Review

The Death of Bernadette Lefthand

The Death of Bernadette LefthandA good story is made up of a collection of elements, the most powerful is that magical thing called voice. Who is speaking and what is the storyteller saying from the heart to engage the reader? In The Death of Bernadette Lefthand, author Ron Querry nailed it with Gracie. As the primary source of insight into Bernadette’s life and tragic death, Gracie can’t know everything, so we get to hear from a few other perspectives. But at the core, this is as much Gracie’s story as it is Bernadette’s.

Through Gracie’s eyes we get to see her sister’s world falling apart, attributable to human foible as much as anything, but assigned to fable and witchcraft Native American style, with Singers/medicine men making chilling appearances that portend no good thing.

Gracie reveals the meanness of living on a reservation with little to rely on other than family and tradition. She is not described, but you get the sense of a young woman whose appeal lies in the heart, not in outward appearance. Without guile or jealousy, she concedes to her lovely sister all the attributes she does not have. Her admiration of Bernadette’s spirit, her beauty, her charm, her talent dancing to the music of the drums, all serve to create the love story between sisters. Gracie seems content in Bernadette’s shadow, as though it is the perfectly logical place for her to be. In this shadowland, perhaps she sees what’s coming before anyone else can as Bernadette’s handsome Navajo husband’s life takes a nosedive into the bottle.

The bittersweet truth of the novel is the unanswered question of whether the bad buy gets his comeuppance. It’s left to the reader to decide, but I like to believe that in this good-vs-evil story, evil met his doom in fitting Native American fashion.

The Death of Bernadette Lefthand was first published in 1993 and won the Border Regional Library Association Southwest Book Award and the 1994 Mountains and Plains Booksellers Association Book Award. It has since received critical acclaim for the author’s ability to depict the intersection between white and native worlds.

Regarding this 25th anniversary edition of The Death of Bernadette Lefthand, Kirkus Reviews wrote: This…beautiful story deserves to be back on the bookshelves of American readers with its innovative, organic use of Indigenous prose form and strong, lovely personalities.

The Death of Bernadette Lefthand is published by Cinco Puntos Press and is available online and in bookstores.

Querry lives in Northern New Mexico in a century-old Queen Anne Victorian house, with his wife, fine art photographer Elaine Querry, and their three cow dogs.


Cover image from Cinco Puntos Press

 

Text two-step

>I know you said not to text you, but we need to talk. Meet me for lunch, Packer’s.

apple applications apps cell phone

Alice frowned. She’d never told Elise, her BFF, not to text her. What was that all about? And then she realized the phone in her hand wasn’t hers; it was Joe’s, her loving husband of twenty-five years.

A ball of ice formed in her chest. Her guts went watery.

The car behind her honked, joined like a flock of irritated geese by several others.

Alice swallowed the peach pit sized ball of alarm in her throat and accelerated through the light. Why would Elise be texting Joe? And why would they need to talk? Talk about what?

Alice was tempted to pull over and go through Joe’s text history and see if there were more messages to her husband from her long-time friend, but traffic was heavy, she was already late and she had a presentation to give at ten o’clock.

That’s what she should be thinking about, the presentation. She ran nervous fingers through her carefully arranged hair. Damn! The engagement ring from her wedding set got caught in a tangle. Driving one-handed, she tugged and tugged but could only manage to free her finger from the ring leaving it stuck in her hair. Crap, crap, crap, carp, crap!

Alice clutched the steering wheel with white-knuckled determination. Focus! This was her chance at a major promotion. She’d been working toward this for three months, since the V-P of marketing announced her plan to retire.

Maybe that’s why Joe was talking to Elise? Maybe he felt like Alice had left him out, not been paying enough attention to him? But he said he understood. He knew how important the promotion was to Alice; he’d said so many times. But did he mean it, or was it a cover for chasing after someone more attentive, more available?

The message revolved around in her head, stealing away her concentration on the upcoming presentation.

Elise and Champ were going through a nasty divorce. Maybe Elise was using Joe as a shoulder to cry on? That kinda made sense. With her all-out effort to get the V-P job, Alice hadn’t been available to Elise at a time when her friend needed her. But Elise had said she understood. “You can’t do anything but listen to me bitch,” Elise had said, when Alice apologized for being so busy. “And I’m trying to save all my rage for that asshole I was married to.” She had laughed bitterly. “Don’t worry about me. You do what you must do. You’re the right person for that job.”

Her husband and her friend were so supportive! And now this? But what was this, or was it anything at all?

Alice wrangled her car through the parking garage and pulled into a space without hitting anything or running over anyone, which was a mercy given how rattled she was. This was not a time to be distracted! Something slid against her cheek and she almost jumped out of her skin before she remembered the ring tangled in her hair. She jammed it into a clump of curls and breathed in a calming breath. She would untangle it when she reached her office.

Winded and anxious – despite using her time on the elevator to regulate her breathing and reach deep for the last shred of calm she could find – Alice stepped into the lobby of Able Analytics with a smile and cheery hello for the receptionist.

“Good morning, Alice,” Sally said, and tipped her head in that bird-like way she had. “Are you okay? You look a bit frazzled.”

Leave it to Sally to see beneath the pasted-on grin.

“I’m fine. Bit nervous about my presentation.”

“Well, you never mind about that! You have the veep job in the bag.” She winked and answered the gentle tinkle that indicated an incoming phone call.

Alice hurried to her office. “Hold my calls, Scott,” she said to her admin as she sailed by. “I want to go over my presentation one more time.”

Scott raised an eloquent eyebrow. “Are you all right? You seem a bit…”

“I’m fine!”

She fished Joe’s phone out of her handbag. “Run this up to Joe. He’s probably going nutso without it. And see if he has mine. I think we accidentally switched this morning.” She was babbling and knew it. Normally Alice didn’t ask Scott to run non-job related errands, but Joe was partner in a venture capital company that occupied a suite of offices on the top floor of the building, so it wasn’t a big deal and wouldn’t take long. She wanted to make sure her husband got his phone. He had to see the message.

Inside her office, she dumped her briefcase and purse in the middle of her desk and pulled a mirror out of a drawer.

Shesh! No wonder everyone asked if she was okay. Her face was flushed. Her hair looked like she’d been tackled by a tornado. There was a definite ‘v’ between her eyebrows that indicated she was mad, worried or thinking. She drew in a breath and relaxed her face. The ‘v’ smoothed out. Light flashed off the diamond ring caught in her hair. She began untangling it hoping she wouldn’t have to resort to scissors.

A plan had been hatching in her head. She wanted Joe to get Elise’s text message. It was the only way for her to find out what he would do. Meet her BFF – Alice stuck her finger in her mouth and made fake gagging noises – and – and what? She didn’t know, but she was for damned sure going to be there!

Right now, she had a hair emergency to resolve and a presentation to make.

Alice was a serious contender for the V-P position because of her ability to focus and perform under pressure. By ten she was ready. At ten forty-five she walked out of the meeting with a lock on her dream job, which gave her plenty of time to get ready to spy on her husband (maybe not for long), and her best friend (gag, gag).

She was in a hurry to leave, but a bit disappointed there were no well-wishers waiting in her office to toast and roast her. Everyone had been so supportive. Where were they now? She shook her head. She needed to leave anyway. The phone on her desk buzzed.

“Hunky husband on line one,” Scott said.

Damn! He would want to know the outcome of the meeting. How thoughtful. Unclenching her teeth, she picked up the phone.

“I hear celebration is in order. Congratulations!”

“Yes, well, it’s a good thing in more ways than one.” Did she sound a bit bitchy? Yeah, probably, but if she found out he was cheating on her…

“Hugs and kisses ‘til this evening. We’ll go out to celebrate!”

Sure, Joe, you bet, depending on what happens at Packer’s!

She told Scott she had an appointment she’d forgotten about and left with her gym bag over her shoulder. In the lobby, she ducked into the public restroom where she changed into workout clothes she kept at the office for those times when she actually went to the gym. Something she hadn’t done in months, so fortunately they didn’t stink. She jammed her hair under a cap and donned a pair of sunglasses. Nobody would give her a second look.

“Have a nice day, Mrs. Foster,” the security attendant said as she scurried by.

Three more people said, “Hi, Alice,” as she emerged from the building, which she managed to pretend she didn’t hear, and another said, “Have a good work out, Alice. See you at the gym!”

So much for nobody giving her a second look.

Her cellphone sang her daughter’s ringtone as she power-walked with her head down. Yes, Scott had made the switch. She had wanted to ask if Joe acted nervous or strange when the switch happened, but that would seem strange, wouldn’t it?

“Hey, beautiful girl!” she said to her daughter.

“Mom? Are you okay? You sound a bit, I don’t know, winded, like you’re running or something.”

“Oh, uh, no, no, I decided to work off my excitement with a walk. I got the job!”

“Amazing! I knew you were a shoo-in. Listen, I was wondering if we could meet for lunch. I know it’s short notice, but I was in the area and wanted to see how things went and maybe celebrate with you.”

Alice bit her lip. “Uh, well,” she stuttered. “I, mmmm, have an appointment, uh. I’m running late. We’ll talk later, okay? Bye.”

A boatload of guilt washed down on her when she broke the connection. She was the absolute worst liar!

She sped up. She had to arrive in time to get seated before noon, hopefully in a strategically located spot, a vantage point from which she could watch the door.

She arrived at eleven forty-five. Packer’s was already busy, not unusual for mid-day in an area surrounded by offices and retail shops.

She took a quick look around to see if she saw Joe or Elise, but there were too many people milling around waiting to be seated, many of them from her office. Several waved.

This wasn’t going to work. What a stupid place to have a secret meeting or to spy on people having a secret meeting.

Right. A very stupid place. If this was an assignation… a rendezvous… a romantic hook up… Aaaargh! Nothing she could think of fit. Her husband with another woman? Her BFF with her husband? It didn’t add up. What was she thinking? Noon on a workday at Packer’s was the least likely place for them to meet privately. The chances of the two being seen together was astronomically high. Then why didn’t they say anything? Why hush hush?

“How many?” the hostess asked, jerking Alice’s attention back to the moment.

“Uh, I, one.”

“Name?”

Alice blinked. “Miller. Sally Miller.”

Shit! What if Sally decided to come for lunch here? Worse, what if Alice didn’t get seated before Joe and Elise showed up? What if she was seated somewhere at the back where she couldn’t see anything?

Alice searched frantically for a place to wait inconspicuously. She sidled over to stand behind a spreading fichus and felt like an idiot. She should leave. Instead she sat on a cushioned bench next to a hyper toddler whose mother looked ready to fall off her seat from exhaustion. Those were the days. Alice thought back when the kids were small. Marissa three, Caleb four and baby Andrea, eight months – Andy Pandy, they called her, waiting to be seated at an Applebee’s. Alice had just wanted to go home and sleep for a week. And then suddenly, they were teenagers and didn’t need her as much. That’s when she got the part time job at Able Analytics in the public relations and marketing department.

The mom and her toddler left to be seated. Alice, head down and trying to avoid making eye contact with anyone she knew, scooted over to make room for a woman wearing spectacular Jimmy Choo’s. Hmmmm. Did they look familiar? The shoes made her ratty trainers look even more grotty. A man sat on the other side, his grey slacks sharply creased, his black brogans polished to a high shine. This was not possible. Not friggin’ possible!

She bit her lip and ducked her head lower.

“Alice Foster, party of thirty-six,” the hostess said.

What?!

The familiar scent of citrus and the unique smell of her man assailed Alice’s nostrils as Joe whispered in her ear, “Gotha!”

The tinkling laugh that was signature Elise washed over her from the Jimmy Choo’s – or at least the woman wearing them.

“We decided the only way to surprise you was to get you here under false pretenses. I knew you couldn’t ignore the possibility handsome here was seeing me behind your back.” She giggled and winked. Alice wanted to slug her. Instead, she embraced them and cried, grateful they had gone to such lengths to make her day even better. Now that she was looking up and not down, she saw all three of her children, her co-workers, people from Joe’s office, her parents, Joe’s parents and several friends. If the hostess was right, thirty-six people all gathered to celebrate her promotion.

She’d known all along that the very idea of Joe and Elise together was ridiculous. Wasn’t it? Alice slipped a possessive arm around Joe’s neck and gave him a thorough kiss, which – after a few seconds of surprise – he returned enthusiastically.

“Eeew!”Marissa said. “Save it for later!”

With that they filed into Packer’s events’ room to the sound of popping corks, laughter and Cyndi Lauper belting out Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.


Image: Tracy LeBlanc on Pexels.com

I am an indie author of six books and two chap books of poetry. Check the BOOKS tab to find out more. Follow me at www.vandermeerbooks.com, https://www.facebook.com/vandermeerbooks, Amazon Author Central. I’m also a member of the Las Vegas Literary Salon, a group committed to sharing the work of local writers. Follow LVLS at lvnmlitsalon.org. Thanks for reading and sharing this post.

Works in progress

The writer

Caro Miller didn’t want anyone to question her mental health, which her mother would, if she learned her independent, successful daughter had spent the last two years with an anti-establishment, passive-aggressive creative writer, a never-published author whose piles of drivel crowded shelves, drawers and several boxes. He printed everything out, but never threw anything away.

Did she keep him around because she was afraid of being lonely, of not being loved? This thing with Wick Parker was not love. A man who loved a woman didn’t use her, tell her lies. Didn’t bring “assistants” in to type his precious works in progress. “Word processors,” Wick said. “Frees up my thinking, makes my writing more spontaneous.”

Caro had believed him, until now.

What got her attention was the skimpy panties she found under the sofa. Wick’s bizarre explanation? “Caro, love, I had to run out to the store. Maybe something weird happened when I was out.”

“Like what, Wick, some stranger came in and banged your assistant while you were gone?”

The expression of hurt on his face almost got to her. “Don’t you trust me?”

His cajoling whine was too much. Suddenly she was so angry she could hardly speak. How in hell had she allowed a culture of deceit to thrive in her home? The bitter taste of regret sickened her.

Wick, clueless as usual, went down to the pool.

Caro pulled a drawer out of the dresser. She staggered under its weight as she headed to the balcony overlooking the pool, four stories below. Wick was flirting with some girl. A light wind sent the papers she tossed over the side into a swirling spiral. The pages wafted down like leaves, falling off trees. Caro went back to get another drawer, this one full of Wick’s clothes.


This is a writing exercise from Crafty Writer in which you create a 16-line poem and a 300-word short story about something unusual seen or heard during the course of a day using 20 words based on what you heard or saw. A friend said he’d come across a link where you could see photos of people shopping in Walmart stores. It was a test of my mettle to get through the assignment (you can read the poem here). What do you think? The 20 words are: bizzare, expression, weird, mental, health, taste, mind, creative, speak, aggressive, passive, man, woman, attention, lonely, afraid, anti-establishment, angry, clueless and culture.


Subscribe to The Quest

Follow Pella Soames on her quest to right the wrongs of long ago.

When loyalists quelled an insurgent plan to take over earth nearly 20 years ago, they found Pella Soames and Bartholomew Casey among the captives destined for slave transports. Fog Island  was intended to be the first stop on a long journey to hell. Just as Pella escapes her captors, she discovers her mother is slave to Brutus Tauk, a brutal Chandorian overlord. Pella believes her mother is alive. She will risk anything to find her.

Episode 2 of Hunter’s Light, The Quest, will post on Friday. You may read Episode 1 here, free. Access to future episodes are by subscription. Thank you for subscribing.

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Access to all episodes of Hunter’s Light, The Quest. When the book is complete, you will receive a signed print copy. Episodes will post weekly on Friday.

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Episode 1

Hunter’s Light, Pella’s Quest

At the conclusion of Thunder Prime: Fog Island, Pella Soames is twelve, an orphan, it would seem. She is the victim of circumstances beyond her control. But she has no intention of remaining a victim. She refuses to be dependent on anyone as she sets out to find her mother. Is Trish Soames still alive? Is she a slave in the freehold of Brutus Tauk, a Chandorian overlord?

Now a grown woman, with a transport business of her own, Pella uses all the resources available to find out the answers to these questions and rescue her mother. But getting on Chandor isn’t all that easy. Getting information is even harder. And she must take on work to support her quest. She and her crew of four keep her transport ship, the Polaris, functioning as it moves people and cargo across the known universe, a lucrative business that gets in the way of Pella’s goal. To find her mother…

ORP Cover imageAboard Polaris

The woman beats at her attackers. Her body splits apart as a RHACS drub enters her. Not the first one; not the first time.

“Run,” the woman shrieks. “RUN!”

And the child does.

Pella awoke bathed in sweat and dripping tears. A shudder of guilt and horror scraped like thorns across her skin. A familiar tone penetrated her wounded brain as she rolled off the bunk and stood.

“Soames!” Strong, controlled, unlike the turmoil centered in her gut.

“Captain, the shuttle is cleared to land on Chandor.”

Commander Gouyen Walker’s statement knocked residual effects of the nightmare to the back of Pella’s mind.

“Noted. Who’s taking him down?”

“Aoife. Wants to get him to talk.”

Not going to happen. Their passenger’s poor disguise fooled no one, but if he wanted to cling to the illusion of anonymity, so be it. His privilege. He’d hired them for transportation, not companionship. She couldn’t help but wonder. Goodwin Harp, self-appointed leader of New Way traipsing around the galaxy on a reconditioned transport?

“Hope she doesn’t expect much,” Pella said

“You know Aoife, looking to gain an inside track.”

She let the comment pass. “Notify me when the shuttle has landed on planet.”

“Yes, Captain.”

Pella dragged a shaky hand down her face. She had not intended to sleep, but several months in space jumping from one launch platform to another drove her to her bunk, and opened a door to the pain of her nightmares.

Like it mattered, awake or asleep, the dream pursued her.

She hid like a coward while Re-Hab Assimilation Camp human drubs traded off assaulting her mother. And then she ran away.

Pella hated to remember, but could not forget. It is what drives her. Somewhere in the galaxy her mother lives. Hear search will not end until she finds her.

Pella suspects her treacherous father knows where her mother is. She wants to find him, too, and ask that very question. After all, her mother is a captive because of his deceit.

Bile rose like a hot geyser. She hurried to her bathroom expecting to upchuck, but a few deep breaths and a cold cloth on her face calmed her unsettled system.

Her reflection in the mirror over the sink was anything but impressive, but she appeared to be in control, not at all the bundle of anxiety that ravaged her insides. Discipline was second nature to Pella.

“Captain?”

“Soames, here.”

“The shuttle has landed on Chandor.”

“Thanks.”

“And Captain?”

“Yes?”

“Adams’ cabin is clear and unlocked. Your visit will go unrecorded.”


Goodwin Harp
The gilded city flashed in the setting sun. Voluptuous exotic flora breathed poison into the atmosphere. Despite his mask and protective gear Goodwin Harp shivered, but didn’t slow down. He matched Emtet J’fal’s rapid pace step for step.

Harp’s rejuvenated body, massive ego, wealth, and an incredible memory convinced him he was superior to all other beings. Behind the mask and protective suit Harp had the appearance of a youthful and robust mid-fifties. His brilliant mind retained data he considered of import, including the contents of the book. He was the book. Should something happen to him before he reached his goal, everything would die with him, but he would not fail. He would become the greatest human who ever lived, bringing the Deity of Deities to the galaxy. And he would be immortal.

The skin on his face stung as icy fingers of cold penetrated the mask. Oh, how he hated this accursed place, but he needed these beings to solidify his standing galaxy-wide and establish New Way as the only way. First, he had to get to Bonnak Wallace, a direct descendant of the planet’s original settlers. Without Wallace’s support, New Way on Chandor was dead. And there were other compelling reasons to gain access to the planet. Perhaps it was best in the long run that his emissaries had been rejected, forcing him to come instead. Harp needed Wallace’s cooperation, but he needed Chandor’s rich resources of minerals and essential industrial gemstones more. He would not give up until he won Wallace over.

J’fal raised a cautionary hand. Harp stopped beside him with eyes lowered as a wizened Chandorian passed by flanked by guards and a bevy of exquisitely adorned Chandorian fems. Ugly as mud, to Harp’s eye, but no doubt real beauties by Chandorian standards.

So why, he wondered, did the males of Chandor seek true human fems, paying any price to possess one? Testosterone? It plagued every male in every species. Harp no longer had interest in fems for sexual purposes. When his sex drive diminished, he was glad to be rid of the animal urges of his body. Sex got in the way of ambition. Fems were nothing but trouble. For the same reason, he never had progeny. Filthy beggars all of them.

J’fal waved his hand bringing Harp back to the moment. He hitched his backpack higher on his shoulders as they moved on toward the government bureau entrance.

The door sighed open as they drew near and closed behind them with a hollow thud. Darkness was instant, followed by pinpoints of light that flashed randomly. Harp stumbled into J’fal.

“Fo can deca!”

Harp stilled, hiding the fury that raged through him. To have an inferior call him a clumsy shit deserved reprimand, but not now, not under these circumstances. But he would not forget.

A panel slid open revealing a well-lit austere waiting area. As they stepped through J’fal motioned to an industrial bin.

“Dispose of the protective garment and be seated. Wait until you are called. When you are ready to leave, I will bring a replacement protective suit and return you to your transportation.” With that he strode away and left through a door marked in universal galactic: No Entrance. Violators Will Be Detained.

Rumor had it that detainment meant being sent to the Chandorian mines never to be seen again.

Having been unceremoniously discarded like stinking garbage, Harp did as instructed. Under the protective garment, he wore a form fitting body suit. This he covered with a golden-threaded tunic from his backpack. His silver white hair, released from the confines of the protective suit, cascaded down his back in a shimmering fall. Confident his appearance was now appropriate for meeting the ruler of Chandor, he turned his attention to his surroundings.

Humanoid Assigned Need Artificial Intelligence units sat at terminals spaced around the perimeter of the room. At the center was an arrangement of upholstered chairs for the comfort of those who were waiting. The seats were empty.

Harp approached one of the male ANAIs. It continued working as though he didn’t exist. Harp resisted the temptation to pull out his weapon and obliterate the useless pile of components that made up the pseudo-human, and then remembered, he wasn’t carrying a weapon. It was not allowed.

Harp resented talking to any ANAI as though it were human, but he did not intend to spend hours in the waiting area when he was the only one with business to conduct.

“When will Director Jonfellow be available?”

The ANAI worked without pause as it spoke.

“You will be called.”

“I have an appointment.”

“You will be called.”

Harp seethed. He needed to make his case to Jonfellow and speak with Wallace. As a man of consequence across the galaxy it was reprehensible to be put off in this manner. Inexcusable! His lips thinned and for an instant a hint of his former visage appeared, his eyes fired by hate for everything beyond his control. Nevertheless, he was here as a petitioner. He must focus on his objective. He must bide his time.


Aboard Polaris
Pella sat back on her heels and looked around Harp’s Spartan cabin. There was nothing that didn’t support his claim to be James Adams, a galactic trader. Of the fourteen passengers the Polaris carried when it left Earth, Harp was the only one booked to Chandor, the planet most distant from Earth. Harp had kept to himself, requesting meals be sent to his cabin. He was traveling alone, no aides or servants. Suspicious. Every time Pella had seen him on VidNet, he was surrounded by guards and acolytes. She shrugged it off. No business of hers. He’d paid handsomely for privacy and special treatment. With his creds in her account, her business with him was done except for getting him safely to Alpha 9, his destination after leaving Chandor.

She accepted that her uneasiness stemmed from Adams/Harp being on Chandor, the place she wanted to be. Not that the Polaris crew hadn’t been on Chandor, but only with access to Shirefel, the only metro on the planet. It was one thing to deliver cargo to intake; quite another to have access to the holdings of the elite. And that was Pella’s goal. To get to the holding of Brutus Tauk. What she would do when she got there ran headlong into a wall of ignorance. It seemed an impossible goal. She had no contacts on planet and no way to access protective gear, the only way true humans, and most off worlders, could survive outside the city.

As she left Harp’s cabin and headed for command bay, she trailed her fingers along the walls in passing, still delighted – and sometimes unbelieving – that this beautiful ship belonged to her. Before it was the Polaris, it had been Thunder II, the second transport in the Casey clan’s original company. As the company grew, the transport had been relegated to use for parts. During the time she was still working for Jake Casey, she had asked to purchase it. No, he’d said, just take it. It’s no use to the company. Pella couldn’t abide the idea of accepting what amounted to charity. The Caseys had done enough for her. She struck a deal to haul cargo and passengers at half rate with the rest of her income going to pay the debt on Thunder II.

Three intense years of hard work earned her enough to make the ship hers. It had a new name and a new purpose. With the help of her crew she’d honed the Polaris into a sturdy craft, and created a successful transport company ferrying people and cargo about the galaxy.

She should have been content, maybe even that thing referred to as happy, but every time she began to get comfortable, she remembered her mother’s screams.


Thank you for reading the first episode of Hunter’s Light, a sci-fi novel featuring Pella Soames, a young woman who survived an attack on her village by Re-Hab Assimilation Camp humans (RHACS) when she was a child. RHACS destroyed the life she had known. Now, years later, she sets out to find her mother and get revenge against her father for his betrayal. To continue reading about Pella’s adventures, click below to buy a subscription to receive episodes as they are posted. You will be provided with a pass code to access the new episode on Friday of each week.

Subscription

Access to all episodes of Hunter’s Light, The Quest. When the book is complete, you will receive a signed print copy. Episodes will post weekly on Friday.

$16.00

 

 

Short Fiction

The Music of Life

RoseI hate to dance. Period. That’s it. Today is my sister’s wedding day. She’s three years younger than I, which means I’m the spinster sister, although I’m a mere twenty-six. What does one have to do with the other? Nothing really, but it does contribute to me hiding out in the house while the bride and groom, and everyone else, twirls with abandon on the outdoor dance floor my father paid an arm and a leg to have installed just for the occasion.

My sister’s wedding.

I won’t be missed. Everyone knows I don’t like to dance. I’ve tried it, don’t get me wrong, even had dance lessons. My instructor kindly told my mother I was hopeless. If I was told to go right, I went left; if I was told to twirl, I stumbled; if I was told to dip, I dropped.

Let it be said, this put quite a damper on my social life.

A dancer I am not.

I wandered into the kitchen and dodged the caterers as I put together a small plate of food and filled a champagne flute with OJ. So much more elegant than just any old juice glass.

Flute and plate in hand, I plopped into an armchair in my dad’s home office. It was as far from the music as I could get and still be inside, away from notice.

I had helped select the menu for the dinner, so I had no problem plowing through the food on my plate. I should have gotten more, but dared not make a foray into the kitchen for another run. It would be just like my mother to be in there making sure the caterers knew what they were doing.

The froth of my dress, yes, it’s one of those too, too much in every way dresses brides force their bridesmaids to wear so we look ridiculous while she looks amazing. Fortunately for me mauve complimented my fair skin and chestnut hair. The sweetheart neckline and fitted bodice was okay. The mutton sleeves I could do without, as well as the miles and miles of silk and tulle worked into the skirt. We all looked like pudgy Swan Lake ballerinas on speed, even those of us with a slim figure.

I love you Sis, but some of your friends don’t need extra bulk around their butts and thighs. Just saying.

I jumped when the door opened. The most handsome man I have ever seen in my life stood there grinning at me.

“There you are! Joe told me to look for you in the most unlikely spot.”

“Joe?” I queried stupidly taking in the specimen before me with palpitating heart. Yeah, I know, treacly word, but my, oh my, my heart was stampeding like a herd of wild ponies.

“Yeah, Joe, your new brother-in-law. About my height, dreamy green eyes…”

He palmed the air when I raised my eyebrows at the dreamy green eyes comment. “That’s Pam’s description, not mine!”

Pam is my sister and Joe does have dreamy green eyes.

“So, come on. They’re wearing out the dance floor. Pam told me to come get you.” He put his hand out and expected me to take it. It’s the hardest thing I ever did to look at him like he was certifiable. I tucked my hands under my butt like a little kid to avoid temptation that might lead to something like dancing.

“Who are you?”

Let me see. How many witty opening gambits are there for meeting a hunk and half? Surely anything would be better than, who are you.

He gave a hokey sweeping bow, “Jake Morrison, at your service.” He straightened and that grin was back. “Joe’s friend. We grew up together.”

I did not remember Joe mentioning a Jake Morrison, and as one who poured over the guest list with razor like precision because it kept growing like weeds after a rainstorm, I knew Jake Morrison’s name was not there.

“I’m here as a surprise. I’ve been out of the country, but I had to be here for the most important day in Joey’s life.”

One, only Pam called Joe Joey, and two, had this man just read my mind?

“OOOOkay.”

“So, how about it. Let’s join the party.”

The music I hadn’t been able to hear, at least not very well, seemed to drift into the room. His hand hovered in front of me, palm up. Not clear exactly why I did it, I took his hand and let him help me up. I actually made it to my feet without falling on my face. As if it were meant to be, he brought me close, into a dancer’s embrace, my right hand in his left, his arm gently around my waist, and for reasons beyond my understanding, I placed my left hand on his shoulder (and a mighty fine shoulder it was) to steady myself.

“You are as beautiful as Joe said.”

I gulped. Nobody called me beautiful. Ever. Pam, well, she’s just a knockout. I’ve never minded. I’m okay, I mean my looks, don’t get me wrong, but beautiful?

He twirled me in time with the distant music, and I didn’t trip. Now that made my lips turn up in surprise, and maybe a touch of happy.

“And you have a lovely smile.”

I blushed.

“I hear you’re quite the artist, too.”

Painting, my guilty pleasure.

“How do you know about that?”

“Pam, she brags on you all the time.”

See, the thing is, my sister is my biggest fan, so I wasn’t surprised by his comment. However, my dabbling was just that, and I told him so as we dipped and swayed around Dad’s office, which seemed to have taken on dimensions I’d never realized before. Of course, when you know how to dance, and how to lead, it doesn’t really take that much space, I thought.

“What type of artist are you?”

“I just told you, I’m not an artist. It’s a hobby, that’s all.”

“You don’t think much of yourself, do you?”

Now I took offense at that statement. It’s just that I know my limitations.

“If you have limitations, you put them on yourself.”

Did I say that out loud? No, I did not.

“Let go, Anna, dance to the music of life.”

“I don’t dance.”

He grinned. “You are dancing,” he said, and spun me around, then caught me in a feather light embrace.

A slight frown marred his countenance. Abruptly he let me go and stepped back.

“Excuse me, I have to take this.” He pulled a cellphone from the pocket of his suit coat.

“Hello?”

I fidgeted and wished we could get back to doing that thing I don’t do: dancing.

“Now!? But I’m at my friend’s wedding.”

He turned away from me and nodded his head to whatever was being said on the other end of this annoying conversation. “Yes, I know you said I shouldn’t, but…” When he was done, he slipped the phone back in his pocket and turned to me, disappointment written all over his handsome face.

“Sorry, I have to go.” He smiled with such warmth and kindness, I smiled in return, even though in my heart I suspected I would never see this man again.

“Remember what I said, Anna, dance to the music of life.”

“I don’t dance!” I yelled as he walked out and closed the door.

I sat back down in the chair and wondered what the heck just happened.

“Here you are!”

I startled awake to find my sister, wedding gown still sparkling, wrinkle free and gorgeous, leaning over me.

“I found her!” she shouted, as if I was at the North Pole.

Alex, one of Joe’s groomsmen poked his head around the door. “Can I come in?”

What was I going to say? No?

“Listen, Anna, no hiding out. I may be the star of this show, but you’re my best supporting bridesmaid. Everyone’s asking where you are.”

“I got this, Pam,” Alex said. “You better get back before Joe starts to wonder if you’ve already come to your senses and left him.”

Pam punched him in the shoulder hard enough to make him wince. My sister, in addition to being runway model beautiful, is a black belt in karate.

She left me with Alex who turned to me with a dazzling grin and put his hand out to help me up from my chair. I surreptitiously pinched myself on my underarm to be sure I wasn’t asleep and dreaming. I mean, really, what are the odds two gorgeous men would be paying attention to me when there were bevvies of beauties out on the lawn just dying for a flirt fest?

I took his hand and stood up gracefully despite my frou-frou flounces of fabric. I must have looked a bit pensive because Alex’s smile disappeared to be replaced by concern.

“You okay?”

I realized he was still holding my hand and it felt darned good. I took it back and smoothed the fabric of my dress.

“Of course. I… I was wondering what happened to Jake.”

The expression on Alex’s face could only be defined as stunned. He visibly shook himself, or maybe shuddered, and smiled a ghost of a smile.

“Jake?”

“Morrison. Jake Morrison. What happened to him? He was…”

“How did you know Jake? Joe and Pam just got together two years ago.”

“I…”

He looked at me with a mixture of bewilderment and distress. “Sorry, it was just such a surprise to hear his name after all this time.”

I knew I didn’t want to hear whatever he had to say and lifted my hand in a useless gesture to stop him.

“I thought everyone knew. Sorry to be the one to tell you. Jake died in a skiing accident three years ago.”

“But…”

He looked at me and swallowed. “He would be here today, if he could. In some ways…” He glanced around and then back at me. “In some ways, I think he is. Wherever there was music, there was Jake, charming the ladies and spinning them around the dance floor.” Alex drew in a deep breath and blew it out. I sensed he, like I, was on the verge of tears. “His mantra was dance to the music of life.”

He knuckled a tear from my cheek I didn’t know was falling.

“He swore he would dance with the most beautiful girl at the party when Joe got married. He can’t be here, but would you do me the honor of allowing me to fill in for him?”

As we walked into the hallway, I looked back. I swear Jake Morrison was standing there grinning at me. I blinked, and he was gone.

_______
I hope you enjoy this little bit of romantic fantasy. Be sure and drop by my booth (59) at People’s Faire on Saturday, Aug. 27. I’ll be selling signed copies of my books.

Short Fiction

Hope Springs Eternal (or) Opportunity Knocks

BoutiqueAllie Edwards went to the mall. She didn’t know why. It’s not like she had money to spend. She couldn’t even pay her rent, much less buy something she didn’t need that would, in the end, make her feel guilty as hell.

No job. No prospects. No skills.

One thing she did have in abundance, was hope. Life had been less than fair to Allie, but as her old grandma would say, “Get used to it Miss Allie, life’s not fair, so get over yourself.”

She figured that meant there was no point in having a pity party.

She couldn’t even be mad at Mr. Hernandez for firing her. Business was down, she was the last waitress to be hired and therefore the first to be fired. Plus, in all honesty, she wasn’t too good at the whole waitressing thing. People who ate in restaurants could be downright demanding and mean. And balancing trays loaded with food, and knowing who was supposed to get what? Harder than she ever imagined.

But the job had allowed her to move out of her grandma’s stuffy apartment and into a place of her own. The thought of losing that bit of independence was enough to make her sad, but what could she do but move back with Grams if she didn’t have money coming in?

The mall’s bright interior lifted her mood. The stores with cheerful window displays made her smile. The air conditioning cooled her skin. Tempted by the food court, she almost bought an ice cream cone, but didn’t.

She stood before the window display of Winsome, a shop that catered to women “of all ages,” a bit optimistic in her opinion. You could not be all things to all people, especially when it came to women’s clothes.

“They should rethink who they want to sell to,” she said.

“I beg your pardon?” said an older woman who was also studying the window display.

Allie didn’t know why she spoke out loud, but that was her nature, saying what she thought, speaking when she shouldn’t.

“Sorry, I was thinking out loud. I do that sometimes.”

“Please, go on. What do you not like about the display?”

“Oh, the display is fine, it’s just that ‘women of all ages’ means any woman of any age would be interested in buying any one of those items, and,” she shrugged, “that’s flat out not the case.”

“Please, go on.”

“Well, take that cardigan for instance. The color is nice; most women look good in teal, but the style, well it screams skinny and young. The pants? Can you really see that cut on any woman under twenty-five? I don’t even know what to say about the dress. If it sags on a human female the way it sags on the mannequin, no girl I know would even want to try it on.”

“My, but you do have strong opinions.”

Allie shrugged. “Gram would agree.”

“What do you do, if you don’t mind my asking?”

Allie’s skin flushed. “Nothing right now. I was a waitress for a while, but to be honest, I wasn’t much good at it.”

“Have you ever done sales?”

Allie laughed.

“Why is that funny?”

“Gram says I’m too cheeky to work with the public.”

“Being a waitress is working with the public.”

“Yeah, and remember that part about me not being good at it.”

“How would you like to work for me?”

“Excuse me?”

The woman pulled a small poster from under her arm and showed it to Allie. It read, Help Wanted, Hiring Immediately.

“This is your store?”

The woman nodded.

Allie scrunched her face in confusion. “But I’ve never worked in, well anything like this.”

“My dear, you have shown more savvy than anyone I’ve hired in the past. Let’s call it a trial run. Ninety-day probationary period. What do you say?”

Allie started to tell her why this couldn’t possibly work, but for a change, kept her mouth shut until she built up the courage to say, “Thank you, I would like that. When do I start?”

_________________________
I hope you like this bit of short fiction. There will be more :). The image is from clipart.com, the story is mine.

A blatant pitch for book sales

…from a terrible marketer

Finding Family

My problem with writing has nothing to do with writing; it has to do with selling. Every book I have written is worth reading, the last one perhaps more so than the first three. Not because it is a better book, but because I learned a lot between book one and book four.

What I should have had for all my books is a good editor. Reality check here. As an indie author, I can’t afford an editor. A good editor is worth what he or she charges, no doubt about it, but given that I’m so horrible at selling my work, I’d never recover my costs. The argument in favor of an editor is that grammar and punctuation improve copy so it will sell better.

Uh, “Fifty Shades of Grey” anyone?

Hel-lo-o!

I have not read the books because erotica isn’t my cup of tea, so my statements here are based on reviews and commentary, written by people who write for a living. Many of them are baffled by the success of these books, which by some accounts are poorly constructed, have questionable content, and basic plot problems – as in there isn’t one. And yet, “50” and its sequels have netted author EL James A LOT OF MONEY! She has sold MILLIONS of copies and landed a lucrative deal for movie rights. I don’t know if she had an editor, but if she did, she paid her too much. What James does have is an identified audience looking for cheap thrills. Erotica sells.

So, what does it take to sell books? That is a very complex question. It helps that –

a) You have absolute confidence your book is the best thing that’s ever been written.
b) That you are willing to wring out of every one you know a promise to do a review (POSITIVE ONLY) and post it on Amazon and Good Reads and wherever else they can find to post it on your behalf.
c) Know your audience, or at the very least, have one.

First off, I hesitate to use friends to promote my work. Number one, I’m afraid they will feel obligated to say yes while thinking, “Is she kidding me? This thing is the worst thing I’ve ever read!?”

And second… forget it, I can’t get past number one. It’s the fear of “not being good enough” that plagues even accomplished writers.

The thing is, I believe my books are quite good. Good enough, in fact, to fly magically off the shelves without much help from me. Won’t happen. Like all authors, I must work at promoting my books every single chance I get, something I am totally not good at.

A second and equally important factor is that, “knowing your audience,” thing.

I may not be there yet when it comes to confidence, but identifying my audience is at a whole other level. People who like to read books? Hmmm, yes, but there is so much more to it. The whole genre thing drives me nuts. Plus I haven’t written just one kind of book. I’ve written the books I like to write. One is a book of inspirational reading, two are sci-fi, and the fourth is a contemporary novel about a women of a certain age.

In “Finding Family,” it is clear early on that Lilly Irish has never understood her worth to others. Following the death of her husband she becomes accustomed to living alone. She is stubbornly independent. And then her dead sister’s daughter and her three children arrive with their dog. Calm turns to chaos and along the way Lilly… well, if I said any more I’d be giving the story away.

This story is funny and sad, just like life. You will recognize the characters because they’re like all of us, trying to find their way in life, day-by-day. “Finding Family,” characters aren’t based on any one in particular, or any family in particular; it is grounded in the reality that no one is perfect. How these imperfect people come together makes for an entertaining and satisfying read.

And yes, this is a sales pitch for “Finding Family,” and a request that you buy it, read it, and post a review – brief or long – on Amazon and Good Reads and wherever else you can. I would like for it to be positive, but I would rather it be honest.

Thanks,
Sharon

NOTE: I have Finding Family available for purchase. If you would like to order a book directly from me e-mail me at fsharon@msn.com. Book price is $19.99.

Finding Family is available at Amazon and other online book retailers in soft cover and as an e-book from XLIBRIS

Paperback: 232 pages
Publisher: XLIBRIS
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1499035489
ISBN-13: 978-1499035483


Also look for my latest book:
Thunder Prime Hunter’s Light
Paperback $15
Digital Format $2.99