LONE STAR LAWLESS!

Austin Mystery Writers’
second crime fiction anthology
now available for Kindle!

Paperbacks coming soon

 

ONE MORE TIME by V. P. Chandler

WILD HORSES by Alexandra Burt

LIFE OF THE PARTY by Mark Pryor

ARCHANGEL TOWERS by Gale Albright

BAGGAGE CLAIM, Part 1: THE DEVIL’S LUGGAGE
by Janice Hamrick

BAGGAGE CLAIM, Part 2: CARRY ON ONLY by Laura  Oles

THE TEXAS STAR MOTEL by Terry Shames

POINT BLANK, TEXAS by Larry D. Sweazy

THE BLACK WIDOW by Kaye George

THE SANDBOX by George Weir

TEXAS TOAST: THE CASE OF THE ERRANT LOAFER
by Manning Wolfe

WHEN CHEESE IS LOVE by Kathy Waller

THE BIRD  by Scott Montgomery

LITTLE RED by Gale Albright

EDITED by Ramona DeFelice Long

Coming July 21: DAY OF THE DARK & More of the Murderous Marva Lu

“The good old days.” Joe turned his eyes up to the ceiling and sighed.

“Oh, I remember it all. Fried chicken, sunbathing, you grabbing me and holding me under the water till I almost drowned before you let me go. . . . What I don’t remember is anybody actually swimming.”

“We had too much fun doing other things. I wasn’t a strong swimmer anyway. But I loved playing in the water. And just being with y’all.”

I personally believed what he loved most was Bonita and her bikini. My sister Bonita was the youngest in the crowd, but she developed early. Mama absolutely forbade her to wear anything but her blue gingham one-piece, and as long as Mama was taking us out to Paradise Bluff, that’s what she wore. But when I turned fifteen and got my driver’s license, I started driving us out there. And every day, as soon as we got to the Mobil station on Main Street, Bonita would set up a howl, and nothing would do but we had to stop so she could slip into the restroom and change.

Joe goofed around with me, but when Bonita was wearing that bikini—there wasn’t enough cotton in it to stop up an aspirin bottle—he only had eyes for her.

Joe leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees. He had a faraway look in his eye. “I haven’t been out there in years. It’s kind of sad, you grow up and get responsibilities, seems like you to forget the simple pleasures of youth.”

“Um-hmm, sad.” Watching him leave with that silly smile on his face, I knew he was thinking about Bonita’s little red bikini.

~ M. K. Waller, “I’ll Be a Sunbeam”

 

Marva Lu Urquhart is on the move again. This time, she’s celebrating the 2017 eclipse with a picnic at Paradise Bluff.

If you remember Marva Lu from “Hell on Wheels,” in Austin Mystery Writers’ anthology MURDER ON WHEELS, you’ve probably already guessed the picnic has less to do with the eclipse than with–well, it has more to do with knocking the memory of Bonita’s little red bikini out of Joe’s head and replacing it with–let’s put it this way: Marva Lu hasn’t been taking belly dance lessons all these years for nothing.

“I’ll Be a Sunbeam” will be published in DAY OF THE DARK, a crime fiction anthology edited by Kaye George and due out from Wildside Press on July 21st–a month before the August 21st eclipse.

All twenty-four stories in DOTD focus on those crucial minutes at midday when the moon devours the sun and anything can–and does–happen

Especially if you’re Marva Lu Urquhart.

Austin will see only a partial eclipse, so David and I will watch from Kansas City. Our eclipse glasses arrived through the mail this week.

 

Now there’s nothing to do but pack, grab my copy of DAY OF THE DARK–a little escape reading for the drive–drop William and Ernest off at their hotel, and head north. Where we trust our experience will be much less eventful than the one Marva Lu has planned for her friends.

AMW Retreat: January 2017

What is it with writers and retreats?

I don’t know, but that doesn’t keep me from retreating.

Last weekend, Austin Mystery Writers withdrew to Lake Buchanan.

AMW retreat on Lake Buchanan, January 2017.
AMW retreat on Lake Buchanan, January 2017

The house where we stayed is way out there–waaaaaaaaaaaay out there–and I had trouble finding it. It was one more instance of leaving the address tucked away safely in my email inbox.

img_0481-2When I reached the end of the road–literally–I turned around, retraced the route to the nearest post office and, fingers crossed, asked for directions to the nearest establishment offering free wi-fi. The postmaster directed me to her best guess, then said, “But it’s a bar.” I didn’t care. I can’t stand the smell of beer, but I’d have been glad to buy a six-pack for the privilege of Internet access.

I was on my way out when she said, “Wait. You can use my computer.” When the United States Postal Service declined to connect to gmail, she pulled out her mobile phone, accessed my account, and said, “You should change your password, of course, when you get home.” I wrote down the address, she gave me further directions, and in less than five minutes, I was where I should have been a half-hour before. Or maybe a full hour.*

img_0482In his essay “El Dorado,” Robert Louis Stevenson writes, “Little do ye know your own blessedness; for to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour.”

I agree. I always travel hopefully and, most of the time, enjoy winding around, wondering whether I’ve passed the point of no return. There comes a time, however, when I’m relieved to finally arrive.

And so ends the obligatory account of my most recent episode of winding around. Now to get on with the retreat.

Come to think of it, there’s not a lot to get on with. We sat outside and watched birds flying and sticks floating; and discussed whether one stick, which stayed in the same place for a long time, wasn’t a stick but instead something that might crawl out of the lake and bite somebody, namely us; and monitored current events by periodically glancing at the television, sound off; and, when the spirit moved, ate.

Evidence of writing. AMW retreat on Lake Buchanan, January 2017
Evidence of writing. AMW retreat on Lake Buchanan, January 2017

But most of the time, we wrote. I slapped down over 1900 words in one day. It’s been ages since I did that. Many of them won’t end up in the final version of the story, and those that do will be shifted from page to page before settling. But, to quote novelist Nancy Peacock, in A Broom of One’s Own, “if I don’t have the pages I hate I will never have the pages I love.”**

I expected to take pictures but was too relaxed/lazy to get out my camera until Sunday. A cold front had come in overnight, and that morning the lake was choppy. I wish my photos had picked up the whitecaps. I also wish they could show the tranquility of our surroundings.

The other photos are wretched, but I include them to prove that on our writing retreat we actually wrote.

So what is it with writers and retreats? Getting away from routine, from everyday-ness and common distractions, refreshing the mind and the soul, opening new vistas, viewing life from new perspectives…

All of the above. None of the above. It doesn’t matter.

To paraphrase Rhett Butler, I don’t give a hoot.

*****

*Small-town postmasters are some of the kindest, most helpful people there are anywhere in the world.

**Read my 4-sentence review of A Broom of One’s Own. The review begins about halfway down the page, below the ********************. https://kathywaller1.com/2011/01/07/review-again-a-broom-of-ones-own/

Waiting for the universe to cough & the #ROW80 report

Earlier this evening, I had an idea for a post. I knew the first line. I was confident I could write the middle without too much suffering. I didn’t know how it would end–I never know the ending when I start out–but I believed what I’d already written would lead to an appropriate close.

I opened WordPress to the Add New Post screen and put my fingers on the keyboard. And wrote–nothing.

Brain 1
Brain 1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’d forgotten everything: topic, first line, the whole shebang. I think the topic had to do with a comment on a post novelist Terry Shames put on Facebook, but I’ve forgotten which comment. Re-reading her post didn’t help.

I stared at the blank screen for a few seconds, then moved on. Obsessing over memory lapses guarantees the thought won’t return. It’s more effective to go on with life and wait for the universe to cough it up.

As to the #ROW80 report, only one day late: I ate refined sugar (but not too much, not every day), didn’t write, didn’t visit and comment on Writing Wranglers and Warriors and #ROW80 blogs every day, or visit Malvern Books.

I added a few words to the WIP (work in progress) but then realized the ending I’d planned will not do. So far I haven’t worked out an alternative ending, but that’s all right. The universe will cough one up when it’s ready. If the universe doesn’t, Austin Mystery Writers will. That’s what I keep them around for.

I did

  1. finish reading Mark Pryor’s mystery novel The Paris Librarian.
  2. have a blast visiting with Kaye George at this week’s Austin Mystery Writers meeting.

The Paris Librarian is on my list of 20 Books of Summer. It’s a pretty good book. That’s pretty good as in I-sat-up-until-two-o’clock-this-morning-reading-because-I-had-to-know-who-done-it. So there’s one I can check off my reading list.

In addition to The Paris Librarian, since June 1, I’ve read Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Blue ThreadSarah Addison Allen’s Garden Spells, and Isabelle Allende’s The Japanese Lover. I began Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing but set it aside in favor of Librarian.

At MysteryPeople, BookPeople’s store-within-a-store, for a signing last week, Mark told two stories behind the writing of the mystery. They’re well worth reading. Find them on his blog, D. A. Confidential.

Silver Falchion Award
Silver Falchion Award

Concerning #2 above, I had a blast visiting with Kaye George at the BookPeople coffee shop last Thursday. Conversation meandered through a number of topics, but we kept coming back to (more Blatant Self-Promotion) Austin Mystery Writers’ Murder on Wheels and the Silver Falchion award it won for Best Fiction Short Story Anthology at the Killer Nashville conference. To those who’ve read about the Silver Falchion before, I apologize for bringing it up again. The excitement hasn’t worn off yet.

Kaye is the author of four popular mystery series. She writes the Immy Duckworthy mysteries, the Cressa Carraway Musical mysteries, and the People of the Wind mysteries under her own name. She writes the Fat Cat series under the pen name Janet Cantrell. For more about our visit with her, see Gale Albright’s post on the Austin Mystery Writers blog.

To sum up my progress on the earlier #ROW80 buffet, I’ll say this: I did what I wanted and not much else.

August 29 #ROW80 Buffet 

  1. Read James Ziskin’s Heart of Stone
    Another book that cut in line before Homegoing
  2. Finish reading Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing

If I read both books, I’ll have finished seven of the twenty I set out to read by September 5. Of course, I didn’t really set out to read twenty. I got a late start and set out to read what I could. Seven, or six, will be what I could. I fear I’ll not have Mark Twain’s Autobiography and Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex read before Monday, but Tuesday is another day. I read The Second Sex in graduate school. It’s worth reading again, but not this week.

And so ends this post. As a writer who forgot what she intended to say, I think I’ve done well.

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Read more #ROW80 posts here.

The Silver Falchion (Again) & #ROW80

Good news on both personal and professional fronts:

silver falchion emblemMURDER ON WHEELS, Austin Mystery Writers‘ crime fiction anthology, has been awarded the Silver Falchion Award for Best Fiction Short Story Anthology. Member Laura Oles accepted the award from author Anne Perry Saturday night at the Killer Nashville International Writers’ Conference 2016.

 

The eleven stories in MURDER ON WHEELS were written by six Austin Mystery Writers–Gale Albright, V. P. Chandler, Kaye George, Scott Montgomery, Laura Oles, and me– and two guest authors who graciously contributed stories–Earl Staggs and Reavis Wortham. Ramona DeFelice Long edited the manuscript. Kaye George handled the business end of the project, no small task. Wildside Press published the anthology in 2015.

Laura Oles accepts Silver Falchion Award from Anne Perry. Photograph by Manning Wolfe.
Laura Oles accepts Silver Falchion Award from Anne Perry. Photograph by Manning Wolfe.

If you’ve already heard about the award, my apologies. I’ve spread it all over Facebook. That’s called BSP–Blatant Self-Promotion–but self, in this case, refers to everyone involved in the anthology’s production. We’re surprised–we didn’t know we’d been nominated until three days before the awards ceremony–and honored and excited, so we’ve announced it at every opportunity.

I like to think that someday I’ll develop the air of dignified detachment that is the hallmark of the professional writer. Maybe I will. Maybe.

(In case the word falchion isn’t familiar–Wikipedia says it’s a “one-handed, single-edged sword of European origin, whose design is reminiscent of the Persian shamshir, the Chinese dadao, and modern machete.” The Silver Falchion seal, above, displays crossed falchions.)

The second item of good news isn’t mine–it’s my husband’s. His video “Invisible Men Invade Mars,” starring cats William and Ernest, will be screened at the Walker Museum Internet Cat Video Festival on Wednesday, August 24, at the Texas Theater in Dallas. David is pleased, but he isn’t bouncing off the walls, as I am over the AMW’s Silver Falchion. He’s taken videos to film festivals, and his Alien Resort Christmas card won John Kelso’s contest. And he’s always been dignified and professional.

Third on the list: I’ve completed five days of radiation treatments. That’s five of a projected twenty–25%. I learned today that I’m doing in twenty days what is normally done in thirty. I don’t know why, and I didn’t ask. This is another area requiring detachment, and I’ve found that detachment and too much information don’t play well together. The doctor kept using the word if –“If you do well with this, then we’ll…”–and upset the balance between optimism and uncertainty I try to maintain. If is too much information. So I pronounce the situation good and move on.

(Before I move on, and I really shouldn’t publicize this, but while I’m being unprofessional–since the first of June, I’ve lost twenty-nine pounds. Disclaimer: twenty-nine pounds equals the nineteen I had gained from taking steroids during chemo, and the ten I lost from having no appetite during chemo. The doctor doesn’t like it, and I understand why. It’s a hell of a way to lose weight, but with a net loss of ten pounds, I’m happy, and I’m taking credit for every one of them. I like being able to take my jeans off without unbuttoning and unzipping them.)

From August 7th List: I dood it.*

  1. Boycotted refined sugar and starches, including starchy vegetables, longer than necessary before the PET scan. Blood sugar was normal. There was no reason to think it wouldn’t be, but still…
  2. Critiqued and returned AMW stories I had at the time.
  3. Wrote and posted on AMW blog, but not exactly on time. I traded post dates with another member, then realized I hadn’t traded. It’s complicated. I posted on the 20th instead of the 15th, but got it in before the Silver Falchion winner was announced.
  4. Wrote and posted on the Writing Wranglers and Warriors blog on the 16th. This one I got right.
  5. Continued reading Mark Pryor’s The Paris Librarian. Good book.
  6. (12.) Cooked chicken and rice, intended to be one decent meal for David. It was horrid. We ate it anyway. I didn’t cook anything else.

#ROW 80 Watermelon Buffet for August 22

  1. Eat no refined sugar. Period.
  2. Critique and return one last AMW story.
  3. Work on draft of “Texas Boss.”
  4. Finish reading The Paris Librarian.
  5. Post #ROW80 report on Wednesday. If I feel like it. Otherwise, post next Sunday.
  6. Visit three #ROW80 blogs a day and comment.
  7. Comment every day on Writing Wranglers and Warriors post.
  8. Visit Malvern Books.
  9. Have a blast visiting with Kaye George at this week’s Austin Mystery Writers meeting.

Might as well face facts. I’ll dust the piano if I dust it, organize books if I organize books, and shred if I shred. They’re more likely to get done if I don’t write them down.

###

I dood it was “one of Red Skelton’s radio catchphrases” of the 1930s and ’40s. It was also the title of a song written by Jack Owens for Skelton in 1942, titled “I Dood It! (If I Do, I Get a Whippin’),” and the title of a movie released the next year.

Skelton originated the line for a character, The Mean Widdle Kid,

a young boy full of mischief, who typically did things he was told not to do. “Junior” would say things like, “If I dood it, I gets a whipping.”, followed moments later by the statement, “I dood it!”

My mother told me about Skelton’s I dood it line when I was a child.  She thought it was funny; I thought it was funny; I still think it’s funny. I never heard him say it–until today, when I watched the movie trailer on Youtube. The first part is devoted to introducing the cast, so it takes a little time to get to Skelton.

Wikipedia refers to the movie’s rather ungrammatical title. I agree: it is, rather.

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Visit other #ROW80 bloggers by clicking here.

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Objection & the #ROW80 Report

We begin with a question:

Before airing tonight’s Inspector Lewis mystery, PBS issued the usual disclaimer, something like, This program contains material that some viewers might consider objectionable. Viewer discretion is advised.

Now. Every program contains something potentially objectionable. Objection is a matter of choice. (Why doesn’t the same disclaimer run before afternoon soap operas and tacky prime time reality shows? I choose to object to their content.)

It’s reasonable to warn parents about content they might not want their children to see, I suppose. Some PBS programming does fall into the PG range. Some people might not want their children to see as many murder victims as Robbie Lewis does. At times, I wish a firm hand had turned off the television before I saw the bisected woman in the first episode of The Tunnel.

Portrait of Jane Austen
Portrait of Jane Austen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But the same disclaimer ran when Masterpiece Theatre presented a series of adaptations of Jane Austen novels. What could be considered objectionable about Jane Austen novels? 

Well, anyway, that’s one of the questions bouncing around my brain, taking up space that would be better occupied by more pressing concerns. Anyone who has an answer is welcome to leave a comment.

But first take note: They’re boring is not an answer. It’s not even accurate. Jane Austen is not boring. Attempts to change my mind are futile.

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Now for #ROW80. The past couple of weeks haven’t been conducive to doing anything, productive or not. I didn’t dust, organize, or shred. But the most important item is behind me.

The July 27 Buffet

  1. ♫♫♫ Complete the edit the AMW story for its (I hope) last major critique
    I reversed the tampering, re-edited the story. When Kaye George sent her critique, excellent as usual, she added, “OK, stop fiddling with it, OK?” OK. After the other critiques are in. Next stop, the independent editor. 
  2. Draft the second half of the story “Texas Boss” and submit to AMW for critique
    Brahman Baby.
    “Brahman Baby” by Lea Maimone is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
    I wrote several hundred words in a doctor’s waiting room, then two days later realized that I’ve left no place for the incident that gave me the idea for the story in the first place. I can insert it–I hope. But if I can’t make it work, I’ll have to leave it out, which comes under the heading of Kill Your Darlings. I would prefer not to.
  3. Finish a very rough draft of “Thank You, Mr. Poe”
  4. By September 5th, read at least ten of the books on my 20 Books of Summer 2016 list. (The list appears at Writing Wranglers and Warriors.)
    I finished Isabel Allende’s The Japanese Lover and began Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing
  5. ‼Post #ROW80 reports on Sundays and Wednesdays.
    I’ve already dropped Sundays. This is the Wednesday report, late. The upside: If I’d reported on Wednesday, I’d have had nothing to say about #2.
  6. Visit three new #ROW80 blogs a day
  7. ?Take three naps a week
    I napped. Don’t know when or how often, but I napped. The question: Is it acceptable to count naps I took because I couldn’t stay awake?
  8. Go to bed at by 11:00 p.m. /  9. Cook at least one decent meal for David / 10. Dust the piano. / 11. Get rid of ten things a day / 12. Collect and organize books / 13. Shred

 

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Carrying on:

August 7 Buffet

  1. Eat no refined sugar. Eat a minimum of carbohydrates, including starchy vegetables and fruit. (I ate an ungodly amount of sugar over the weekend; had a reason but let things get out of hand; in other words, went crazy). A PET scan is scheduled for Wednesday, and, for the most accurate results, I need to be as sugar-free as possible. Bottom line, I hope I didn’t run up my blood sugar. Shouldn’t have but you never know. Cancer cells like sugar.
  2. Finish critiques of remaining AMW stories and return to writers
  3. Write post for August 15 AMW blog
  4. Write post for August 16 Writing Wranglers and Warriors blog
  5.  Continue drafting the second half of the story “Texas Boss.” Revise enough to submit to AMW for critique
  6. Finish a very rough draft of “Thank You, Mr. Poe”
  7. By September 5th, read at least ten of the books on my 20 Books of Summer 2016 list. (The list appears below.)
  8. Post #ROW80 reports on Sundays and Wednesdays.
  9. Visit three new #ROW80 blogs a day
  10. Take three naps a week
  11. Go to bed at by 11:00 p.m. /  12. Cook at least one decent meal for David / 13. Dust the piano. / 14. Get rid of ten things a day / 15. Collect and organize books / 16. Shred

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20 Books of Summer Buffet

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
My thoughts on Anne Tyler appear here.

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
Saw it, liked the cover, bought it. Serendipity.

√The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende
Loved it. Allende tells more than shows and makes it work.

Homegoing - Gyasi - Amazon 51s13capmsL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_Homegoing by Yaa Gyassi

Semantic Antics: How and Why Words Change Meaning by Sol Steinmetz

White Heat: The Friendship Between Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson by Brenda Wineapple

The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party by Alexander McCall Smith

Dr. Wortle’s School by Anthony Trollope

Time of Fog and Fire by Rhys Bowen

The Autobiography of Mark Twain by Mark Twain

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

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A Round of Words in 80 Days (#ROW80) is the writing challenge that knows you have a life.

To see what other #ROW80 participants are up to, click here. Or begin with the list below.

A.E. Browne

writing what i can when i

Weaver of Words

Lila Leigh Hunter

Harpwriter’s Blog

A Book a Day

shanjeniah’s Lovely Chaos

ReGi McClain

The Writerly Reader

Sammy PJ Writes

Denise D. Young

 

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Related articles

Tampering with perfection & #ROW80 Report

Tired
Tired

I am so tired I ever could.

Because last night I waltzed up to the watermelon buffet and chose

  1. Complete the edit the AMW story for its (I hope) final major critique

If I’d been taking naps, #1 would be only a memory. But there’s more to do.

Weeks ago, I edited out a couple of sentences but later realized I’d removed a bit of necessary information and created a contradiction. The error would be so difficult to resolve, and the lapse in logic was so subtle and so trivial, and the remaining text flowed so smoothly that I thought about saying, with Walt Whitman,

“Do I contradict myself?
Very well, then, I contradict myself;”

and leave it alone and hope no one would notice.

But someone always notices. Sometime, somewhere, some reader would say, But the character says this is going to happen, and this doesn’t happen, or maybe it does, but whatever happened, she never says another word about it, so it sounds like maybe both things happened, and she should have told us… 

So I tried a number of fixes, none of which pleased me, settled on one, and moved on. In a few days, I’ll go back and try again.

Just wo-ahn out
Just wo-ahn out

In moving on, I went from editing/revising to tampering. The official word is polishing, but I tampered: with words–thank goodness for thesaurus.com running in the background; with phrases; with sentence structure… Tampered with things better left untouched.

Tampering–especially when you think you’re polishing–is doomed to fail. It usually takes place near the end of a project, when you think everything is perfect, but not quite. So you make one little change, and then another, and another, and soon, part of your brain–the part where judgment lives–shuts off and you go on automatic pilot. You keep on clicking that mouse, cutting, pasting, copying, deleting, inserting…

Do this long enough and you can drain the life out of a story.

I’m most likely to tamper when I’m tired. I was tired last night. I should have watched Acorn TV or read or, better yet, given in and gone to bed at a reasonable hour. But I didn’t. Hyperfocused on the manuscript, I lost track of time and stayed up long after midnight. Then, in a perverse turn of events, I woke today up at 7:00 a.m.

So, as I said at the top of the page, I am tired.

A deadline approaches. I need to finish that story.  First, though, I’ll let it rest. Several days. A week. Until I’m sufficiently rested. Until I don’t hate it with every fiber of my being. Until I’m detached enough to distinguish the good from the bad from the ugly.

#ROW80 Update

The July 20 Buffet

The original Buffet was meant to cover 80 days beginning with July 4, not just a few days or a week. Some haven’t been completed. Number 5 is on-going. So nothing changes.

  1. Complete the edit the AMW story for its (I hope) final major critique
    Tried but didn’t finish, might have created a monster instead. See above, if you haven’t already.
  2. Draft the second half of the story “Texas Boss” and submit to AMW for critique–Nope.
  3. Finish a very rough draft of “Thank You, Mr. Poe”–Nope.
  4. By September 5th, read at least ten of the books on my 20 Books of Summer 2016 list. (The list appears at Writing Wranglers and Warriors.)
    Still reading Isabel Allende’s The Japanese Lover, 68 pages to
    By Mutari (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commonsgo. I used the calculator to figure that out. I didn’t have to. I can still subtract in my head. But I don’t want to think that hard. Sad.
  5. Post #ROW80 reports on Sundays and Wednesdays.
    It’s Wednesday and I’m posting.
  6. Visit three new #ROW80 blogs a day.–Nope. I don’t know why, but nope.
  7. Take three naps a week.–Nope. And I’m so sorry I didn’t.

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The July 27 Buffet

They don’t change much. The point of the buffet, per shanjeniah, is to have choices and plenty of them. So I’ll add more watermelon.

  1. Complete the edit the AMW story for its (I hope) final major critique
  2. Draft the second half of the story “Texas Boss” and submit to AMW for critique
  3. Finish a very rough draft of “Thank You, Mr. Poe”
  4. By September 5th, read at least ten of the books on my 20 Books of Summer 2016 list. (The list appears at Writing Wranglers and Warriors.)
  5. Post #ROW80 reports on Sundays and Wednesdays.
  6. Visit three new #ROW80 blogs a day
  7. Take three naps a week
  8. Go to bed at by 11:00 p.m.
  9. Cook at least one decent meal for David
  10. Spend an afternoon at the Blanton Museum of Art
  11. Play the piano
  12. Dust the piano
  13. Get rid of ten things a day
  14. Collect and organize books
  15. Shred

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A Round of Words in 80 Days (#ROW80) is The Writing Challenge That Knows You Have a Life.

To read what other #ROW80 writers are doing, click here.

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Fort Worth Indie Film Festival & # ROW80 Report

Fort Worth Indie Film Festival, 2016
Fort Worth Indie Film Festival, 2016 – Family Shorts Block – “The Places You’ll Go”

It appears to be Wednesday–the scheduler from my doctor’s office had to tell me it wasn’t Thursday, but since her call woke me up, I take no responsibility for mixing up the days–and thus time for the #ROW80 report.

If I were playing by the rules, I would have reported last Sunday, but we’d been out of town all weekend and there was little to say. And since #ROW80 knows I have a life, I play by my rules.

I probably shouldn’t post today. I’m not in the best state of mind. I feel the way many of us do when we did the right thing, and because we did, life went all to you-know-where. But that’s another story. For anyone wanting more information, check the end of the post.

Fort Worth Indie Film Festival, 2016 - Family Shorts Block - "The Interview"
Fort Worth Indie Film Festival, 2016 – Family Shorts Block – “The Interview”

On a brighter note, which I’m sure will be welcome, David’s “Alike and Different” was screened at the Fort Worth Indie Film Festival on Saturday. There was a good turnout, and the audience laughed in all the right places. The one drawback was that two of the other films starred very cute children and thus received an inordinate amount of attention. I’ve advised David to include William and Ernest the Cats in all future videos. Children, no matter how cute, are not as cute as our cats.

 

*****

The #ROW80 report:

The Buffet set on July 13 with updates:

(The Buffet is explained in “Writing, Reading, and the Watermelon Buffet,” on Writing Wranglers and Warriors.)

  1. Edit the AMW story for its (I hope) last major critique
    On the way home from Fort Worth, I scribbled on the manuscript. No major changes, the kind that will make a difference, just little changes in wording that will make no difference at all, but that will keep me doing the Should I? Shouldn’t I? dance. Just north of Waco, I put the ms. away to look at when I don’t care.
  2. Draft the second half of the story “Texas Boss” and submit to AMW for critique
    Nope.
  3. Finish a very rough draft of “Thank You, Mr. Poe,” the story I started last week
    Nope again.
  4. By September 5th, read at least ten of the books on my 20 Books of Summer 2016 list.
    I’ve read about half of Isabel Allende’s The Japanese Lover. I’m glad I made the effort to see Allende when she was at BookPeople several months ago. I’m glad I bought the book. At the time, I felt guilty for buying a hardback I don’t have room for when I could have spent less for a Kindle “copy.” But after I read the first few pages, guilt atomized. It’s a delightful book, one that, for maximum enjoyment, must be read from paper. I  still don’t know where I will put the book after reading it.
  5. Post #ROW80 reports on Sundays and Wednesdays.
    I skipped Sunday. See paragraph #2, above.
  6. Visit three new #ROW80 blogs a day.
    Started this but fell along the wayside. 
  7. Take three naps a week.*
    Not too bad. Napped Wednesday, Thursday, Friday (on the way to Fort Worth; I think that counts), Saturday (practically passed out, so maybe I can’t claim credit), and Sunday (on the way home). Sad but true, I can’t remember what I did Monday or yesterday. But that’s five naps, two more than I set for myself, and four more than I expected to take.

*Start as soon as this has been posted.
I did, with a nap.

*****

The July 20 Buffet:

The original Buffet was meant to cover 80 days beginning with July 4, not just a few days or a week. Some haven’t been completed. Number 5 is on-going. So nothing changes.

  1. Complete the edit the AMW story for its (I hope) final major critique
  2. Draft the second half of the story “Texas Boss” and submit to AMW for critique
  3. Finish a very rough draft of “Thank You, Mr. Poe”
  4. By September 5th, read at least ten of the books on my 20 Books of Summer 2016 list. (The list appears at Writing Wranglers and Warriors.)
  5. Post #ROW80 reports on Sundays and Wednesdays.
  6. Visit three new #ROW80 blogs a day.
  7. Take three naps a week.

*****

A Round of Words in 80 Days (#ROW80) is The Writing Challenge That Knows You Have a Life.

To read what other #ROW80 writers are doing, click here.

*****

"Alike and Different"
“Alike and Different”

 *****

For the curious: The reason for my nasty state of mind: I flossed out a crown. And had to get it put back in. As I said, you do the right thing, and still…

“Hell on Wheels”: The Story of a Lethal Librarian

Excerpt from “Hell on Wheels” by Kathy Waller appears in MURDER ON WHEELS: 11 TALES OF CRIME ON THE MOVE, published by Wildside Press, 2015

***

The day I found Mama stirring ground glass into the filling for a lemon meringue pie, I took the bowl away from her and called a family conference. We had to do something before she dispatched some poor, unsuspecting soul to his heavenly rest and got herself thrown so far back into prison she couldn’t see daylight.

The next day, while Mama was down at Essie’s Salon de Beauté, my brothers and sister and I crowded into a booth at the old Dairy Queen, just across the corner from the library where I worked. The DQ was practically empty. The only customers—besides Frank and Lonnie and Bonita and me—were senior citizens, and most of them had their hearing aids turned off.

When the waitress had delivered our orders and retreated behind the counter to her copy of People magazine, I explained why I had called the meeting.

“It hurts me to say it, but the time has come to put Mama out of her misery.”

Lonnie stabbed his straw through the plastic lid on his frosted Coke. “Mama don’t have no misery. I never seen nobody so contented with her lot.”

Bonita poked her pointy elbow into my side and reached across the table to pat Lonnie’s hand. “I think Marva Lu’s talking about a different kind of misery, baby brother. I’ll explain later.”

That was a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Bonita’s explaining was why it took Lonnie till he was twenty-nine to get his GED.

Frank, sitting across the table from me, grabbed a napkin and wriggled his way out of the booth. “Now look what you made me do. Scared me half to death, making such a mean joke about Mama.”

He dabbed at his tie with a napkin. “This necktie is a souvenir from when we took the kids to Disney World. That gravy landed right on Donald Duck’s tail feathers.”

I glanced over my shoulder at the other diners, several of whom were looking our way. “Frank Dewayne Urquhart, stop carrying on and sit back down,” I hissed. “You’re attracting attention.”

Frank unclipped his tie and laid it across the back of the booth. By the time he settled down to finish his steak fingers, the senior citizens had turned back to their burgers.

“Now, quit worrying about that duck’s derriere and look me in the eye,” I said, in the steely tone of voice I used on seventh-grade boys I found hiding in the how-to books, giggling over The Joy of Sex. “I am not joking. This is serious.”

Frank stuffed a couple of napkins into his collar and dunked another steak finger. “Serious?” He leaned toward me, his eyes wide and his voice just a whisper. “You want to … put Mama down … just because you saw her add something to the pie? I bet you didn’t have your contacts in. Might’ve been powdered sugar. She’s probably practicing something new for the Methodist ladies’ fundraiser cook-off.”

“The new bishop’s going to judge the cook-off.” I took a sip of my Diet Dr. Pepper and gave Frank time to think. “I can see the headlines now: ‘Murderous Methodist Does in Bishop with Omelet’. And every penny of our inheritance will go to pay a lawyer to try to keep Mama out of prison. Squeaky Vardaman says defense attorneys charge more when the client’s guilty. And Squeaky’s the district attorney, so he ought to know.”

Bonita stabbed me again with her elbow. “Uh-oh, look who’s coming.” We all followed her gaze.

A bright red Corvette was racing up the street. Ignoring the stop sign, the driver shot through the intersection, just missing a pedestrian, who scrambled onto the high curb and wrapped his arms around a light pole for support.

“There she is, on her way to Essie’s to get her hair screwed up.” Lonnie grinned. “Man, Mama can drive that car, can’t she?”

Frank cleared his throat and wiped his fingers on a napkin. “Yeah, Marva Lu, I see your point.”

Bonita wrinkled her nose and wound a blonde curl around her finger, a habit she’d gotten into when she was five years old and people told her it was cute. “Why don’t we keep a real close watch on Mama and make sure she doesn’t have a chance to put anything bad in the food? I mean, killing her seems a little extreme.”

“Are you volunteering to babysit around the clock?” I said.

Bonita wrinkled her nose again. “Well, what about putting her in the Silver Seniors Retirement home? We could have her committed. Then she couldn’t cook at all.”

“No way,” said Frank. “Old Dr. Briggs is as loony as Mama. He isn’t about to certify her. Hell, there’s not a man, woman, or child in the county, including us, who’d dare to cross her. After all, she owns the bank.” He wadded his napkin into a ball and dropped it into the empty basket. “You going to convince her to move to the home, Bonita?”

Before Bonita could get her nose back in gear, Lonnie finally caught up with the conversation. He sat up straight. “Killing her? What do you mean, killing her? You saying you want to kill Mama?”

“Shhh. Use your library voice, Lonnie.” Bonita patted his hand again. “Kill is just a figure of speech. Like one of those smilies we talked about before your test.”

I rolled my eyes. “No, it’s not a smilie. We’d better make sure right now that everybody understands what we’re doing.”

“I’m not doing anything,” whispered Lonnie. “If you’re going to kill Mama, I’m heading for the sheriff right now. Move, Frank, and let me out of this booth.”

I glared at Frank. He stayed put. I smacked Bonita’s hand off Lonnie’s and closed my hand around his. Poor Lonnie, he’d always been Mama’s favorite, and so softhearted. I should have known our talk would upset him.

I assumed the sympathetic tone I used when citizens called to complain about the library having dirty books. “Lonnie, sweetheart, you heard what I said about Mama’s new recipe. And you remember how Uncle Percy died last month, just hours after Mama cooked him a special birthday lunch.”

“Dr. Briggs said that was Uncle Percy’s ulcer.” Lonnie jerked his hand back. “Frank, let me out.”

I grabbed his hand again and hung on. “Jasper Alonzo, calm down. I’m going to ask you a question, and I want you to think about it carefully and then give me an honest answer. After that, Frank will let you out, and you can go to the sheriff or anywhere else you want.

“Now, here’s the question: How would it make you feel if they put Mama on trial for killing Uncle Percy? Or somebody else she fed bad food to? And what if she had to spend the rest of her natural life locked up in the prison at Huntsville?”

Lonnie’s brow wrinkled like it always did when he was turning something over in his mind. One thing about my baby brother, he never made snap decisions. I usually admired him for that. In this case, however, even with the answer so obvious, I threw in some details.

“Think about what prison’s like, Lonnie. There wouldn’t be a soul Mama knows. And most of those inmates are so common, not our kind of people at all. Mama would have to share a room, and you know how she values her privacy. There’d be no more trips up to Neiman Marcus, and she’d have to dress just like everybody else, in horizontal stripes. She’s always been dead-set against horizontal stripes. Essie wouldn’t be there to keep up her weekly White Mink rinse, and without that, her gray hair would get that ugly yellow tinge to it. And how would she survive without her Friday bridge club? Think about it, Lonnie. What kind of life would Mama have?”

By the time I got to “yellow tinge,” all the fight had gone out of Lonnie. His brow unwrinkled. Tears welled up in his soft brown eyes. It was just the saddest expression I’d ever seen on that sweet face. He looked so miserable I was tempted to toss the rest of my chocolate sundae into the big red waste bin and tell my siblings to forget the whole thing.

But I didn’t get to be Director of the Kilburn County Public Library and Archives by caving in to every pathetic face that stared at me across the circulation desk.

“All right, Lonnie,” I said. “What’s your answer?”

He pulled on his straw but got only a gurgle, so he quit stalling. “Mama wouldn’t like prison at all. So I guess I’d feel pretty bad.” He shook his cup and managed to suck up one more taste of frosted Coke. “But I still don’t feel good about planning to kill her.”

I looked out the window. Old Judge Vardaman was shuffling down the sidewalk from the courthouse, heading for the library, where he would spend his usual hour dozing over the Wall Street Journal. On his way out, he would tiptoe into my office and sit down for what he called “a little visit with my sweetie-pie.”

Bonita saw me watching him and smirked. “Well, here comes Big Sister’s gentleman caller. Honestly, Marva Lu, I don’t know how you can stand to have that old goat around. He’s older than God.”

“You should talk,” I said. “The way you drool over the old goat’s son since he got elected D. A. is a disgrace.” I passed the remainder of my sundae across the table to Lonnie and smiled. “Anyway, Bonita, he’s not so bad. Goats can be very useful animals.” I shouldered my purse and stood up to leave. “Don’t worry, Lonnie,” I said. “You won’t have to do a thing. I’ll take care of all the planning myself.”

***

Our anthology!

Print and Kindle editions available at Amazon.com
Print edition available at Barnes and Noble.com and at Wildside Press.com

One Trailer. No Horses. No Cows.

Marketing?

NO

I’m happy happy happy when a reader buys a copy of Murder on Wheels, Austin Mystery Writers’ anthology of crime fiction.

BUT

ebook or paperback
ebook or paperback

I share the following link because V P Chandler, an AMW member, created a Murder on Wheels book trailer, and she did a beautiful job. I’d like it to have a wider audience.

SO…

Please check out the trailer. I hope you’re as impressed as I am.

AND I hope that, after watching the trailer, you’ll rummage around a bit on V P’s website. Treasure is hidden there.

“Hell on Wheels”: The Story of a Lethal Librarian

Excerpt from “Hell on Wheels” by Kathy Waller appears in MURDER ON WHEELS: 11 TALES OF CRIME ON THE MOVE, published by Wildside Press, 2015

Join Austin Mystery Writers for the launch of MURDER ON WHEELS at 7:00 p.m. on August 11, 2015, at BookPeople Bookstore, 6th and Lamar, Austin. Authors will read and sign. Refreshments will be served.

***

The day I found Mama stirring ground glass into the filling for a lemon meringue pie, I took the bowl away from her and called a family conference. We had to do something before she dispatched some poor, unsuspecting soul to his heavenly rest and got herself thrown so far back into prison she couldn’t see daylight.

The next day, while Mama was down at Essie’s Salon de Beauté, my brothers and sister and I crowded into a booth at the old Dairy Queen, just across the corner from the library where I worked. The DQ was practically empty. The only customers—besides Frank and Lonnie and Bonita and me—were senior citizens, and most of them had their hearing aids turned off.

When the waitress had delivered our orders and retreated behind the counter to her copy of People magazine, I explained why I had called the meeting.

“It hurts me to say it, but the time has come to put Mama out of her misery.”

Lonnie stabbed his straw through the plastic lid on his frosted Coke. “Mama don’t have no misery. I never seen nobody so contented with her lot.”

Bonita poked her pointy elbow into my side and reached across the table to pat Lonnie’s hand. “I think Marva Lu’s talking about a different kind of misery, baby brother. I’ll explain later.”

That was a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Bonita’s explaining was why it took Lonnie till he was twenty-nine to get his GED.

Frank, sitting across the table from me, grabbed a napkin and wriggled his way out of the booth. “Now look what you made me do. Scared me half to death, making such a mean joke about Mama.”

He dabbed at his tie with a napkin. “This necktie is a souvenir from when we took the kids to Disney World. That gravy landed right on Donald Duck’s tail feathers.”

I glanced over my shoulder at the other diners, several of whom were looking our way. “Frank Dewayne Urquhart, stop carrying on and sit back down,” I hissed. “You’re attracting attention.”

Frank unclipped his tie and laid it across the back of the booth. By the time he settled down to finish his steak fingers, the senior citizens had turned back to their burgers.

“Now, quit worrying about that duck’s derriere and look me in the eye,” I said, in the steely tone of voice I used on seventh-grade boys I found hiding in the how-to books, giggling over The Joy of Sex. “I am not joking. This is serious.”

Frank stuffed a couple of napkins into his collar and dunked another steak finger. “Serious?” He leaned toward me, his eyes wide and his voice just a whisper. “You want to … put Mama down … just because you saw her add something to the pie? I bet you didn’t have your contacts in. Might’ve been powdered sugar. She’s probably practicing something new for the Methodist ladies’ fundraiser cook-off.”

“The new bishop’s going to judge the cook-off.” I took a sip of my Diet Dr. Pepper and gave Frank time to think. “I can see the headlines now: ‘Murderous Methodist Does in Bishop with Omelet’. And every penny of our inheritance will go to pay a lawyer to try to keep Mama out of prison. Squeaky Vardaman says defense attorneys charge more when the client’s guilty. And Squeaky’s the district attorney, so he ought to know.”

Bonita stabbed me again with her elbow. “Uh-oh, look who’s coming.” We all followed her gaze.

A bright red Corvette was racing up the street. Ignoring the stop sign, the driver shot through the intersection, just missing a pedestrian, who scrambled onto the high curb and wrapped his arms around a light pole for support.

“There she is, on her way to Essie’s to get her hair screwed up.” Lonnie grinned. “Man, Mama can drive that car, can’t she?”

Frank cleared his throat and wiped his fingers on a napkin. “Yeah, Marva Lu, I see your point.”

Bonita wrinkled her nose and wound a blonde curl around her finger, a habit she’d gotten into when she was five years old and people told her it was cute. “Why don’t we keep a real close watch on Mama and make sure she doesn’t have a chance to put anything bad in the food? I mean, killing her seems a little extreme.”

“Are you volunteering to babysit around the clock?” I said.

Bonita wrinkled her nose again. “Well, what about putting her in the Silver Seniors Retirement home? We could have her committed. Then she couldn’t cook at all.”

“No way,” said Frank. “Old Dr. Briggs is as loony as Mama. He isn’t about to certify her. Hell, there’s not a man, woman, or child in the county, including us, who’d dare to cross her. After all, she owns the bank.” He wadded his napkin into a ball and dropped it into the empty basket. “You going to convince her to move to the home, Bonita?”

Before Bonita could get her nose back in gear, Lonnie finally caught up with the conversation. He sat up straight. “Killing her? What do you mean, killing her? You saying you want to kill Mama?”

“Shhh. Use your library voice, Lonnie.” Bonita patted his hand again. “Kill is just a figure of speech. Like one of those smilies we talked about before your test.”

I rolled my eyes. “No, it’s not a smilie. We’d better make sure right now that everybody understands what we’re doing.”

“I’m not doing anything,” whispered Lonnie. “If you’re going to kill Mama, I’m heading for the sheriff right now. Move, Frank, and let me out of this booth.”

I glared at Frank. He stayed put. I smacked Bonita’s hand off Lonnie’s and closed my hand around his. Poor Lonnie, he’d always been Mama’s favorite, and so softhearted. I should have known our talk would upset him.

I assumed the sympathetic tone I used when citizens called to complain about the library having dirty books. “Lonnie, sweetheart, you heard what I said about Mama’s new recipe. And you remember how Uncle Percy died last month, just hours after Mama cooked him a special birthday lunch.”

“Dr. Briggs said that was Uncle Percy’s ulcer.” Lonnie jerked his hand back. “Frank, let me out.”

I grabbed his hand again and hung on. “Jasper Alonzo, calm down. I’m going to ask you a question, and I want you to think about it carefully and then give me an honest answer. After that, Frank will let you out, and you can go to the sheriff or anywhere else you want.

“Now, here’s the question: How would it make you feel if they put Mama on trial for killing Uncle Percy? Or somebody else she fed bad food to? And what if she had to spend the rest of her natural life locked up in the prison at Huntsville?”

Lonnie’s brow wrinkled like it always did when he was turning something over in his mind. One thing about my baby brother, he never made snap decisions. I usually admired him for that. In this case, however, even with the answer so obvious, I threw in some details.

“Think about what prison’s like, Lonnie. There wouldn’t be a soul Mama knows. And most of those inmates are so common, not our kind of people at all. Mama would have to share a room, and you know how she values her privacy. There’d be no more trips up to Neiman Marcus, and she’d have to dress just like everybody else, in horizontal stripes. She’s always been dead-set against horizontal stripes. Essie wouldn’t be there to keep up her weekly White Mink rinse, and without that, her gray hair would get that ugly yellow tinge to it. And how would she survive without her Friday bridge club? Think about it, Lonnie. What kind of life would Mama have?”

By the time I got to “yellow tinge,” all the fight had gone out of Lonnie. His brow unwrinkled. Tears welled up in his soft brown eyes. It was just the saddest expression I’d ever seen on that sweet face. He looked so miserable I was tempted to toss the rest of my chocolate sundae into the big red waste bin and tell my siblings to forget the whole thing.

But I didn’t get to be Director of the Kilburn County Public Library and Archives by caving in to every pathetic face that stared at me across the circulation desk.

“All right, Lonnie,” I said. “What’s your answer?”

He pulled on his straw but got only a gurgle, so he quit stalling. “Mama wouldn’t like prison at all. So I guess I’d feel pretty bad.” He shook his cup and managed to suck up one more taste of frosted Coke. “But I still don’t feel good about planning to kill her.”

I looked out the window. Old Judge Vardaman was shuffling down the sidewalk from the courthouse, heading for the library, where he would spend his usual hour dozing over the Wall Street Journal. On his way out, he would tiptoe into my office and sit down for what he called “a little visit with my sweetie-pie.”

Bonita saw me watching him and smirked. “Well, here comes Big Sister’s gentleman caller. Honestly, Marva Lu, I don’t know how you can stand to have that old goat around. He’s older than God.”

“You should talk,” I said. “The way you drool over the old goat’s son since he got elected D. A. is a disgrace.” I passed the remainder of my sundae across the table to Lonnie and smiled. “Anyway, Bonita, he’s not so bad. Goats can be very useful animals.” I shouldered my purse and stood up to leave. “Don’t worry, Lonnie,” I said. “You won’t have to do a thing. I’ll take care of all the planning myself.”

***

Our anthology!

Print and Kindle editions available at Amazon.com
Print edition available at Barnes and Noble.com and at Wildside Press.com

Excerpt: “A Nice Set of Wheels”

Excerpt from “A Nice Set of Wheels” by Kathy Waller appears in MURDER ON WHEELS: 11 TALES OF CRIME ON THE MOVE, published by Wildside Press, 2015

***

When the stranger stepped through the door, everyone in the store looked up. Old men playing dominoes at the Formica-topped table beside the front window. Farmers sitting in metal lawn chairs, their boot soles propped against the cold pot-belly stove, cussing Khrushchev and the Russians. Teen-aged girls wearing shorts and white blouses, pink hairnets protecting their pin curls, looking at the makeup shelf.

They checked out the worn jeans, the frayed collar on the plaid shirt, the scuffed boots. The beat-up old black suitcase he carried. The black hair close-clipped but with a lock falling across his forehead. The scar on his cheekbone. The eyes like pale blue ice.

In those few seconds he stood in the doorway, with the sun shining through the screen door behind him, they sized him up.

He didn’t look to left or right, just walked straight to the counter. I should have asked how I could help him, but I didn’t. I was holding my breath.

“Are the Coca-Colas cold?”

I nodded at the cooler half hidden by a rack of chips. He opened the lid and pulled out a king-sized bottle, shook it a bit to get some of the water off, and brought it to the counter. I took it from him and dried it with a clean terry cloth towel I kept behind the counter, then gave him the towel to dry his hands. When Uncle Harry sold Cokes, he let the bottles drip. He said if customers wanted them ice cold, they’d have to put up with a little water. But I like to make things nice.

I handed him the Coke and pointed to the bottle opener nailed to the end of the counter.

“That’ll be a dime,” Uncle Harry shouted from behind the meat counter at the back of the store. “Seven cents if you drink it here and leave the bottle.”

The man pulled a dime from his pocket and dropped it into my hand. “I’ll bring the bottle back tomorrow.”

Uncle Harry left the meat counter and walked up to the front, still holding a butcher knife. His apron was stained with blood. “Where’d you come from?” he said.

That was none of his business, but the stranger didn’t take offense. “Shreveport, last stop. Working my way west. Been hitching rides, decided to stop here and look for work. You know anybody needs odd jobs done, or farm work?”

The girls hiding behind the makeup shelf giggled and shushed each other, except for Wanda Patterson, who looked directly at the man and smiled. Uncle Harry’s eyes narrowed. His frown told me he was about to say “No,” like he always does when men from outside talk about hanging around, but before he could say anything, Old Brother Fisher, who always tried to help people, slapped down a domino and called out, “Try the Conrad place. Frank Conrad owns several hundred acres the other side of the river. Heard him say the other day he needs some fences repaired, and three of his hands got caught in the draft and left for the Army. Bet he’d take you on. Might keep you to haul hay, maybe pick cotton.”

The stranger raised the Coke bottle and nodded at the old man. “Much obliged, sir.”

“Go up the road about a half mile to where there’s a gap in the fence on the left. Go on through—it’s private property, but nobody’ll care—and follow the old wagon ruts down to the river. Cross the footbridge. Other side belongs to Conrad. Big white house at the top of the hill.”

The stranger picked up his suitcase and started toward the door. Every eye followed him.

“Wait.” The eyes all looked my way. “What’s your name?”

He turned around and smiled right at me. Just at me. “Campbell. Campbell Reed. What’s yours?”

“I’m Rosemary.”

“I’m pleased to meet you, Miss Rosemary.” Still smiling, he pushed through the screen door and was gone.

Uncle Harry grabbed my arm and jerked me around to face him. “What have I told you about talking to strange men? That one’s trouble. Leave him alone.”

I pulled away and ran through the storeroom and out the back door, past Uncle Harry’s house and the outbuildings, up the footpath and onto the gravel bar that lay along a stretch of the river bank. Wading in to where the water was clear, I bent down and splashed some on my cheeks, then straightened up and let the slight breeze cool my face. I was fifteen years old, and I’d had enough of Uncle Harry treating me like a baby. I would stay down here till time for supper. If Uncle Harry wanted me back at the store, he could come find me.

I recognized the looks the men had given Campbell. Except for Old Brother Fisher, they thought the same as Uncle Harry: he was trouble. I knew what Wanda Patterson and her friends thought, too: not trouble, but a good-looking man to take them out on Saturday nights, to park with in the cemetery after dark, to beg their mamas to invite for dinner, and, if they were lucky, to marry and have babies with.

But when I looked at him, I didn’t see trouble or fun or babies or anything like that.

In the time it took Campbell Reed to tell me his name, I looked at him and saw a savior.

 

***

Austin Mystery Writers' New Crime Fiction Anthology

Join Austin Mystery Writers for the launch of MURDER ON WHEELS at 7:00 p.m. on August 11, 2015, at BookPeople Bookstore, 6th and Lamar, Austin. Authors will read and sign. Refreshments will be served.

Print and Kindle editions available at Amazon.com
Print edition available at Barnes and Noble.com and at Wildside Press.com