Friday, February 27, 2015

Four Years Old and Twenty Years in the Making

It started in Cambridge General Hospital. I was recovering from surgery. I shared the room with a lovely lady who was fighting cancer, an octogenarian with night terrors, and a woman who was more social than I could handle. I started writing the story of Marly Landers and Jase Strachan to give myself an escape.

The first draft was in very wobbly longhand. (Post surgery, remember?)

The second and third drafts were written on a Commodore Plus 4. When the Plus 4 died and I couldn't transfer the files to a dos system, I thought that was the end of that novel. Fortunately for Marly and Jase, I had friends who refused to let it die.

While I was creating the world of Carmedy and Garrett for the book that would become Deadly Legacy, they scanned, OCR'ed and consolidated El Paso Trail... which would become (one complete overhaul and two edits later) Under A Texas Star.

You should hear what I had to go through to have my daughter! ;) 


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Valentine Short from Kevin Thornton

Inheritance
by Kevin Thornton 

The bodies faced each other in the back of the alley. South-side Chicago. February. Cold.

Unless the Examiner came up with anything strange this looked very much like an old fashioned shootout, and Sergeant George Stone half expected the stiffs to be strapped with low slung holsters.

“Maybe this’ll be the end of it,” he said.

His partner, Detective Cronin, found a wallet. “Says his name's Antonio Vincenzo Gibaldi. He doesn’t look Italian, looks like regular black folk to me.”

“He’s not much Italian,” said Strong.

“You know this guy?” said Cronin.

“I know both of them. The other one is Adelard Cunin the fifth, and although both their mothers, grandmothers and likely several generations of womenfolk back were all hookers, Addie Five over here and Tony G over there come from gangster royalty. These two families have been killing each other off for nearly eighty-five years.”

“Are you serious? How come I never heard of them then?”

Strong thought for a moment. “Because they don’t look like their history. Tony G there, the far corpse, is about 27. He lived a lot longer than his Dad, Big Tony, who died at 15. They were the sixth and seventh generations to carry the name Gibaldi, either Vincenzo Antonio or the other way round. You can track them back to 1936, when Vincenzo Antonio Garibaldi the first was machine-gunned to death on the orders of Adelard Cunin the first.

Cronin still looked puzzled. “So these black guys had Italian great-umpty grandparents that nobody remembers, and every now and then a new generation tries to kill each other?”

“Exactly”, said Stone. “Except they are remembered. Back then it wasn’t always wise to use your real name.”

“Wait a minute”, said Cronin. He pulled out his smartphone and muttered as he typed. “Gibaldi, 1936, murder, Chicago.”  Then he stopped and muttered, “Holy crap.”

He turned to Stone and said, “Are you trying to tell me that this kid on the floor is the descendent of the ‘Antonio Vincenzo Gibaldi’ also known as Machine Gun Jack McGurn?”

“Got it in one kiddo,” said Stone.

“But he, he, he was killed by Bugs Moran?”

“Bugs ordered the killing, he didn’t do it himself. Bugs’ real name was Adelard Cunin, and he was French anyway, not Italian. He waited seven years to get his revenge, because Machine Gun Jack had been the hit leader of…”

“The Saint Valentine’s day massacre,” said Cronin, breathing slowly. He looked at the two blinged-out men in track pants, hoodies and Air Jordans, lying dead in their own blood. Then he tried to imagine them as their ancestors, with double-breasted suits, fedoras and tommy guns. He couldn’t. “It just doesn’t seem possible.”

“These two families have been murdering each other over a stupid Italian blood feud for nearly a century”, said Stone. “Capone ordered Machine Gun Jack to kill Bugsy Moran. Moran escaped and though he could never  get Capone he ordered McGurn killed and it took seven years. In the meantime, both of them fathered children by their black lovers and although Moran died in jail the stories did not. So they kept the feud going, the descendants. Until now. It’s all over. Today.”

“Why do you reckon that Sarge?”

“Because they both killed each other. They must have drawn and shot at the same time. It’s done now. The History of the Saint Valentine’s day massacres has finally run its course.” He turned to the coroner. “You can take them now. We’re done.”

Not ten yards away, quiet as a whisper, still in the derelict warehouse where he’d been hiding since he’d followed his Dad that morning, Little Tony G listened to everything the old cop had said. He hadn’t known what was going on and when he’d seen his Dad and the other guy face each other down like those badasses in that late night Clint Eastwood movie. He’d been scared, and then proud. Now he knew why it had happened.

He’d also recognized the other gunfighter, Addie Five, and he knew his son. They were both in sixth grade together.

But not for much longer. Wait till he caught up to Addie Six, pointed his Glock in his face, said “Happy Valentine’s day, sucker!”

And pulled the trigger.


A four time Arthur Ellis (Unhanged) Award Nominee, Kevin Thornton is a writer for the local Municipality, a columnist for the Fort McMurray Today and Your McMurray Magazine, a Director of the Crime Writers of Canada and a board Member of both the Northern Canada Collective Society for Writers and the Fort McMurray Public Library. He has never been known, willingly, to split an infinitve.

Further thoughts may be found at Theoldfortamusingfromtheoilsands.blogspot.com

A big thank you to all the participating authors. Please show your support by checking out their other Shorts and their books and stuff too, of course. ;-)

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine Short from Alison Bruce

Whine and Roses
By Alison Bruce

I shouldn’t hate Valentine’s Day, but I do.

It’s the busiest day of the year at Petal Power. Only Mother’s Day comes close to the money we  make, but is a distant second when it comes to volume of sales. It’s the roses of course. Unless their sweetheart has a particular love of tulips or daisies, roses are the go-to flower of the day.

Everyone knows that roses mean love. Red roses mean romantic love and possibly hot sex for the giver. Pink roses get the approval of the parents of the recipient, especially if she is under sixteen. They symbolize innocent love.

I pointed this out to my daughter Heather’s boyfriend, adding that white carnations mean the same thing and are a lot cheaper too. He’d have money left over to take her to dinner... as long as they stick to family restaurants. I knew my daughter had saved up to take him out to a movie. They’d have a wonderful romantic - but not too sexy - evening out. And I would be selling roses until closing and going home to an empty house.

I shouldn’t feel so sorry for myself. On the whole, I had it good. When my husband was alive, he brought home flowers from the shop every night. I had a big vase on the dining room table. What was in the vase reflected a week or more of messages. Iris for appreciation. Orange blossom for eternal love. Purple hyacinth when he was asking forgiveness or holly when he wasn’t, but he wanted to make peace.

Every day could be Valentine’s Day. Now no day was.

Yes, behind my retail smile, I was having a pity party.

“You must be tired.”

Damn! We were already past closing and I had a heavy bag waiting to be dropped off at the bank.

It was my daughter’s history teacher, Mr. Greer. Really nice man. He helped her complete grade eleven history last semester, when my daughter was laid up with mono for a month. He acted as the go-between, collecting up work from her other teachers and delivering it to the store every couple of days, and taking away the work she had completed. Time permitting, we talked about Heather’s progress, what was going on that day and traded professional trivia.

Now that Heather was back at school and had a whole new set of classes, I missed our meetings. It was meaningful adult conversation with a man that didn't require dating - something my daughter, friends and relations kept insisting I start. The idea of dating gave me the heebie-geebies.

I smiled. “The day is almost over. What can I get you? Just don’t ask for roses. We’re sold out except for pre-orders.”

“I did pre-order, but it wasn’t you I spoke to.”

I didn’t remember seeing his name, but we made up a pile of pre-orders last night. I turned to my assistant manager, Camilla. “Have we got a pre-order set aside for Angus Greer?”

She shrugged. “Doesn’t ring a bell. Maybe it was Lily.”

Lily had left early. She had a hot date with her soon to be fiancee. . . we hoped. Lily was popping the question tonight.

Camilla went and checked the walk-in fridge behind the counter. In a couple of minutes she poked her head out. “Could it be Agnes G.? Half dozen damask roses with apple blossoms and forget me nots?”

“That’s mine,” said Angus. “I just hope my reference for Medieval flower meanings is correct.”

While Camilla rang in the order, I searched my memory.

“Let’s see... damask roses are the ‘ambassador of love’.  Apple blossoms used to be a standard part of bridal bouquets because they were thought to bring good fortune.”

“And the promise of better things to come?”

I nodded. “That would work. Forget me nots are easy. You could also use rosemary for remembrance, but that might overwhelm the scent of the roses.”

“I definitely don’t want memories to overwhelm the roses.”

Angus tapped his credit card and the last sale of the day was made. Camilla gave me a hopeful look and I nodded.

“Go. I’ll lock up.”

“Can I help?” Angus asked.

I gestured at the flowers, feeling the self-pity well up again. “Don’t you have someone waiting for you?”

“No. I’m the one waiting and, if you let me help, I won’t be waiting as long.”

Copywriter, editor and graphic designer since 1992, Alison Bruce has also been a comic book store manager, small press publisher, webmaster and arithmetically challenged bookkeeper. She is the author of A Bodyguard to Remember and other novels with mystery, romance, suspense and sometimes history involved. 

You can find her here, on Facebook, Twitter (@alisonebruce), Pinterest, and working at Crime Writers of Canada as their Publications Manager.

Coming up...

February 15: Kevin Thornton

Friday, February 13, 2015

Valentine Short from Liz Lindsay

Valentine’s Chocolate
by Liz Lindsay

Julie reached for the tempting morsel on her pillow that hadn’t been there earlier. It was to be expected as standard in the famous hotel she’d found herself in. Especially on Valentine’s Day.

For a moment, just a moment, she allowed her mind to wander. A month ago she and her husband, Martin, had made the heart wrenching decision to put their beloved retriever, Mollie, to sleep. She’d had Mollie since a young girl – and her best canine friend had seen her though high school traumas, two “first loves” and her fairy tale wedding to Martin. She could bare her soul to her four footed friend like nobody else and couldn’t believe how much she still missed those all-knowing brown eyes and that thumping tail.

Martin tried, but he didn’t really understand the depth of her pain at losing Mollie. He wasn’t an animal lover to the degree of his wife. The trip to the first rate hotel downtown was his way of trying to get her mind on something else. Julie loved Martin and his concern for her touched her. She vowed she’d do her best to shake off the melancholy she’d been under since Mollie’s passing, if only for his sake.

The bathroom door opened and her handsome husband emerged. He looked at his wife and gave that crooked grin she’d always found so endearing. “Only one chocolate I see – do I have to fight you for it?” He might have only been partially kidding for his love of dark chocolate rivaled her own.

She held her hand open, with the decadent treat, towards him. “This one is definitely for you. Small reward for planning this weekend.”

He smiled at her, took the chocolate and carefully bit it in half. She grinned and reached for the rest of it.

“You know, there’s a first class chocolatier in the neighbourhood – how about we check it out tomorrow?”

Julie’s tongue delicately removed the last traces of chocolate from her lips. “I’d like that.”

His cell phone chirped and he glanced at it with an irritated look. “We can’t hide from everyone apparently.”

Julie understood his job would always be the third person in their marriage, which underscored again how much she missed Mollie. Her momentary lightness was gone and as Martin took the call, she tuned him out and climbed into bed. She overheard the words ‘meeting’ and ‘cheque or credit card’ as she retreated back into her world of sadness. Maybe tomorrow she’d feel better, maybe.

She’d almost drifted to sleep when he joined her and snuggled close. “Babe, I hope you’ve enjoyed this weekend. We need to do this more often, just get away and have time to ourselves.

“Hm-Hm..yes,” she murmured and gave into the release sleep would bring.

Six weeks later, spring was in the air and life had fallen back into its patterns. Still she struggled adjusting to life without Mollie. She missed the walks and her comforting presence. Martin was incredibly patient, but she began to fear she’d drive him away if she couldn’t snap out of it. More than once he’d carefully suggested she talk with her doctor.

Finally Friday, the end of another work week for both of them and Martin promised he’d be home on time, even hinting there might be a surprise. Julie arrived home first and began putting dinner together.
The slam of a car door announced her husband’s arrival, but she was surprised to hear the doorbell instead of his key in the lock. Opening the door she first noticed a bouquet of daisies – her favourite. Martin had an impish grin that was hard to resist.

“For me?” she asked, with an exaggerated flutter of long eye lashes. He leaned in to kiss her, but seemed to stumble. Julie pulled back with a puzzled look on her face. A colourful ribbon was wrapped tightly around his hand.

“Remember our weekend in the city a few weeks ago?”

Julie smiled and nodded.

“Um. I went shopping while we were there and had to wait until today to pick up the delivery. I hope you like it.”

Her eyes followed the bright ribbon that trailed from his hand to his feet, slack and then pulled tight. Her hands flew to her face where a smile spread from ear to ear as she beheld four small disorganized feet scrambling to find footing on the polished floor. The dark brown lab puppy’s tail wagged in a blur, picking up on Julie’s excitement.

She reached to scoop him up, her heart bursting with love for husband and joy for this precious gift.

“Does he have a name?” she finally managed to ask.

“You can rename him whatever your heart desires, babe, but his papers say “Berkshire Hill Valentine’s Chocolate”.


Liz Lindsay is one half of yet to be published author Jamie Tremain. Still working 9 – 5, this grandmother of six collaborates online with her writing partner, Pam Blance, and hopes they will be published in the near future.

Jamie Tremain Blog  http://jamietremain.blogspot.ca/
Twitter @ElizabethLinds5
http://facebook.com/liz.lindsay



Coming up...

February 14: Alison Bruce

February 15: Kevin Thornton

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Valentine Short from Morgen Bailey

Date Night
By Morgen Bailey

Date night has become a weekly tradition you look forward to. Thursdays. When others go out with the lads… the girls… it’s just you and Evelyn. Your French Fancy. You think it’s corny but she finds it funny – even after all these years.

She acts differently on a Thursday morning. More loving. Like a teenager, even. She becomes your Frisky French Fancy.

You’re a private couple and go somewhere different each time so no-one remembers you but always classy, expensive. You pay cash as if it’s going to impress but the only one who feels differently is you.

A young man with an ice bucket of individual red roses stands at the table and wishes you a Happy Valentine’s then asks if you’d like to buy a flower “for your lady”, which you gladly do, even though you’ve bought her an expensive bracelet.

You order steak, medium-well done, Evelyn has trout, and you talk about everything and nothing; your work, the children – you still have plenty to say.

Sharing a caramel roulade takes you back to your first date and you mention it. She stops smiling and you see a tear forming.

“Je suis désolé,” you say, putting down your fork, and signalling for the bill.

You pay and leave the restaurant in silence, remaining so as you walk to the car park.

You kiss her cheek and she smiles briefly.

You open her door and she says a “merci”.

You watch her drive away, back to her family, and you get in your car to return to yours.


Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a freelance writer, editor, tutor, blogger, and speaker. Like her, her blog, http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com, is consumed by all things literary. Her debut novel, several short story collections, and writer’s block workbooks are available from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and Smashwords.






Coming up...

February 13: Liz Lindsay

February 14: Alison Bruce

February 15: Kevin Thornton

 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Valentine Short from Ginger Simpson

The Moment We Met
By Ginger Simpson

Tension filled the air.  I recognized the feeling that something important was about to happen. My shoulders tensed and I kept my hands fisted in my lap.  I sat in an uncomfortable chair, my eyes wide, my heart pounding.  Why had I agreed to this?  I never was one for stress, nor did I handle it well.  I wondered if I should have stayed home.

What should I expect?  Would we get along?  Oh, I knew I was meeting someone of the male persuasion for the first time, but I had no idea about those things most people want to know: how tall he'd be, how much he'd weigh, what color hair...did he even have hair?  Images of me being swept off my feet boomeranged through my mind, and I imagined I’d have quite a story to tell.  Besides, I’d discover the answers to all those burning questions I’d be asked.

Time ticked by.  I probably could have left several times, but I really didn’t want to.  In my mind, today was a special day and I was so ready for it...at least I thought.  Before long, a nicely dressed man entered the room.  He was quite handsome, I thought, and my heart fluttered when he signaled for me to join him.

"Stand right here," he said, and moved closer to the only other woman in the room. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I followed his instructions and stood, my legs wobbly, my hands shaking.  I guess I was expected to do something since I showed up.

It didn't take long before I knew I'd made the right choice.  I was so glad I came.  The doctor turned from my daughter-in-law's side and placed my new grandson in my arms. "Here you go, grandma."

Turning pinker by the moment, the baby didn't cry, he didn't fuss, instead Spencer's gaze searched my face despite the overhead hospital light shining in his dark eyes, making them look like ebony gems.  Although they say newborns don't smile, I swear his tiny lips curled as if to say, “I'm here, and I know you'll love me so much your heart'll hurt.”

You know what?  He was right?  The minute I first saw him my love blossomed and it's grown stronger every day since that moment twelve years ago.  My Spencer! My Love!  And the fact that he’s been diagnosed with Autism just makes me love him more and I praise God for the moment I met my grandson.  That moment will always be a cherished memory.


Ginger Simpson moved to Tennessee in 2004 to be closer to her autistic grandson.  Years of listening to Thomas and Train and Barney have now passed and are replaced with tales of Karate and Spencer's experiences in school.  Ginger is now able to write while listening to more inspiring music, and although born and bred in California, she's adapted to southern hospitality, and saying ya'll.  Among her many releases, Shortcomings, is a young adult novel which delivers a message she hopes may be helpful to her grandson and other children who are different from their peers.




Coming up...

February 12: Morgen Bailey

February 13: Liz Lindsay

February 14: Alison Bruce

February 15: Kevin Thornton

 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Valentine Short from Lyn Horner

Tommy, My Furry Valentine
Edited excerpt from Six Cats In My Kitchen
By Lyn Horner

A year younger than Shadow, our black cat, this orange-striped tabby ruled our feline roost. His regal profile and haughty bearing reminded me of Rudyard Kipling’s tyrannical tiger, Shere Kahn. However, once he outgrew his rambunctious kitten stage, Tommy seldom resorted to teeth and claws to assert his authority. He ruled with a calm, don’t-you-dare-mess-with-me stare. He owned the place and everybody knew it. The rascal also owned a good size piece of my heart, and still does even from the great beyond.

As with children, when you have more than one cat you should avoid showing favoritism. Otherwise, expect trouble. A jealous cat will get back at you, perhaps by snarling and biting or by tearing up furniture and carpets. Another might mope around, giving you sad-eyed looks, making you feel like a hardhearted villain. I know from experience.

Yet, I can’t deny that Tommy was my favorite, a fact he reinforced by planting himself on my lap at every opportunity. He never cared if I was in a grumpy mood, if I was hot and sticky after working in the garden, or if I didn’t want cat hair all over my clean clothes. Pushing him away did no good; he would merely come back again and again until I relented and cuddled him a while.

Stubborn, proud, loving and handsome even in old age, Tom was my kind of cat. However, there was a time when I threatened to strangle him at least a dozen times a day. Or throw him out into the tropical Missouri City, Texas, atmosphere from whence he came.

It was my daughter who caused that adolescent ball of orange fur to hang around. Lonesome after our recent move from Illinois, she needed someone to play with. Telling her to leave the strange kitten alone was useless, and it seemed somewhat cruel. Later, when we ordered her inside, along with her brother who had gotten into the act, it was too late. That little tomcat knew a good thing when he saw it, or tasted it in this case, since the kids had been feeding him enticing tidbits. Long past nightfall he still lay under the towering pines in our front yard. Obviously, he intended to stay.

Knowing me for the pushover I am, the kids pestered me to let the kitten in the house and, predictably, I caved in. My husband muttered about more trips to the vet, more food to buy, more cat hair, but he didn’t say no. For months afterward, I wished he had.

Unable to agree on a more exalted name, we dubbed the newcomer Tommy for obvious reasons. Tommy the Terrible would have been more appropriate. From day one he tormented Shadow unmercifully, picking fights with her and chasing her from room to room until she panted like a dog. In part he was only being playful, like any young animal, but he was also establishing his territory. Even after being neutered, his domineering male instincts persisted. Poor Shadow!

We humans also felt the bite of Tommy’s presence. Flea bites, that is, a new and decidedly nasty experience. Boy, do they itch! Summoning an exterminator, we had the house fumigated while both cats – Shadow being infested by then – visited the vet for flea baths. This wouldn’t be the last time. We had only begun our endless war on Texas bugs.

* * *

Meanwhile, a year came and went. The kids made new friends at school, played soccer and grew. Tommy also grew into a long-legged, graceful adult, all the while driving us bonkers with his wild antics.

As I look back on his first few months with us it seems to me I did nothing but scold him and squirt him with water to discourage his bad behavior. Besides bullying Shadow, he reveled in knocking over my plants, climbing the drapes, and scratching the furniture. He was a hellion through and through, but he was also cute and playful, and the kids adored him.

My favorite photo of Tom at that age shows him leaping straight up in the air, attempting to catch the string of a balloon. That cat had hind legs like a jackrabbit. He could easily jump from the floor to the top of our refrigerator, and could he ever run! When he got to racing around the house like a berserk miniature cheetah, you either scooted out of his way or he’d run you over, literally.

Tom also showed more smarts than your average cat, such as when he wanted into a closed room. Propelling himself upward, he’d grab the doorknob with his front paws, simultaneously yowling for attention. Then he’d drop back, scraping his hind claws down the door, like fingernails on a blackboard. If we failed to respond, he would keep this up until we did.

The thing that still astounds me was his focus on the doorknob. I truly believe he knew that shiny round thing opened the door. A few times, when he was trying to get into one of the kids’ rooms, I saw him hang onto the knob for a moment as if hoping to turn it.

I believe Tom’s intelligence also helped the two of us make peace. One evening he pulled another crazy stunt. Scolding him had proven useless. This time I scooped him up, carried him into the master bedroom and sat him on the bed. Looking into his eyes and stroking him, I told him I loved him and wanted him to be a good boy. He stared back at me intently, ears perked, while I repeated this message over and over in a low, soothing tone.

I’m not saying Tommy understood my words, but I think he did respond to my tone. He seemed to calm down somewhat after that night and our relationship improved. Perhaps I simply accepted him as he was. One thing I’m certain of: cats know when they are loved and they are capable of great love and loyalty in return.

I love you, Tommy!

Lyn Horner resides in Fort Worth -- "Where the West Begins" -- with her husband and several beloved cats. This former fashion illustrator and art instructor loves reading, writing and gardening. She is the author of the award-winning Texas Devlins trilogy, starring three siblings who bring a glimmer of psychic magic to the Old West. 

www.amazon.com/author/lyn.horner.award-winning.books
www.facebook.com/lyn.horner.1
lynhorner.com 

Coming up...

February 11: Ginger Simpson

February 12: Morgen Bailey

February 13: Liz Lindsay

February 14: Alison Bruce

February 15: Kevin Thornton