Character Friday – Meet Shelley Parkinson

I’m Michelle Parkinson, although my friends call me Shelley.  Until recently, I didn’t really have any friends, at least not anymore.  I had a best friend from childhood named Lori Miller.  She stayed around the longest, but in the end, I pushed her away like everyone else.  I had a good life.  You wouldn’t know it by looking at me now.  I live out of my car and am basically homeless.  It’s not that I didn’t have money.  I have quite a sum left to me from my late husband’s life insurance policy.  I used to be the woman who lived in the big, fancy house and entertained every weekend.  My hair was long and blonde (dyed).  I wore expensive clothes and makeup.  At five feet, nine inches and slender, I was attractive.  People never could get over how dark my eyes were for such a fair complexion.  I loved the attention.  At least that’s what I told myself.  I didn’t need to work because my husband, Aaron, had it all.

Everything changed in an instant in May of 2017 when Aaron died.  That’s awful, right?  Losing a spouse is bad enough as it is, but the circumstances of his death weren’t natural.  Aaron had been a successful businessmen.  We’d seemed so happy, but that all changed in an instant when the horrible truth was revealed about my husband upon his death.

Why me, Aaron?  I never really wanted all of this.  I was 33 when you died, Aaron.

Alone in my grief, I began to sit at a picnic table at the nearby rest area.  I’d drive my car there every night at 3:14 AM and stay as long as possible.  I’d drive around for a few hours, find somewhere to park and sleep.  But I forced myself to stay awake and just be at one with my suffering for hours on end.

Until people started to notice me.  First it was the janitor at the rest area — an older man named Mike Popkins.  He started sharing a cigarette with me during his breaks and just talking to me.  I mostly just listened at first.  He’d lost his wife and had a distant relationship with his only son.

Then there was Sarah Wilcox.  She was sweet, young, and pretty.  She brought me coffee.  She worked at the coffee place at the rest area and paid for a cup for me every day.  She just smiled at me and first and passed off the cup, but then she started sitting with me on her break.  Again, she did most of the talking at first.  She was just trying to figure out her life, but her wide-eyed wonder at all that life had to store brought me hope.

And finally, there was trucker Russ Jacobs.  He nearly ran me over with his truck during a snowstorm, but he was kind enough to give me shelter from the storm by inviting me into his truck.  I’d been unsettled.  He was gruff but gentle.  He said he passed through here often.  He started looking for me.  He always he had long breaks.  We started talking, sitting inside over burgers and fries. 

But few people know my full story, even Russ.  He doesn’t know how Aaron died, and I don’t know how to tell him.  Do I risk loving again or remain secluded in my grief?

That’s my unfinished story…

Shelley Parkinson is the character who the protagonists, Mike Popkins, Sarah Wilcox, and Russ Jacobs, revolve around in my unfinished story, Mile Marker 139.

Like what you’ve read?  Please subscribe to my blog, where I will post a new character bio every Friday!

Also, check out my novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, now available for only $2.99 on Amazon: Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful


Review of Finding Claire by Pamela Humphrey


Imagine waking up in the back of a van after being kidnapped with no idea who you are.  No memories.  No name.  Nothing.

You have a photo with the name “Claire” on it, perhaps the only clue to who you are — your whole identity.

You manage to escape, but you’re more lost than ever.  

This is how Finding Claire by Pamela Humphrey opens.  You can see why I couldn’t stop reading.  I had to know what would happen next.

Ms. Humphrey’s writing is thought-out and easy to read, but her descriptions of the physical surroundings and the emotions stirring inside put the reader right in the scene.  As the kidnapped woman desperately picks her way through the forest at night trying to find help, my heart was pumping with adrenaline right there with her.  With every stick that snaps underfoot and every rustle of a bush, she and I kept looking over our shoulders, expecting the kidnappers to be right on our heels.

And then a safe haven pops into view — a cozy cabin in the woods with a black cat in the window.  She knocks on the door at about 3:00 AM and meets Alex Ramirez, a guy in his thirties who’s got his own demons.  A widower for the last couple of years, Alex lost his wife tragically.  She was murdered, leaving him with a guilt that eats away his insides for not being able to save her, leaving him a shell.  His first inclination is to act as protector to this strange woman who shows up at his door.  He gives “Rainy” (his nickname for her, as she can’t yet remember her name) a place to stay.

Luckily for “Rainy,” Alex’s best friend is D.J., a cop.  The authorities are quickly notified of “Rainy” and her kidnappers, including two photos that she took with her when she escaped.  The one with the name “Claire” on it is an old picture of a mother and a little girl, with “Emma and Claire” written on the back.  The new picture is a current one of “Rainy.”  The investigation begins while Alex and “Rainy” commence doing their own search online for links to Claire.

“Rainy” soon gets her memory back, and she remembers her name is Kate.  She recalls getting kidnapped in the mall parking lot after shopping with her sister, Meg.  Meg was knocked out, and once things settle, Kate visits Meg in the hospital.  Parts of the puzzle start to fall into place as Kate talks to Meg and her husband, Tom.  Kate’s family lives in Denver, and she was just visiting San Antonio (where Meg lives).

It turns out that Kate has a knack for uncovering information on people because she’s into genealogy.  I can appreciate this quality, as I am also a genealogy fanatic, having spent most of the summer of 2011 researching my family tree.  It’s amazing what you can find online these days in regards to records on people, so Ms. Humphrey’s descriptions of Kate using the Internet for this purpose is realistic.  Ms. Humphrey’s love of genealogy shines through in this book, which is nice touch.

While Kate may have her memory back, she remains confused about why she was kidnapped in the first place and what her connection to Claire might be.  In addition to fearing for her safety because her kidnappers are still at large, she begins to have romantic feelings for Alex.  Unsure of whether he returns the feelings because it’s clear he still loves his late wife, Ellie, Kate holds back.  She wants more than a protector, as much as she appreciates Alex for everything he’s done.  She stays at his cabin with him for several days, and the tension between them grows as Alex struggles with his blossoming feelings for Kate, torn between loving another woman and the guilt over losing Ellie.

The suspense romance is written in alternating points-of-view.  One chapter is from Kate’s point-of-view, and the next is from third person.  I have read books like this before, although it’s rarely done.  One of the more recent books I read where the POV kept changing from first person between two main characters was the third book in Rebecca Donovan’s Breathing Series, Out of Breath.  I found this confusing in Donovan’s case because the first two books were only from one character’s POV, and with switching between two first person POVs, this was a bit much.  In Ms. Humphrey’s book, however, it works.  While Donovan would switch in the middle of a chapter, Ms. Humphrey sticks to whole chapters written in one point-of-view or the other.  There was never any confusion.  I found the insight into Kate’s mind important, knowing her fears, her reservations, her lapses in memory, her feelings for Alex, etc.  Knowing less about how Alex feels about Kate keeps the tension building, although it’s clear as the book moves along that he sees Kate as more than just a friend.

To say much more about the plot would give away too much, and I don’t want to spoil the book.  Let me just say that Ms. Humphrey doesn’t disappoint.  The same quality of needing to know what happens next that hooked me in the beginning continued through the whole novel and didn’t die for a second.  There is more to the kidnapping than you would imagine.

One final nice touch of this story is the letters written to Claire every year on her birthday by her mom and dad.  Claire was taken from her parents before she turned three years old.  You can feel the parents’ heartache, even though they know their daughter is alive.  Claire’s mom also shares the backstory of how Claire was born and what happened with her kidnapping. Again, I cannot say more without revealing too much.19141955_10155375087713607_1447486949_n

I highly recommend this book.  It’s the first in a series, so we have more to look forward to from Ms. Humphrey.  I, for one, am glad for that!

Buy Finding Claire here!






Why Blogging is Important for Writers

A Writer's Path

by Shelley Widhalm

Are blogs like legwarmers that are trendy and fashionable, popular in the ’80s and back in style again?

Or are they like the necessary boots and thick socks that are the staple of any wardrobe in a climate with seasons?

With more than 150 million blogs in existence, it seems like everyone should be blogging from writers to business owners to anyone who wants to get their writing to readers, customers and clients.

But are blogs here to stay, necessary for your marketing wardrobe?

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Poetry Tuesday – This Moment

Do not be so quick to wish away this moment,

For before you blink, it’s whisked away, forever,

Unfolding like all previous moments on life’s vast canvas,

Stretched tapestry seeming to move beyond horizons in all directions.

Or is the moment folded in upon inside itself,

A hidden dimension undetermined and reduced to a singularity,

Blinking out of existence —

To open in a flutter of quantum fluctuations later?

Try to hold it, but you lose it,

Bleeding away past the tightly-wadded fist,

Sand slipping fast through slits between grasping fingers.

The past becomes a blurry, faraway memory seen

From looking over time’s shoulder.

Turning back and around in this chaos,

The unthinkable future appears just as out of focus.

Yet Someone holds the Book,

Its pages written, encrypted

With every story of every moment,

And He sees the entirety of it,

Bound between covers of His creation.

This moment is every moment to I AM.


Like what you’ve read?  Please subscribe to my blog, where I will post a new poem every Tuesday!

Also, check out my novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, now available for only $2.99 on Amazon: Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful

Flash Poetry – Not So Nuts About Nuts

Another brownie has died a dishonorable death
At the mercy of the trash can
Instead of sacrificing itself to my stomach.
Rather than greet my tongue
With the smoothness of chocolate
Melting on my tongue
As I savor each morsel,
My taste buds are stabbed
With crunchiness galore.
Never put nuts in brownies.

Excerpt from Lorna versus Laura (unpublished)

When Mr. Rock Garden stepped into the flowerless place next door, for the first time, he seemed to be standing amongst tombstones.  He was the only living thing.  His back was to me as the orangey hue of dusk settled on his hunched shoulders.  I watched carefully, leaving my chair to go to the window to get a better look.  His shoulders shook erratically, and through the opening in the window, his desperate song of “They need to take me away” came with sobs.  I gasped and recoiled.  My right index finger came away from my cheek with the saltiness of a single tear on it.  A single tear that would drown in Mr. Rock Garden’s torrent of tears.

I closed the curtains, feeling I had intruded on a private funeral.  While curiosity was my main culprit for watching my neighbor these past several weeks, I was beginning to wonder if I had developed some sort of unhealthy obsession with him.  What was his story?  Who was he really?  What was his name?

Character Friday – Meet Hannah Rechthart Grunner

Hello there, I’m Hannah Rechthart Grunner.  Someone thought it would be a good idea for me to write down a bit about myself, so here it is.  I don’t know how exciting my life has been, but it’s been a good life, ups and downs and all.

I was born on April 12, 1912 to Gus and Lucy Rechthart in Cleveland, Ohio.  They already had three children — my older sister, Amy, and my brothers, Erik and Harry.  Growing up, even though Amy was ten years older than me, we banded together.  My brothers were always joking around, especially Harry, mostly driving me crazy.  When Ma became pregnant years later, we were all surprised, but I was overjoyed to have a younger sister, Irma.  I was ten years old when she made her debut into the world.

Our family life kept me on my toes.  There was rarely a dull moment in the Rechthart household.  With five children, we were a noisy, rowdy bunch.  We weren’t rich, but we didn’t lack for anything.  Ma baked bread every Saturday and was the queen of her kitchen (and made sure we all knew it).  Pa was the old softie, especially toward his daughters.  He worked long, hard hours at his trucking and delivery business.

When I wasn’t being kept busy picking berries, feeding the hens, or doing some sort of chore, I was with my friends in the neighborhood.  There was a group of girls who I was the ringleader of, but sisters Louisa and Rosemary were my closest friends.  While Rosemary was a couple of years younger than us and rather shy, Louisa was my age and outspoken.  We argued often, but we had each other’s backs.  I’ll never forget all the times we girls spied on the boys as they skinny-dipped!  I also pulled the fire alarm in the school when I was in eighth grade — something I would never dreamed of doing if it hadn’t been for Louisa!

Hannah Rechthart Grunner – main character

I guess you could say that I was the “good girl.”  I worked hard, got good grades, and rarely got into trouble.  My dark blonde hair and hazel eyes may have matched Amy’s, but I never had her confidence around boys.  When I was out of high school, that was the first time I began dating seriously.  I worked as a secretary and met a young woman named Kat.  Kat was a few years older than me and introduced me to her brother, Will.  Harry and I had actually grown quite close in the past few years leading up to the end of high school for me, and I told Kat about my crazy brother.  We were double dating for several months, but those times were short-lived.  Harry, who always knew how to have a good time, had too much of a good time and developed an alcohol problem.  

Worse than that, his alcoholism landed him in jail because something really, really terrible happened.  I hate to even mention it, but years later, he was out of prison and came back to the family.  

I have since married a wonderful man who I met at work — Edward Grunner.  We have a family of our own with three children, but I’ll never forget where I came from.  My parents and siblings are always in my heart.

And how could I forget to mention what else is part of me?  Music — or, more specifically, playing the piano and organ.  I began piano at age seven and haven’t stopped.  I played the organ at church for years until my children were born.  Maybe one of my kids will inherit my love of music.

As for now, I can rest happy in knowing that my family, my faith, and my music will keep me going until God deems it time for my earthly life to end.

Hannah is the protagonist in my novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful. 

Like what you’ve read?  Please subscribe to my blog, where I will post a new character bio every Friday!

Also, check out my novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, now available for only $2.99 on Amazon: Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful