Saturday, August 30, 2014

My Town in Three Photos - Jacksonville

by Lucie Ulrich
At 885 sq miles, Jacksonville, Fl, is the largest city in land area in the contiguous Unites States. It boasts a population of 821,784, according to the 2012 census.

Situated along the St. Johns River, Jacksonville is known for its many bridges. It is a major port city, and proud military town. Naval Air Station Jacksonville is located four miles from the city’s business district, while Naval Station Mayport is located at the mouth of the St. Johns River.  

In the early 20th century, when Hollywood hadn’t quite come into the picture, Jacksonville was known as the Winter Filmmaking Capital of the world. Movies are still made here, though not to the degree they had been years earlier. Every year since 2003, the Jax Film Fest is held either downtown, or in one of the surrounding historical areas.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

AP Author Spotlight: Andy Lewter

Andy Lewter

Twitter ID:
Describe yourself in three words:
happy and unconditionally loving
Tell us a little about your latest release:
Gifted: A Valens Series
The last thing Abigail Everett thought would happen over spring break was having her world shift into an entirely new perspective.
Unfortunately for her, that’s exactly what happened.
Between struggling to master her newly-formed abilities, coming face-to-face with dark, deceiving mind tricks by those that seek her leadership, and learning of a mythical world that she never deemed possible, Abigail risks everything with the future of mankind and the safety of its people in her hands.
What is your earliest memory?
The earliest memory I can recall is when I was potty training (maybe 2 or 3?) and thinking about all the M&M's I would get if I used the toilet after my nap. And you bet I got those M&M's.
What would you consider the greatest moment in your life?
It's hard to pin one moment down as the greatest moment as more beautiful things happen. But if I were to narrow it down, I would say the day my husband and I were married, and then each child born that became our family after that.
What’s the hardest thing in in life you’ve done?
The hardest thing I've ever done was learning what true selflessness really meant for the sake of love. Love is the most powerful emotion, and in order to understand the true meaning of love, selflessness is essential.
What have you learned in life so far?
If you're angry, find a way to not be. Always forgive others - it's exhausting and far too much work to hold a grudge. And most importantly, that people can indeed change.
Everyone’s favourite question: if you could invite five people for dinner, who would it be?
I have dinner with them most every night, but I choose my two beautiful children and my husband. Maybe that's boring, but they're my world! And the two additional people would be my dad who has passed and my grandma. I believe a meal with those people would be a good one (:
Chance for our readers - what else would you like to know about Andy Lewter?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

RELEASE DAY: Sandy Bruney "A Question of Boundaries"

By 1895, the United States is in the 80th year of the isolation imposed by King Thomas I and upheld by his successors. But, some are chafing under the shortages and restrictions, and when inventor Dr. Featherstone declares he has found a way to override all borders, there are those who applaud the discovery and those who fear it.
When Dr. Featherstone fails to return home for an important scientific gathering, his daughter Caroline enlists the help of the Member of Parliament from Charlotte, Nathan Llewellen. As the two search for the kidnappers, Caroline is plunged into a world where travel to other realities is possible in the blink of an eye, and people can assume the forms of fearsome as well as familiar animals…and where love comes at the most unexpected times and places.
Nathan’s peculiar gift might cost Caroline her life, but she has already lost her heart.
Originally from New York State, Sandy Bruney lives in North Carolina with her husband. They have three grandchildren who are growing up much too quickly. When not writing, she enjoys reading books of every genre and avoids housework as much as possible.
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Chapter One
“I believe this invention will eclipse them all.”
Father was a man who collected prizes and accolades as his just due. So when he did not appear at the annual dinner of the Charlotte Society of Inventors and Scientists, Caroline Featherstone knew something was wrong. Father would never miss an opportunity to listen to admiring speeches on his behalf, which meant more to him than any gold medal.
“I’m going out,” she told her housekeeper, Tabby.
“And just where, Miss, if I may ask?” The woman, not much taller than a twelve-year-old, tilted her head back as she waited for an answer.
Caroline’s glare was impressive, but Tabby refused to be intimidated. “In case you disappear as well I’ll need a place to start looking.”
“I’m going to see Mister Jennings. I’m hoping he may have had some word.” Jamming a straw hat on her head and tying the ribbons under a determined chin, Caroline went out the door and headed for the trolley stop three blocks away.
Leaving the trolley at Elizabeth Street, she found Mr. Jennings’ office without difficulty. At the last minute, Caroline wondered if she should have ascertained if the solicitor were in before coming all the way downtown. Her concern seemed justified when she saw the office was locked, but she knocked just the same, and attempted to peer in the window.
“Is something wrong, Miss?”
Caroline swerved to see a rather large policeman standing not two feet from her. Startled, she backed up a step and put a hand to her breast. “I came to see Mister Jennings, but he doesn’t appear to be in. I’ll have to come back another day.” She tried to maneuver around the bulky man, but he didn’t move.
“What’s your business with Mister Jennings then?” he asked. His tone, mildly curious up to now, hardened and his genial smile disappeared.
Caroline debated answering. It wasn’t his affair, after all, but then again, he was an officer of the law. “He is my father’s solicitor. I had some questions to put to him.”
The officer’s stiff posture relaxed, although his face remained grim. “I’m sorry to tell you this, but Mister Jennings has met with a misfortune. You won’t be able to talk to him.”
“Oh. I’m sorry. Well then, as I said, I will just have to come back. Maybe next week, if he has recovered by then.”
The man shook his head. “No chance of that. He was shot in the heart and is dead.”
Caroline let out a gasp. “Murdered?”
“Hard to shoot your own self in the heart, although it has been done. We’re investigating, but yes, it’s safe to say he was killed by an unknown assailant.” He nodded as if he had much more he could share if he were so inclined. “You’d best run along home, Miss.”
Caroline nodded and this time the officer stepped aside to let her pass. Only a passerby’s warning shout kept her from stepping in front of one of the steamcabs that were gradually replacing horse-drawn carriages on downtown Charlotte’s busy streets. Her attention had been diverted by an urchin, no older than eight or nine, who was selling newspapers. “Murder most foul!” the boy yelled. “Read all about it!”
Caroline exchanged a coin for the newspaper and, flipping it open, found the article about poor Mr. Jennings. With dread, she read his office had been ransacked and an untold number of files had been taken. A witness described seeing two men, one a larger than normal person, walking past the building scant minutes before shots were heard. The witness also said the taller man wore a green or brown suit in a checkered pattern. The other had no jacket, but wore a red kerchief. They were being sought for questioning, but were not suspects. Caroline filled in the missing words — as yet.
The mention of the stolen files made her blood chill in her veins. What files? Were some of them Father’s? If so, were these men responsible for his disappearance?


Monday, August 25, 2014

RELEASE DAY: Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy "Gray's Good Samaritan"


On an ordinary Saturday morning, Robin Cavanaugh’s life takes a wild turn.  A wounded man leaps into her car at a traffic light.  He refuses to go to the hospital and after he reveals his real name, she realizes she knows him from church.  When he swears he’s one of the good guys, Robin abandons common sense to help him.  As his condition worsens, she soon learns he’s not really Spike Mc Gee, a criminal but an undercover agent whose life is in danger.  His brother, Jack, a doctor, pulls Gray through and soon, Robin is part of the action too.  Their love grows under the unlikely conditions and when Gray heads home to visit his mother, Robin comes too.  While there, Gray proposes and she accepts but a family tragedy brings them back to Tulsa.  Everything hangs in the balance as Gray goes undercover as Spike on last time…if he survives, they can find their happily ever after.



Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy is a native of historic St. Joseph, Missouri and now makes her home in the beautiful Ozark Mountains.  As a wife and mother to three children, she spends her days penning her stories, substitute teaching, gardening, cooking, and all the other daily duties.  She has a BA degree in English and History from Missouri Southern State University and an AA degree from Crowder College.  She has worked in broadcasting, education, and retail. Lee Ann is a member of Romance Writers of America, Missouri Writers Guild, and the Ozark Writers League.  Her multiple works include full length nov-els, novellas, and short stories.  Lee Ann has also contributed to more than two dozen an-thologies including the popular Chicken Soup For The Soul series.  She writes a weekly col-umn for the local newspaper and writes several romance genres and subgenres.



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Chapter One
On a morning as ordinary as faded blue jeans, no different from dozens of other Saturdays, everything changed. As she slowed for a traffic signal behind a long string of vehicles, Robin spotted the man. Whoever he was, he ran at furious speed, racing across the open spaces between the electric substations as if his life might be in peril. Robin couldn’t imagine anything else powerful enough to inspire anyone to run so fast, so hard. Curious, she kept an eye on him to see where he went as she came to a stop at the highway interchange. Already ten minutes late for her hair appointment, midway through her weekly errands, she craned her head backward and over the dirty laundry stacked in the back seat. Just as the light went green, the runner changed course. His diagonal path would take him in front of her car so she hesitated, a car length behind the other vehicles, afraid she might hit him. At the last moment, he veered, switched course, and snatched open the passenger door. He climbed inside before she could scream or protest and spat out two words: “Hit it!”

Robin froze, uncertain what to do until the truck behind her blared its horn. After a brief hesitation, she drove forward, heart beating with a rock-and-roll rhythm. Every bone in her law-abiding body screamed to stop. Her passenger’s face shimmered with perspiration and his eyes glittered with pain. Although he had been running hard, he gasped for breath as if he had been hurt. When she sneaked a closer glance, she noticed blood dripping in staccato rhythm from beneath his leather jacket. “Hey, you’re hurt,” she said, shocked. In her comfortable world, people didn’t run or bleed from anything but a minor mishap. “What happened?”

“I got shot,” he said. Each word required a harsh-drawn breath. “Just drive, okay?”

“Shot?” she echoed. Maybe she had heard him wrong. “You were shot?”

He shot her a look from half-closed eyes and she noticed how pale he had become. “Yeah.”

Robin clamped her fingers tighter around the steering wheel as she stiffened. Whatever trouble he’d found, it wasn’t hers but she couldn’t abandon him on the side of the road either. She made a sudden, swift decision.

“I can take you to the hospital,” she said. “I’m sorry, but that’s it. Just hang on and we’ll get there as soon as I figure out if we’re closer to Hillcrest, OSU, or St. Francis.”

He’d closed his eyes, shuttered tight against the pain, but at her suggestion, he opened them and glared at her. “No hospital,” he choked. “Can’t. They report gunshot wounds.”

Disbelief cut through her anxiety so that she spoke without thinking. “Are you telling me you don’t want me to take you to the hospital?” He needed immediate medical attention. Those drops of blood she had noticed had become a stream flowing down the seat and puddling onto the floorboard. “You need to get help — you’re bleeding all over the place.”

His eyes narrowed as he glared at her. “I know, but I can’t go to the hospital. The law requires them to report any gunshot wounds. If they do, I’m a dead man. Can you drive any faster? I don’t think they saw what car I got into but they might have. If so, we’re both in trouble.”

He appeared about to collapse but he’d managed to speak up. And what he said scared her. “Who might’ve seen you?” Robin asked, afraid to hear the answer. The way he had been running, she figured it must have been the police, drug dealers, a gang, or maybe organized crime.

Her passenger slumped down in the seat. “I think maybe the cops did.”

Robin almost slammed on the brakes and her attention strayed from the road. She faced him and got a good look for the first time. He wore black leather pants, a leather jacket, and a black T-shirt. On his hands, he wore leather half-gloves and studded bracelets encircled both wrists. Although his hair was close-cropped in front, he had let it grow out in back. After his crazy run, his hair had wilted but she would bet he had had it spiked with gel before. Robin couldn’t determine if his style screamed biker, punk, Goth, or gang, but whatever his fashion statement might be, it stretched far outside her comfort zone. He had to be a criminal and she struggled to stay calm. Who knew what he might do if she provoked him?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

My Town in Three Photos - Possum Trot

by J.L. Salter
Taken with a phone camera, this slightly grainy shot features a full moon over my house up on what I call “Fossil Hill”.  That hill, in prehistory, was the bank of a significant river and we’ve found hundreds of fossils — both aquatic type and some unknown form of (land-grown) fruit.
A westerly autumn view from the bottom (currently dry) bed of “Disappearing Creek” which was – in prehistory – a raging river.
 The five acres of woods directly behind our house , the widest of the logging roads … during winter.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

AP Author Spotlight: Mary Cope

Mary Cope
Twitter ID:
Describe yourself in three words:
Tell us a little about your latest release:
My story, Beautiful One, takes place in the beach community of Dana point, California and centers around Elizabeth Ryan.
Elizabeth is a beautiful, shy, naïve high school senior. Having never dated she meets the boy of her dreams, Aidan Mitchell. Despite his history of womanizing Liz is drawn to him. Soon Liz becomes the envy of all the girls on campus, when they become a couple and her dream boyfriend sweeps her off her feet and into the dating world that is all too new and strange for her. When other guys start to take notice of Liz, Aidan is troubled with fits of jealousy.
Elizabeth then meets the ruggedly handsome, Spencer Hayes and they quickly bond over their passion for music. Liz begins to struggle with the feelings that spark between them.
In the end Elizabeth finds herself torn between helping Aidan overcome his jealousy and anger and giving into what her heart truly wants.
What is your earliest memory?
One of my earliest and happiest memories for me was watching my mother bake bread. I remember she used to push a chair up to the counter so I could stand and watch her. Then she would hand me a little doughball and I would play with it.
What would you consider the greatest moment in your life?
The greatest moment in my life was becoming a mother. To be responsible for a precious little one is life-changing.
What’s the hardest thing in in life you’ve done?
The hardest thing I've done in my life is to parent my children consistently. When my children were growing up I remember thinking to myself, it'd be so easy to "give in" and allow them to do what they want. Consistently parenting is an exhausting job, but the outcome is the reward. My children are now 23 and 19. They are a blessing to me and make me proud to be called, mom.
What have you learned in life so far?
How fast life goes by, and it truly is, the little things that matter the most.
Everyone’s favourite question: if you could invite five people for dinner, who would it be?
The five people I would like to invite to dinner. Are those who have passed.
My mom.
My mother-in-law.
My father-in-law.
And, my grandparents because I never knew them.
Chance for our readers - what else would you like to know about Mary Cope?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

RELEASE DAY: Christina Lorenzen "A Husband for Danna"

Off and running! In her frenzied quest to escape from a groom her father has chosen for her, Danna Rashba ‘borrows’ a limousine parked on Main Street. The last thing on her mind is finding a groom from another wedding in the backseat. What are the chances that the bride and groom from two different weddings running from the altar on the same day? The last thing Danna wants is a hostage as she tries to escape from her nuptials.
The last thing Eric Harmon wants is to be saddled with yet another spoiled, needy woman. He’s furious about this wrench in his plans, he accuses Danna of stealing. He wants to send her home in a cab as soon as they get to the nearest town, but Danna refuses. Much to Eric’s frustration, one thing after another seems to keep them tied together.
Soon the generosity of a local shopkeeper and several people in town have them mistaken for newlyweds. Danna and Eric find themselves stepping into the role as husband and wife leading them to realize they just may be each other’s ‘match’. But will Danna be able to stand up to her rigid, old fashioned father and choose her own husband?
Christina Lorenzen started writing as a young teen, jotting stories in wire ring composition notebooks. Her first typewriter made it faster to get all those stories out of her head and down on paper. Her love of writing has sustained her through a myriad of jobs that included hairdresser, legal secretary, waitress and door to door saleswoman. Luckily for her, writing proved to be successful and a lot less walking than going door to door. A Husband for Danna is Christina’s first novel. She is busy working on her next. When she isn’t writing or reading, she can be found walking her dog, talking to her herd of cats and spending time with her family.
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Chapter One
Panting from the short dash from the church to the curb, Danna looked around wild-eyed, spotting a limo at the curb. The fact that it wasn't her bridal party's limousine didn't matter. She ran around to the driver's side and flung open the door.
The sound of her wedding gown tearing broke the silence in the big empty car. Frustrated, she shoved away the seat belt and fumbled with the ignition key. Fighting the ostentatious bulk of her gown, she wiggled her bottom into the seat. She looked up to see a whirling funnel of pink rushing toward the limousine. In the eye of the storm, a snow-white gown accentuated one very red-faced bride.
A buzzing sound filled her ears. She looked down and saw a small black box, which she recognized as an intercom, between the seats. "Step on it!" a deep male voice boomed from the back seat.
With no time to berate herself for picking an occupied getaway car, she stepped on the gas and sped away from the curb, barely glancing at the side mirror. Drive now, think later. Slapping back the ringlets threatening to spill over her eyes, she checked her mirrors. She was fast approaching the only traffic light in Shady Bridge.
She tried to push the mess she had made from her mind. Goose bumps covered her bare arms despite the unusual October heat. Seeing the light turn yellow, she stepped down hard on the gas pedal and flew through the intersection, her head jerking back and forth. She felt like a balloon as the air sailed from her lips. Apparently her momentarily crazy driving had no effect on her male passenger.
The handful of stores were behind her now, their faded old brick fronts growing smaller in her rearview mirror. Now out of the heart of town, her shoulders began to relax. She took a deep breath as she had seen her mother do countless times during her morning meditation. Even as she relaxed her tense body, she couldn't help but think about what she had done. It was as if she had been someone else — not Danna Rashba, the sensible, practical daughter.
The mix of farmhouses and Victorian homes on the outskirts of town were fading now too. Chewing her lip, she veered onto the ramp that led to Highway Three. Her mind racing, she tried to calculate how many hours she would have to drive to get far enough away from Shady Bridge. Or at least far away enough from Nagpal Singh, her husband-to-be who by now would have found out his bride had run away.
Wriggling in her seat, fighting to flatten the outrageous bustle her sister had talked her into, she cursed herself in silence. Why hadn't she grabbed her t-shirt and jeans? Sighing, she shook her head. What was done was done. At least she had thought to grab the beaded satin clutch she had picked out for the "big day." The petite bag was about the only thing she had picked out on her own. All of the other details of her wedding had been planned for her, including her husband.
Danna kept an even weight on the accelerator as she tried to decide where to go. Of course she would have been able to focus better if not for the images of her very displeased father that flashed in her mind.
Boom! Boom! She had completely forgotten about the body attached to the male voice that had spoken earlier. A low whirring noise filled the quiet car as the privacy screen opened, disrupting her plotting and planning.
A large, tanned hand tapped the driver's seat as he cleared his throat. "I think I've escaped from that mess. Take me home to pick up my vehicle. I'll settle up with you then."
Danna watched him in the rearview mirror, his eyes never looked up from the gadget in his hand. Wriggling to the right, hoping to see the face that went with the gravelly voice, she took in a dark, handsome man pounding buttons on a cell phone.
"It's dead! I don't even have the charger." He seemed oblivious to her as he tossed the phone to the floor. Obviously he had no idea who was driving him.


RELEASE DAY: Felicia Rogers "Emerald Street"



What if one laugh changed your world?

Raylyn Morrison, a critical care nurse for wounded soldiers, has a problem. She cares too much. Dreams haunt her. The death of her patients leaves her distraught and seeking peace. But temporary peace is not enough. She doesn’t want to leave, but she needs to. Then he comes along.

Staff Sergeant Jack Williams understands loss -- physical, emotional, and spiritual. Not only did the war take his leg, but it took his family and his desire to live. But the voice of an angel keeps him going. A voice he dreams about even after he wakes from a coma. Yet when they meet she is nothing like he expected and he wonders if he’s made mistake.

Fate destines them to be together forever, he’s sure of it, but something goes wrong and Raylyn disappears. She leaves a hole that only service can fill.

Chiapas, Mexico, is the perfect setting to forget her loss and work on her future. But when Jack reappears in her life, she worries her heart will break again. But after two years, she should be over him. Right? Do her new fears have a foundation or should she give in and allow herself to love him once more?

While residing in a country with a rich history and a tumultuous future, Jack must convince Raylyn he never stopped loving her…before it is too late.




Felicia Rogers is the author of multiple novels and novellas. When she's not writing, Felicia volunteers with the Girl Scouts of America, teaches at a local homeschooling group, hikes, and spends time with her family.



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Machines hummed, and the floor vibrated. Oxygen dribbled into the huge pump like water dripping off a gutter. Odors of rust and elderly people assaulted her senses.

Raylyn walked the lit aisle. Hospital beds lined both walls. Sporadically, a single wail rent the air. She twisted to face the patient, only to find them fast asleep.

Checking her list against a bed label, she stopped. Lt. Robert O’Malley lay unmoving. The pale pallor of his skin wasn’t a good sign. The lieutenant had been losing blood, but the doctors were unable to ascertain the cause.

She checked his vitals, wrote the numbers down, and moved on.

The next soldier was unnamed. For privacy reasons, his family had ordered the staff to call him Johnny. He’d lost both his legs and one arm in a military excursion.

Vitals checked and documented, she moved on. Tonight all the men slept. Her feet clicked against the tile floor, breaking the silence. She reached the nurses' station and stopped.

Where was everyone?

The computer screen blinked on. Bright green letters popped up one at a time.

H-E-L-P M-E!

She stepped back. Her hand hit a clipboard, and it clattered against the counter. She twirled.

Shocked, she blinked.

The patients were out of their beds and stumbling toward her. She opened her mouth to scream, but there was no sound.

They were coming for her…


Raylyn woke in a cold sweat. Tendrils of the dream clung to her consciousness. She ran her hand over her face and released a sigh. Outside, a streetlight buzzed. Dogs barked.

She kicked free of the covers tangled around her legs, rolled out of bed, and stumbled to the bathroom. She put on her glasses, and stared at herself in the mirror. “Morrison, get a hold of yourself. It was just a dream. A crazy whacked-out dream, but still a dream.”

As Raylyn splashed water on her face; she gasped and adjusted the faucet. She splashed her face again, toweled-dry, and headed back to bed. The bedside clock read 2:00 a.m. She plopped on the edge of the bed, but didn’t lie back. Sleep was over. If she closed her eyes, the dream would replay until she rose. Might as well not even try.

She gathered her clothes from the closet before heading to the shower.

Dressed in scrubs, with her hair pulled back in a ponytail, she padded into the kitchen. The one-bedroom apartment sported decent-sized rooms and a fabulous view. From the living area, she could just make out waves striking the sandy shore. She opened the window and listened to the violent sounds.

Instead of continuing to enjoy the pleasures of the room, Raylyn grabbed a bagel and gnawed on it as she exited the front door.

Nancy Bryant, the head nurse of the severely wounded ward at Grace Community Military Hospital, would not be surprised to see her arrive before her time off ended. The one-week-on, one-week-off schedule remained only a suggestion to Raylyn. She had clocked more overtime hours than any other nurse on their floor.

Upon arrival, the parking lot was largely empty. With her key card, she buzzed herself into the building. Her footsteps echoed as she ascended the stairwell. Each floor was marked. She stopped at number five, and pushed the door open. The floor was quiet, just like in her dream.

RELEASE DAY: J.L. Salter "Hid Wounded Reb"

Cold secrets are finally warming up… and Kelly can feel the heat.
            Kelly is haunted by the mysterious involvement of her landlord’s ancestor with a wounded soldier in 1863, while her boyfriend researches the unsolved murder of an unidentified horseman in that same Kentucky community a few years after the Civil War. As Kelly and Mitch assist each other’s research, tantalizing discoveries seem to connect their subjects.
            Kelly’s initial assignment is to research the cemetery which started 144 years ago with the death of a battle-wounded Rebel hidden briefly in the Butler family cabin. But the actual facts are clouded with hazy family legends, including possible involvement of a second soldier — the dead man’s cavalry buddy. Mitch’s belated study of the stranger murdered at the church yard has also hit baffling snags.
            When surprising old documents surface and rekindle fading memories, the uncovered secrets could help solve both cold cases. But those investigations are hampered when Kelly harbors a terrified girl (with her own complicated secrets) who brings danger close behind.
            The exciting prequel to “Called to Arms Again”.
My newest novel is “Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold,” a screwball comedy released by Dingbat Publishing in December 2013.  My published novels (with Astraea Press) are:  “Called to Arms Again” (May 2013), “Rescued By That New Guy in Town” (Oct. 2012), and “The Overnighter’s Secrets” (May 2012).  Also released through AP are the short novellas, “Echo Taps” (June, 2013) and “Don’t Bet On It” (April, 2014).  Romantic comedy and romantic suspense are among nine completed novel manuscripts.  Two more novels are under contract and likely due for release during 2014.
I’m co-author of two non-fiction monographs (about librarianship) with a royalty publisher, plus a signed chapter in another book and a signed article in a specialty encyclopedia.  I’ve also published articles, book reviews, and over 120 poems; my writing has won nearly 40 awards, including several in national contests.  As a newspaper photo-journalist, I published about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos.
I worked nearly 30 years in the field of librarianship.  I’m a decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote tour of duty in the Arctic, at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland).
I’m the married parent of two and grandparent of six.
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March 30, 1919
Her worn overcoat already fastened as tightly as possible, Belva Butler’s bony fingers held the top of one lapel flap against the spot where the button was missing. With her other hand, she pulled her woolen scarf over her ears and clasped the ends against her throat.
As the sun hovered over the treetops to her right, she stood in the small graveyard. The hand-shaped stone marker bore no name, but she studied it as though she were reading. Belva remembered how she felt at sixteen, so long ago: the middle of the War Between the States. She never called it the Civil War because it was anything but civil. Brutal and horrible, it was devastating to the state, their community, her family… and to her.
Fifty-six years ago that very night was when her life first changed. Then a few years later, everything transformed again.
Without realizing, she began humming a mournful tune. Though people had mentioned this to her, she never seemed to notice. Humming that song felt as natural as breathing. A gust of wind made her shiver as she watched the sun disappear behind the highest branches of the leafless westerly trees.
Belva leaned forward slowly and placed in front of the unmarked stone a small, white blossom which she’d grown indoors on a windowsill. Though struggling to mature out of season, it was enough of a flower to suit anyone, especially here in the quiet cemetery. Nobody else would bring flowers until Decoration Day at the end of May. Her specially-grown flower, two months before anyone else, made this her private commemoration — her ritual every year on that date, weather notwithstanding.
Belva shuddered again, her frail bones aching. She exited the rusty wire gate and walked carefully over the hillside, through several gullies, along the crude line of dense cedars and oaks. At a large sinkhole, one of three near her little cottage, she paused again.
Clutching the thin coat around her neck with one hand, she reached into a coat pocket with the other. With considerable difficulty, she extracted a small, dark bundle. Belva stood there quite a while, gazing down into the deep sinkhole, seeming to calculate something. Perhaps she wondered whether she’d see another of her private annual Decoration Days.
Then she tossed in the bundle. Actually, it was more of a slow release. One might think it caressed her skin as it finally broke contact with her wrinkled fingertips… and fell to the sinkhole’s deepest part.
Another sudden gust swept away her scarf, which wafted upward slightly before settling into a different area of the pit, part way up the side nearest her. She thought about trying to retrieve it, but that would be too dangerous with the dark, the cold, and her unsteady legs. The sun was gone, leaving only a hint of orange in the western sky. Belva eyed the bright half moon and guessed just enough light remained to finish her business.
She made her way carefully to the small spring some forty yards away and lower on the slope. Everybody said the water sprang from somewhere deep below the sinkhole.
She turned over the dented metal bucket from its resting place on the small rock ledge just above the spring and filled it a bit less than halfway. Water was heavy and Belva longed for the day when her pump would be fixed. She also wished she had a heavier winter coat. She was upset at losing her warmest scarf in the sinkhole, but at least she could do something about that: she’d go back tomorrow morning and fish it out with a potato rake.
Belva trudged down the hill, past the fence-row, and over toward the southeast corner of the family property. She had hoped someday to build a proper farm house farther east toward the road, but the ground was too steep, and everybody said it would take too many wagon loads of dirt to build it up enough. It probably wouldn’t happen… not in her lifetime anyway.
By the time Belva reached her back door it was even colder. The last two days of March always seemed the bitterest.