A Man’s Choices – A Short Story

I’ve been sitting on this cement mall bench for hours, watching the people rush by. Old women carrying shopping bags, young women pushing strollers, and absentee fathers dragging weekend children to the theater. “Excuse me. Have you…?” I reached toward one after another. None glanced my way. Teens dashed back and forth, throwing popcorn at the mall-birds. They travel in packs: the teens…not the birds, thumbing cell phones. They seem unable to be separated from someone on the other end. No one looks my way. Could I be invisible?

I don’t have a cell phone, or for that matter, any friends I could call who would want to talk to me. Here I sit, alone in the midst of a bustling crowd, picking at the peeling paint on the bench. How did this happen? In another lifetime, I had things to do and places to go. In another lifetime, I breathed and ate and slept and played and did all sort of things. What happened?

Maybe I am dead. Is this what it’s like to be dead?

I remember folks saying that when you die, you go to Heaven. Heaven has streets of gold, angels glorying in God’s presence and animals. Lots of animals. There’s supposed to be music, art, nature, and love, all rolled into a package tied with a ribbon. Just pull off the ribbon, open the package, and there you are…Heaven.

If that’s all true and I’m dead, I must have missed the train to Heaven, because I’m sitting on a bench in the mall, alone, and  invisible.

My wife and I used to go to church, at least several times a year. That’s where I learned about Heaven. Yes, I used to have a wife and friends, and we even had a dog. A small spotted dog we called Spot. Go figure. My wife made a pot roast every Sunday night and Spot would dance on his back feet for a bite. Spot died a month after my wife passed away. I haven’t touched a bite of pot roast since then…

Wait. There’s a Marine in a uniform coming toward me. I’ll thank him for his service and maybe we’ll talk for a few minutes. But, what if I speak to him and he walks on by? It will just prove my suspicions that I’m really…dead. Why take the chance? Do I really want to know? He’s probably on his way somewhere important. He wouldn’t have the time for an old guy like me.

My wife always made us shake hands and thank any military person we met. Policemen and firefighters, too. It was important, she said, because they caught a lot of flak from people who took them for granted, or even verbally abused them. Couldn’t figure out why folks would do. They’re just here to help folks.

I said ‘hello’ to a teenage boy a few minutes ago, but he didn’t stop. Didn’t even turn his head. Probably too busy–probably has a girlfriend, maybe a job at McDonald’s, and for sure, a cell phone. It was in his ear. Literally, stuck to his ear, like a hearing aid. He was talking to someone. Or maybe not. Maybe he was talking to himself. I do that a lot lately, because if I speak to someone, they don’t hear a word I say. But why should they if I’m invisible…or dead.

Wife always wanted kids, but it never happened for us. Probably for the best. I never had much interest in sports, and teenage boys like sports. I wouldn’t have been a very good father to a boy. Or a girl, for that matter. What do I know about raising a girl? She probably would have run away and got into all sorts of trouble. Now, why would I think such a thing? I was married to a good woman. She would have made sure a girl child would turn out alright. Having kids would have been okay. It would be nice to think someone gave a rip if I died. If you don’t have kids, there’s nothing left on earth to  show you were ever here.

It’s nearly five o’clock. This bench is hard and cold. I’ve been here most of the afternoon. I should walk back to the bus and go home. I should go, but it’s a long way to the bus stop and my feet hurt. I walked too far this morning…all around the mall, past Macy’s, past the shoe store where I bought a pair of shoes once. Brown shoes.

My wife saw an ad in the newspaper and insisted we buy a pair. Wonder whatever happened to those shoes? Haven’t seen them for a while. Maybe they’re in the back of the closet where I used to store my golf clubs and fishing poles.

We used to take weekend trips in the motor home. I fished and usually managed to include a game of golf. But that was before my wife died. Before my world turned dark and hopeless. Before I gave away my golf clubs and fishing poles and sold my motor home. I guess that’s when I turned my back on everyone. When I stopped returning friend’s calls and stopped going to church, even several times year. I think that’s when it happened. I guess the truth is, it’s not that I’m really dead. I just chose to become invisible.

****

“What? What did you say?” There’s a man standing in front of me. He’s about my age. Has gray hair and a mustache. He nodded toward the chess tables nearby.

“I didn’t mean to startle you. I asked if you played chess. Would you like to play a game?”

I stared at my hands. “I…I used to play when I was younger. Haven’t played for years,” I mumbled. “Are you sure you want to play with me?”

“No mistake,” the man says. “I saw you were alone. But, if you’d rather not, I understand. I’ll ask someone else.” He started to turn away.

“No. No.…” I stumbled to my feet. Surprisingly, they didn’t hurt any more. “Thanks. I mean, yeah, I’d love to play.”

He reached out his hand. “Name’s Walter. What’s yours?”

We shook hands and my fingers tingled at his touch. I wouldn’t have felt that if I was dead, would I? “Mine’s Darwin. Nice to meet you.” We walked to the chess table.

He sat and opened his chessboard and dumped out the pieces. “You come here often, Darwin? My friend and I used to come every afternoon, but he moved to a nursing home across town. Sure do miss him. We spent a lot of afternoons here together.” Walter held out two chess pieces. “Black or white?”

“You choose,” I said. My heart was beating so fast, it was hard to catch my breath. The cement bench didn’t even feel cold or hard at all.

“I’ll take black,” Walter said. “How do you feel about meeting here a couple days a week?”

“That sounds nice. Maybe you’ll think I’m not as good a player as you,” I said.

Walter carefully set up the pieces. “Then, I’ll teach you. You’ll be fine. After a couple games, I like to go over to Denny’s and have a bite to eat. What do ya’ say?” He turned the chessboard so the white pieces faced me.

I felt a crushing sensation in my chest, almost painful, and wonderful, all at the same time. I’m not dead after all, and I must not be totally invisible. Maybe I just felt that way because I turned my back on all that was good in my life. Maybe when my wife died, I just gave up. I thought I had nothing more to live for. I was wrong. It’s all about the choices we make. We can choose to keep on living, or choose to become invisible.

“Your move, Darwin. Let’s see if you have game.” Walter grinned at me, like a friend.

The muscles in my jaw twitched. It was a smile. I remember that feeling, though I haven’t felt one for a long time.

The No Fly Zone – Roswell Space Ship Crash 1947

To commemorate the alleged July 8, 1947, spaceship crash on at Roswell, New Mexico, the following fictional story is presented. ******

I grew up in Roswell, New Mexico where old timers still whisper about alien crash sites and witnessing alien bodies on slabs in secret military labs.

Once the story of the alien spaceship crash on a local farm began to circulate in 1947, and tourism exploded in hopes of a UFO sighting, Dad renamed our family bakery The Alien Bakery. We specialized in decorated flying saucer cookies shaped like space ships from the movie, Cat from Outer Space and a replica of the main character, a cat named Jake. Customers get a kick out of  Dad’s sign over the door:

SHUT THE DOOR   THIS IS A NO FLY ZONE!

In the 90’s, we created a website and advertised our cookies on UFO blog sites. Tourists continued to swarm Roswell and they all stop by our bakery for our famous cookies.

Every 4th of July, Roswell holds a three-day UFO Festival that attracts thousands of tourists from around the world. Our seven employees work ten-hour shifts, cutting out cookies of spaceships, cloud shapes, and a cat cookie that looked like Jake, the cat from The Cat from Outer Space movie. Dad and I stayed up way past our bedtime last night, putting colored frosting on Jake’s collar and red-hot candies around the bottom of the spaceship cookies.

Old Man Foster, blind since childhood, has owned the newspaper stand next door for as long as I can remember. He sells papers from all over the country and souvenir copies of the Roswell Daily Record, July 8, 1947 issue announcing RAAF Captures Flying Saucer on Ranch in Roswell Region. The military debunked the story the next day, declaring it remnants of a weather balloon. To this day, die-hard UFO-ers are convinced the government covered up a crashed spaceship. Dad and Old Man Foster, both experts in astronomy, spend hours talking about the solar system. Oddly, the subject of the alleged spaceship crash seems to be off limits in their lengthy conversations.

Old Man Foster was 9 years old when the alleged space ship landed on his grandad’s ranch. Tourists have flocked to his news stand, asking questions, due to his relationship to the incident. Though glad to talk about the solar system and his belief in the probability of intelligent life in outer space, when questioned about the 1947 incident, he’d decline. No amount of bribes or persuasion could convince him to break his silence. His reluctance to discuss the matter often convinced the tourists that the UFO stories were true.

This morning, Mirabel sold cookies at the counter. Jocelyn rang up the sales. Dad and I were frosting cookies when there was a commotion outside at the news stand. We rushed out and found Old Man Foster on the sidewalk, his hair matted with blood, a brick beside his head. I called 911 and we knelt beside him.

Dad pulled Old Man Foster’s head into his lap. “What happened? Who hit you? Were you robbed?”

The old man turned toward Dad’s voice, opened his sightless eyes, and began to mumble. “Gotta tell before I die.”

Dad smoothed his hair. “You’re not going to die.”

“The day it crashed. Gramps and I… out in the field. It burst through a hole in the cloud, flames shooting out behind… Headed straight for us. Gramps pushed me down. ‘Don’t look,’ he yelled.” He shook his head and sighed. “I didn’t listen. I watched as it tumbled from the sky…. So bright! Tried to cover my eyes. A giant flash and… and… I woke up in my room… blind ever since.

“Gramps said the military took it away. They warned Gramps… ‘Don’t ever talk… or we’ll put you in jail.’ The next day… next day… they claimed it was just a weather balloon. We never told that I was blinded by the crash. I never told…” His head rolled to the side. He closed his eyes and seemed at peace, having shared his darkest secret.

“Rest now, Mr. Foster. Help is coming.” I patted his hand, shocked by the tale he shared, the event he had refused to discuss his entire life. Could it be true? He was blinded by witnessing the Roswell crash that has been denied and surrounded by secrecy all these years?

An ambulance pulled to the curb. Two men loaded Old Man Foster and roared off down the road. I hoped that his injuries were minor and he’d soon be back at his news stand.

After dinner, I called the hospital to check up on him. They said there was no record of Old Man Foster ever being admitted. In spite of numerous calls to all the hospitals in the neighboring counties, I couldn’t ever locate him. We never saw him again…

Someone said the ambulance headed toward Edwards Air Field Military Base, but no one could figure out why they would take him there? He wasn’t retired military. Did someone overhear him talking about the UFO crash in 1947? What difference would it make so many years later? Who would believe him? He was just an old man talking nonsense after getting hit in the head.

****

For other short stories (about cats) see my anthology All Things Cat.  http://tinyurl.com/y9p9htak (Amazon$2.99-ebook)

Edited Scene from Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey’s Diary

This is an excerpt from the cozy mystery, Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey’s Diary. While Kimberlee follows clues to a treasure in lost gold coins in Austria, Black Cat and Angel are home in Fern Lake when unexpected deviltry is afoot….

****

Black Cat reached the corner of the house and skidded to a stop. Who is that?

A woman wearing dark glasses and a large black hat crept through the front gate and pulled it closed behind her. She tip-toed down the sidewalk toward the house. Did she imagine she couldn’t be seen from the house? Black Cat lowered his ears. What is she up to? She’s up to no good, that’s for sure.

On the other side of the gate, the woman’s car motor rumbled, its driver side door hanging open.

Black Cat’s heart thudded. Perhaps the woman intended to steal something from the front porch. He crept forward. He would have to stop her. He could almost see the front-page headlines in tomorrow’s newspaper. Plucky Local Cat Foils Attempted Grand Larceny. Despite overwhelming odds, the plucky feline protected his master’s valuable rhododendron plant from the clutches of a 200 lb. female assailant determined to…so forth and so on… Perhaps even his picture and…

His gaze swept toward the Wisteria vines where Angel’s gold tail swished beneath the purple flowers. Angel! The portly woman sprinted up the sidewalk, leaned down, and yanked Angel out from under the bush.

Meow!

Clutching the struggling cat, Angel writhed and twisted. “Oh no, you don’t, my pet.” She turned and hurried back toward her street.

Black Cat raced across the lawn. Angel! He leaped at the woman’s arm, teeth bared. She jerked away. Having missed his target, he tumbled to the grass with a shriek. “Help! Help.”  

The woman waddled to her car, struggled to open the front gate with one hand while grappling with the thrashing cat. Once she got the door open, she flung Angel onto the passenger seat and flopped into the driver’s seat.

Not my Angel… Black Cat sprinted through the gate, leaped over the hood of the car, and scrambled around the car door.

Before she could slam the door shut, Black Cat leaped into the kidnapper’s lap. She grabbed her purse and struck at his head, knocking him sideways. His head struck the dials on the radio and he fell to the floor, momentarily stunned.

Angel huddled on the front passenger seat, her nails clinging to the vinyl seat, frozen with fright, mewing pathetically, Black Cat! Black Cat!

The cat-napper hit the gas and the car plunged down the driveway, spewing gravel. She reached the street and gunned the engine. Her tires squealed, leaving patches of rubber as she roared past the lodge and headed for the outskirts of town…

To order this e-book from Amazon… www.https://tinyurl.com/vgyp89s

 

WWII FACTS About Mrs. Odboddy’s Desperate Doings FACTS

Due to the need to feed and supply the troops during WWII, the federal government established a rationing system to conserve crucial food and supplies which required Katherine and Mrs. Odboddy to reimagine how to shop using a ration book and still cook delicious meals. The system wasn’t perfect. Whenever the government announced an item would soon be rationed, citizens stood in line in front in front of the market, with intentions of buying up as much as possible. Many folks planted a Victory garden to supplement  vegetables and fruit, and canned any overflow to use the following winter.

The rationing program involved giving a number of “points”, which came in the form of stamps printed inside a ration coupon book. These were distributed throughout the war to each person including the children.  Restricted items required a certain number of points, along with money.

Tires were rationed first, starting in January 1942, just weeks after Pearl Harbor.  Consumers could no longer buy new tires; and were required to patch or have the treads replaced on existing tires. Multiple tire issues were the result of poor quality tires and poor condition of the roads. Health care professionals, fire and police could purchase new tires, also buses, and certain delivery trucks, with specific approval.

Black market trading in everything from tires to meat plagued the nation, including the black market purchase of ration books. Rationing brought about increased black market activity because  certain foods were rationed, starting with sugar in May 1942. Coffee was restricted to one pound per adult every six weeks for a period of time, followed by meats, fats, canned fish, cheese, and canned milk.  Folks with extra ration coupons befitted by selling them on the black market. In  Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot, Mrs. Odboddy recognized the issue of stolen ration books and set about to expose the criminals involved.

In the latest Mrs. O novel, Mrs. Odboddy’s Desperate Doings, we expanded on the issue of ration books, cooking with limited supplies and relying on Victory gardens to supplement fruits and vegetables. Cuts of meat were rationed, often leaving only the internal organs to include liver, heart, neck bones and ox tail available for purchase. Below is the original recipe for Oxtail Stew,

OXTAIL STEW

Dredge three large oxtails in flour and brown with an onion in butter or shortening. Add two tablespoons of bacon grease. Toss the floured meat into the frying pan with a diced onion and brown on all sides. To a large kettle, add two cups of canned beef broth, two cups of water and two cups of canned tomatoes. Add a bay leaf, a teaspoon of salt and a dash of pepper. When the meat and onion are nicely browned, add to the kettle liquid, turn down the burner to simmer, and cook for three hours. During the last hour, add half a cup of carrots, half a cup of chopped celery, a tablespoon of parsley and six potatoes from the Victory garden. Just before ready to eat, thicken the gravy with flour or corn starch.

The stew is delicious, hearty with vegetables and fairly inexpensive and can be cooked during the day, while pursuing other activities. Mrs. Odboddy would set an oxtail stew ‘aboil, as she plotted how to expose the town’s popular thieving doctor, after seeing him steal art work from the neighbor, or in an effort to find a home for their displaced carnival tiger, Shere Khan.

All these wonderful WWII mystery adventures are available at Amazon for $3.99 ebook.

A Caregiver For a Tiger – Desperate Doings

Following is an excerpt from Mrs. Odboddy’s Desperate Doings. Agnes has received a call that Shere Khan’s caregiver, has quit. Agnes has tried unsuccessfully to date to find a permanent home for the displaced carnival tiger. What to do? What to do?

****

Agnes hung up the phone and put her hand to her throbbing forehead. She was running out of money to feed Shere Khan and still hadn’t found the tiger a permanent home. Now, her caregiver had given notice. What able-bodied man in the county would be willing to clean the tiger’s cage and feed him? The dreaded option of destroying Shere Khan returned, as the city council recommended. Only after Mr. Higgenbottom allowed the tiger’s caravan to be parked at his farm, was the city councils’ edict temporarily lifted.

Was it time to ask the Almighty for another intervention? Feeling on pretty good terms to ask for another intercession, she knelt by the side of the bed, and bowed her head.

“Lord, it’s me, Agnes Agatha Odboddy. Yes, I know you must be pretty disappointed with me most days, but I do my best, Lord, really, I do. You won’t be surprised to hear that I’m in another jam. It’s not about me this time, Lord, it’s for Shere Khan. I know you’re busy with the war in the Pacific and all, so I’ll get straight to the point. I need a caregiver for the tiger right away, and I need a permanent home for–”

Bing… Bong… The doorbell? Agnes lifted her head, and then bowed it again. “Someone’s at the door, Lord, but I’ll be right back. I’d appreciate it, Lord, if You could ponder on a solution while I’m gone. Uh…Amen!”

Agnes flung open the front door. “Oh, my stars. You! What are you doing here?” She grabbed the visitor’s arm and pulled him inside. “Was it your idea to come or did God send you?”

He shrugged. “Well, I… I guess it was mine.”

In the past, due to her inability to keep her nose out of things that didn’t concern her, Agnes often found herself in a pickle. As a result, she would get on her knees and bargain with the Lord for deliverance. Thanks to the Almighty’s benevolence, her conundrum always reached a satisfactory solution. But, never in her history of misadventures had He answered her prayer before she even finished her request and got to the ‘Amen,’

There sat Charles, the young man from Albuquerque, who risked his life last summer to help her.

“Charles, how do you feel about working with animals, like chickens and cows, … or… other animals?”

“Oh, I love animals, and I’m looking for a job. That’s why I came. What did you have in mind?” His smile brightened.

“As it happens,” Agnes said, “a friend needs a ranch hand. Um…how about cats? You okay with cats? I mean, really, really big cats…?”

*****

To purchase this Amazon e-book, go to: https://tinyurl.com/5xah4cnt  ($3.99) or contact me directly at Elaine.Faber@mindcandymysteries.com for a paperback copy. Mailed within USA for $15 – free shipping.

You can read all my books for FREE on Kindle Unlimited. See if that’s right for you.

 

Thumper Stalks a Seagull – Black Cat’s Legacy

Excerpt from Black Cat’s Legacy    http://tinyurl.com/lrvevgm

(With the help of his ancestors’ memories, Thumper has the thoughts and emotions of a human. Thumper adds plenty of humor to the plot, as he attempts to help his mistress solve mysteries and a cold case murder.)

****

Thumper stepped onto the sand, lifted a front foot, shook it, and placed it down again, picked up his left front foot, shook it and moved forward. How he hated sand between his toes, but it was a necessary evil if he wanted to walk on the beach and make nice with the tourists. Every so often between the step and shake, he would hop, and shake off any sand clinging between the toes on his back feet. Step, shake, step, hop, step, shake, hop. He traversed the short stretch of beach toward Amanda. Maybe she had a cookie in her pocket.

Kimberlee laughed until tears ran down her cheeks.

Huh! She wouldn’t think it’s so funny if sand was stuck between her toes.

Thumper took another step and stopped, his front foot in midair. Twenty feet away, a seagull swooped down and landed by a partially eaten piece of hotdog bun, half buried in the sand. Every hair on Thumper’s back stood on end. Prey!

As if in slow motion, the mighty hunter lowered his front foot. He squinched his eyes, flattened his ears and scrunched his rear into the sand. He rocked forward and back until he balanced on all four feet. Wheels whirred inside his cat brain.

Like the great and mighty Bastet, cat god of old Egypt, I am the avenging angel of death. His tail gently waved from side to side, like a serpent rising from a snake charmer’s basket, as he crunched his rear lower in the sand. He shifted his back legs from left to right, calculating wind, versus thrust, versus distance, versus velocity; X minus 3 to the velocity of 12 divided by pi-R- squared. (Perhaps the calculations are more difficult when you have six toes on each foot.) In a split second, he calculated the exact formula necessary to traverse the distance between him and the seagull. The song of his people continued in his head, as he entered a Zen-like state.

I am swift of foot. My aim is true. Prepare to die, villainous seagull. Your seconds on earth are numbered. Your thieving ways shall be your demise. I will crunch your bones and suck your marrow. My tongue cries out for the taste of dripping blood. Surely, the memories of my ancestors have prepared me for this decisive moment. Evil seagull, prepare to meet your doom.

With these last majestic thoughts, with a virtuous heart, a mighty spring and four feet spewing sand in all directions, he launched into his calculated flight path. His heart was brave, intentions noble. His aim was true as he shot across the sand.

Having spied the cat even before landing beside the hotdog bun, the seagull had apparently pre-programmed her own algebraic calibrations and was airborne a millisecond before Thumper’s ETA─a perfect WW where two webbed feet left their mark in the wet sand.

Thumper’s gaze followed the seagull across the expanse of sparkling blue water until she circled directly over his head. A blob of gray-white, toothpaste-like consistency splatted in the sand near his front foot.

Ha. You missed me.

The seagull disappeared behind a conspiratorial cloud. Thumper flicked his tail, sprang into the air, twisted and landed in his footprints and padded toward the cabins. The thing was really too skinny to bother with, anyway.

A Summary About my Published Novels

All e-book novels are $3.99 at Amazon

Black Cat’s Legacy reveals a cat with his ancestors’ memories.   When Kimberlee comes to the lake resort, she must solve her father’s cold case murder and Thumper realizes his legacy to help her solve the crime. Introducing the characters, part of this series is written from the cat’s POV.

Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer. Thumper goes with his family to Grandmother’s Texas horse ranch where they encounter wild horses, an embezzling attorney, a foreman with a secret identity, a fake children’s society, and a murder plot to do in Grandmother before she can change her will. Thumper meets his soul-mate. Together, they must prevent a murder.

Black Cat and the Accidental Angel. Thumper has lost his memory after an MVA, ends up on an emu ranch in No. CA with a female companion. “Call me Angel. I’m here to take care of your,” she says. They must help this new family resolve issues that put a child at risk. Back in Fern Lake, Kimberlee and family try to find their lost cats. Written about 75% from Thumper’s POV, he faces very ‘human issues’ of love, loss, rejection, jealousy, failure as he regains his memory and learns there are more important things than knowing your own name. A more spiritual story… there MAY be an angel!

Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey’s Diary.  While Black Cat and Angel face challenges in Fern Lake, Kimberly has found a diary with clues to a missing WWII fortune in gold coins. The clues take her to Austria where she races the clock against a stalker determined to find the gold first. 50% is told by Black Cat and 50% from Kimberlee’s POV.

All Things Cat

An anthology of 21 short stories all about cats, written by cats, and stories including a cat from every walk of life, time frame and social environment. Some excerpts from the previous published cat novels. (Amazon e-book $2.99)

Another Series set during WWII in No. California. Mrs. Odboddy adventures:

Mrs. Odboddy – Hometown Patriot. Elderly eccentric Agnes Agatha Odboddy has issues of distrust and suspicion as she fights the war from the home front, believing conspiracies and spies abound in her small town. Filled with hysterical scenes, it includes much of ‘life’ as lived by citizens during an era of rationing and deprivation during WWII. When Mrs. Roosevelt visits, Agnes’s suspicions become reality and she must prove she is, indeed, a hometown warrior. (First place Fiction Award- NCPA 2017)

Mrs. Odboddy Undercover Courier.  Asked to hand carry a ‘package’ to President Roosevelt in Washington, Mrs. O is sure NAZI spies will join her cross country train from CA to Washington, D.C. A laugh on every page guaranteed as this eccentric elderly WWI retired spy faces challenges in every state across the USA. (Third Place Cover and Design Award – NCPA 2018)

Mrs. Odboddy And Then There was a Tiger.  As the tiger of war crosses the globe, Mrs. O is challenged by the woes of a displaced carnival tiger. Carelessly, she loses the War Bond money and must redeem her good name, find the money while defeating crime. Add a bit of elderly romance and you have the recipe for humor on every page. (Second Place Gen Fiction Award – NCPA 2019)

Mrs. Odboddy’s Desperate Doings

Agnes faces agonizing challenges, as she continues to seek a permanent home for the displaced tiger. To add to her dismay, she is convinced the beloved local doctor is heading an art theft ring and is determined to expose him. The onset of mysterious headaches, hallucinations and fainting spells places a toll on all of her efforts.

The Spirit Woman of Lockleer Mountain

While the small-town reels at the announcement of an unexplained government facility to be built in their community, a mysterious woman is sighted in the woods. Is she the woman who disappeared after a recent MVA, or is she the embodiment of a Native American Spirit Woman said to appear when the town is in trouble? Strange gifts left on Judy’s doorstep further complicate the situation.

Reviewing the Rules of Writing Good Dialogue

 

Readers love to read a novel full of dialogue. Often they have no idea that, as writers, we have rules we must follow to keep the dialogue interesting. Every sentence in a novel must move the story forward. This keeps reader’s interest whether it is a fiction story, a devotional, or an article about keeping aphids off rose bushes.

Let’s pull back the curtain on an author as she creates her compelling story.

Don’t repeat the question or person’s name when giving an answer. Example:

George: “Lucy? Do you want to go to the movies with me?”

Lucy “Yes, George, I’d love to go to the movies with you.” (Sounds like the utterances of a robot.)

Readers may not even notice when a skilled writer gives an oblique reply.

George: “Do you want to go to the movies with me?”

Lucy: “It depends. What’s playing and when did you have in mind? I have a very busy social life, you know. (Aha! We’ve moved the goalpost on the story. Lucy may have another suitor.)

We don’t use conversation to impart information. (Example)

George: “So? You’ll go with me if you aren’t too busy?”

Lucy: I have a date with Tom next Saturday night. You know, Tom–my mother’s second cousin’s nephew by marriage? He’s a troubled guy, votes Democrat, but he has a charming personality.”

We don’t use meaningless chit-chat in dialogue. Every conversation should have a purpose, give a clue to something yet to come in the story, or suggest a potential conflict. Example:

George: “You’re going out with Tom? I thought he was in jail for murder.”

Lucy: “He’s out now. He was falsely accused. Now he’s receiving death threats against him or anyone associated with him.”

George: “Really, Lucy?” George raises his eyebrow. “Is it wise to date a guy like that?”

Don’t use conversation to impart lengthy bits of back story. Example:

George: “You should be dating me, not Tom. Don’t you realize that I was the one who saved your mother from a burning building that she had purposely set that night when she was despondent over her divorce, and then she learned that she was my father’s long-lost twin sister, separated at birth by their evil stepmother?”

Lucy: Gasp! “I’ve been away at college way too long. Good grief. Does that make us cousins?”

George: “Maybe kissing-cousins. So is it a date?”

Lucy: “As long as they haven’t arrested me yet for killing my college roommate, who recently died under questionable circumstances when she was smothered in her sleep.”

Review: Each sentence delivers new information.

Give oblique answers to a question.

Don’t use the person’s name in your response.

Don’t use conversation to impart lengthy back story.

Don’t repeat the question just asked. The goal is to keep the reader turning pages!

Wow! Writing a book isn’t as easy as you thought, right? I had to keep all these things straight while writing a compelling event that hooks the reader on page one, an exciting middle, and a satisfying and thrilling conclusion. But, it was easy for Mrs. Odboddy to be the prime suspect in a burglary, involved with a counterfeit ring, lose the war bond money, meet a tiger and still win at the end. Mrs. Odboddy – And Then There was a Tiger will keep the reader turning pages and looking backward to the previous Mrs. O books, or forward to Mrs. Odboddy’s Desperate Doings. Join Mrs. Odboddy on this rollicking adventure as she tackles adversity in this hysterical romp at the Newbury Harvest Fair, even as she fights the war from the home front during WWII.

A Short Short Love Story

As though carved in ivory, she stood ankle deep in the pool, peering into the murky pond. She tipped her head gracefully, the back of her long neck pale and white beneath the afternoon sun.

He stared, entranced by her beauty. He came often to the park to rest in the shade beneath the trees, to bask in the sun or visit with friends, but, never had he seen such a lovely creature as he beheld that late autumn day. Afraid to move for fear she might disappear, he stood, immobile, his gaze roaming across her soft, supple body. He gasped, realizing that he had ceased to breathe.

Each day for a week, he returned to the pond, hoping to catch a glimpse of her. Each time, his heart surged when he found her standing motionless and lovely, ankle deep in the pool. She filled his thoughts by day and his dreams at night.

Compelled to declare his love to anyone who would listen, he spoke often of her to his friends and to his mother. She tried to dissuade him from his purpose. “Forget this foolishness, my dear son. Such a union between you is not possible. The differences are too great.”

He turned a deaf ear to her wisdom, believing that one day his love might conquer their differences and that she might return his love.

Winter turned to spring. Cherry blossoms bloomed pink and white. Children laughed and robins sang. Little boys ran through the grass. The red and green triangles of kites filled the pale blue sky.

Each day he paced beside the pond, watching his beloved, but never finding the courage to speak. He felt unworthy. What had he to offer?

He sat on the grassy shore, adoring her from a distance, fearing any declaration of love might frighten her away. The afternoon sun warmed his back and its rays reflected off her snow-white head as she gazed into the pond, seemingly intent only on the unimagined thing she sought beneath the water. What so held her attention and captivated her mind?

Each day, he tried to gather his courage, determined to speak to her. Each day, he tried to tell her how much he loved her–how beautiful she was. But each day, he returned home, having never spoken a word.

Spring became summer and for a time when he came to the park, he would wait in vain. His heart would nearly burst with concern. Was she ill? Had she found another love? Where had she gone?

One late afternoon as he waited, she limped toward the pond. She was hurt! What happened? Why had he not declared his love sooner? Perhaps he could have protected her.

She paused at the water’s edge. Each beat of his heart pounded in his head. He stepped forward. He must speak! The words seized in his throat.

She moved into the pond.

At last, with a gasp, he found the courage. “Wait! My love! I must tell you what is in my heart.” She stepped further into the water, as though she could hear or understand his message.

Didn’t she care even a little? She must have noticed him, day after day, hovering on the bank, even though he was unable to speak. Couldn’t she see how he felt? Was her heart so hardened that–?

He turned at the sound of laughter on the shore. Two boys threw stones that struck the water with a plop, each one coming nearer to the place his darling waded.

As she stepped deeper into the pool, a stone struck the back of her head. She stumbled.

How dare they strike his beloved? He rose up in a rage and flew at the boys. Again and again he struck their heads, their shoulders, and their legs. They fled screaming toward their nannies, sitting nattering in the sun beside their prams parked in neat rows beside the painted benches.

He stepped into the pond. The chilled water covered his feet.

His precious stumbled toward the shore, a step, and then two, and collapsed on the grass. He rushed to her side and stood helplessly as she lay slumped on the slippery embankment. Slowly, she arose. Not a word did she speak. Not a glance in his direction.

Perhaps she was blind. Perhaps she couldn’t see how much he wanted to help her.

Then, she stumbled a few steps… and lifted gracefully into the darkening sky, and disappeared into a cloud…

He knew she would never return. Her beautiful pale body would never again stand beside the pond; never again wade into the pool and lean gracefully into the water. He lowered his head and tears trickled from his tiny black eyes.

Children ceased to laugh. The robins ceased to sing and as if the sun had followed his beloved behind the gathering clouds, a shadow passed across the grass.

Again, his mother’s words echoed through his head. “Do not return to the pond, my son. Such a union is not possible. The difference between you is too great.”

He heard a sound and looked up. She was coming back? Perhaps she loved him after all.

She swooped down, down and circled in a graceful arch over his head. Then she spread her wings, turned and flew into the setting sun.

In his heart he heard her say. “It’s not as if I didn’t care. I knew you were always there, loving me, and helping me. But, can’t you see, my dear? We can never be together. Even though our hearts are one, I am an egret and you are a crow.”

Launching a Self-Published Fiction Novel

I just finished the last chapter of my latest Mrs. Odboddy mystery/adventure, Mrs. Odboddy and the Conniving Candidate. In this novel, Agnes Odboddy is running for a seat on the Newbury City Council, vacated by the removal of a previous member, described in Mrs. Odboddy’s Desperate Doings.

The open city council seat attracts the attention of Horace Faggenbacher, owner of the Flying Red Horse gas station, a character the readers met in previous novels. Who knew that he was such a conniving, despicable person that would engage in under-handed tactics? In addition, Katherine’s old boyfriend, determined to win her back, returns with questionable tactics to rival those of Faggenbacher’s.

So what must be done before Mrs. Odboddy and the Conniving Candidate is published? At the moment, I’m involved in a deep editing process intended to catch typos, punctuation issues, story line snags, expanding certain scenes, and generally looking for anything that needs changes.

My mentor is currently reviewing the manuscript with suggestions or needed corrections. The manuscript will then go to 3-4 beta readers looking for plot issues, punctuation, or point out any suggestion they feel needs addressing.

Other types of editors are often hired at this point who make changes and offer suggestions.

As a self-published author, the necessary steps toward publication all become my responsibility. I’ll envision a general cover concept and as I prefer photographs, I’ll search Shutterstock, Fotolia and other online photo sites for one or two photos to be added to Mrs. Odboddy’s image. Once I’ve selected and purchased the rights to the images, they are sent to my mentor/editor/cover design genius who plays around with the photos until I’m satisfied with a finished cover design.

Acknowledgments, back cover blurb, character description, and dedications are assembled. The manuscript is sent to my genius who puts it in the correct format for publication. She returns a printed copy to me for a final edit where I often have her make 40-50 corrections or changes before it is sent to my publisher who uploads everything to Lightening Source. They return a Final printed version for my approval and a chance to correct any printing errors. Upon approval, the paperback books are printed and delivered to my publisher. I pick up my books and they are now available for in-person sales or for interested bookstores or libraries to purchase.

A correctly formatted e-book version is sent to Amazon where, if the moon and stars are in the correct alignment, they upload it correctly so folks can purchase the e-book novel from Amazon. (My Amazon experiences with my last two novels were less than encouraging.)

So, there is no wonder that a paperback novel costs $12-16. After many thousands of hours writing the novel, you now know what a self-published author must do to complete the process and provide you with a wonderful reading experience. I hope you’ll enjoy all my books and look forward to presenting this latest novel, perhaps next year.