Excerpt from Murder: It’s All in Your Head (WIP)

Matilda stared back for a while. The clock on the wall to their right ticked away the seconds. The murmur of the few other customers who occupied the teahouse faded into the background.

Finally, Matilda giggled, withdrawing her gaze. “I’m sorry. It’s so odd, but it feels like I know you better than could be possible.”

“Trust me. I know the feeling.” Helen couldn’t believe what she was saying, but it was like the words were forming of their own volition and releasing themselves from their cages after a long captivity.

Matilda’s smile widened. “Do you believe certain people share a sort of connection? Like they were meant to meet, to become friends?”

“I believe there are a lot of things we don’t understand or can’t explain.” Like my mind-switching ability.

“It’s like God Himself put all the pieces in place and intended it. My parents have been married for twenty-five years and have always believed they were destined for each other.”

Helen’s stomach tightened. “And what of people who don’t have such happy marriages? Does God intend for that, too?”

Matilda sighed into her cup, then met Helen’s eyes. “I wouldn’t know. I don’t presume to understand the will of God. What mortal can?”

“You sound like my father.” Disdain dripped from Helen’s words. “I’m not sure if I believe in fate. I’m not even sure if there’s a God.”

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My new novel, A Laughing Matter of Pain, is now available for pre-order here.My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for $4.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $5.99 here.

Excerpt from Murder: It’s All in Your Head (WIP)

On a late summer day, Helen walked through downtown Hurston. She sent a telegram to her aunt and uncle in Pennsylvania, updating them on her mother’s health. Her mother hadn’t been well even since coming down with a severe case of pneumonia back in the winter. She spent most of her time lying down these days, easily fatigued from her chores. Helen picked up the slack where she could, a pang shooting through her heart at seeing her mother’s decline. As much as she loathed her mother for her timidity, she was still her mother.

Just as Helen stepped out of the general store, she bumped into someone. The contact was enough to cause the other person to drop whatever she had been carrying.

“Pardon me,” Helen said, bending down to help the other woman pick up her bundle. Her fingers brushed against the other woman’s. When the other woman looked up, Helen’s heart sped up. “Oh, it’s you.”

Matilda Forkins smiled at her. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have been in such a hurry.”

Helen picked up a blackberry. “I’m sorry, too. It looks like these are ruined.”

Matilda shrugged. “It’s not a problem. There are plenty more where these came from. My parents have loads of bushes of them behind their house. I was just bringing some her to share with Mr. Horner.”

“Yes, I know.”

Matilda stopped mid-reach and furrowed her brow at Helen. “You know?”

Realizing her slip, Helen said, “I mean, I assumed that’s what you were doing with such a large bundle of berries.” She half-smiled, sweat beading along her forehead.

A man stepped up behind them and frowned at the pair.

“Um, maybe we’d better step aside and let him pass?” asked Helen.

Matilda glanced behind her and blushed, shooting to her feet. “I apologize, sir.” She stepped aside, as did Helen.

After the man passed, they pick up the rest of the berries.

“Well, thanks for your help,” Matilda said. “I suppose I ought to return home and get a new bundle if I want to get them to Mr. Horner before he closes shop for the day.” She made to leave, then stopped. “By the way, I don’t believe we’ve ever been formally introduced. I’m Matilda Forkins.” She held out her hand.

Helen shook it. “It’s nice to meet your properly, Miss Forkins. I’m Helen Hawkins.”

Matilda studied her. “You’re the minister’s daughter.”

Helen stiffened. “Yes, that is correct.”

“I’m sorry. Did I say something wrong?” Her brow furrowed.

“No, it’s nothing. I just… I’ve lived here my whole life, and I’m guessing we’re about the same age, but we never talked.”

Matilda pursed her lips, then smiled. “Say, would you like to get a cup of tea and perhaps some cakes at Ethel’s Teahouse?”

Every muscle in Helen’s body relaxed as the first true smile she’d known in a long time graced her face. “That would be lovely. Thank you.”

“Wonderful.”

LIKE WHAT YOU’VE READ?  PLEASE SUBSCRIBE TO MY BLOG, WHERE I POST AN EXCERPT EVERY SATURDAY. ALSO KEEP UP-TO-DATE WITH MY WRITING PROJECTS!

My new novel, A Laughing Matter of Pain, is now available for pre-order here.

My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for $4.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $5.99 here.

Excerpt from Mile Marker 139 (WIP)

Sarah studies Zelda’s face, the slight frown lines around her mouth and the line between her eyes that’s deeper than it should be for someone her age.  Teardrops cling to her eyelashes like dew on grass on a summer morning.  Zelda’s olive skin clashes with her reddened cheeks on a thin face cloaked by untamed curly black hair.  “You’re beautiful,” she says.  “And nothing’s the matter with you.  You’re fucking beautiful, you understand me?”

Like what you’ve read?  Please subscribe to my blog, where I post an excerpt every Saturday.

My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for only $2.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $3.99 here.

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Excerpt from Mile Marker 139 (WIP)

The concrete sidewalk is still wet.  He moves his gaze to the flat, brownish grass, then to the flowerbeds.  The mulch needs to be replenished.  The plants are mostly dormant, but then he sees it: a crocus, the tiniest flower, is smiling back.  “Here, look.”  He gently touches Shelley’s arm, then points.

“What?”  She follows his gesture.  “Oh.”  Her voice lights up like someone has turned on a light after a long time, like a child has just gotten a puppy on Christmas morning.

“Yes, oh.”  Mike chuckles.  “Beautiful, ain’t it?”  He moves his eyes away from the flower to Shelley’s face.  “Strong, resilient, keeps on keeping on.”

Shelley blinks, stares at him for several seconds.  She reaches for his age-spotted hand and takes it, squeezes it.  “Thank you.”

Like what you’ve read?  Please subscribe to my blog, where I post an excerpt every Saturday.

My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for only $2.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $3.99 here.

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Support me on Patreon!

Do you love Christmas enough to celebrate it year round?

A good and dear friend of mine has a blog entitled Yuletide Blessings, which aims to do so. Discussions and blog posts are about traditions, recipes, crafts, books, and more. Please visit the link below to read her review of a Christmas-themed novel and view the website further. My thoughts on Christmas books are also below:

I tend to read Richard Paul Evans’s annual Christmas novels. He has been pretty regular about putting one out every year for several years now. While I have read other novels centered about this time of year, his dominate my reading repertoire. I would have to say that most of his books and other Christmas novels I’ve read rely more on the timeline of Christmas. The decorations are up, the baking is happening, the shopping is going on, the parties are in full-swing, but that is the extent of the holiday backdrop. As for Christmas as a setting, the only real story I’ve read (and many times, mind you) that follows this is Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Maybe it’s because that story has survived the test of time and has become a staple in holiday history and meaning, but that whole story revolves around the deeper meaning of Christmas and keeping it in our hearts year round, so much so that it changes a man’s life. Few stories have that effect, I feel.

Visit Yuletide Blessings

The Year in Review…and Looking Forward

In 2017, I…

  • finished two manuscripts (third and fourth)
  • began working on my fifth manuscript
  • edited my second manuscript with the help of my writers group
  • published my second book
  • attended a writers conference
  • got feedback from an agent on 10 pages of my writing
  • wrote my first short story in a new genre for me: horror
  • educated myself on branding and marketing
  • began blogging weekly
  • created a weekly plan for my website of posting a poem, a blog, and an excerpt from one of my stories
  • created accounts across social media for author branding
  • followed other bloggers
  • created my author site (www.cynthiahilston.com)
  • used buffer.com for active posting on my social media sites
  • became friends with several people from my writers group
  • contributed guest posts to Writer’s Path
  • entered a few online writing contests
  • began reviewing indie author’s books on my blog
  • read 52 books

In 2018, I plan to…

  • finish my fifth manuscript in January
  • focus on marketing and branding for a while
  • promote my published books
  • edit my third manuscript
  • publish my third book
  • begin editing my fourth manuscript
  • begin writing my sixth (and possibly seventh) book
  • work on more short stories
  • enter more online contests
  • continue to actively engage on social media
  • continue to make guest posts
  • continue to find new bloggers to follow
  • continue book-blogging
  • enrich my friendship with fellow writers and authors
  • keep readingpablo (16)

Happy New Year! Here’s to a productive 2018! Thanks for your support in 2017.

Pay It Forward…A Reminder

‘Tis the season…

To be jolly?

To go into debt?

To give.

Because God first gave to us His son, Jesus.

In the midst of the craziness of shopping, stressing, overspending, and stressing some more, it’s easy to lose sight of what matters.  Whether you’re Christian or not, whatever reason you celebrate Christmas–whether religious, secular, or both–I believe that this season can bring out the very best in people.

Goodwill toward men, indeed.

I went into this holiday season trying to not overspend on gifts.  Having three young kids, it’s easy to fall into the trap of buying them things they just don’t need, especially when they’re inundated with commercials for the latest hot toys.  What five-year-old doesn’t tell their mom at least once an hour, “I want that, Mom?”

It’s a trap.

Seriously.

No joke.

I kid you not.

Kid.  Ha, I was talking about kids and wanting stuff.  Anyway, pardon my bad sense of humor.  I digress…

I fell into the same money pit this year by spending too much on my family, and I was torn between wanting to give, give, give and wanting to take some of the things back.  In the end, a mom’s desire to see her kids’ excitement on Christmas morning when it came time to open the gifts won out.

However, I am vowing to go about this insanity differently next year.  I want to donate or give to charity the same amount that I spend in gifts on my family.  That’s not an original idea, but I heard it somewhere, and it stuck with me.  I’m up for the challenge, and I’m not all talk. (Update: This was written in 2016. Now it’s 2017, and I am happy to say I lived up to this challenge of giving equally to charity what I spent on gifts.)

See, when I put my mind and heart to something, I can accomplish it.  Case in point: Almost two years ago, I sat down and said I was serious about writing an original story.  I would write at least fifteen minutes a day.  If I missed a day, okay, but I wouldn’t let more than two days pass without writing.  Ten months later, I had my first draft completed.  That was almost a year ago.  Now, I have the first draft of a second novel completed that’s currently being read and edited by a writers group at the library.  I have self-published my first novel after going through the arduous process of querying a hundred literary agents and getting many rejections, but I kept at it.  I am well into writing my third novel.  I have the first chapter written of my fourth and have an idea for a fifth. (2017 update: I have finished drafts of novels three and four.  I am well into my fifth.  I self-published novel number two.  I have ideas for six and seven.)

pablo (13)So, if I can write and be dedicated to it, I can be more generous next Christmas.  I can give more to those who really are in need and give less to my own family, who already has plenty of things.  We don’t need more stuff.

You might think, “Okay, that’s all well and good to make plans about what you’re going to do next year, but what are you doing about it right now?”

I do regularly give to charity.  I sponsor two children through Children International, but for me, that wasn’t enough this Christmas.  I became aware of a family in need.  The father had just lost his job, and having a kid to support, you can understand why I wanted to help out.  Also, this family is close to heart, so if there was something I could do to help them, it would be all the more important to me.

I didn’t have the means to personally give them much as far as money goes, so I organized a Go Fund Me campaign and rallied my friends and family for several days to give to this family.  It was a beautiful thing to see the response.  Many gave, and it’s not a matter of how much you give, but giving what you can.  In the end, I was so happy to be able to give them a sizable amount of money to help them pay their bills and put food on the table, and while I was a part of that, I cannot and do not take full credit.  So many people stepped up, and I love that.

Another friend told me about the local Elk’s Club wanting to give a large box of food and gifts to local families in need, and she thought of the family I was supporting.  Needless to say, I got in touch with the Elk’s Club, and they were so generous and kind to deliver such a box to this family. (2017 update: This family is doing well this Christmas, although her sister lost a child and doesn’t have the money to pay for much of a Christmas for her other kids because of funeral costs. Not only did the family I helped last year help this devastated family, but I was also moved to send them some gifts. There is always someone in need who you can bless.)

In the midst of all this, I have my own troubles, but to help others lifts the burden of my problems.  I firmly believe that reaching out and helping others is one of the best ways to help yourself.  Everyone benefits.  There is nothing lost, for, you see, love has no end.  It’s funny how the more love you give, the more love grows.  The more love you receive.

So, I did my little part in paying it forward.  I had no expectation of getting anything in return from those I helped, so you can imagine how moved I was to be on the receiving end of the generosity of others who felt they wished to help my family.  I never asked for it, nor expected it.

A Christmas card arrived from my church a couple of weeks ago with a hundred dollars in gift cards to a grocery store!  The card was simply signed “From your friends at church.”  I have recently expressed my heartache to some friends at church about the struggles my autistic son and my family are going through, so I can only guess that someone did this kind deed because of that.  I cannot be sure.

As if that weren’t enough, on Christmas Eve, my husband and I dressed to play Mary and Joseph and were waiting in a classroom for our entrance into the sanctuary when a friend approached me and handed me an envelope.  “It’s not really a Christmas gift,” she said, “but a couple of us from our ChristCare group (a Bible study group of sorts) wanted to help you out.”  I smiled, thanked her, and tucked the envelope in my purse.  Hours later, after the service was over, the kids were in bed, and the presents were under the tree, I opened the envelope to find three hundred dollars inside and a note that said, “For your son’s therapies.”  Tears streamed down my face for the second time this Christmas season because of the kindness of others.

So, as another year winds down, I am thankful.  It started around Thanksgiving with the extra intention of choosing kindness.  As Christmas came upon us, I made the extra effort to pay it forward in terms of generosity, just one form of kindness.  And it certainly came back around to touch me.

If you don’t believe that what goes around comes around, maybe you’ll think my story is just that–a nice little story.  To me and many others, it’s more.  Much more.  May we all go into the New Year with a sense of wanting to reach outside ourselves, and you’ll see.  It will come back to you.

Merry Christmas!

Like what you’ve read?  Please subscribe to my blog, where I post a new blog every Friday, including book reviews, which will resume in January 2018!

My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for only $2.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $3.99 here.