Janey’s Future

Time for another Friday Fictioneers tale and as usual, I can’t resist putting in my hundred words worth. In spite of the fact that Sandra Crook has donated the photo of a friendly looking old tree, there’s been murder and mayhem, death and accident in a number of tales this week. (Oh, and one hugging tree. Trust Eric to squeeze his alien in somehow. 😉 )

This Charge of the Write Brigade is being commanded as usual by Major Wisoff-Fields, DFFA, ATP. If you’d like to contribute your own tale hop over to her blog and click the Blue Frog, which will morph into a trusty charger on which you can ride into the fray.

PHOTO PROMPT © Sandra Crook

JANEY’S FUTURE

“Wish he’d listened. Ditched that rotten ladder!”

Janey stared at the tree. “Chan never was one for taking advice.”

I looked around. “Can you run this place alone?” With two tykes and another due soon? Dumb, but what do you say?

She shook her head, overwhelmed. “I should sell.”

I reached for her arm. “I got an idea… You been a good wife to Chan, Janey…and a good mom. He was so lucky. I know I’m some younger than you, but…do you think…”

She considered me awhile; my heart pounded something awful.

Her eyes sparkled. “Yeah. I think.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Historical fact:
It wasn’t a park but a prairie homestead, and the suddenly widowed Mary was riding home from her husband’s funeral with her single brother-in-law, who also lived on the farm. Seeing her desperate situation, he proposed marriage. She saw the wisdom in this; in those days he couldn’t stay helping her on the farm without raising a LOT of gossip. So they turned the team around, headed back to town, and found the preacher. Tough times call for some quick decisions.

Personal note:
I’m putting the finishing touches on a pdf of my book, Silver Morning Song, and would like to give some away in exchange for some honest feedback. (And hopefully generate a few reviews on Amazon or Kobo.) If you’re interested and have the time, please let me know. I can send pdf, mobi, or epub.

Silver Morning Song is a collection of poems and short stories that consider the delightful world around us and the trials of home and family as well as Christian life. In a voice sometimes humorous, sometimes serious, in short stories and parables, the writer tells of folks facing issues, decisions and temptations. These are interspersed with accessible poetic descriptions of the natural world and the changing seasons.

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The Last One Out

Apparently some study once showed that nicotine is ten times as addictive as heroin. It’s harder to quit smoking than it is to quit “crack.” Friday Fictioneers must be somewhere in the middle — it’s pretty hard to quit, too.

Every Wednesday, in the wee hours, the Blue Frog express chugs out of the station over at Word-shy Wisoff-Fields’ blog. This Inlinkz engine carries the precious prompt photo to some terrific, but ever-so-terse, writers. One by one they hitch their links to the express and off it goes around the globe collecting tales. To see all the links, go to Rochelle’s blog and click the blue frog under the prompt photo — which, by the way, belongs to Douglas MacIlroy and you may not use it without his permission.

I thought I had nothing to share this time around, and no time, either. But a few days ago I was reading about Compassion International worker Dan Woolley, who had the misfortune to spend three days trapped in his hotel lobby after Haiti was hit by a big earthquake. (The title of his book is UNSHAKEN.) Then yesterday thoughts started coming together, this story emerged, and I felt I should post it. Initially a longer and more detailed account but I managed to pare it down.

(Note: “Wings of a Dove” was a country-gospel song written by Bob Ferguson in 1958.)

Photo prompt Douglas M MacIlroy

The Last One Out

Ashton regained consciousness, remembered the hotel floor shaking, walls cracking. His head throbbed; dust gagged him. He shifted some, found one leg was pinned. He tried calling, only managed a squeak.

The ground trembled again. Aftershocks. Plaster crumbled; he prayed the ceiling a metre above him wouldn’t fall. His throat was a chalkpit.

Hours later he heard rustling. Rats? No. Somebody’s bird!

“M’aidez,” the myna squawked.

He grabbed it. Keep singing, sailor.

“M’aidez! M’aidez!” it screamed.

Two hours later help reached him. “We thought no one here survived. Haitian workers heard you calling.”

“On wings of a dove,” Ashton whispered.

Books by Cindy Bell

Something Old, Something New — Part B

Author Cindy Bell has written a number of cozy mysteries and has several series on the go. I’ve read and liked four of her Dune House Cozy Mystery Series. I’d rate them at about 3.5 stars. She’s up to #11 in The Dune House series and her Sage Gardens series now.

I’ve also read three of her Heavenly Highland Inn Cozy Mystery Series and was rather unimpressed. Drama, but not a lot of logical behavior by the main characters. I see she has put out #7 in this series now. Bekki the Beautician is up to Book #14; there are four books in the Wendy, the Wedding Planner series plus a couple newer series just starting. So whatever else one might say about her, she’s certainly been prolific.

I find her books quite light reading, very simple plots. In the few I’ve read she tends toward stereotype characters rather than developed emotional ones. Behavior isn’t always very logical to human nature. Writing is pretty simple, too. However, she has lots of 4- and 5-Star reviews on Amazon.com.

The book I’m reviewing here, a relatively new one for this writer, I downloaded as a freebie and have given my honest opinion. Someday I may read more in the series just to see if the characters start to behave more like normal people in later books.

Birthdays Can Be Deadly (Sage Gardens Cozy Mystery Book 1)
by Cindy Bell
(Feb 2015)

James, a resident of Sage Gardens retirement community, dies suddenly during his birthday party. The official word is that he died of a heart attack, but three other don’t accept this story and set out to discover the truth.

The story starts out with a lot of narration, the writer telling us about the characters and what they are thinking. IMO the story would be quite improved by showing us, through the use of dialog and sharp action, instead of a lot of flat statements. So much narrative, done in short sentences, makes the book’s opening chapters rather boring. For example:

“Walt always felt at ease around Samantha. She never forced him to do anything, but he always ended up doing anything that she asked. When he had first moved into Sage Gardens she brought him a basket of muffins to welcome him. He appreciated that each was individually wrapped, and there were exactly six. He liked things to be even. She had struck up a conversation and Walt had been surprised that he didn’t mind her company. Instead he found it to be quite enjoyable.”

As the story unfolds the action does speed up and dialogue replaces so much telling, but the characters, especially the retired cop, are unrealistic, overly scowling, self-righteous and yet breaking the law himself. Bullying people into confessing may be standard fare on police dramas, but it isn’t natural or likely in a casual setting where people don’t have to talk.

“Make them mad enough and they’ll spill it all,” is the theory. So the amateur sleuth gets in suspects’ and witnesses’ faces, demanding, insulting, infuriating, and the victim tells everything they know. I sure wouldn’t! Maybe writers do this to save the sleuth some tedious detective work? It definitely shortened this story.

The ending scene seems overly melodramatic and not very well thought out. A reader has to suspend a lot of common sense in order to swallow this scene as written, especially the part about an intelligent man thinking he can dispose of evidence by throwing it out the window.

I’m giving this book three stars. As light, easy reading and as a mystery, it’s average. It could be better written and the characters could be more believable, but if a reader likes touches of melodrama and isn’t too worried about realism or legalities, this story works

Books: Stand In The Wind

Something Old, Something New — Part A

This book has been around a long time, but is well worth reading:

Stand in the Wind
© 1975 by Jean Little
Puffin Books

Martha, the protagonist of the story, wanted so badly to go to summer camp and be with her friends. However, she’s an impulsive girl. A mad dash into the kitchen, followed by a sudden slip and bone-cracking fall, puts an end to her plan. The camp won’t accept her with a newly broken arm.

Then she and her older sister Ellen, find their plans change drastically. They were supposed to go to the city with their parents and younger brothers to hang out with the daughters of their mom’s best friend. But in a sudden flip, they find themselves stuck at the family cottage entertaining these two other girls. Snooty Rosemary, the elder, and her mousy baby sister Christine — or Kit, as her Dad calls her — couldn’t be more different from each other, or from Ellen and Martha.

The first day together is a total flop as the four of them realize their differences are too great to ever be friends. So now what? they decide to stick it out for three days. “Just until Wednesday,” they remind themselves, then their mothers are coming back to get them and end the icy silence.

Meanwhile, the girls make attempts to bear with each other. There are fireworks at times but little by little they loosen up and let their hair down. This book details their adventures and disasters as they cope with each other and with the circumstance of being without parental supervision.

Jean Little has penned a number of winning children’s books and this is one of them. Well written, well told, very believable, and a satisfying conclusion.

Only One More Mile

old man.black hat

As the tale goes, a wrinkled old peasant was sitting in front of his wayside cottage one summer afternoon when a traveller stopped at his gate. Dusty, weary, and very thirsty, the wayfarer asked the peasant for a drink and the kind peasant allowed the traveller to sit in the shade awhile and quench his thirst from the well.

After this bit of refreshing the traveller rose and gazed down the long road ahead. Before he left he turned to the peasant and asked, “How far is it to the nearest inn?”

The peasant assured him, “It’s only a mile down the road. You’ll make it for sure.”

The traveller thanked him and set off, feeling much encouraged. But he walked on for over a mile and still didn’t come to either a town or a wayside inn. He trudged on another mile, then another. Finally he glimpsed a village in the distance. Cheered up by the sight, he pressed on and reached he inn by dusk.

The next day the traveller happened to catch sight of the peasant at the village market. He marched up to the old man and said crossly, “Hey! You told me yesterday that the inn was only a mile farther — but I had to walk almost five miles to reach it.”

The peasant smiled and gave him a wink. “Full well I knew it, sir. But if I’d told you how far it really was, you’d never have made it.”

The traveller thought this over, then grinned and shook the peasant’s hand. “Thanks, old friend.”

First posted July 2016 at Christine’s Reflections

The Missing Girl

I wrote this story a couple of weeks ago with another prompt in mind but decided to adapt it a bit and post it in response to this week’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt. (Thanks again, Joshua for the prompt image.) This is one of those “leaves you hanging” stories.

I trust my Fellow Fiction writers and our long-suffering moderator, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, will bear with a second response. Mille mercis to Rochelle for taking much time and effort in her kind replies to all our stories. Check out her blog, Addicted to Purple, for more info about the group.

I’m going to be “away” for awhile. Last night I went through my DropBox trying to line up the chapters of my next book — and feeling overwhelmed. I need to established some kind of proper filing system for all my writings; with my memory, saving by title alone gives chaos! So I’m going to spend some time sorting out files, merging blogs, and working on my next book.

THE MISSING GIRL

Genre: Crime Fiction, Police Procedural
………………………………………………………………………………………

RCMP Detective Wahl studied the photo. “How old?”

“Twelve. Hanging out with friends; headed home alone. She never made it.”

“No suspicious friends, family blowup, school bullying, boyfriend breakup?”

“No evidence of. House-to-house check in the area turned up no clues. Third day already, so we’re asking for your involvement. We’re thinking abduction now.”

Wahl frowned. “A twelve year old would fight back. In broad daylight someone should have seen or heard something.”

“What’s this?” Sgt Merriott turned to his flashing monitor. “Some teens messing around the old Millworths factory found a girl’s body.”

“No winners now. Let’s go.”

Book Review: Tangled in Time

TANGLED IN TIME

Miss Main Street Book 1
By Angela Castillo

Although the book description hints at a mystery, I found no suspense and not much tension anywhere in the story. The pace is day-by-day leisurely with lots of setting details. Romance isn’t the main focus of the book, either. I see this more as chick-lit or general fiction with a romantic interest and elements of Christian fiction.

The main character, Darcy, has inherited her grandmother’s antique store in Wimber, Texas, and is determined to make it a viable business. There first few chapters are full of description, as recalls past summer holidays here, settles into her new property and prepares for opening day. Thoughts about God, his plan, a scripture verse and/or prayer are mentioned now and then.

Mention is also made occasionally of her grandmother’s secret closet and Darcy’s determined to open it and discover the contents; I guess this is the mystery angle. Another is the annoying town merchant who causes trouble and worry to the new owner. But why? Plus Darcy has the general stress of getting her store up and running and dealing with past and present love interests.

I think she comes across as wimpy when she’s avoids breaking up with her LA boyfriend. She thinks “It’s over” and he should realize it, yet she doesn’t voice her thoughts, dodges the unpleasant good-bye, ignores his calls, then sends him a “break-up text.” When he shows up wanting to know what gives, she thinks he’s self-absorbed and rude — labels that could apply to her behavior as well at this point. However, all we learn about the men in the story is through her feelings about them. This is what makes me think chick-lit: events are told only through her eyes; no other perspectives are given.

The book is well written and edited; I found only three minor typos. As a bonus, this book brings to light some interesting Texas history. The story flows along smoothly, if rather slowly — which suits the small-town feel — and the conclusion is satisfying. It’s light, clean reading for those who don’t want a lot of drama, terror, or sexual details.

I was given a free copy of this book from the Story Cartel in exchange for an honest review.