...about things Mama taught me.

When I was growing up, my family was of modest means. In my hometown, most people fit into one of two categories: well-off or poor. The well-off owned businesses or were in upper management at the cotton mill or a spread house or carpet factory. Those who were poor were laborers in those establishments...the working poor.

And then there were others who didn’t even have one of those low-paying jobs. They were the very, very poor.

The knowledge of this wide social divide was impressed upon me when I was in elementary school. A group of well-to-do girls decided, for some reason, that I had suddenly become acceptable, and they would allow me to be part of their group. Even though my clothes were homemade. Even though I had none of the amazing possessions they sported.

One day at recess, when the group gathered on the playground, a girl, who was obviously, heart-breakingly poor, caught their attention. She was dirty, her hair uncombed, her clothes raggedy. And she played all alone.

The well-off girls pointed at her and made fun of her. What they were doing made me uncomfortable, so I backed away and stood at the fringe of the group, not sure what, if anything I could do.

That night, I told Mama about it. She stopped what she was doing and faced me, with fire dancing in her blue eyes. She said, "Don’t just play with those who have nice clothes and already have lots of friends. Tomorrow, you go and be nice to that girl. You play with her. When someone doesn’t have a friend, you be their friend.”

And so I did.

What Mama said sunk deep, set my attitudes and has guided a lot of my decision-making through the years. And, I’m beginning to realize, it has influenced my writing.

I don’t usually write about the rich, the powerful. And in several of my novels, the main character, like Ailean MacLachlainn of High on a Mountain, is poor and has a hard life. Most of my characters are ordinary folks who face tough situations.

But though downtrodden, they are not beaten. They face their circumstances with courage and determination.

Take, for instance, Fallon McKniere, of On Berryhill Road. Fallon endured heartbreak when she was six. Her father died, and it was thought that he committed suicide because he’d embezzled money from the Navy. When she couldn’t take the ridicule, couldn't take being ostracized any longer, she dropped out of school.

She works in a convenience store and has little hope of ever doing better. She makes so little money that she often goes hungry. But she has courage, a strong moral ethic and does her best to take care of herself and her mentally-unbalanced mother. And though she has been treated unkindly, she responds to others with kindness.

Fallon is someone I admire, someone I’d be honored to have as a friend. Like the little girl Mama told me to befriend so many years ago.

Image copyright Talis via bigstockphoto.com
...about making books free.

Amazon.com recently started a new service (I call it a service, because that's what it is proving to be for me). They're offering a lending library for Amazon Prime Members who own Kindles.

I'm not a Prime Member (but I'm considering it now), so you might wonder how the lending library is of service to me.

Here's how. If I opt to put a book into the lending library, Amazon provides the use of a special promotional tool: I can make a book free for a limited time. Making a book free is a fantastic way for an unknown author to become known...at least, to become known to those who download his/her free book.

I already knew, due to an experience with "free" in August, when I made Tugger's Down free, that this was a powerful promotional tool. So, in the middle of December, I made the first book in my historical series, High on a Mountain, free on Kindle. And while the effect was not as dramatic as it had been for Tugger's Down (because High on a Mountain is: 1) in a less popular genre; 2) it had a LOT of competition from other books being made free.

And so, I made the decision to offer yet another book free...On Berryhill Road. It went free yesterday, the 25th, and I'm very pleased with the results thus far. If you own a Kindle or you have the Kindle for PC app, or a Kindle app on another device, you can download On Berryhill Road today through Thursday. It will be free for a limited time, so don't miss out!

P.S. Don't you think the snazzy new cover created for On Berryhill Road by Connie at wordslingerboutique.biz is...well, snazzy?

...about winning NaNoWriMo.

Okay. Just validated my manuscript, and...I won! I won! I won! I wrote 50,000 words and won NaNoWriMo!

The dust settles, I calm down, and...now what?

One piece of advice given to WriMos is to silence your inner editor and just write. If you keep stopping to fix things, to edit, you'll likely get stuck and not cross the finish line by November 30th.

So now, knowing you have a number of places where you said to yourself, "I'll fix that later," and you kept writing, per advice, you KNOW it needs editing. Or, you may be like I was after my first NaNo experience. I was convinced what I'd written was drivel and was poised to hit "Delete." But my NaNo buddy from that year persuaded me not to do that. She said that it just needed some judicious editing.

So, I took a deep breath...unsquenched my eyes and started reading it. And you know, it wasn't that bad. Oh, sure, there were places that made me cringe, but I thought, "She may be right. It may just need some editing."

I'm glad I took her advice. That book is my best seller online.

You first-timers who've never before written a novel may be feeling overwhelmed at the idea of all the editing ahead of you. Take heart. Other writers have lived through the edit/rewrite trauma, and you will, too. But I thought I'd share some tips that might help you as they helped me.

So, sharpen that red pencil, and let's get going.

First, if you're not accustomed to editing fiction, you might want to get a couple of books that I found immensely helpful as I learned to edit my works. The first is "Self-editing for Fiction Writers" by Renni Browne and Dave King. The second is "The First Five Pages" by agent Noah Lukeman. There are other good books on the subject, but I found those two most valuable.

Be prepared to spend however much time it takes to make your novel the best it can be. Spend time assessing character arcs, storylines, and other underlying nuts-and-bolts issues of good storytelling. Good editing takes time. A lot of time.

Make several passes through your novel, reading it with your eye focused on one issue each time. I make passes looking for unnecessary words. And other passes ferreting out the overuse of adjectives and adverbs. And searching out redundancies. (You'd be surprised how many times you find over-used words. I sometimes get stuck on a certain word and it crops up continuously.)

When you're sure you've fixed everything fixable, do another read through looking for typos, misspellings and grammar mistakes. There aren't any of those, you say? As many times as you've read through it (and you're thoroughly sick of the story by now), there couldn't be one mistake left in it.

Oh yes, there can. And there are. Just try to make sure that YOU are the one who finds those lurking problems, not a reader.

And after you've done that...it's time to discuss what you plan to do with your clean, polished, shiny new manuscript. But that's a topic for another time...


Image courtesy of Hannah Chapman via stock.xchng

...about NaNoWriMo.

Today is November 15th, and I'm right in the big middle of my 6th NaNoWriMo. The title of my story is Windows, as in, the eyes are the windows of the soul. And my main character is Cotton Chastain. You remember him, don't you? From The Sands of Santa Rosa, last year's NaNovel? At the request of a reader, he's doing a repeat performance.

Except for my historical series about one family, I've not written more than one book featuring a particular character, so writing Windows has been a unique experience. Time will tell whether it's a worthwhile experiment.

But for now, I'm enjoying revisiting Cotton, Mattie and Sara.

Image: copyright Bill Davenport via stockxchng.com
...about winning.

I have to tell you...as far as contests go, I'm usually an enterer, not a winner. But a few weeks back (or has it been longer?), Smashwords.com had a contest. It was simple. Make a blog post explaining how to format an ebook for submission to Smashwords.

Although, as I said, I don’t win contests of any sort, this time I decided to try. Why? Because the prize was a very cool, cobalt blue glass mug with the Smashwords logo in silver. Ummm. I thought it would look totally cool on my desk, and I had a sneaking suspicion that my morning coffee would probably taste better sipped from such an excellent mug.

So I entered.

And....I won! I won! I won!

(Trying to settle down here and regain my decorum.)

Anyway, to see a photo of this beautiful blue mug (which, by the way, I was right...it makes a cup of coffee taste wonderful), you can visit the Smashwords blog to see it here.

YAY! I won! (Still can’t believe it.)

Thank you, Smashwords!
...about Kondi's Quest

I'm delighted to have as my guest today, Sylvia Stewart, whose book, Kondi's Quest, has just been released by OakTara. Sylvia's many years in mission work in Africa gave her a heart for the people, which is evident in this poignant story about a young girl of Malawi. Without further ado, we'll hear from Sylvia:

In 1946, a few days before my sixth birthday, I landed in Stanleyville, The Belgian Congo. I remember the palm trees flying by as our old propeller plane taxied down the dirt runway. We stepped out into muggy heat as we crossed to the terminal.

From that day, Africa has been my second home – as dear to me as my birth home in Oregon, U.S.A. As I grew up, my one desire was to “go back home” to Africa.

Our mother taught me first and second grade. Then I went to Rethy Academy, 350 miles and 10 hours’ drive from my parents. I began to learn to think for myself, to be independent and to rely on my heavenly Father.

I especially remember one moonlit night, lying on my back in my dorm room’s top bunk. Loneliness crushed my heart until I could hardly breathe. I’m alone – all, all alone! Just then a jackal began to howl not far away, and I wanted to howl with him. Tears trickled into my ears and I clapped my pillow over my head to stifle the sobs that shook my slight frame. I didn’t want the other girls in the room to hear me crying, and think I was a baby. In the stuffy darkness under the pillow, with even the moonlight cut off, God spoke to my heart as clearly as if His voice had been audible: “I’m here. You’re not alone – I am here!”

Throughout my life, God has been “here” for me. In the ups and downs, in the thick and thin, in the joys and sorrows, He has been the Solid Rock to which I’ve clung. I learned this lesson early in life because I had to be away from my parents at such a young age. God is WITH me and will help me through any issue that I face.

Kondi lives in Malawi, East Africa. She will show you much about her culture and the African way of life. Kondi is the composite of a number of Malawian girls I knew. She has poignant, tragic and funny experiences. She’s artistic, smart and loving. She’s also afraid.

Will this same promise also hold true for Kondi in Kondi’s Quest? Will God be close to her in all her troubles and her efforts to please God and her earthly father? Will she learn that living for God meant He waswith her – even when He seemed to be distant?

It is my prayer that Kondi’s story will touch the hearts of pre-teens around the world and help them know God loves them and that they will experience His presence when they are most vulnerable and in difficult circumstances.

~Sylvia Stewart


...about The Blue-sprigged Dimity Dress

I think I was eleven years old when my grandmother told me about the first time she wore a long dress.

When she was a girl, back in the late 1800s, women wore long dresses but little girls didn’t. And having her first long dress was a proud milestone on her journey to adulthood.

Her story is a cherished memory. I can still remember how she looked as she told it, can see the brilliance of her blue eyes, the smile crinkles at their corners, and can hear her chuckles.

I always wanted to tell that story, to write it down so it wouldn’t be lost. I tried to do that when I was in my thirties, but it was a pitiful effort. I decided that I didn’t have the talent necessary to write it, so I forgot about it. Until I was in my sixties.

Some things I learned about the history of Scotland demanded to be told. I tried to write a fictionalized account of them, but, as with my grandmother’s story, my efforts were lame. But I’d discovered something during the intervening years: most things can be learned, and if you apply yourself, you can do a passable job of quite a few things.

So I set out to learn how to write.

After I wrote my first novel, High on a Mountain, the next thing I wrote was my grandmother’s coming-of-age story. This time, I was happy with it. But now, after it has rested on my computer the four years since I wrote it, I can see it’s woefully lacking. I want it to be a tribute to my grandmother, so I’ve decided to rewrite "The Blue-sprigged Dimity Dress," to make it something she would be proud of.

I’m starting the rewrite today.

Ma, this is for you.

...about formatting for Smashwords.


When you’re a bright and shiny new author with a sparkly story to share, the question is: how are you gonna make it available to likely readers?

The answer used to be: write a query letter. No...write tons of query letters and drop them in the mail. Wait for the rejection slips to pour in. Rinse. Repeat. And some “experts” say you have to continue this process indefinitely. Bleh.

The prospect of that uphill slog discouraged me when I was at the bottom of the hill looking up. Until I found new ways to share my story.

One of them was Smashwords. It amazed me that I could format my manuscript by Smashwords’ guidelines, upload the file, and it would be available to the whole wide world as an ebook within the hour. WOW!

Now, I’m no expert when it comes to computers, text manipulation, or any one of a myriad of other abilities. But I was able to format my story, using the instructions I found in Mark Coker’s Style Guide (which is a free download from the Smashwords site). If I can do it, anyone can do it.

The main thing to remember in this process is: when in doubt, follow the guide.

But here’s a brief idea of how I set up a manuscript for uploading to Smashwords.

First, before I do anything else, I make a copy of the document to work from, then put the original in a safe place, and I don’t touch it. I work from the copy.

And let me mention this: before I even get so far as formatting my manuscript for Smashwords, I do one thing while typing my manuscript that simplifies my life: I never ever use the tab key to indent text. Nor do I use the space bar. I use the Paragraph > Format feature of Word to set indents. But if you’ve used the tab key, remove the tabs from your document using Search and Replace. Same thing goes for space bar indents.

Now, to get started with the formatting, I strip the undisplayed control characters within the text of a document (just because you can’t see them, don’t think they aren’t there. They are there, biding their time, waiting to make hash of your manuscript when it is converted into an ebook. So I remove them as a first step).

I copy the entire text of the document (Select All, Copy), then paste the text into Notepad (Notepad is a nifty little program you can find in your Accessories folder). That strips the embedded word processor control characters from it (except for tabs. They have to be removed manually or with Search and Replace, as I already mentioned).

Close the Word document. Open a new Word document, copy the text from Notepad and paste it into the new Word document.

At this point, you may be thinking your document looks pitiful...no indents and your italicized words are plain jane now. Not to worry. Notepad stripped out the control characters that told Word about the indents and other formatting niceties. We’re going to put them back manually. Here’s how:

1. Highlight all the text using Select All.

2. Go to the Paragraph > Format menu. Click the ‘Special’ drop menu on the right and select ‘First Line.’ A box will appear with the number .5 in it. You can leave the indent set at that amount or you can change it (I usually set my indents to .3).

3. Start at the top of the document and manually re-center chapter headings and any other text that has to be centered. Note: be sure to go into Paragraph > Format and change First Line to None for any text you want to center.

4. Start at the beginning and manually add any italics or bold attributes that Notepad stripped from your text.

5. At the beginning of the document, make a title page, following the Style Guide’s instructions. Include the title, name of author, copyright notice, the Smashwords license notes and any disclaimers (I also include the license notes at the end of the book). I always include attribution and copyright notices for the images used on my covers. I also put other information at the end of the book, like, my website address, contact information and a list of my other books.

And that’s it. I’m ready to upload.

Now, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

...about sneak previews.


Sneak previews can be fun sometimes, but I had to remove the snippet of The Sands of Santa Rosa for the time being. You can still read samples of it on Amazon.com. I've enrolled it in the KDP Select program on Amazon...so be watching for the days it will be free!


The Sands of Santa Rosa

Five-year-old Sara Sands loves to play on a beach in the Florida panhandle.

But when an oil platform blows up in the Gulf of Mexico and creates a spill, an oil company executive makes a self-serving decision and puts her in danger.

And Cotton Chastain’s gift of seeing into the future may be the only thing that can save little Sara.

...about The Sands of Santa Rosa.


I’m about half-way through what I hope will be the final edit of The Sands of Santa Rosa. And I decided to do something I’ve not done before: give folks a glimmer into how one of my stories came to be. (That’s assuming, of course, that anyone has any interest in knowing.)

Last year when I attended the Pierre Chastain Family Association Reunion in Dalton, Georgia (my hometown), several of my Chastain relatives I met there asked why none of my books featured a Chastain character. I decided that the main character of my next novel would be a Chastain.

And in October, with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico being a main topic of conversation here on the Gulf Coast, a cousin’s husband off-handedly said I should write a novel about an oil spill.

Ok, I thought. I’ll do that.

NaNoWriMo was looming, and I already had a character (Tilmon Lamont “Cotton” Chastain) and a setting/situation (oil spill in the Gulf). Now I needed a title.

Folks around here have told me they like reading the stories that are set in our local area, and On Berryhill Road is my best seller at festivals and book signings. So, I wanted a title that would anchor the story here. Since Santa Rosa Island is our barrier island fronting the Gulf, I thought it would be nice to use “Santa Rosa” as part of the title, and since the beach sands are impacted by things like oil spills, the title became The Sands of Santa Rosa.

All cut and dried and ready to go, right? Um, not so fast.

As usually happens when I write, what happens in my stories surprises me more than my readers. And this story was no exception.

I had a character, I had a setting/situation, and I had a title that I THOUGHT I knew the meaning of. But I was wrong.

As I wrote a scene where I followed Cotton Chastain onto the Santa Rosa Island beach at Navarre, suddenly, out of nowhere, a little girl popped up and said to him, “What you doing, mister?”

The little girl’s name? Sara Sands.


...about The Character Therapist.

Writing a novel isn’t hard, right? I mean, it’s all just stuff the writer makes up, right? So what does it matter if the writer just pulls things out of a hat...like, a character’s reactions and beliefs and feelings?

It matters A LOT. Fictional characters have to “ring true,” have to exhibit behavior we recognize as being authentic. And their motivations have to jibe with what we know about people. Otherwise, the reader may have trouble suspending his disbelief in order to accept and follow the story.

So, how can a writer insure that the characters in a story are realistic, that the things they do are believable?

I have a powerful suggestion: call on the expertise of Jeannie Campbell, The Character Therapist. Jeannie is an actual therapist, and she applies what she knows of human beings to her evaluations of fictional characters, pinpointing what is or isn't authentic in their behavior, comparing it to how real people with certain traits might react in situations like the ones in your story.

A year or so ago, I asked Jeannie to assess one of my characters. I was feeling a little “iffy” about some things related to Fallon McKniere, of On Berryhill Road. And it was reassuring to have a professional therapist evaluate Fallon and her behavior.

Recently, Jeannie reviewed my novel, High on a Mountain, and she made some observations about Ailean MacLachlainn and his reactions to the tragedies he experienced.

And now, you can call on Jeannie’s expertise to help you as you craft characters with depth and believability. She has unveiled a brand-new site that offers “therapy” for your fictional characters. Drop by, pay Jeannie a visit at: http://charactertherapist.com/ . And, however reluctant they may be, take your characters along to meet her....
...about an excerpt of Deep in the Valley, the sequel to High on a Mountain

ONE

Tsalagi Territory, South Carolina Colony, June 1760

Eight-year-old Niall MacLachlainn dashed into the creek behind his older brother, Aodh. He slowed as he neared the mountain stream’s deeper pool, and an involuntary shiver that passed down his body accompanied the rising of goose bumps on his arms.

His mother called to his little sister, and he glanced in their direction. At that moment, Aodh slapped the water, and cold liquid splashed into Niall’s face. He gasped and squeezed his eyes shut. He opened them to slits, clamped his lower lip between his teeth and swung his right arm in an arc, the edge of his hand skimming the water’s surface. He created a sheet of spray that inundated Aodh, who laughed and ducked beneath the creek’s rippling veneer.

Niall stared at reflections of green trees and blue sky undulating on the surface of the water. His stomach tightened as he tried to see through them, tried to see the form he knew was swimming toward him. A hand grabbed his ankle from behind and yanked. He fell, arms flailing, water covered his head, and he came face to face with his grinning brother.

When the boys hunted small game and birds with their blowguns, Niall could best his older brother. His aim was sure, almost uncanny. And his long legs gave him an edge in their footraces. But Aodh always won their water games. And Aodh was the one who always won their father’s approval.

Niall rolled onto his stomach to regain his footing and push himself out of the water. But a yellow gleam among the pebbles on the creek bottom caught his eye. He’d never seen anything quite like it. Edoda would surely be proud of him for finding something so unusual. Aodh had never found anything like this.

As his fingers closed over it, he felt his brother’s foot on his back. Aodh used Niall as a stepping stone to propel himself from the deeper pool into the shallows.

Niall thrust his body upward and shot from the water seconds later, the shiny pebble clutched in his fist.

__________

Kutahyah MacLachlainn watched her two oldest sons cavorting in the stream, a contented smile lifting the corners of her mouth. She loved watching their high-spirited antics. They’re going to be good, strong men like their father.

She untied the ends of the sling that held her baby in place on her back. She leaned over, pulled the cloth around and took him in her arms. She put his feet in the creek and began bathing him.

He squealed and kicked, splattering his mother with droplets. He reached for the water and arched his back when he found he couldn’t touch it.

Kutahyah finished washing him and lowered him into the water. She let him splash and play for a few minutes, then set him on the grassy bank.

“Brìghde, come watch the baby,” Kutahyah called.

Her six-year-old daughter left her pursuit of minnows and climbed out of the stream.

“Keep him out of the water,” her mother instructed.

Kutahyah waded into the deep pool, cupped her hands and dipped water to pour over her head and face, over her arms. She washed away the sweat and dirt from the day’s work in the cornfield. When she finished and left the creek, Niall followed.

Etsi.

Kutahyah looked into green eyes that were like his father’s.

“What’s this?” He opened his fist to reveal a small piece of gleaming yellow metal on his palm.

“Throw that back in the water.” A crease formed on her forehead. “If your father knew you—”

Edoda! Edoda!” Aodh shouted. He climbed from the water and ran to meet the tall man who was descending the hill. “Edoda, you should have seen! I almost caught a fish in my bare hands!”

“That’s good, Uwetsi.”

Niall ran behind his brother, shouting, “Edoda! Look what I found!”

When he reached his father, Niall smiled, held out his hand and opened it, expecting words of praise. Ailean frowned when he saw what lay in the boy’s palm.

“Throw that back where you got it. Don’t ever take any of it from the stream again.”

Niall’s smile disappeared, and his shoulders sagged. Kutahyah hurt for her son. A wave of anger tightened her lips. She gave Ailean an irritated glance but bit back the words she wanted to say. She turned her attention to her son.

At every turn, Niall did something to draw his father’s disfavor upon himself. She longed to put her arms around his bony shoulders. She wanted to comfort him like she did when he was small. But he was growing into a young warrior, and it would be unseemly for the mother of a warrior to pamper him. She wouldn’t want to make him soft.

Niall turned slowly, eyes fixed on his feet, and headed down to the stream.

“Wait, Agidoi. Let me see.” Brìghde, Niall’s little sister, scampered after him.

Niall stopped and displayed the nugget.

“Ooooh! That’s pretty!” Brìghde gave her brother a wistful look. “Can I have it?”

“No. Edoda said to throw it back in the stream.”

“Please, please let me have it.”

Niall glanced over his shoulder at his father. “If I disobey, he’ll be angry and—”

“Please!” She grasped his wrist, pulled his hand closer and touched the nugget. “I want it.”

“I don’t want him to be angry with me. I want him to—”

“Please…”

Brìghde’s lower lip trembled, and Niall’s heart melted. He could deny her nothing. Even if it meant he might lose the most important thing in his life—his father’s approval—he had to give his little sister what she wanted, had to make her happy.

He placed the lump of yellow metal into her hand and pressed her fingers closed over it.

“Here,” he whispered. “But you have to hide it. Don’t let Edoda know I gave it to you.”

Deep in the Valley is available in print and as an ebook on Amazon.com and as an ebook on Smashwords

...about The Day of Small Things


The Day of Small ThingsThe Day of Small Things by Vicki Lane

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I gave this book 5 stars only because there's not a 6 star option.

Vicki Lane accurately captured the culture, the place, the people of the mountains where I grew up. Even though much of the book was set during my grandparents'/parents' era, there was such an authenticity to the speech, the habits and attitudes of the characters...I was mesmerized. And I felt like I'd come home.

It was such a delight discovering Vicki Lane and I'm looking forward to reading her other works.





View all my reviews
...about Deep in the Valley


YAY! It’s done! Finished!

I say that tongue-in-cheek, because nothing I write is ever actually finished. Any time I read something I’ve written, I’m like a mother scrutinizing an adult child, forever looking for signs of improvement, forehead creased, tut-tutting over this word or that which I now think could have been replaced by one better chosen.

But, after working on this novel since I started writing it in the spring of 2007, I finally called a halt, said, “Enough’s enough!” and packed it off to be published.

So...how “done” is it? I have to say, I’m satisfied. I’m bound up in the characters’ lives, their hard times and happiness touch my heart...and they are alive. (Yeah, yeah, I know. They are fiction, figments of my imagination, but they will always be “alive” to me.)

And, as soon as Deep in the Valley goes live on Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com and Smashwords.com, I’ll be announcing its arrival like a proud parent.





...about a sample of Tugger's Down.


Today's sample is from my novel Tugger's Down (ISBN 978-1450527934)
This is a small excerpt from Chapter Fourteen. (To read the first three chapters, click here.)


Regina answered the doorbell and received a box from a young woman who rushed back to the FedEx delivery van. She carried it to the kitchen and used a steak knife to slit the cardboard. And pulled a package from the box. It was wrapped in ecru silk, tied with a black ribbon. She untied the ribbon, pulled the folds of silk loose and uncovered a packet of papers, hand-stitched together on one side to form a booklet. The diary.

A small sheaf of loose papers lay on the diary. She recognized the top sheet of paper—her mother’s stationery, embossed with her initials, SAF: Sylvia Adams Farnsworth. And she recognized her mother’s careful, measured handwriting. Proper. Understated, with a minimum of flourishes.
She checked the clock. The bus would deliver the children from school in three hours. She had time to examine the diary before she had to start preparing dinner.

She got a coke from the refrigerator, carried the diary and the papers to the family room. She sat on the end of the sofa by the floor lamp, took a sip of the canned drink and set it aside. She decided to start with her mother’s note. She read:


“Dear Regina, In accordance with eleven generations of family tradition, I am delivering this diary into your care, as you are the eldest daughter of an eldest daughter. This diary was penned by our ancestor, Prudence Cromwell, in 1692. I’m sure you are quite aware of the significance of that date.”

Regina frowned. 1692. The date meant nothing to her. Maybe she could find something about it online. She laid the diary and papers on the coffee table and went to the computer in the alcove. She turned on the computer, opened a browser window and typed “1692” into the search box. And was presented with a page of results. The first link listed was “Salem Witch Trials 1692.” And the next was a Salem link. And the next.


The witch trials? That can’t be what she means.


She continued clicking through pages of results. And found link after link to sites about the horrendous time from Salem’s past. She clicked a link at random and spent the next hour reading about the happenings in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692.


Although the website debunked the idea of witches and gave reasonable explanations for the events in Salem, it listed information about the trials and the people involved. Another website chronicled the bizarre behavior of some young girls who swooned, had fits and thrashed around. It offered reasonable medical explanations for such occurrences.


But reading those descriptions, visualizing what must have happened in Salem, set a tight band around Regina’s head and brought a dull pain to the base of Regina’s skull. She was overwhelmed by a sense of déjà vu, although she couldn’t understand why.


It’s all nonsense. Knowing how Mother feels about anything to do with the spirit realm, she couldn’t be referring to this.


She switched off the computer and returned to the letters. By the time the children arrived home from school, she’d finished reading Mother’s letter to her, and Grandma Tessie’s letter to Mother, and six other letters from eldest daughters to their daughters.


But she returned to Grandma Tessie’s letter from time to time, a deep sadness draping itself over her, bringing her close to tears.


She hadn’t been close to Grandma Tessie, and she regretted that. And she wondered why, wondered if her grandmother’s obsession with occult matters had played a part.


She had to have been a lonely old woman. Mother wasn’t close to her. And she made sure Ollie and I didn’t get close to her either.


A thought occurred to Regina. What if her loneliness had led Grandma Tessie to commit suicide? What if she, Mother and the rest of the family had been partly to blame.


Regina recalled the morning she got the call, when Mother’s hushed voice announced in a detached tone that Grandma Tessie had been found dead at her beach cabin. Dead. Of a self-inflicted gunshot.


No. It couldn’t have been anything we did or didn’t do. Surely.


And yet…


She shook off her melancholy and continued reading with self-control and determination. Three letters were left to read when the children arrived, and she had to set them aside. She rewrapped the packet, tied the black ribbon around it and carried it to her bedroom. She put the silk-shrouded bundle of papers into the bottom drawer of her dresser where she kept her sweaters. And as she arranged the sweaters to conceal it, she chided herself. But an odd disquiet settled over her as she closed the drawer.
...about a sample of Scribbles.


Do dreams come true? Meg MacAllister hopes they don't....

Because in Meg's dreams, she kills. Or worries that she does....

Johnny Peyton doesn't believe her fears have basis in reality. At first.

Does she? Or doesn't she? And does she really want to know?


The sample excerpt of Scribbles has been removed.



...about another sample.


Today's sample is from my novel ...and night falls. (ISBN 978-1441484307)
This is a small excerpt from Chapter Four. (To read the first three chapters, click here.)


“As far as I’m concerned,” A.J. said, “I think we ought to pack up and go home. I know I couldn’t enjoy myself now.”

Tatum took a deep drag from her cigarette and released the smoke in a long sigh. “Me, neither. Having a dead guy by my camping spot sort of takes the fun out of it. Know what I mean?”

Shelley leaned against the side of her car, her back to them. An idea swam in the murky depths of unrecognized knowledge, below her awareness. It kept her on edge, tension building, drawing the muscles of her shoulders tighter. When she became conscious of its presence, she still didn’t know what the thought contained. She looked across the water of the bay, where a sail boat tacked against the breeze, probably headed home.

The sun moved below the distant horizon and night fell, the darkness slipping across the water toward them, faint gleams and glows resting for brief moments upon the expanse of the bay, then disappearing when the wind scuffed the smooth surface. The darkness below the water’s glassy veneer appeared bottomless. Shelley shuddered, and in that moment, the thought broke through into her consciousness.

That shirt on the body. Hadn’t she seen one like it before? She’d only gotten a brief look, but now, it seemed as though she’d seen it before. No. That couldn’t be. It only felt that way because the vision of the body lying behind the brush kept traveling through her thoughts, she kept seeing that awful sight. Yes. That had to be it. It wasn’t—couldn’t be—familiar. And yet….

She glanced over her shoulder at the van. The Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Van. Crime. The word echoed through her mind. A chill of awareness rose up within her thoughts. Yes. She had seen a shirt like that one. Farrell Gilbert often wore one like it.

Shelley’s breaths came in rapid succession. Should she tell the deputy she knew someone who wore a shirt that looked like that one? No. How could she explain it? And if—she pushed the thought away but it returned—if it was Farrell’s shirt...she almost gasped as a cold wave of dread washed over her.

She turned slightly toward the van. She looked at the sheriff’s insignia on the side, and the words, “Crime Scene.” She swallowed hard. No. It couldn’t be true. Farrell had not been a crime victim.

But he’d disappeared. She argued with herself, gradually losing the debate. It was too horrible to contemplate that someone she knew, someone she worked with, may have fallen victim to crime. But there it was, floating in her thoughts like a dead fish in an aquarium, foul and repulsive. She shook her head. The shirt...Farrell’s disappearance...nothing but a coincidence. She crossed her arms, lowered her chin to her chest. A coincidence. It had to be.
...about Sample Sunday


The sample of High on a Mountain has been removed. To read a sample of the novel, visit the Amazon page and click "Look Inside."

http://www.amazon.com/High-on-a-Mountain-ebook/dp/B0042X9ACA/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1323772289&sr=1-1