Guest Post: David Marlett – AMERICAN RED


Good day, my fellow book people. Instead of focusing on contemporary fiction, today our sights are turning to history, specifically historical fiction as I welcome the author of the recently released American Red, David Marlett. Mr. Marlett is an award-winning author of historical fiction and today he will be providing us with some background information on how this book came into being. So let’s travel back in time with Mr. Marlett and American Red.





Ten years ago, I had heard about the first assassination by bombing in the United States (of the governor of Idaho in 1906), and I was familiar with Clarence Darrow’s famous closing argument in the subsequent murder trial. But my interest in tackling this sweeping epic as a historical novel didn’t begin until I read J. Anthony Lukas’s non-fiction book on the subject, Big Trouble. That lead me to explore more, and with each additional trial transcript and uncovered fact, the closer I came to the story. Soon the characters began to take form, and the plot structure began to reveal itself. But, as it is a big story across a large part of the United States, a significant obstacle was narrowing the story to its key events and characters, finding the arcs, etc., and of course, deciding what I wanted the novel to say.

Even with that narrowing, and the merging (in a couple of instances) of historical characters into single invented ones, etc., American Red still plays host to an ensemble cast—each with unique traits, strengths, quirks, weaknesses. I was once asked whom among them I most enjoyed writing—to which I responded that it was the old Pinkerton, Chief Detective James McParland. He was one of American Red‘s many actual characters from history—a true-to-life man, bold and brazen—wildly famous at the time for his daring detective work. We find him squinting at the dimming light of his life and career, while rooted in the century that had passed. So, he does what he knows—he takes action—one big gamble, one last major action, convincing himself that the flagrant illegalities he undertakes are balanced by the justice he is trying to bring. I love his single-minded focus in the face of such obvious conflicts of loyalty and duty. That moral struggle and wrestling with mortality is so universal that McParland rises to almost iconic stature.

American Red is unique among historical novels, even those set in American history. Rather than addressing oft-trod paths and characters, American Red ventures into a societal wilderness, a lesser-explored time in American history that seems shockingly familiar, even over a hundred years later. I am hard-pressed to find a comparable book of that time and geographic area. Most historical crime stories of that era focus on mob developments on the east coast, of the first-generation immigrant experience. But American Red tackles the men and women of what was, by then, the end of the Wild West. The march of technological advancement had arrived, and their isolationist world was collapsing, with new international ideas flooding in, seeping out into the far west. To me, this is far more reflective of who/what America would become—as the nation unknowingly raced toward the World Wars and the Depression. Further, American Red provides a glancing, raw image of the unique role of faith of the era, and a candid look at the relationships between men and women. American Red is a tapestry of humanity (not just Americans), both in honor and in horror, both in victory and defeat—and therein do can we see ourselves. 






Author Bio:


David Marlett

David Marlett is an award-winning storyteller and writer of historical fiction, primarily historical legal thrillers bringing alive the fascinating people and events leading to major historical trials. His first such novel, Fortunate Son, became a national bestseller in 2014, rising to #2 in all historical fiction and #3 in all literature and fiction on Amazon. The late Vincent Bugliosi — #1 New York Times bestselling author of Helter Skelter

— said David is “a masterful writer of historical fact and detail, of adventure, peril and courtroom drama.” Just released is American Red which follows the extraordinary true story of a set of radical lovers, lawyers, killers, and spies who launched the Great American Century. Visit www.AmericanRedBook.com. He is currently writing his next historical legal thriller, Angeles Los, which continues some of the lead characters from American Red. Angeles Los is based on the true story at the 1910 intersection of the first movies made in Los Angeles, the murderous bombing of the Los Angeles Times, and eccentric Abbot Kinney’s “Venice of America” kingdom. In addition, David is a professor at Pepperdine Law School, was the managing editor of OMNI Magazine, and guest-lectures on story design. He is a graduate of The University of Texas School of Law, the father of four, and lives in Manhattan Beach, California. For more, visit www.DavidMarlett.com.

Find Our Author Online:


davidmarlett.com | Goodreads | BookBub | Twitter | Facebook




American Red

by David Marlett

on Tour July 1 – August 31, 2019


Synopsis:


American Red by David Marlett


In American Red, as the Great American Century begins, and the modern world roars to life, Capitalists flaunt greed and seize power, Socialists and labor unions flex their violent will, and an extraordinary true story of love and sacrifice unfolds.

In his critically acclaimed debut novel, Fortunate Son, David Marlett introduced readers to a fresh take on historical fiction-the historical legal thriller-bringing alive the people and events leading to and surrounding some of the most momentous, dramatic legal trials in history. Now he returns with American Red, the story of one of the greatest domestic terrorists in American history, and the detectives, lawyers, spies, and lovers who brought him down.

The men and women of American Red are among the most fascinating in American history. When, at the dawn of the 20th century, the Idaho governor is assassinated, blame falls on “Big Bill” Haywood, the all-powerful, one-eyed boss of the Western Federation of Miners in Denver. Close by, his polio-crippled wife, Neva, struggles with her wavering faith, her love for another man, and her sister’s affair with her husband. New technologies accelerate American life, but justice lags behind. Private detectives, battling socialists and unions on behalf of wealthy capitalists, will do whatever it takes to see Haywood hanged. The scene is set for bloodshed, from Denver to Boise to San Francisco. America’s most famous attorney, Clarence Darrow, leads the defense-a philandering U.S. senator leads the prosecution-while the press, gunhands, and spies pour in. Among them are two idealists, Jack Garrett and Carla Capone-he a spy for the prosecution, she for the defense. Risking all, they discover truths about their employers, about themselves and each other, and what they’ll sacrifice for justice and honor-and for love.



Book Details


Genre: Historical Fiction
Published by: The Story Plant
Publication Date: July 2nd 2019
Number of Pages: 535
ISBN: 1611881781 (ISBN13: 9781611881783)
Purchase Links:  Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads




Tour Host Participants:


Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!


Find Your Next Great Read at Providence Book Promotions!

Guest Post: Peter Murphy – THE LAST WEEKEND OF THE SUMMER



Hello, my bookish divas and divos. I’m always interested in learning what makes authors tick, so to speak. What makes them feel compelled to write? Why do they write the stories they write? Today, I’m honored to host a visit by Peter Murphy, author of the recently released The Last Weekend of the Summer and more, and he’ll be revealing his path to becoming a writer. Ladies and gents, I give you Mr. Peter Murphy.






Looking back, I suppose it was inevitable that I should end up as a writer.


I was born in Killarney, Ireland, the youngest of six boys who ranged from four to sixteen years older than me. My mother was a woman of intellect and in another time might not have been “harnessed” with a family. She was inspiring but had a sharp tongue and little patience for fools—and on occasion children. Her peer group included women who went on to have a profound impact on Ireland in their various fields, law, literature, education, and politics. She died many years ago but she would have been proud of what I became; as well as a vibrant critic as she was a bit of a cultural snob.

My father was once a charming fellow who succumbed to alcoholism and made life hell on earth for my family. But he had one gift—he was a great storyteller. In those times when he tried to reconnect with all that he was losing, I was treated to bedtime stories of such vibrancy that I remembered every detail when I shared them with my own children.

Growing up, our house was like a dusty old library. There were books everywhere. On tables, on chairs, on window ledges and, of course, in the bathroom. My mother would not allow television. She often declared, with a sniff and quick flick of her head, that television would make the world a far more stupid place. Instead, we read and, as my older brothers had a very wide range of interests, I read a great variety of books—some of which might not have been age appropriate.

Like most families, we had our share of sibling rivalries and our choice in books became ammunition in the fiery debates that occurred. As the youngest, I was constantly negotiating shifting alliances and for the sake of inclusion, tried to read them all. And borrowed opinions on what I read until I was old enough to form my own. The result is that I tend to be genre-free in my reading and, I suppose, in my writing. 

That said I devoured all of the Agatha Christie books I could find. I had a Len Deighton period, toured the old west with Louis L’Amour, had wonderful childhood summers with Enid Blyton, and when it was time to understand all things female, studied Jane Austen.

I struggled through Joyce and rewarded myself with the rest of the Irish mob, Flan O’Brien, James Stephens, the great and gracious Edna O’Brien who wrote what could not be said aloud back then. She was a bit dark but then there was the delightful Maeve Binchy who I met through my mother—back when she was just starting out.

I got serious for a while with the Germans, Hesse during my transcendental period, Mann when I began to “study” writing, and Heinrich Böll after I discovered a discarded copy of The Clown

I enjoyed many laughs with P.G. Wodehouse and Tom Sharpe, indulged my love of legend and lore with Tolkien and Alan Garner, wandered through Sci-Fi, Religious, Irreligious, Political . . . The list goes on and on to this day.

The point of all of this is that I cannot define what genre I write in. I don’t even try anymore. I prefer to think of myself as a storyteller because that is what it is. I have the same view of most things we might call “art.” It is about telling a story through one media or another. I am happy with that and refrain from getting involved in the type of discussion where one might hear terms like “Literature,” “postmodern,” “metanarrative.” I think there are bigger problems in the world and I do confess to indulging in guilty pleasures like watching a favorite TV show but don’t tell my mother.

I have had, by accident and by design, a very interesting life so far. I have had my share of heartbreak and setback, but I think this journey we are on is remarkable—so remarkable that I have to tell stories about it.

Notwithstanding what I said early, my first novel, Lagan Love, was filed under literary fiction. It had to be. It was my homage to Dublin and the times I had lived in. I wrote it to keep a promise to my younger self. As a young man I spent hours in a pub called Grogan’s. It was, and remains, a literary type of place in that writers and other artsy types frequent it, along with the more down to earth. Lagan Love was conceived there and you can read about that here: http://peterdamienmurphy.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-story-behind-lagan-love.html.

Following that, I began a story about a young man with a very checkered future. After three different attempts to get the story started, I came to the realization that it had to be a trilogy and thus Born & Bred, Wandering In Exile, and All Roads were born. They tell the story of a life that was so disrupted by past events that the protagonist, Danny Boyle, almost misses out on all of the wonderful things his future tried to give him. It is not—and I repeat not—autobiographical although much of what happened in the story happened all around me, and to people I knew. It is the product of the very interesting times we live in.

With The Last Weekend of the Summer, I suppose I am paying direct homage to the institution that shapes most of us—family. For that is where we are formed and that is where our most dominant influences come from. And, with the life I have had so far, something that I just had to write about.






The Last Weekend Of The Summer

by Peter Murphy
on Tour September 1 – October 31, 2018
The Last Weekend Of The Summer by Peter Murphy cover



Synopsis:



They have been coming to their grandmother Gloria’s lake cottage since they were babies. Now Johnnie and Buddy have families of their own and C.C. has a life full of adult drama and adventure. And this trip – the only stated purpose of which is to bring the family together for the last weekend of the summer – seems full of portent. Gloria has been hinting that there’s more on the agenda than grilling and swimming, and when the three siblings learn that their estranged father will also be in attendance, it becomes clear that this weekend will have implications that last far beyond the final days of the season.

A touching, incisive view into the dynamics of a family on the verge of change and filled with characters both distinctive and utterly relatable, The Last Weekend of the Summer is a rich, lyrical reading experience that will resonate in your heart.


Book Details


Genre: Literary Fiction

Published by: The Story Plant


Publication Date: August 28, 2018


Number of Pages: 224


ISBN: 1611882575 (ISBN13: 9781611882575)


Purchase Links:   Amazon Barnes & Noble Goodreads





Author Bio:


The Last Weekend Of The Summer by Peter Murphy author

Peter Murphy was born in Killarney where he spent his first three years before his family had to move to Dublin. Growing up in the verdant braes of Templeogue, Peter was schooled by the De La Salle brothers in Churchtown where he played rugby for “The Wine and Gold.” He also played football (soccer) in secret! After that, he graduated and studied the Humanities in Grogan’s under the guidance of Scot’s corner and the bar staff, Paddy, Tommy, and Sean. Murphy financed his education by working summers on the buildings sites of London. He also tramped the roads of Europe playing music and living without a care in the world.

But his move to Canada changed all of that. He only came over for a while and ended up living there for more than thirty years. He took a day job and played music in the bars at night until the demands of family life intervened. Having raised his children and packed them off to university, Murphy answered the long-ignored internal voice and began to write. He has published five novels so far and has begun work on a new one. Nowadays, he lives in beautiful Lisbon with his wife Eduarda and their well-read dog, Baxter.




Connect with Peter at:
peterdmurphy.com
Twitter – PeterD_Murphy
Facebook – PeterDMurphyAuthor





Tour Host Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!




  

Giveaway:



This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Providence Book Promotions for The Story Plant and Peter Murphy. There will be 5 winners of one (1) copy of Lagan Love by Peter Murphy (eBook). The giveaway begins on September 1, 2018, and runs through November 1, 2018. Void where prohibited.


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Thank you for your interest in this tour!






Book Showcase: DOWN TO NO GOOD by Earl Javorsky

Down to No Good

by Earl Javorsky

on Tour October 30, 2017 – January 6, 2018



Synopsis:

Down to No Good by Earl Javorsky

Private investigator Charlie Miner, freshly revived from his own murder, gets a call from Homicide Detective Dave Putnam. Self-styled “psychic to the stars” Tamara Gale has given crucial information about three murders, and the brass thinks it makes the Department look bad. Dave wants Charlie to help figure out the angle, since he has first-hand experience with the inexplicable. Trouble is, Charlie, just weeks after his full-death experience, once again has severe cognitive problems and may get them both killed.


Earl Javorsky’s DOWN TO NO GOOD is wildly original, wildly energetic, wildly funny – it’s just straight up wild, and I mean that in the best possible way.


– Lou Berney, Edgar Award-winning author of THE LONG AND FARAWAY GONE

It’s a shame you missed Down Solo:




“Earl Javorsky’s bold and unusual Down Solo blends the mysterious and the supernatural boldly and successfully. The novel is strong and haunting, a wonderful debut.”


– T. Jefferson Parker, New York Times bestselling author of Full Measure and The Famous and the Dead

“Awesome”


– James Frey, New York Times bestselling author

“Don’t miss Earl Javorsky’s Down Solo. It’s kick-ass, man. Excellent writing. This guy is the real deal.”


– Dan Fante, author of the memoir Fante and the novel Point Doom

“Javorksy’s writing reminded me of the Carl Hiaasen novels I’d read sprawled out on the deck on one sunny Florida vacation. Perfect entertainment, with the right amount of action to keep me alert (and to keep me from snoozing myself into a sunburned state). But there’s also a deeper layer in Down Solo, which left me thinking past the final page.”


– Bibliosmiles

“Javorsky’s dark and gritty prose is leavened with just enough humor to make Down Solo a compelling story that will take readers to the outer limits of noir.”


– San Diego City Beat


Book Details:


Genre: Mystery
Published by: The Story Plant
Publication Date: October 31st 2017
Number of Pages: 224
ISBN: 1611882532 (ISBN13: 9781611882537)
Series: This is the sequel to DOWN SOLO.
Purchase Links: Amazon  | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads 




Read an excerpt:

(Mild profanity)

I wake up looking down at my body, naked on a gurney at the morgue.

No.

That’s a memory.

This has happened to me before.

I was riding my bike, working a case, high as a meteorite that doesn’t yet know it’s about to crash and burn, still happily tooling along in space, at night, wrapped in a warm blanket of summer air, Jack Daniels, and a smidgen of heroin. Some creep shot me in the temple, and I woke up hovering above my own corpse.

This time is different.

Not a gurney. Not the morgue.

A bed. My body, eyes closed, on a bed. I’ve got a bird’s-eye view, hovering like a kite, still tethered, but barely, by an invisible string.

Let’s get clear on my condition. I don’t know what it is, but I know what it is not. I am not a vampire, or a zombie, or a ghost. I’m not a thousand years old, I have no superpowers, and I’ve never been a hero. What I do have is a broken life, a broken family, and, so far, an inexplicable inoculation against dying. And a daughter I would die for—or, in this case, return to life for.

The tether reels me in. I descend toward the body, a mirror image to it, my arms at my sides, my feet slightly apart. Three bullet holes in my face—and one in my gut—are going to need some repair. At contact, I am absorbed and no longer looking down at myself but looking up at the ceiling.

I stretch my fingers, curl them into fists, and stretch them again.

“Jesus holy fucking Christ!”

I know that voice.

I turn my head. It’s awkward, after the lightness of floating, to be in the body, to know its heaviness and vulnerability. There’s a man sitting in a chair next to the bed. He’s a cop, and the first thing I think is: He knows my secret. Now he really knows it. But it’s okay, because he’s also my friend and I trust him. I have to.

“Hey, Dave, how’s it going?” My voice sounds artificial—a forced process of pushing air, modulating vibrations with my vocal cords, shaping syllables with my mouth and tongue. I make my lips grin.

Dave sits there like a stuffed panda in his rumpled white shirt and cheap black sports coat. There’s blood on his clothes. It’s in his fingernails—my blood, dried and caked on his hands. His right hand is clasped around a Heineken, which he finally tilts to his mouth and drains.

I force the body up and into a sitting position, feet on the floor. I flex my fingers a few more times, roll my shoulders, and look at Dave. For a moment, I close my eyes and leave the body, just as an experiment, and roam around the room. From over Dave’s shoulder I watch it slump back into the pillows like a marionette whose strings have been cut. Dave stands and moves toward the bed, but I slip back into the body and work my mouth and tell him it’s okay.

I sit back up and ask Dave, “Why am I naked?”

“Because you were shot full of holes and clinically dead. I brought you back to my place and cleaned you up. I took off your clothes to see how many more bullets there might be in you. Your things are right over there.” He points to a chair in the corner.

“You’re taking this pretty well.”

He shrugs. “I feel like I’m in a bad movie, but hey . . .”

“I appreciate your bringing me here.”

“I knew if I called the paramedics you’d have been sliced and diced at the coroner’s.”

“How long have I been here?”

Dave looks at his watch. “It’s noon. Call it thirty-six hours.”

“What day is it? And date?”

“Wednesday. Last day in August.”

I stand and walk to the chair to get dressed. Roaming—moving freely out of the body—is easier than this, but I’ll adjust. I have before. The gorilla-suit quality of living in the body becomes commonplace, the intentional management of operating the system, beating the heart, making the blood run in the veins, the conscious act of breathing: all of it becomes second nature.

It’s almost like being alive.

***


Excerpt from Down to No Good by Earl Javorsky.  Copyright © 2017 by Earl Javorsky. Reproduced with permission from The Story Plant. All rights reserved.




Author Bio:

Earl JavorskyDaniel Earl Javorsky was born in Berlin and immigrated to the US. He has been, among other things, a delivery boy, musician, product rep in the chemical entertainment industry, university music teacher, software salesman, copy editor, proofreader, and author of two previous novels, Down Solo and Trust Me.


He is the black sheep of a family of high artistic achievers.

Catch Up With Our Author On: earljavorsky.com , Goodreads , Twitter , & Facebook !






Tour Participants:

Visit the other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!



Giveaway:



This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Earl Javorsky and The Story Plant. There will be 1 winner of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card and 2 winners of one (1) eBook copy of Down Solo by Earl Javorsky. The giveaway begins on October 30 and runs through January 8, 2018.


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Guest Post: Cara Sue Achterberg, author of PRACTICING NORMAL



Good morning my fellow book lovers. Today, the Book Diva’s Reads is pleased to host a visit by Cara Sue Achterberg, author of I’m Not Her, Girls’ Weekend, and her newest fiction release Practicing Normal. Ms. Achterberg will be discussing being a vigilant observer as an author, the origins of characters, and more.






Here’s the question I get most often: Are the characters in your books based on people you know?

The answer is yes.

And no

Because, sure, they’re based on people I know—but not intentionally

All writers, (even the ones who deny it), base their characters on people they know. There’s really no way around it.

Writers, as a species, are watchers. We watch everyone. We note their eccentricities and their oddities, but also the color of their hair and the size of their noses. We notice their verbal tics. We pay attention to their neuroses. Their habits, shoe size, weird fetishes, obsessions, wardrobe and even their allergies can find their way into our mental data base of people qualities. And then they come back to us when characters are being formed in our imagination. There is nothing new under the sun, right? I’d bank my life on it.

So, yeah, my characters are totally based on people I know, but then again they aren’t. My son once had a fencing instructor who was clearly a character out of a book—his affected speech pattern, his pristine grooming habits, his obsession with medieval customs. It is very tempting to use him for a story. I don’t, because my family and others in our community would recognize him anywhere. And that would be distracting and take the reader completely out of the story. (And yet his salt and pepper, perfectly symmetrical mustache just might show up some day.)

If people thought I openly based my characters on people I know, life could be pretty tough for me here in the small town that I live in where we write the check for our local taxes to Julie Rohrbaugh and we get the first day of hunting season off as a school holiday. Everyone would look at me differently. I’d like to think they’d behave better around me for fear of winding up on my pages, but most likely I’d have a hard time finding an open seat on the bleachers for the Friday night football game or a spot at the bar in the only restaurant in town that serves alcohol.

So, nope. Everett, the philandering husband in my latest novel, Practicing Normal, is no one I know. Just as I don’t know any teenagers who regularly break into houses or any hospice nurses who have seven cats.

Still, it’s the mark of good writing when the characters are recognizable as someone you might know and I hope you will recognize a few of these people, especially JT, the brilliant kid with Asperger’s Syndrome (my favorite character).

Here’s a confession, though, I did base the two dogs in my story on real dogs I know. If you’re a regular reader of my dog blog you might recognize two of my previous fosters dogs trotting through the story. Maybe that’s the best part about being a writer—having the power to create not just worlds and plots, but characters and even dogs. 

Yeah, I like my job.




Practicing Normal

by Cara Sue Achterberg
on Tour June 1 – July 31, 2017



Practicing Normal

Book Details


Genre: Women’s Fiction
Published by: The Story Plant
Publication Date: June 6th 2017
Number of Pages: 336
ISBN: 1611882443 (ISBN13: 9781611882445)

Get Your Copy of Practicing Normal by Cara Sue Achterberg on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads!




Synopsis:


The houses in Pine Estates are beautiful McMansions filled with high-achieving parents, children on the fast track to top colleges, all of the comforts of modern living, and the best security systems money can buy. Welcome to normal upper-middle-class suburbia.



The Turners know in their hearts that they’re anything but normal. Jenna is a high-schooler dressed in black who is fascinated with breaking into her neighbors’ homes, security systems be damned. Everett genuinely believes he loves his wife . . . he just loves having a continuing stream of mistresses more. JT is a genius kid with Asperger’s who moves from one obsession to the next. And Kate tries to manage her family, manage her mother (who lives down the street), and avoid wondering why her life is passing her by.

And now everything is changing for them. Jenna suddenly finds herself in a boy-next-door romance she never could have predicted. Everett’s secrets are beginning to unravel on him. JT is getting his first taste of success at navigating the world. And Kate is facing truths about her husband, her mother, and her father that she might have preferred not to face.

Life on Pine Road has never been more challenging for the Turners. That’s what happens when you’re practicing normal.

Combining her trademark combination of wit, insight, and tremendous empathy for her characters, Cara Sue Achterberg has written a novel that is at once familiar and startlingly fresh.

Kudos:


“Does facing the truth beat living a lie? In PRACTICING NORMAL, Cara Sue Achterberg has given us a smart story that is both a window and a mirror, about the extraordinary pain ― and the occasional gifts ― of an ordinary life.”
– Jacquelyn Mitchard, New York Times bestselling author of THE DEEP END OF THE OCEAN

“What does it really mean to have a normal life? Achterberg’s stunning new novel explores how a family can fracture just trying to survive, and how what makes us different is also what can make us most divine.”
– Caroline Leavitt, author of CRUEL BEAUTIFUL WORLD and the New York Times bestsellers PICTURES OF YOU and IS THIS TOMORROW

“PRACTICING NORMAL takes a deep dive into the dysfunctional dynamics of a ‘picture perfect family.’ A compelling story about the beautiful humanity in the most ordinary of lives: from first love to a marriage on the downward slide to an unexpected family tragedy. Achterberg handles each thread with tender care and we can’t help but root for every member of the Turner family.”
– Kate Moretti, New York Times bestselling author of THE VANISHING YEAR


Read an excerpt:



Waving to Jenna as she waits at the bus stop, all I can think is, Please let her go to school today and stay in school all day. Jenna is such a smart girl; I don’t understand why she doesn’t apply herself to her studies. She could be anything. A doctor, even. I was a nurse, but Jenna is smarter than me. Of course, that was twenty years ago. Before I married Everett. Before Jenna and JT were born. Before we ever lived in Pine Estates.

I was the one who chose the house. Everett thought it was pretentious, and it was. All the houses on our end of Pine Road were pretentious. But it was the nineties. Everyone was building McMansions and taking out ridiculous loans to pay for them. Everett had just left his job as a police officer for the job at FABSO (Family and Business Security Options).

We needed to start a new life. We celebrated the new job and didn’t talk about the fact that things could have turned out very differently if his captain had chosen to bring charges against him. Instead, he recommended Everett for the job at FABSO and made it clear Everett would be wise to take it.

I remember lying in bed holding Everett the day he turned in his gun and his badge. He was devastated. Being a cop had been Everett’s dream since childhood. “All I’ve ever wanted to be is a cop. If I can’t be a cop, who am I?”

“You’re a father and a husband. That’s so much more,” I told him. He didn’t say anything about it again. He got to work. He made something of FABSO. And he’s tried so hard to be a good dad.

I don’t remember much about my own dad, and whenever I asked my mother she would say, “There’s nothing to remember about that louse except that he was a louse.” When I pressed her later, after I’d grown up, she’d said, “It doesn’t matter now. He didn’t want to be with us enough to stay.”

All that bitterness can’t hide the fact that when my father left, he apparently took my mother’s heart. She’s spent the rest of her life alone. Except for me. And Evelyn. Although, once Evelyn left home, she didn’t come around much. These days she visits Mama on Saturdays, unless she has something more pressing to do, which is most weeks. Mama annoys her. I suppose I do too. We don’t fit into Evelyn’s shiny, perfect life.

When I first met Everett and told Mama about him, she was skeptical. “A cop?”

I told her how he’d wanted to be a cop since he was a little boy, the same way I always wanted to be a nurse. I gushed about how he told me I was beautiful and how he said he’d been certain about us the first time he saw me. Mama said, “Men will say whatever it takes, Kate. When will you realize that?” But I knew she was wrong about Everett.

I met Everett in the ER. I was treating a patient who was high on coke or meth or God knows what. He was lean and riddled with track marks, his strength coming from whatever drug was flooding his body. I didn’t recognize him as one of our regulars—the ones who showed up like clockwork in search of pain meds. This guy was out of his mind and covered in his own blood from where he’d scratched his thin skin. Another nurse helped me attempt to strap him to the gurney with the Velcro holds, but he was out of his mind and reached for the needle I was about to use to sedate him. Everett was nearby at the desk filling out forms and heard me yell. In just moments, he wrestled the junkie to the ground and held him still as I plunged the needle in. When the man finally collapsed, Everett lifted him back onto the gurney and secured him.

When he turned and looked at me with his green eyes, the same eyes Jenna has, I knew I would marry him. I told him that on our second date. He laughed. I’ve always loved his laugh.

When Everett started at FABSO, he made nearly twice the salary he’d made as a cop. I didn’t need to work any longer. It was our chance. I would stay home and take care of our happy family in our beautiful house in Pine Estates. It was our new start. I thought we belonged there.

When I open the door to Mama’s house, she’s already calling for me. She may be losing her mind, but her hearing hasn’t deteriorated one bit.

“You’re late!” she scolds.

“Sorry, JT had a hard time picking out a shirt to wear today.”

“He’s not a baby! I don’t know why you put up with it.”

I smile at her. No sense taking the bait. “You’re right, Mama.”

“You’ve always been so indecisive. I swear if I didn’t tell you what to do next, you’d stand there like a statue.”

“Good thing you’re so good at telling me what to do,” I mutter as I go to prepare her tea.

Mama wasn’t always like this. When Evelyn and I were little, she was our whole world. She baked homemade cakes for our birthdays, and elaborately decorated them with whatever we were currently obsessing over—Tinker Bell, Barbies, guitars, or, for Evelyn, a computer one year, and the scales of justice the year she announced she was going to be a judge when she grew up.

Mama read to us every night. I remember snuggling into the crook of her arm, even when I was too old to be doing it. Evelyn would be on her other side and our hands would meet on Mama’s flat tummy. I loved the stories with a happy ending, but Evelyn demanded that she read “real books.” She wanted mysteries and thrillers instead of the children’s books Mama picked out at the library. So Mama began to read Nancy Drew, but Evelyn went to the adult aisle and picked out John Grisham, Tom Clancy, and Stephen King. Mama tried to read them to us. She’d come to a part that she felt was too racy for us and she’d hum while she skimmed ahead til she found a more appropriate section before beginning to read again. This drove Evelyn nuts. She’d pout and complain, eventually stomping off. Mama would return the books to the library unread, but it wasn’t long before Evelyn was old enough to have her own library card and checked them out for herself.

In the mornings, Mama would braid our hair, pack our lunches with tiny handwritten notes, and walk us to the bus stop for more years than was appropriate. When Evelyn reached high school, she demanded that Mama stop, but she still followed us with her car and waited to be certain we got on the bus safely.

Now that I’m a mom, I know it couldn’t have been easy raising us alone. As she’s gotten older, she’s gotten difficult. But I put up with her increasing number of quirks because I feel I owe her. Evelyn doesn’t see it that way, but then again Evelyn doesn’t feel she owes anybody anything.

“Here you go.” I hand Mama the bitter Earl Grey tea she likes over-steeped with no sweetener.

“I’ve already missed Phillip,” she says as I help her out the door to the back porch. She spends most mornings there, talking to the birds that frequent her multiple bird feeders.

“Who’s Phillip?” I ask, mostly to make conversation. She loves to talk about the birds.

The look she gives me is just like the one JT gives me when my random “Wow” comes at the wrong time in one of his lengthy soliloquies on his current obsession. “Phillip is the male cardinal who has begun stopping by each morning. He comes over the fence from the southeast. He’s usually here before the chickadees move in and take over the birdbath.”

I look at the crowd of birds fighting over the seed at the feeder. They all look the same to me. “I’ve got to take care of a few things at home after I run JT to school; I’ll be back at lunchtime.”

“Always leaving me!” she complains. “You can’t even spend five minutes with your mother.”

I’d protest, but there’s no point. She sees things the way she needs to see them. Rewriting history is one of her specialties. I’ve been listening to her do it all my life. When Everett and I took the kids to the beach last summer, she said, “Must be nice! I’ve never had a vacation.” Yet, I remember several summers when Mama took Evelyn and me to the same beach we were headed to. Or when I graduated from nursing school, Mama said, “I’ve always said you’d make a fine nurse,” when, in reality, she’d been telling me for years that I could never be a nurse because I was so weak at chemistry. She thought I should have considered something in business—like being a secretary. She’s been spinning her stories of Evelyn’s escapades, my mistakes, and my father’s general louse-likeness for so long, she probably believes them as gospel truth. They are, I suppose, at least to her mind.

I hurry home, hoping JT has finally decided on a shirt for school. We’re going to be late if we have to argue about it.

Excerpt from Practicing Normal by Cara Sue Achterberg.  Copyright © 2017 by Cara Sue Achterberg. Reproduced with permission from The Story Plant. All rights reserved.





Cara Sue Achterberg

Author Bio:



Cara Sue Achterberg is a writer and blogger who lives in New Freedom, PA with her family and an embarrassing number of animals. Her first novel, I’m Not Her, was a national bestseller, as was her second, Girls’ Weekend. Cara’s nonfiction book, Live Intentionally, is a guide to the organic life filled with ideas, recipes, and inspiration for living a more intentional life. Cara is a prolific blogger, occasional cowgirl, and busy mom whose essays and articles have been published in numerous anthologies, magazines, and websites. Links to her blogs, news about upcoming publications, and pictures of her foster dogs can be found at CaraWrites.com.

CaraWrites.com | Cara Sue Achterberg on Twitter | Cara Sue Achterberg on Facebook



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2017 Book 144: CROSSING THE STREET by Molly D. Campbell

Crossing the Street by Molly D. Campbell 
ISBN: 9781611882483 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781945839054 (ebook)
ASIN: B06XH34GLC (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Fiction Studio Books | The Story Plant 
Release Date: May 9, 2017

This wasn’t the way Beck Throckmorton had planned it. She wasn’t expecting to find herself in her thirties writing erotica and making flat whites for a living while she stewed over that fact that her ex had wound up with her sister. She never saw herself living in a small suburban Ohio town with an octogenarian neighbor best friend. And she definitely wouldn’t have imagined the eight-year-old great-granddaughter of that friend turning her world upside down. 

As summer comes around, Beck’s life is unsettled in every way. And that s before the crazy stuff starts: the sister taunting her with her pregnancy, the infuriatingly perfect boyfriend, the multiple trips to the emergency room. The needy, wise-beyond-her-years little girl finding places in her heart that Beck didn’t even know existed. Beck has found herself at an emotional intersection she never anticipated. And now it’s time to cross the street. Crossing the Street is a funny, touching novel that brims with life’s complexities. Filled with characters both distinctive and welcomingly familiar, it is a story that will entertain and enlighten.  



Rebecca “Beck” Throckmorton decided at a very early age that she didn’t want children. Her one serious relationship ended because he wanted children and she didn’t. Unfortunately for Beck, he then decided to marry and have children with Beck’s sister. Now Beck is a thirty-something-year-old author of women’s erotic fiction, part-time barista, cat owner, and her life has stalled. One of her best friends is an octogenarian, Ella, and her other best friend, Gail, she’s known since elementary school. It’s bad enough that Beck’s sister Diana married the one-that-got-away and is now pregnant, Beck’s friend Ella is now guardian to a lively eight-year-old girl. Crossing the Street by Molly D. Campbell is the story of the twists-and-turns in life, the complications of friendship and family, and love.

I found Crossing the Street to be a fast-paced, quick, and enjoyable read. I liked Beck despite all of her drama. I fell in love with eight-year-old Bob (Roberta). For someone that doesn’t want children and is mad at her sister, Beck does an admirable job of stepping up and taking care of her eight-year-old neighbor, her infant nephew, and her sister. There were parts of this story that made me smile, parts that made me laugh (Beck describing her “blind dates” set up by Gail is priceless), and parts that brought a tear to my eye (almost everything dealing with Bob’s past). Although classified as women’s fiction, I don’t think Crossing the Street can be classified as just one type of story as it is part coming-of-age (for Beck), part family saga, part love story (not romantic love but familial and friendship love), part tragedy, and part comedy. Ms. Campbell has created characters and action that are realistic and wholly believable. I wholeheartedly recommend you grab a copy of Crossing the Street if you’re looking for something to read that’s just a little bit different. I enjoyed reading Crossing the Street and look forward to reading more from Ms. Campbell. 

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of this book via Providence Book Promotions for review purposes. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



Crossing the Street

by Molly D. Campbell

on Tour May 9 – July 7, 2017



Crossing the Street by Molly D. Campbell

Book Details


Genre: Women’s Fiction
Published by: The Story Plant
Publication Date: May 9, 2017
Number of Pages: 290

Purchase Crossing the Street on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads






Read an excerpt:

My life isn’t exactly bright and shiny. My name is Rebecca Throckmorton. I live in a small town, and I muddle along as best I can. Four scenes from my world:

Scene one: I am at the grocery store. Aimlessly wandering down the produce aisle, looking at the grocery list, as usual, in my mother’s elegant hand. What the hell is a rutabaga, and why do we need one? Suddenly, I see my father, who is long gone from our family—divorce. He is wearing a gold golf shirt, his khaki slacks, crisp and unwrinkled. His hair from the back is a bit silvery, as I am sure it would be after being away from our family for all these years. My heart lurches—He’s back! He came back! I abandon my cart and nearly bowl over a woman studying kiwis, knocking the one in her hand to the ground. I don’t even stop to apologize, because my dad. I come up behind him, breathe in his cologne—yup, Eau de Sauvage. I reach out to touch his shoulder, and he turns around. I gasp. The man is definitely not Dexter Throckmorton. Instead of a Roman nose, this guy has a schnozz. There is awful hair growing out of his nostrils. His eyes are not velvety and black, like my father’s—they are a watery gray and clouded with cataracts. He hears me gasp and asks, “Do I know you?” I abandon the rutabaga and rush out of the store, grocery list still crushed between my fingers.

Scene two: My sister’s wedding. I am wearing a sleeveless, misty green satin dress with two small lines of silver sequins along the bodice. The misty green is reflected in my coloring and makes me look slightly vomitous. I feel about to vomit, since my sister Diana is marrying my former boyfriend, Bryan Dallas, who stands at the end of the aisle, beaming, his horn rims polished so highly I worry that he might start a fire with their refractions into the balcony. As D comes down the aisle on my mother’s arm (see divorce, above), my mother looking for all the world like an aging Audrey Hepburn in a slender tube of taupe silk, I look down at my bouquet and stifle the impulse to hurl it in my sister’s smug, highly-made-up-with-false-eyelashes-and-dewy-lip-gloss face.

Scene three: Me and my girlfriend, Ella Bowers. I sit with her in front of the TV. We like to watch really old reruns of Lawrence Welk that I found for her on the Family Network. Ella pats down her soft, fluffy lavender white hair, and every time Myron Floren comes on comments how much her mother “just loved that man and his accordion.” I nod and agree, because I don’t intend to hurt her feelings—Ella is eighty-three, and I don’t want her to get riled up and have a stroke. I notice my cut glass tumbler of iced tea is empty, and I offer to go into the kitchen of her cozy bungalow and get us each some more.

Scene four: My day job and what really pays the bills. I get home from my part-time job at Starbucks at four. I stretch, try to do the downward facing dog, and fail, as usual, about three quarters of the way down. My cat, Simpson, ambles over for a purr, and then I go and pee, change into sweats, and sit down at my computer, where I pound out a scene in which four orgasms occur within the space of twenty minutes between Travis and Crystal, who are extremely talented genitally. My latest book, Boys on the Beach, is under contract and due at my publisher in two months. When I think about this, sweat pools into the cups of my bra, because I am behind schedule, and erotica pays the bills, not venti lattes.

There you have it.




Author Bio:



Molly D. Campbell

Molly D. Campbell is a two-time Erma Bombeck Writing Award winner and the author of one previous novel, Keep the Ends Loose. Molly blogs at http://mollydcampbell.com. Also an artist, Molly’s work can be found at http://www.cafepress.com/notexactlypicasso. Molly lives in Dayton with her accordionist husband and four cats.



Catch Up With Molly: Website | Twitter | Facebook



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This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Providence Book Promotions for Molly D. Campbell and The Story Plant. There will be 1 winner of 1 Amazon.com Gift Card AND 3 winners of 1 eBook copy of KEEP THE ENDS LOOSE by Molly D. Campbell. The giveaway begins on May 1st and runs through July 8th, 2017. This giveaway is for US residents only. Void where prohibited by law.


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Guest Post: Steven Manchester, author of ASHES

It is always an honor when an author agrees to stop by for a visit, it is doubly so when it is a return visit. Today, The Book Diva’s Reads welcomes Steven Manchester, author of the recently released Ashes, Twelve Months, The Rockin’ Chair, and more. Mr. Manchester will be answering some frequently asked questions about writing, his writing, and more. Thank you, Mr. Manchester, for taking time out of your busy schedule and giving us some insight into your thoughts on writing and your writing goals.




Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

As far as we know, we only get one shot at this thing called life—so we each need to make it a great one. It’s important to stop wasting time drifting along and take complete responsibility for our lives; living each moment with real intention. 


If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Stephen King—not in genre, but in discipline. Stephen King is a prolific writer who is a master of our craft. I have read everything I could get on him and have been inspired.


Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I’d just returned home from Operation Desert Storm, and was working as a prison investigator in Massachusetts. Needless to say, there was great negativity in my life at that time. I decided to return to college to finish my degree in Criminal Justice. During one of the classes, the professor talked about police work but nothing else. I finally raised my hand and asked, “The criminal justice system is vast. What about the courts, probation, parole – corrections?” He smiled and told me to see him after class. I thought I’d done it! In his office, he explained, “There’s no written material out there on corrections or prisons, except from the slanted perspective of inmates.” He smiled again and dropped the bomb. “If you’re so smart,” he said, “why don’t you write it?” Nine months later, I dropped the first draft of 6-5; A Different Shade of Blue on his desk. From then on, I was hooked. I was a writer.


Can you share a little of your current work with us?

In Ashes, two brothers—estranged for fifteen years—are brought together under circumstances that neither can avoid. By trapping them in a car for several long days, I was able to play out some deep, dark emotions that quickly rise to the surface. The outcome proves to be biting and comical exchange that the reader can experience as if they’re sitting right there in the backseat with the box of ashes. Although there are several twists and turns along the way, the goal was to keep the journey real and relatable—proving that every family has its fair share of dysfunction, as well as unbreakable bonds.


Have you ever had writer’s block?  If so, what do you do about it?

Honestly, I don’t believe in writer’s blocks—though I understand that they’re quite real when perceived as such. True story: I have a friend—let’s call him Jack. Anyway, he phoned me one night complaining that he was agonizing over a terrible writer’s block. “How does your story end?” I asked him and he went on to explain the ending in detail. “Good,” I said, “so write the ending and then all you have to do is fill in the middle.” He did just that. The lesson is this: Most books aren’t written from point A to point Z. If you get stuck at a certain crossroad, begin to write a passage from a different point in the book. This maintains momentum and confidence (if lost, the two causes of a perceived block). Again, I write novels like creating complicated word puzzles—only to put it all together in the end in order to paint the grandest picture I can. Do whatever works for you, but keep moving. The last thing you want is for a story to go cold on you. You could risk losing the passion, if you wait too long to finish it.


How did you develop your plot and characters?

Plot: In my estimation, the first decision in the writing process is also the toughest decision of all. You have to honestly ask yourself: What idea is good enough, or worthy enough to cost you the next year of your life? If you can sincerely say that you have one, then get started right away. Some writers spend months working out a concept before they ever put pen to paper (so when someone asks you how long it took you to write a book, there is no true way to answer this. It happens in the mind long before it ever appears between two covers).

Characters: Learn them. Know them. If they become real enough, your characters will tell the story for you. Think about it: The raised eyebrow from a well-established character is worth more than a paragraph or two. The saddest time for me is when a novel comes to its end. This is mostly true because I start to miss the people that I’ve grown to love and hate. And if you don’t feel that for your characters, then your readers won’t, either. When I’m completely vested in a story, the first thing I think about in the morning is the characters (what they’re thinking and feeling, and how they might act), and the last thing I think about before turning in at night is the characters. 


What are your goals as a writer?

My most important goal is to teach my children and be able to share what’s in my heart and mind with them. The next goal is to be creative for the rest of my life, and if I can make a good living at it—then all the better. 

I maintain two lists: What I’ve done, and what I dream of doing.  The second list is always longer. Forgive the cliché, but perhaps as a reminder to myself, writing truly is a journey. If I ever get to where I think I’m supposed to end up, then that which I love will no longer be my reality; the process of writing and creating with words. 


What dreams have been realized as a result of your writing?

There are too many to list. I’ve been able to touch lives in a positive way and make some sort of difference (at least I hope so). I’ve shared my dreams with my children and proved that dreams do come true—with a whole lot of perseverance and hard work. And I’ve been able to give life to the creative thoughts that constantly fight for my attention. 






Ashes
by Steven Manchester 
on Tour February 19 – April 21, 2017


Ashes by Steven Manchester

Book Details


Genre: Fiction
Published by:     The Story Plant
Publication Date: February 21st 2017
Number of Pages: 260
Purchase Links:  

Synopsis:



Middle-aged brothers Jason and Tom Prendergast thought they were completely done with each other. Perceived betrayal had burned the bridge between them, tossing them into the icy river of estrangement. But life – and death – has a robust sense of irony, and when they learn that their cruel father has died and made his final request that they travel together across the country to spread his ashes, they have no choice but to spend a long, long car trip in each other’s company. It’s either that or lose out on the contents of the envelope he’s left with his lawyer. The trip will be as gut-wrenching as each expects it to be . . . and revealing in ways neither of them is prepared for.


At turns humorous, biting, poignant, and surprisingly tender, Ashes puts a new spin on family and dysfunction with a story that is at once fresh and timelessly universal.



Author Bio:


Steven Manchester

Steven Manchester is the author of the #1 bestsellers Twelve Months, The Rockin’ Chair, Pressed Pennies, and Gooseberry Island as well as the novels Goodnight, Brian and The Changing Season. His work has appeared on NBC’s Today Show, CBS’s The Early Show, CNN’s American Morning, and BET’s Nightly News. Recently, three of Manchester’s short stories were selected “101 Best” for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series.


Find Steven on his Website, on Twitter, & on Facebook!




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Book Showcase: THE CHANGING SEASON by Steven Manchester

The Changing Season by Steven Manchester 
ISBN: 9781611882261 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781936558698 (ebook)
ASIN: B018EHAV3G (Kindle edition)
Publication Date: February 16, 2016
Publisher: The Story Plant 


This was supposed to be a simple summer for Billy: one more lazy expanse of time before college began. He’d fill the hours playing with Jimmy—his canine best buddy—going camping and doing all the things he promised Jimmy they’d do before Billy left. But that was before the accident that shook the entire town. It was before the summer job that turned into something so much more than a way to get a paycheck. And it was before Vicki. This summer was destined to be many things to Billy, things he didn’t truly understand until now. But it was definitely not going to be simple. 

An enormously touching, richly textured, deeply moving novel of new adulthood, The Changing Season is an experience to savor—with special appeal to dog lovers. 


Read an excerpt:

The beach was nearly deserted. After erecting their tent and establishing a cozy campsite, Jimmy trotted to the water. As Billy looked on, the silver-faced mutt walked in slowly—like an old man easing himself into a warm bath—the reckless abandon he’d once been known for completely gone.

Jimmy swam for a bit before sitting in the shallows with the water line at his chest.

Billy waded in and took a seat beside him where they sat for a long while, looking out onto the horizon. While the tide gently lapped at their chests, Billy wrapped his arm around Jimmy’s shoulder. “This is the life,” he whispered.

A seagull landed on the sand a few feet from them. Jimmy just sat there, watching the squawking bird with mild interest. “You must be tired, Jimmy. Back in the day, you would have chased that vulture until you collapsed.”

Jimmy stood and took chase, but it was a haphazard effort.

“Half-stepper,” Billy teased the dog and stood to go for a walk and dry off.

As they strolled along the coastline, Jimmy shook the salt water from his coat. He also took breaks, long breaks, acting like he was exploring.

“I know you’re stalling,” Billy told him, “and it’s okay.” At least your spirit’s still willing, Billy thought, getting choked up.

When Jimmy slowed even more, Billy headed for the campsite. The sea grasses had lost their summer hue and were now brittle, snapping in half as Billy and Jimmy walked through the abandoned dunes.

They reached camp and sat together again where Billy discovered that the pads on Jimmy’s paws were dry and cracked. One was even bleeding, which Jimmy licked for some time. Billy pulled the big moose into his lap. “Too many miles on those old tires, huh?” he whispered, before noticing the patch of missing fur on the mutt’s hind quarter—a souvenir from a vicious fight he’d won in his glory days. A mean stray had swaggered into the backyard looking for trouble. Unwilling to let it go, Jimmy gave the growling stranger all the trouble he could handle. That one battle scar had been rubbed and patted thousands of times throughout the years, the family being forever grateful for Jimmy’s sacrificial love and fearless devotion. As they sat side-by-side, Billy rubbed it again.

Resting his head in Billy’s lap, Jimmy’s eyes squinted while he enjoyed the heavy scratching.

Billy worked his hand up the old dog’s body, stroking Jimmy’s head and kneading the scruff of his neck. “I love you, buddy,” he said. “You know that, right?”

Jimmy licked Billy’s hand.

“And I need to go away pretty soon…to college.”

Jimmy licked him again.

“The last thing in the world I want is to leave you, but I…” Billy stopped from going any further. A wave of tears was waiting to break on the shore just behind his eyes.

As though Jimmy understood, he nestled deeper into Billy’s lap and began giving Billy’s hand a thorough bath.

With his free hand, Billy rubbed Jimmy’s chest up and down—fast and hard—exactly the way the old mutt liked it. As he did, he looked up and noticed a bank of even darker clouds had gathered above. “Looks like rain,” he told Jimmy. “Hopefully, there’s no thunder.”

They napped in the tent, Jimmy appearing much less worried about his nails on the air mattress than Billy. They curled up together, the rain pitter-pattering on the light canvas above. “It’s just a shower,” Billy told him. As good a guess as any meteorologist would make, Billy thought, though it doesn’t matter either way. As they began to nod off in each other’s arms, Jimmy snored peacefully. Billy stared at his best friend’s face, studying every nook and cranny—memorizing every crease and line. But it was silly. He knew Jimmy’s face better than his own. And I’m going to miss it something awful, he thought, swallowing back the lump in his throat. While the rain picked up and began thumping on the tent’s roof, Billy closed his eyes.

When they awoke from their afternoon siesta, Jimmy stood on the wobbly air mattress and yipped in pain. Once the sound of playful banter, Billy knew it was from pain now. “You okay?” he asked, massaging the dog’s haunches and working out the knots as he’d watched Arlene do many times. “Feel better now?” he asked, stopping.

Jimmy reached up with his right paw and scratched Billy’s hand, gesturing that he continue.

After a few more minutes, Billy stopped again. “Better?” he asked.
Jimmy licked Billy’s face once before slowly stepping off the jelly-like mattress.

Billy hurried to throw two baby aspirin into a glob of peanut butter and fed it to the mutt.

When they came out of hibernation, the air was cool and fresh. The trees glistened from the rain. Billy looked up. The clouds had dispersed, leaving behind the last of the day’s light.

The sunset was a palate of coral pinks and greens, with swirls of purple brushed in. The light softened—like the ambiance of an expensive romantic dinner, before fading into the distance and becoming twilight. There was a giant pause, as if the world collectively exhaled after filing another day into the history books. Billy and Jimmy sat together on a sturdy fold-out chair, silently sharing the magic. Billy took a deep breath and sighed.

Jimmy did the same.

Billy laughed. “Copycat,” he whispered.

The beach had always been the place where Jimmy was free to romp and roam—to explore. And each year he did just that. But not this year. Jimmy nuzzled into Billy’s lap again, where he awaited the attention Billy had always showered on him.

“You’re a good boy,” Billy whispered, as he scratched the gentle canine under his chin. He shook his head. “Although you haven’t been a boy for a long time.”

In what seemed like minutes, a million flickering stars covered the dark sky. Billy and Jimmy got up to take another stroll. They walked a few feet when they happened upon a giant puddle. Moonlight was trapped in the puddle, along with Billy and Jimmy’s reflections—the two of them standing knee to shoulder. While Billy smiled, Jimmy bent at the water’s edge and began to drink, sending ripples through the portrait. “Don’t drink that, Jimmy,” Billy scolded him. “You have fresh water back in the tent.”

Jimmy paid him no mind and kept lapping loudly, slobbering all over himself and depositing an equal amount of back wash.

Billy shook his head. “Whatever, it’s your stomach.”

They made it down to the water’s edge again and stood together in the silence for a long, long while. It was as though neither of them wanted the night to end, as though both of them needed more time together. Billy closed his eyes and listened to the tide. The ebb and flow was constant but random, like surround sound lapping the shore on the left, right and center.

The night grew cold, real cold for the time of year. Billy was surprised he and Jimmy couldn’t see their breath. The drop in temperature was significant, reminding Billy once again that summer was quickly coming to an end. It was a cold slap to the face—literally. I’m moving away in just a week, he thought. One week! He looked down at Jimmy, glad that his furry friend had no concept or fear of time.

Billy built a campfire, which wasn’t easy considering that everything was still damp from the rain shower. But sitting by a campfire had always been his and Jimmy’s thing, the perfect atmosphere to spend quality time together, so he worked hard to get the fire going.

They sat together in silence for a long time, hypnotized by the swaying flames and the rhythm of the rolling tide. When it was time to turn in for the night, Jimmy licked his paw, running it across his face for the day’s final bath. They both stood and stretched, leaving behind a handful of glowing embers and heading for the tent.

Kneeling beside the air mattress, Billy said his prayers. As he crawled in beside Jimmy, he left on the battery-operated lantern for his timid, four-legged friend, knowing that two D cell batteries would be killed in the process.

While Jimmy snored, Billy watched as their silhouettes moved randomly on the ceiling of the tent. He locked onto them, hypnotized by the shadows dancing above. His eyes grew heavy and he yawned. Within seconds, the shadows grew smaller until they disappeared.

Billy watched Jimmy—as a puppy—crying because the bedspread was covering his eyes. Jimmy’s claustrophobic, he realized. “It’s play time,” he told the dog, tricking Jimmy into thinking they were going to horse around. The garden hose and bottle of dog shampoo, however, made the smart dog whimper. Billy laughed. When he looked back, Jimmy was stretched out flat on his belly, all four legs pin straight like he’d been strapped to the torturer’s rack. Billy did a double-take and Jimmy was wearing the cone of shame so he didn’t bite at his stitches after being neutered. Poor guy, Billy thought, and then yelled at the dog after he’d torn a pillow to shreds. In the next scene, an older Jimmy chomped on ice cubes, spraying them everywhere like a broken snow cone machine. And then they were fishing, both of them young again. Jimmy whined as he watched the small perch swim in circles in the bucket. He placed his paw on the lip of the pail, pulling it to him and dumping the flopping fish into the grass—in some sad attempt at freeing the prisoners. Billy laughed again and a moment later, he was watching on in horror as Sophie dressed the poor dog in some ridiculous outfit for one of her lively tea parties. Sophie played with Jimmy’s ears, his paws, his tail; the mutt just lay there, as if he understood it was the price he had to pay for free meals. Jimmy’s the ultimate pilot fish. Billy shook his head, while a water sprinkler soaked the summer grass and Jimmy exhibited another example of his terrible drinking habits. Billy could see himself falling out the tree in the backyard and grabbing his arm; the pain was mind numbing. While he healed, Jimmy never left his side. Billy then looked down to find that his cast was gone. He looked up again and Jimmy was smiling at him, his teeth covered in tartar build-up. “Have you been kissing a skunk?” he teased the dog. “You have a bad case of gingivitis, buddy…or is it halitosis?” Billy passed the groomer’s window and noticed that he’d grown tall. Jimmy was beyond ecstatic to see him; his nails had been clipped, his fur trimmed but his eyes were as wide as two chocolate pies. “What did she do to you, boy?” Billy teased the frightened dog.

Billy awoke, panting like a dog himself. He looked over at his tent mate, who was still snoring peacefully on the air mattress. “Oh Jimmy,” he muttered and wrapped his arm around the drooling heap.

Billy shook the cobwebs from his head and tried to make sense of it all. It was just a dream, he realized. Fragmented and confused in time and context, he’d dreamed about Jimmy. There were glimpses of the past and present merged together, as though Jimmy’s life had been thrown into a blender and Billy was enjoying each experience with him a second time. He pushed himself closer to Jimmy until he could feel the rise and fall of the dog’s breathing. “I love you so much, buddy,” he whispered, before falling back to sleep.




Meet the author:

Steven Manchester is the author of the #1 bestsellers, Twelve Months and The Rockin’ Chair. He is also the author of the award-winning novel, Goodnight, Brian, as well as the critically-acclaimed novel, Pressed Pennies, A Christmas Wish (Kindle exclusive), Wilbur Avenue (novella), Just in Time (novella), The Thursday Night Club (novella, released November 2014), and Gooseberry Island (novel, released January 2015). His work has appeared on NBC’s Today Show, CBS’s The Early Show, CNN’s American Morning, and BET’s Nightly News. Three of Steven’s short stories were selected “101 Best” for Chicken Soup for the Soul series. When not spending time with his beautiful wife, Paula, or their four children, this Massachusetts author is promoting his works or writing.

Connect with the author:  

Website     |     Facebook     |     Twitter     |     Tumblr 



Excerpt provided by the author.


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The Changing Season

The Changing Season


The Changing Season

Book Showcase: LAVINA by Mary Marcus

Lavina by Mary Marcus
ISBN: 9781611882018 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781611882025 (ebook)
ASIN: B00THMCG4U (Kindle edition)
Publisher: The Story Plant
Publication date: April 28, 2015


Mary Jacob grew up as an anomaly. A child of Louisiana in the early sixties, she found little in common with most of the people in her community and in her household, and her best friend was Lavina, the black woman who cooked and cleaned for her family. Now, in the early nineties, Mary Jacob has escaped her history and established a fresh, if imperfect, life for herself in New York. But when she learns of her father’s critical illness, she needs to go back home. To a disapproving father and a spiteful sister. To a town decades out of alignment with Mary Jacob’s new world. To the memories of Billy Ray, Lavina’s son who grew up to be a musical legend whose star burned much too bright.

And to the echoes of a fateful day three decades earlier when three lives changed forever.

A decades-spanning story both intimate and enormous in scope, Lavina is a novel rich in humanity, sharp in its indictments, and stunning in its resolution.



Read an excerpt:

Me, I’m guessin’ I’m a haint. Don’ know another name for what I am. Ain’t no angel ’cause I don’ have wings. Anythin’ that happen since I die, weren’t like I thought it would be. Never seen my mother, the pearly gates of heaven, or the baby girl I lost ‘for I had Billy Ray. What I sees is what I lef behind.

A deep green summer in nineteen hundred and sixty three. Hot it were, but it were always hot hot in Louisiana in August. Some say you could fry chicken eggs on the cement. I died that summer, nearly every colored person in Murpheysfield come to my funeral. Coffin were shut, had to be. Tem at the church, they did everythin’ but call me Saint Lavina, her who died serving the Lord in the path for freedom. Why there was even a picture of me on the funeral program. Me in my best wig.

I sees two houses. My own, a rundown, no-count place I never finish payin’ on with a dirt-poor yard and a broken front step. When it rain, the front flood and when it don’, it just set there filled with red dirt and dust. Got too lazy to plant me any zinnias. Go inside and there’s that old bathtub a settin’ there in the kitchen and the hot water heater rustin’ in the corner where the spiders spin them threads. Spider webs on account of I didn’t spend near as much time in my own house as I did over at the Long’s. It’s a big ole white house on Fairfield with fourteen rooms I kept clean with my own hands and knees, lemon wax, and my purple feather duster.

I lef two chirrun behind, and them two I can see like it were yesterday. My own boy, golden brown and shinin’, comin’ soon on bein’ a man. A handsome man as you’d ever see. Little harmonica in his hand, he were born to play that thing, funny sound it make, touch you way down in your toes. He Billy Ray Davis, born at the Confederate Charity Hospital, middle of the night in November. Next day I took him home ’cause they needs the bed and we was strong.

Now, my girl, she were white as an egg, born to a sickly woman what never take care a her. She start off growin’ like some old weed in the yard. I knows right away she stronger than any of them pretty flowers. She Mary Jacob and she settin’ at the kitchen table with her nose in some thick old book. She tappin’ on the black-and-white floor. Tat chile, she love to read. And when she read, she tap.

You can’t turn back the hands of time. Te seasons they come and go, no matter that you ain’t there no more to feel the hot of August and September turn into the cool of October. And you can’t feel November in your knee when November come. But you remember what your life was, and a lot of it were full of pain like your knee always was. Pain don’ hurt you when you die. Tat ole blackbird pain, he fly away. You ain’t happy when you is dead. But you ain’t so sad neither. Ain’t like living. One moment you is happy, then you turn around you is sad.

Tem that dies watchin’ over them that lives and that’s the truth. But that’s all we can do. Can’t reach out and give them two a shake and a talkin’ to, like I’d like to. Wouldn’t hear me if I did. Tat don’ mean I ain’t watchin’ to see what happen. I is always watchin’ . . . I is always watchin’.



Meet the author:

     Very Briefly…

    I was born and raised in Louisiana, but left for New York after graduating from Tulane. I worked very hard to get rid of my southern accent, and now I wish I hadn’t. For many years, I worked in the advertising and fashion industries for Neiman Marcus, Vogue, Lancome, Faberge, and San Rio Toys where I worked on the Hello Kitty Brand. My short fiction has appeared in North Atlantic Review, Fiction, Jewish Women’s Literary Journal, and others.

    My husband, Joel Goodman and I live in Los Angeles and East Hampton, New York. We have a grown son, Amos Goodman.

     Why I Write

    Reading a book has always seemed to me to be the greatest magic trick. You hold an inanimate object in your hands, you look down and wham, you’re transported into an entirely different reality. You encounter people you know instantly and go to places you’ve never been before. Deep reading is  a relationship of complete trust when it’s really working.

    To say my best friends are books may be an exaggeration–but my favorite books are like best friends: they make me laugh, they entertain me, we have fun together, I find out appalling things, wonderful things and I’m continually moved.

     I never get sick of them (and books never get sick of me) unlike my human friends. Books are also very low maintenance (unlike people) requiring no more than a nice shelf and a little dusting once in a while. And, of course, books don’t have anything else to do other than hang out with me (unlike my flesh and blood friends and family who have such busy schedules).

     I have an electronic reader now that I like, but am just a little afraid of, that stores thousands of books and that seems to me to be both slightly sinful as well as gluttonous but in the nicest possible way. When I get in bed with my electronic reader and it lights up the dark, I feel like a teenager with a flashlight.

     All my close friends are so called creative types; consequently no one really except strangers or half acquaintances ever ask me why I became a writer. I was thinking about it this morning why writing has always seemed to me to be the only thing to do (other than painting or pot throwing or drawing, though I can’t do any of those) and that’s because writing is the only form of power I really trust. And doesn’t involve telling other people what to do. Which I never seem able to do with any kind of authority or enthusiasm.

     Fahrenheit 451 is the scariest book that has ever been written.

     I’d be insane or dead if it weren’t for books.


Connect with the author:


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Email: MaryMarcusFiction[at]gmail[dot]com




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Excerpt: GOOSEBERRY ISLAND by Steven Manchester

Gooseberry Island by Steven Manchester
ISBN: 9781611881806 (paperback)  
ISBN: 9781322551869 (ebook)
ASIN: B00OPAFIDK (Kindle edition)
Publisher: The Story Plant
Release Date:  January 6, 2015


They met at the worst possible moment…or maybe it was just in time. David McClain was about to go to war and Lindsey Wood was there at his going-away party, capturing his heart when falling for a woman was the last thing on his mind. While David was serving his country, he stayed in close contact with Lindsey. But war changes a person, and when he came home very little had the same meaning that it had before – including the romance that had sustained him. Was love truly unconquerable, or would it prove to be just another battlefield casualty?

Gooseberry Island is the most nuanced, dramatic, and romantic novel yet from a writer whose ability to plumb the depths of human emotion knows few peers.




Read an excerpt:


David had been home for six weeks when he pulled into the market, preparing to locate everything on his mother’s grocery list. As he approached the store, he spotted a young teenage boy walking out; he was holding a brown bag. An older man approached the boy and reached out his hand. David gasped and his dizzy mind immediately raced back to Afghanistan and the horrific beating of the young Afghani boy:

There was movement three hundred yards out on the street below. Unusual, David thought. It was a teenage boy, maybe fourteen, carrying a burlap bag and hurrying home before dark. Never seen him before, David thought.

In a flash, a man—a Taliban fighter—jumped out of the shadows and grabbed the boy’s arm, pulling him to the street and spilling the contents of his sack. As the teenager yelled for help, another Taliban soldier emerged from the darkness. The boy screamed louder, but not a single soul came to his aid…



It only took a few seconds, but the whole scene played out in sequence in his mind—both men yelling and slapping the boy as he screamed for help; the slaps turning to a vicious beating until finally the boy was dead. He could almost hear Command say “Negative” again after he asked if he could intervene. He felt the anguish in his soul threatening to overwhelm him, but it 
was quickly replaced by a burning rage.

His eyes filled with tears, David returned to the present and started for the man in a mad rush. He was three steps from the shocked stranger when reality clicked in. It’s the boy’s father, he realized. He’s…he’s okay.

David’s body convulsed. He’d forgotten he was home, and the reality of it slapped him hard in the face.

The man pulled the teenage boy close to him; both of them were frightened by David’s sudden charge toward them.

“Sorry,” David said, though it sounded more like “Sigh.” Trying unsuccessfully to smile at them, he turned on his heels and hurried back to the Mustang.

For the next hour, David sat alone in his car, trying to calm the physical effects of his anxiety. Once he’d reined that in, he spent another two hours beating back the depression that always followed in anxiety’s wake.

He wasn’t sure whether the abyss existed within his heart or mind, but he knew that he was now filled with a great void—nothingness. There was no light there, only darkness. There was no hope, only despair. In time, he’d earned to embrace the silence, as the screams and whimpers of faceless victims became echoes that returned again and again, pushing the line of madness. Yet, the solitude was relentless, enveloping, merciless. It would have been better had I never existed, he thought, fearing another moment more than cashing in and leaving it all behind. No love, he thought, no peace. His memories were slanted in such thick negativity that his entire past would have been better off erased. And no one knows I’m dying inside, he thought, inviting another wave of panic attacks to crash onto the shore of his weary mind.

He closed his eyes tightly and tried to calm the short labored gasps. Just ride the wave, he told himself. Just ride the wave.

But in another room in his mind, he knew that even if he rode that wave—and didn’t crack his skull on all the rocks beneath him—he’d have to take the ride again and again. It didn’t take long before the jagged rocks seemed like the more merciful option.

~~~


Enough time had passed for Lindsey to realize David was not coming after her. He’s obviously in a lot of pain, she thought, and doesn’t want to burden anyone with it. She shook her head. But I care way too much about him to let him go through this alone.

With Craig’s permission, she slammed David’s front door behind her and marched through the living room into the kitchen. “Don’t you dare play the coward with me, David McClain,” she shouted before even reaching the room.

As she expected, David had been staring out the kitchen window into nothingness. With tear-filled eyes, his head snapped up. “Don’t you ever call me that word…ever!”

She stared at him for a few long moments before her heart softened. “Then go ahead, tell me that you don’t want to see me anymore and I’ll leave you alone forever.”

He looked at her with tormented eyes but didn’t say a word.

“But you can’t, can you?” she said, her entire insides starting to tremble.

“It’s not you,” he vowed. “It’s me. I’m just not…”

“Don’t you dare feed me that tired line! I spent a year praying for you…writing letters and wishing for us to…” She stopped, trying in vain to contain her emotions.

His face looked panicked, as his mind obviously spiraled out of control to gather the right 
words. “I don’t have the words,” he said in less than a whisper.

“After the first time I came here, I thought for sure you’d chase after me,” she said. “I’m not stupid, David. I realize something happened over there that has you all twisted up. But I also thought that once you saw my face, you’d…” She stopped again and began to cry.

David placed his hand on hers. She started to pull away, but he stopped her, intertwining their fingers. “Lindsey, please…please don’t say anything until I finish. Just hear me out. Okay?”

“Okay,” she said, her tears threatening to flood her face.

He took a few deep breaths. “I’ve given this a lot of thought, and I want you to know that I’ve never lied to you…and I don’t plan to now.” He shook his head. “I’m so messed up right now, Lindsey, I can’t even explain it.” He could barely hold eye contact with her. “I really hope we can be together someday…more than you can ever imagine. But I’m just not ready yet. I…I need to heal,” he stuttered.

She took a deep breath and held it.

“Torn isn’t even the word for what I’m feeling over this,” he babbled on. “The last thing I want to do is hurt either of us.”

“I don’t think we have to say goodbye, though,” she said, feeling the panic of desperation creep into her soul. “Don’t you remember the night we shared on that bench?”

His eyes grew even more distant. “I really wish things were different,” he said, “that life didn’t have to be so difficult.” He shrugged. “Time will tell, I guess.”

“You guess?” She returned his shrug to him, perturbed.

“Lindsey, I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know that I don’t want to destroy any chance we might have at it …just because I might not be ready for it yet.” He grimaced. “I need time to find myself, okay?”

Lindsey, the child of a PTSD victim, shook her head. “You don’t have to find yourself, David. You just have to remember who you are…who you’ve always been.”

He nodded, tears streaming down his face.

Lindsey took a deep breath and surrendered. “David, I’ve told you the way that I feel for you and what I want for us. That’s all I can do. The rest is in your hands.” She peered into his dull eyes. “I can only hope that you’ll think of me every day, as I will you. I hope a lot of things, David.” She paused to collect herself. “Most of all, I hope the day will come when Afghanistan is behind you and we can fall in love all over again and catch up on all the things we’ve missed.” Mimicking him, she shrugged. “Maybe you’re right. I guess time will tell.” She pulled her hand away from his and felt her heart rip clean out of her chest. “Until then, you’ll be in my thoughts,” she whispered.

“I’m so sorry, Lindsey,” he sobbed, his shoulders rocking.

“I love you, David,” she said and, with one final attempt, grabbed his chin and forced eye contact between them. “Now tell me you don’t want to see me and I’ll leave you alone,” she whispered.

As he looked at her, Lindsey could clearly see the anguish in his eyes.

“You can’t, can you?” she said, hopefully.

His tears continued to leak down his cheeks. “I don’t want to see you…for now,” he said, and turned his eyes away from hers.

It felt as though someone had just slugged her in the gut. “Okay,” she gasped and ran out of the house crying harder than she’d ever cried before.


Long after Lindsey had run out of the kitchen, David remained catatonic—until he grabbed a drinking glass off the counter and threw it onto the floor where it broke into a hundred pieces. Enraged, he began smashing everything he could get his hands on in the kitchen. At the end of the violent outburst, he collapsed to the floor and began to weep. With his head in both hands, he screamed, “I love you, too, Lindsey.”

Day turned into dusk and, like most nights, just beyond the sobs and sniffles the world turned quiet and black.

~~~



After four or five weeks of self-imposed solitary confinement—a punishment filled with death-defying panic attacks and long, treacherous tunnels of depression—David decided to reach out to the men he had served with. They’re the only ones who can relate, he thought. And I wonder how they’re doing…really doing?



Meet the author:

Steven Manchester is the author of the #1 bestsellers, Twelve Months and The Rockin’ Chair. He is also the author of the award-winning novel, Goodnight, Brian, as well as the critically-acclaimed novel, Pressed Pennies, A Christmas Wish (Kindle exclusive), Wilbur Avenue (novelette), Just in Time (novelette), The Thursday Night Club (novella) and Gooseberry Island. His work has appeared on NBC’s Today Show, CBS’s The Early Show, CNN’s American Morning and BET’s Nightly News. Three of Steven’s short stories were selected “101 Best” for Chicken Soup for the Soul series. When not spending time with his beautiful wife, Paula, or their four children, this Massachusetts author is promoting his works or writing. 

Connect with the author:          Website      |     Facebook 


Buy the book:

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Book Showcase: PRESSED PENNIES

Pressed Pennies by Steven Manchester
ISBN: 9781611881356 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781611881370 (ebook)
ASIN: B00J1K3TJO (Kindle edition)
Publication date: May 13, 2014
Publisher: The Story Plant


Rick and Abby grew up together, became best friends, and ultimately fell in love. Circumstance tore them apart in their early teens, though, and they went on to lives less idyllic than they dreamed about in those early days. Rick has had a very successful career, but his marriage flat-lined. Abby has a magical daughter, Paige, but Paige’s father nearly destroyed Abby’s spirit. 

Now fate has thrown Rick and Abby together again. In their early thirties, they are more world-weary than they were as kids. But their relationship still shimmers, and they’re hungry to make up for lost time. However, Paige, now nine, is not nearly as enthusiastic. She’s very protective of the life she’s made with her mother and not open to the duo becoming a trio. Meanwhile, Rick has very little experience dealing with kids and doesn’t know how to handle Paige. This leaves Abby caught between the two people who matter the most to her. What happens when the life you’ve dreamed of remains just inches from your grasp?

Pressed Pennies is a nuanced, intensely romantic, deeply heartfelt story of love in its many incarnations, relationships in their many guises, and family in its many meanings. It is the most accomplished and moving novel yet from a truly great storyteller of the heart. 



Read an excerpt:

The night was beautiful, unusually mild for the season. “How about a walk along the river?” he asked. “The water fire is tonight.”

“What a coincidence,” she teased, and didn’t think twice about grabbing his hand when he extended it.

Hand in hand, Rick and Abby strolled along the river. Hidden speakers offered the eclectic sounds of primitive chants and tribal drums. Alluring smells of vendor delicacies wafted on unseasonably warm breezes. Side streets were cordoned off and police officers rerouted traffic. Amongst thousands of pedestrians, the walk along the river moved like a stream of warm pudding.

They felt comfortably alone in each other”s company, occasionally stopping to point out something they had spotted and wanted to share. 

Although Abby only had two glasses of wine, she felt lightheaded—almost drunk.

As if lovers were sworn to secrecy, other couples offered subtle nods in greeting—with Rick and Abby returning each gesture.

Steel fire pits sat several feet out of the water, lining the middle of the river every thousand yards. Old, wooden boats filled with thespians dressed in black threw fresh-split cordwood onto each. Like swarms of angry fireflies, a million sparks scurried into the air. Bright orange and red flames licked at the black sky, as strong smells of burnt oak and cedar reminded folks of cozy summer campfires and the love that could be shared beneath a starry sky.

At the end of the path, Rick summoned one of the many hawkers to buy Abby a single red rose.

She accepted the gift with a smile. “Good thing this isn’t a date,” she joked again.

“Good thing,” he repeated.

After hugging him, she kissed his cheek. “Thank you for this wonderful experience, Richard,” she said. “I mean it. This night has been absolutely amazing.”

“I only supplied half of it,” he replied, and hugged her again. “Thank you for the other half.”

Walking slowly, they started back toward their cars.

* * *

Once they reached the parking lot behind the Blue Grotto, Rick turned to Abby and cleared his throat. “Let me take you out again this weekend.” It was more of a statement than a request.

Abby shook her head and kissed his cheek. “I’d love to, Richard. Believe me, I would. But it’s not just about what I want. I still need to get Paige settled in. She’s not used to…”

He placed his finger to her lips. “Okay,” he said, “then when?”

She thought about it and shook her head. “I honestly don’t know.” She shrugged. “But what I do know is that our timing couldn’t be any worse right now.” She searched his eyes. “I can’t tell you how sorry I am, Richard. I wish…”

He looked surprised and devastated, all at the same time. “Not even as friends?” he asked.

She looked deeper into his eyes. “I’d love that, but do you really think that you and I could just be friends?”

He smirked, and then shrugged. “I don’t know.” He thought for a moment. “A different place, a different time, I think you and I…”

“Who knows what the future holds,” she said, stopping him from saying any more.

“Friends then,” he said, and kissed her cheek. “I understand.”

“Thank you,” she said, but she could tell by his tone that he didn’t understand at all. “I’ll be seein’ ya,” she said, and hurried off to her car while she still had the strength.

“Yeah,” he said. “See you around.”

* * *

With his head spinning, Rick got into his car and began replaying every second of their time together. As he drove away, he could still smell Abby on his clothes and hoped the scent would last. It had been an eternity since he’d felt this way about anyone.

* * *

When her mom returned home from her “dinner with an old friend,” Paige was sprawled out on the couch, pretending to be asleep. Abby took a seat beside her. Even with her heart pounding in her ears, Paige dared not stir. Abby pulled the blanket over her and kissed her forehead. “Night, babe,” she whispered, and quietly stepped out of the room.

Paige slowly opened her eyes and took a deep breath. “Just the two of us, huh?” she whispered, and fought back the tears.



About the author:

Steven Manchester is the author of the #1 bestsellers, Twelve Months and The Rockin’ Chair. He is also the author of the critically-acclaimed, award-winning novel, Goodnight, Brian, as well as A Christmas Wish (Kindle exclusive), Pressed Pennies (due out May 2014) and Gooseberry Island (due out January 2015). His work has appeared on NBC’s Today Show, CBS’s The Early Show, CNN’s American Morning and BET’s Nightly News. Three of Steven’s short stories were selected “101 Best” for Chicken Soup for the Soul series. When not spending time with his beautiful wife, Paula, or their four children, this Massachusetts author is promoting his works or writing. 


Connect with the author:      Website      |     Facebook 


This showcase is brought to you courtesy of The Story Plant.




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