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

Her mother was outside feeding the chickens and collecting eggs. She came in with a handful and set them on the table.

“Good, you’re up.”

“Good morning, Mother.” How did you sleep? Did you hear it last night? How can you sleep knowing that? She glared at her mother’s back, willing her to understand or express an ounce of sympathy.

“Yes, good morning, Helen. Now, help me with breakfast. Your father intends to be up early as well. He has several sick parishioners to visit today and then must put the finishing touches on his sermon for Sunday.”

Helen nodded and set some water to boil for coffee. She pulled some bacon out of the ice box.

When her father entered the kitchen ten minutes later, he said, “Smells wonderful.”

Helen poured his coffee as he sat, then went to the front door to retrieve the paper and placed it in front of him. He picked it up and read it, coffee in hand. He didn’t have to look at his daughter. His presence alone brought with it a darkness that even the rising sun couldn’t snuff. The gas lamp over the table burned as bright as always, but in his black garb, Pastor Hawkins was a raven, ever-watching her with his beady eyes.

Helen helped get breakfast on the table and ate mechanically. Silence hung in the humid air like a firecracker waiting to explode. An imaginary rope tightened little by little around Helen’s neck as she forced down the food. The newspaper rustled every time her father turned the page. She quivered with the page, but while her father reset his grip on the paper and stilled it, her body continued to shiver, despite the heat. Sweat dripped from the base of her hairline under her braid and pooled along her collar. Still Helen kept her mouth shut.

The newspaper crinkled as her father closed it and set it on the table. His coffee cup clunked down next. He stood, the chair squealing over the floor.

Helen twitched with every utterance.

“Well, good day to you. I’ll be back late.”

“Have a good day, William.” Her mother stood and pecked her husband’s cheek.

Helen’s father grabbed his hat and briefcase, then left through the back door. Every muscle relaxed with the shutting of that door. Helen released a long breath and slumped her shoulders.

“Whatever is the matter with you?” her mother asked as she grabbed some empty dishes off the table and took them to the sink. “You’ve barely touched your food.”

“I guess I’m not really that hungry.”

“Nonsense, Helen. You have a busy day ahead of you. You’ll need your strength. Now, you have five minutes to finish your breakfast, and after that, you’ll just have to wait until lunch.”

“Yes, Mother.” Helen raised her gaze off a half-eaten piece of bacon and met her mother’s eyes.

“You could at least sound grateful you have something to eat. Some people aren’t so fortunate. Your father works hard to provide and helps those in town who don’t have the means to pay for food. He’s a good man.”

“Who are you trying to convince?” The words were out before Helen realized what she’d said. She covered her mouth with her hands, as if that would somehow reel them back in.

The line between her mother’s eyebrows deepened. The wrinkle became more pronounced on two occasions: when her mother was knitting and when she was displeased. “Excuse me, young lady?”

Helen swallowed and gripped the edge of the table, her back rigid. “You heard me, or did you turn off your ears like you do every time he does that to me?”

Smack!

Helen didn’t cry out as her mother’s hand made contact with her cheek. The sting clung to her skin as she lifted her hand and stared at her mother with a challenge, with betrayal.

“You won’t talk about your father that way. He’s a good man, holy, doing the Good Lord’s work.”

“Only God is holy.”

“You know what I mean. Your father had to pull himself up by his bootstraps from a young age, what with being raised by those hillbillies and a father who drank and beat his children. Be glad you have a roof over your head, a meal on the table three times a day, a father with a stable job, and a mother who is willing to cover for you when you are unappreciative and lazy.”

“Cover for me? You lie to protect him all the time. You let this happen, Mother. I’m your daughter.” Helen stood as an uncommon rage fueled her. She fisted her hands at her sides.

“You will hold your tongue, young lady. You will keep your silence like a woman should. And you would do well to remember that.” Her mother raised the wooden spoon in her hand, her blue eyes flashing.

“Of course.” Helen’s fingers relaxed at her sides, and she turned, leaving the kitchen.

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

Helen rested her elbows on the surface of the desk and cradled her face in her hands as she returned her gaze to the window. Her eyelids grew heavy, and she drifted to sleep.

She was walking through the unused field on Mr. Bender’s farm just outside of town. Wildflowers grew as high as her waist as she made a path through them, skimming her hands over the tops. Her hands were a woman’s hands: long-fingered and graceful. Helen grinned as she took in the rest of her body. The curves under the blouse and skirt were a rare treasure. She imagined keeping this gift.

What if I didn’t have to wait to be grown? I could run away and not look back.

She skipped, then ran through the field, laughing. She felt her hat blow off, but didn’t mind. Let the wind claim it.

In the distance, a young man leaned against a tree on the edge of the field. He smiled when he saw her and stood, opening his arms. “Susan!”

Her heart thudded. The blood pumped through her body, and for a moment, Helen believed this was real. She was meeting her lover, maybe in secret. She pranced through the flowers, wondering if she might take off in flight. She giggled and called back his name, unsure of how she knew it expect that it felt right, like it was as much as part of her as this body. “Matthew!”

“Helen!”

She woke, withdrawing her face from her arms, which were crossed on the desk. Sweat covered his skin, drool on her cheek. She sat up and wiped at her face, frowning.

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.

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

Review of A Motherland’s Daughter, A Fatherland’s Son by Ellie Midwood

motherlandDescription: Poland, 1939. 

A country, torn by the occupation of two unlikely allies – Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. 
On the border of this newly divided territory, a young Wehrmacht Unteroffizier, Werner and a Soviet Military Interpreter, Kira meet and fall in love against all odds. 
Both forced into the military against their will, they wish for one thing only – a peaceful life together. Everything is set for Kira to defect and marry Werner… 

But the German army invades the Soviet Union, and now the two lovers are forced to fight against each other on the opposite sides of the frontline; trying to keep their humanity as more and more atrocities are committed by both armies. They have to decide if their love is stronger than the devastation surrounding them or succumb to the hate as sworn enemies should.

Partially based on true events, this novel will take you on the unforgettable journey through war-torn countries, where hope can be lost in no-man’s-land, and one will have to go to great lengths not to lose sight of it.

I have had the pleasure of reading two of Ellie Midwood’s books previously and enjoyed them thoroughly, and A Motherland’s Daughter, A Fatherland’s Son is no different. Reading one of her books is a total-immersion experience into life during World War II. Midwood’s vast knowledge of that time period is remarkable and is a big part of what gives her stories depth: the intensity of the backdrop of a horrific war. She doesn’t skimp on the details of the brutality of war, either. What she writes is gut-wrenchingly real.

The second element that gives her stories amazing depth is her characters. She develops them to such a degree that I cannot help but laugh, cry, and scream with them. In this story, we follow the lives of lovers Kira and Werner, a Russian woman and a German man who fall in love in 1939 right before Germany declares war on Russia.

The story is told in an alternating point-of-view style, where one chapter is told from Kira’s point of view and the next chapter from Werner’s. From this first-person perspective, I get into the head of the characters even more. They start out as idealistic young people, who believe in love and that they have their whole lives ahead of them to do what they wish. They will marry and be happy. The war devastates their lives, throwing them into the pile with millions of others whose lives are also being ruined by the horror of war.

Can they still come out of all this after the war is through as the same people? After seeing and performing awful deeds? After experiencing some of the worst moments of humanity and their own lives? Lovers whose countries dictate they are enemies?

Kira is enlisted as a sniper in the Red Army. Werner serves as a lieutenant in the Wehrmacht. The story follows the events of the war through its end in 1945 on the eastern front. It’s easy to look back at history and want to blame the Germans, to mark them at the bad guys, but when you realize that many of these soldiers were just young man, pretty much boys, it breaks my heart. So much loss of life for both sides, which is clearly shown in this story. So much senseless death. It’s no wonder both Kira and Werner question if they are who they were when they met, if love and hope still hold any meaning in a world shattered by such darkness.

The stakes are high, ridiculously, impossibly high. I kept turning the pages because I needed to believe that the inherent goodness in people, especially Kira and Werner, would win, that victory of the Allies during the war is one thing, but getting down to the level of person-to-person, victory of the heart matters, too. Love wins, right?

I happily give this book five stars!

Favorite quotes:

“You’re somebody’s son too. Under those uniforms, you’re all the same.” That simple Russian peasant knows more about life than the most enlightened of our philosophers…

A truly strange phenomenon war is, which always starts due to a lack of understanding. Yet, once former enemies find each other in such close proximity and strike a conversation for the first time, when the first bread is broken to feed yesterday’s foe, all animosity suddenly loses its power over the men who used to tear into each other’s throats, and humanity renews its hope in itself once again.

Purchase a copy of this book on Amazon.

Review of Happy Couples by Rick Monddarrell

happycouplesDescription (from Amazon): When you hear the words HAPPY COUPLES you naturally think of two people in LOVE. Part of this book is about that kind of couple. But, it’s also about the fact that on this planet there are a COUPLE OF GENDERS, not just one. And it’s about the fact that if all members of this couple enjoyed true equality it would make for a Happier couple – all over the world. Because this would make a better world for all of us.

As I write in the book, in my opinion, the greatest tragedy that we never talk about, is the almost complete suppression of female ability since the beginning of time. When half the human race is suppressed and kept from being all it could be,the entire human race is suppressed and prevented from being all it should be – all over the world. When everyone has equality, and are allowed to be all they can, the result is a better world for all of us. So no, this book isn’t anti my Father’s gender. It’s pro My Mother’s gender. But please remember that because equality makes a better world for all of us, this book is actually pro both my parents gender – all over the world.

THANK YOU

Note: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Gender inequality still exists today, as hard as that may be for some to believe in 2018, especially in a country like the United States. Just start talking to women, however, and you will quickly discover that women are still paid less than men to do the same types of jobs. Certain kinds of work, especially related to raising children and managing the home, are often referred to as “women’s work.” There are men who still exhibit inappropriate behavior toward women in the workplace and on the street.

Happy Couples is filled with poetry and short stories about gender equality and also about appreciating women. The fact that this book was written by a man is touching to me, a woman, reviewing it. I appreciate a man taking the time to write a book on this important topic. Although the principles behind the stories should be obvious, sadly, there are still many in the world who would disagree or who are ignorant.

The stories are simple and direct, sometimes a bit too direct, as the author explains in clear prose the message he is conveying. I appreciate him working these messages into stories, however.

There are some punctuation and grammatical issues with the book, which could easily be fixed if the book is read by an editor, but they don’t detract from the central message of the book.

Happy Couples is a short, easy read and is food for thought.

4 out of 5 stars

Purchase Happy Couples on Amazon.

Poetry Tuesday – Ahead

Bloodshot eyes burn, downcast,

There, see the hardened ground.

Step by step, each one an escape

From the life left behind.

Trembling, turning away,

Tears blinding already blurry vision,

Desperate cries echo forth,

Losing themselves among the crowd.

Lost to wander, wanting nothing more

Than to run rampant and fly free,

But where, whimpering child?

Shattered shell, broken barriers,

Defenseless decorations of fear

Harboring in the heart,

Raving rage to rip the righteous.

Every dissolving dismay

Leads to one penetrating point:

We are left to journey alone,

Never looking back upon

The fickle, fragile footprints

We have etched upon hardened hearts,

But rather, keep steady in solitude,

Forever forging our way ahead.

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Excerpt from Murder: It’s All in Your Head (Introduction of the Villain – WIP)

The girl stood just beyond the threshold of the entrance into the kitchen. The phone had rang. The mom had answered. In the background, the small T.V. on the counter droned on with the evening news. The girl glanced at the screen and smiled.

The mom hung up the phone, unsettled. She turned back to the stove and gasped when she saw her daughter standing there.

“Oh, Cassie! I didn’t see you. Don’t do that. You’ll scare the living daylights out of me.”

The girl kept her eyes on the T.V., the grin on her face growing.

Her mom frowned, picked up the remote, and clicked it off. “We don’t need to watch that garbage. Just more depressing stuff. Can you believe it? All the money and power, everyone thinking he was a decent fellow, and he kills his wife?”

The girl took a step into the kitchen and leaned on the counter, watching the mom return to the stove and mix a large pot of soup. “Who was on the phone?”

The mom jumped back from the pot and clutched her finger. “Ow, damn it!” The spoon clanged to the floor as she went to the sink to run her finger under cold water.

The girl moved another step into the kitchen and rested her hand on the counter next to the knives. The carving knife would be the perfect tool to do it, to end this stupid creature’s little life. The girl released a small chuckle at the sound of the running water.

The water went off. “Can’t believe I burned myself,” the mom muttered. She turned, the crease between her eyebrows deepening as she surveyed her daughter. “Cassie, what’s wrong?”

The girl forced a pleasant smile. “Nothing. You didn’t answer my question.”

“Not that it matters, but just some prank caller.”

“Oh? What did they say?”

“What does it matter?” The mom shook her head. “Don’t you have homework to do?”

“I thought I heard a man’s voice saying it was your daughter, your Cassie.”

“You heard that? You always did have good hearing.” The mom sighed. “Look, honey, I need to get dinner ready before your father gets home.”

“Anything you say…Mom.”

The girl left the kitchen, her eyes lingering on the faucet. She went to her bedroom, or the girl’s bedroom. She didn’t suppose it really mattered. She lay down on the pink comforter and took in her surroundings.

She’s a good girl. All As, a gymnast star, volunteers at the pet shelter, and is shy around boys. That’s always my favorite part, the little added bonus, that bundle of memories all packaged up nicely like a gift on Christmas morning. It just makes my job all the better, the more fun to find the perfect ending to their story.

A knock came from the door. The girl sat up and smoothed down her shirt. She stood and gazed at her reflection in the mirror. She had a pretty enough face. A shame she didn’t use it more to her advantage. She winked at her reflection and went to the door.

A boy of about eleven stood there, his brown hair messy and his hazel eyes gazing up at her. “Hey, Cass, d’you wanna see how far I’ve made it in Minecraft?”

Evan. That’s the annoying little prick’s name. She grinned as how easily the knowledge could be pulled to the surface.

“I don’t really care,” she said. She made to close the door.

Evan stuck his hand up, stopping the door. “Hey, what’s the matter? Boy troubles?” He laughed and made kissing noises with his lips.

She scoffed and slammed the door on his face.

“Ow, you made my nose bleed! I’m telling Mom!”

“Go ahead.” The girl rolled her eyes.

She went to her dresser and stared at her reflection. The blah brown hair and no makeup just wouldn’t cut it. No, Cassie Meadows needed a new look, a new attitude, and a new life…fast. The girl smiled, her pupils flashing red for a second, then returning to their usual hazel.

Behind the door, the mother yelled some inanity. The girl ignored the older woman. She would have plenty of time to deal with her and the little brother later.

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

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Poetry Tuesday – Frozen Lady in Black and White

Every day as I walk

Down the hall at work,

I glance at the wall.

There it still hangs,

A reminder of yesterday.

One lone young lady

Appearing to be trapped,

Surrounded by the eyes

Of a dozen men

As she scurries, though frozen,

Down the sidewalk.

Her delicate hand

Clutches firmly on the strap

Of her purse draped

Over her wispy shoulder.

Determined, she fixes her stare

Straight ahead, eyes front.

Unable to change,

Her face remains unmoved,

Her mouth forever open

For a short intake of breath,

And they, the men,

Youthful and old alike,

Gawk and gape at her fickle form,

The unheard jests and jeers

And disgusting wolf whistles,

The obscene hand gestures.

Doesn’t matter where they are:

Seated at the cafe

With their afternoon coffee,

Plastered to the steps

Smoking cigars,

Perched on a motocycle

Stopped by the curb,

Or ever right in front of her.

She is surrounded,

And no matter

Which way she would turn

(If she could),

They, too, are frozen,

Forever trapped in that moment

Fifty years ago.

And I, frozen for a second,

Stand there,

And of my own free will,

I choose to move again,

My thoughts whirling,

Thinking how that black and white photograph

Clashes with the colorful world

I live in…

Or does it?

LIKE WHAT YOU’VE READ?  PLEASE SUBSCRIBE TO MY BLOG, WHERE I POST A POEM EVERY TUESDAY.

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.