory of her mother brings wetness to her eyes. She excuses herself from the people surrounding her and retreats to find a washroom.

The gala director averts ten other possible mini crises before it’s the megalomaniac’s time to open his disgusting mouth and spew out his lies as usual. Her mortgage looms over her head each time she feels a little stabby, and she reminds herself that even though money is the root of all evil, it’s also pretty useful and she benefits from having it, so she should not lose her cool and say what’s really on her mind. Her eyes roll out of their own accord, though, as the CEO delivers a beautiful speech that makes him sound like the country’s personal savior. She has to admit that Sarang’s energy initiatives help the world in several ways, but all their charities are probably just a facade to give them the appearance of a good, generous company. She knows what’s up. She can see through the CEO’s bullshit every time he speaks without a teleprompter. Maybe Sarang had good beginnings, but what was the benefit of a good company in the hands of someone evil? The CEO finishes his speech and her trained staff work flawlessly under the cover of a standing ovation (really?? A fucking standing ovation? So many ass kissers!) to pick up the empty toasting flutes and relocate the prompter that the guy was reading off of.

Smiling to herself for yet another well-received speech entirely written by her, the top aide waits for her CEO to sit down at the head of the large table on the raised dais, before crouching quietly next to him and reminding him of the names and positions of the most important people at his table. He’s gracious as ever, and thanks her for doing her job. He always flatters her this way.

“And my daughter?”

“She’s busy with the mayor, but she should be free soon and come take her place at the table. And her home is ready.”

“Good. Tell her to come say hi to her old man. I’m more important than that fairy in that ridiculous toupee.”

“At once, sir.” The aide moves away to the last place she saw the CEO’s daughter, grateful for something to do. She didn’t like the slur the CEO called the mayor regarding his sexual preference. He often said offensive little remarks like that but she always reminded herself that he was from a different generation and he likely didn’t mean any of it in an unkind way. However, it didn’t mean that she had to like it. She looks around and spots his daughter just coming back into the ballroom, holding her hands together. She quickly approaches her.

“Ms. Hoffmann? Your father would like to speak with you. You’re sitting at his table three places down, but you may sit at his right for the moment, if you don’t wish to stand while you talk to him.”

“Lovely. Thank you, Jane.”

The CEO scowls at the dish someone placed in front of him, not even caring to try it. He’ll have to go out for steak as soon as this fundraiser is over. He has to laugh at all the idiots in here today that paid thousands of dollars for a dinner of rabbit food. But that’s what some wise aide said was needed in order to please the environmentalists. He was so tired of those tree-huggers. Again, different times. He sighs, longing for the good old days when you could run down a hippie with your excavator. His daughter slips into the seat next to his, interrupting his reverie.

“Minnie!” he exclaims. “I couldn’t believe when the aide told me you were coming. How are you, dear? You’re looking so pale. Is something wrong? Are those liberal Brits mistreating you?”

Minerva smiles lovingly and reaches out with her left hand to grab his right, turning it palm up on his lap. He feels a small sting on his wrist where her finger touches him. “I’m quite well, Father. I’m just tired from the trip. I missed you so much while I was gone. You’re the only family I have now, so I’ve decided to stay. This time for real.”
“But you won’t take your place at the Board of Directors, right? You don’t need to worry your pretty little head with family business matters.”

“Oh, that is so sweet of you. But I want to. This company means as much to me as it did to my mom and my father. Well, I mean Charles. You’re my dad.” She smiles at him to assuage his jealousy. She knows he’s in a constant battle with her real father, even though her dad has been dead for six years. “Changes are coming. I’m here to stay.”

Her stepfather smiles awkwardly, probably not sure what to make of her words. He hates change, she knows, unless it’s change for his own benefit. Well, this one is definitely not for his benefit. She watches with satisfaction as he absent-mindedly scratches at the small blot that has appeared where she touched him. It will take his life in about twenty minutes. He will go into cardiac arrest and die, and go back to the hell from whence he came. Her mother will be avenged, and she will help return her father’s company to the righteous place it used to be, not the festering cesspool of greed and malevolence that it has turned into since Dan Hoffman swept right in after deceiving and marrying her mother. Her stepfather stifles a yawn as his body begins the process of shutting down, unbeknownst to him, compliments of a deadly substance called batrachotoxin cleverly delivered by means of amazing new technology she researched this past year while abroad. She smiles and excuses herself, and takes her designated place at the table three seats down from him.

The aide approaches the CEO to check on him, because from where she stands it looks like he’s having trouble focusing on the conversation he was just having with the president of an agricultural mega corporation. Perhaps something is troubling him? He barely touched his food. Maybe he didn’t like it? Everyone else seems to be enjoying it. She’s about to ask him if he would like something else, but before she reaches him, his eyes close.

They don’t open again.

Shouts and chaos ensue in the ballroom, but the aide just stands there in shock. Her boss, dead? Wow. Her position as top aide suddenly vanished. Whoosh, just like that. But maybe she could also serve the next CEO. Maybe the next person would be someone better. Like maybe his daughter.

The gala director curses in several languages. There is just not getting over this. It would always be known that it was at her party that the Sarang CEO died. Even if it was just a heart attack and had nothing to do with the gala itself. She couldn’t live this down. Her career was ruined.

Or was it? Maybe she could sell all her shit and move back to her hometown, and exercise her creativity there. That was a cool thought. She could make her local people happy throwing the best parties for them. Go back to what really made her happy. Yes. That sounded like the best thing ever.

She looks at the body one last time and gives a tiny shrug, then retreats into the kitchens to find a bottle of champagne to celebrate her freedom.

The waiter so wanted to comfort the girl in the lilac dress as she fell to her knees next to her father, crying loudly, the pain and disbelief evident in her face. But they were worlds apart, and all he could do was watch her as his heart broke for her. She looked so lost and stricken. But as the paramedics carried the CEO’s body away, he saw her lip twitch in a weird way for a split second, and he had to do a double take. He could have sworn he had seen her smiling.

The END

 

Find and Follow Johi Jenkins

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