Author Archives: Beem Weeks

About Beem Weeks

Supporting indie authors, musicians, artists, and all creative souls.

A Romantic Novella

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Book Blurb:

Ella has hit rock bottom. The only thing on her mind is getting home, but her car breaks down five hours away from her destination. She finds herself stuck in the unfamiliar town of Paradise Falls.

Instead of spending hours waiting on car repairs, Ella meets a local who invites her to help with the town’s Harvest Festival. Thanks to the kindness of a stranger, she’s able to find joy in her favorite time of the year.

The few hours for car repairs quickly turn into an overnight visit, as Ella continues to enjoy the festivities. Her fondness of the town grows with each passing day, forcing Ella to make a difficult decision. Should she follow her heart or continue the plan she’s always had for her life?

My Review:

Rating: ★★★★★

Elle is a young journalist who finds herself stranded in a small town just shy of her intended destination. This begins a tug-of-war of sorts for Ella. Her life’s plans begin to lose ground to her growing fondness for Paradise Falls, North Carolina, and the people she meets there. Big city life versus small town hospitality. Which will win out?

The author tells her story with a folksy narration that feels warm and familiar. It embodies family, friendship, and a neighborly ideal that seems to be slipping from our world.

This is the second story I’ve read from Marlena Smith. Her skills as a writer have grown from the first story to this one. I would love to see her build on to this story with these characters. This is a wonderful introduction to an idyllic creation. If you’re a fan of the works of Janette Oke, this story is worth a read.

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About the Author:

Marlena Smith was born in a small town of Alabama, where she continues to live today. When she’s not working at the office, she can be found writing, reading, or blogging. Writing has always been a major part of her life, even since grade school, when she was selected to attend the Young Authors’ Conference in her state.

Although her writing has been public through her blog for several years, she has only recently begun publishing. She has several works in progress including a romance novel, a young adult novella, and several short thrillers.

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A Wonderful Story of Love and Determination

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Book Blurb:

Carol Tucker travels the road of autism and cerebral palsy with her adopted son, Justin, now a young man who routinely astounds physicians with his achievements. She is a special-education teacher, recognized leader in children’s advocacy, and one of the founders of Florida’s first charter school for autism, where she served as director. Through photos and stories, bestselling author Karen Ingalls shares Carol’s journey, then offers a wealth of resources, teaching methods, school choices, and financial-assistance options. With Karen’s unique insight, Learning About Autism shows how one very determined mother and her family can rise above daunting challenges to thrive and find happiness.

My Review:

Rating: ★★★★★

“Learning About Autism” is a vital resource for the many families touched by autism. It is also the story of one particular family.

After raising two birth children, Carol and Allen Tucker made the decision to open their home to a child with autism and cerebral palsy. An enormous undertaking, but the Tuckers rose to the occasion and made a home for young Justin.

When Joshua, a boy with Downs Syndrome, needed a home and family, the Tuckers adopted him.

The life lessons learned by Carol Tucker, a special education teacher, were put to use when she founded a school for autism.

The story is told with warmth and insight by author Karen Ingalls.

As stated above, this book is a wonderful resource tool for those who are looking for answers or just need to be pointed in the right direction. “Learning About Autism” let’s readers know they are not alone in their own journey.

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About the Author:

Karen Ingalls is the author of five books of which two are award-winning. She has published non-fiction, biographical novel, historical novel, biography, and short stories. She is a retired Registered Nurse with a Master’s Degree in Human Development.

Her most recent book, Learning About Autism: One Mother’s Journey of Discovery and Love tells the story of Carol Tucker and her adopted son, Justin. She is a recognized special education teacher, leader in the state of Florida, developer of curriculum and teaching methods, and co-founder and director of the first charter school for autism in Florida. Justin is a miracle who has astounded doctors and social workers with his achievements. He rose above his cerebral palsy, autism, and given up as hopeless.

Ms. Ingalls’s non-fiction book, Outshine: An Ovarian Cancer Memoir, won first place at the 2012 Indie Excellence Book Awards in the category of women’s health. It was a top finalist for the Independent Publisher Book Award of 2012 in the two categories of health and self-help. The book offers hope and inspiration to women and their families.

She wrote a series of twelve short stories in When I Rise: Tales, Truths, and Symbolic Trees.

Davida: Model & Mistress is about the love affair between her great-grandparents Augustus Saint-Gaudens and Davida. There are little-known facts about Davida except for her role as a model for many of the sculptor’s famous works. It won the Pinnacle Book Achievement Award and the Apple Award for 2016.

Novy’s Son: The Selfish Genius, is about Murray Clark, who sought love and acceptance from his father, who was the bastard child of the famous sculptor, Augustus Saint-Gaudens. After reading Iron John by Robert Bly, Ms. Ingalls recognized what was missing in her father’s life.

She is a blogger, public speaker, author of many articles, and advocate for gynecologic cancer awareness and fundraiser for research. In her spare time, she loves to read and play golf. All proceeds from the book sales go to gynecolotgic cancer research.

Where to Buy:

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Book Trailer:

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Author C. S. Boyack Offers Freebies!

Author C. S. Boyack will be pushing his Hat stories during the month of October. These stories have a Halloween vibe, which fits well with the month. He will be doing a volume per week, and two of them will have free days.

THE HAT

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BLURB:

Lizzie St. Laurent is dealing with many of the struggles of young life. She lost her grandmother, and her living arrangements. Her new roommate abandoned her, and she’s working multiple jobs just to keep her head above water.

She inherits an old hat from her grandmother’s estate, but it belonged to her grandfather. This is no ordinary hat, but a being from an alternate dimension. One with special powers.

Lizzie and the hat don’t exactly hit it off right away, but when her best friend’s newborn is kidnapped by a ring of baby traffickers, Lizzie turns to the hat for help. This leads her deep into her family history and a world she’s never known.

Lizzie gives up everything to rescue the babies. She loses her jobs, and may wind up in jail before it’s over. Along the way, she and the hat may have a new way of making ends meet.

Humorous and fun, The Hat is novella length. Wonderful escapism for an afternoon.

The Hat will be FREE from October 5 – 7.

THE BALLAD OF MRS. MOLONY

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BLURB:

Lizzie and the hat are back, and this time they’re chasing vampires across a subculture of America. A pair of rodeo cowboys are holding a woman captive to use like a milk cow since they joined the undead.

The person who put them onto the trail is also a vampire, but he has to be the worst vampire in history. Is he really that pitiful, or is he setting a trap for our heroes? Does the woman even exists? Can Lizzie and the hat find her before she also takes up blood sucking?

Follow Lizzie and the hat as they use their cover band to stalk vamps across the country music scene.

The Ballad of Mrs. Molony will be FREE from October 19 – 21.

The entire push will involve a Tuesday and Thursday blog tour, with a push of the free volumes by Fussy Librarian

Rave On (A Short Story)

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Ten minutes till.

The clock beside my mattress flings every spent second into my lap, nudging me so much closer to whatever is about to happen. Mom can’t be bothered with it; she’s passed out in the next room, oblivious to my escape into night. And even though I’m certain I’ll be home long before sunlight splits the dark, my body still bristles with something akin to static electricity, a tight anxiety over knowing I’ll surely be found out. And it really doesn’t matter; I’ve been caught before.

Shadows engorged with blackness lurk like thugs in the corners of our backyard; delicate dew blankets the grass like the blood of others foolish enough to go before me.

Blood.

That’s what it’s really all about, isn’t it?

Life?

My mind sports with competing scenarios of what I hope might happen and what I pray will not—Lord knows I don’t need any more lectures regarding proper behavior for a young lady.

Five minutes till.

What if they don’t show? Suppose this is all just a well-played joke, with me as its shiny white butt?

But this is Molly we’re talking about—faithful Molly.

Mom’s old sneakers swallow my feet in a comforting fit. The back door whines protest against my departure. Nobody steps forward to quash my moment. I’m all alone.

A lustful breeze plays peekaboo with my nightshirt and soothes my heat. I’m bare underneath. That’s the part that excites me most: knowing the only thing standing between me and the real world is a thin scrap of white cotton.

The street out front offers neither light nor sound, as if nothing decent dares occupy such a miserable piece of earth but Donnington Trailer Park and the white-trash misfits it spawns. That’s what kids at school call me: white trash. That, and Icky Nicky.

My given name is Nicole—Nicole Lynn Robishawl. I can’t quite peg the origins of a name like Robishawl, but I’d bet a hundred bucks its roots lie buried someplace in Europe—the far northern part. I own a headful of blond tangles and uncomplicated blue eyes to prove that theory. And there’s another of those curious little oddities assholes around here like to whisper about when they’re certain I’m not listening: Mom and Dad are both dark-haired and dark-eyed.

Two minutes till.

I reach the crumbling sidewalk and crouch low beside a naked mess of annuals meant to spruce up the front of our trailer. A word like hatred doesn’t begin to tell of my feelings for a shithole like Donnington. We aren’t even supposed to be here, Mom and me. Dad promised to take us in, giving me back my old room, if only there’d be no more drinking. But mom prefers vodka to a husband.

Lightning spatters a silvery web across the sky right above Lincoln High School, and my silent prayer for a direct hit goes unanswered. Dull rumbles chase the flashes, but even thunder can’t match the wicked growl of Tommy Mizvinski’s engine.

He’s early!

A full sixty seconds early!

My frantic dash launches me recklessly toward the corner at the end of my street. Tommy won’t wait. If I’m not there under that lonely streetlight, forget about it. No rave for me.

I’m there before he is, though, quick enough to spy that single headlight slicing open the night—our night. Sweat jogs the course of my spine. My heart swears an oath to knock a hole through my middle. I’ve waited all month to have this moment.

Tommy’s door yawns wide; his lanky body leans forward, offering me the back seat. “Get in, Sped,” he huffs. “They won’t wait around if we’re late.”

Sped. That’s short for special ed. Tommy’s the only one who calls me that—even though I’ve never ridden the short bus.

The lure of this moment sucks me in, puts me close to Molly. Our bodies bump in the darkened back seat, tossing up loose sparks of anxiety. Nervous giggles supply our greetings.

I’m the one who suggested we go to this thing. Faithful Molly, she even tried to talk me out of it. And truth be told, I’d have laid odds on her just staying home. But here she sits, dressed like me—only her nightshirt is pink. I hate pink.

Dale Harvitz rides shotgun. That lazy eye of his gets all hung up on me the entire trip—as if I’d even consider the likes of him. Dale is the true sped in this car, not me. But he’s also Tommy’s best friend, which makes him more welcome on this ride than me, so I won’t call him a sped to his zit-covered face.

Still, I’m the one who set this up. “Where are your pajamas?” I ask.

Jeans and T-shirts, that’s what both boys are sporting.

Dale’s the defensive one. “Fuck that noise,” he spits. “I’m not wearing pajamas to a rave.”

I produce the flier, wave it in his pizza face. “That’s the theme. It says so right here.”

“They won’t turn us away, Nicole,” Dale argues. “They hold raves to make money. I’ve got my twenty bucks.”

Tommy has his say, lays down his own law. It’s me and Molly that has him spooked—our ages, that is. “Just don’t go acting like a pair of babies,” he tells us, “and they’ll probably let you two inside.”

Dale lights a Marlboro and eyes Moll and me like he’s starving and we’re medium-rare fresh-off-the-grill. You can just tell his mind is stuck in the muck and sinking fast. “Got twenty bucks says they’re both still bald,” he wagers.

Call it a natural reflex, that way my knees squeeze together. He’ll never know what’s what where those sorts of things are concerned.

Tommy, though—he finds me in the rearview, holds my gaze the way I wish he’d hold my hand, before returning to the road ahead. “Thing like that doesn’t concern me,” is all he says of the matter.

But then he finds me again and goes back to his law. “Either of you girls get pinched,” he orders, “don’t you dare mention my name. Cops raid these things all the time. If they snatch you, tell ’em you snuck out on your own, let ’em take you home.”

I have no intention of getting caught. I’ve waited too long for a night like this one. If we are among the chosen, well, then it’s meant to be; it’s already been tossed up to fate. That’s called providence or something. Anyway, Tommy’s been to half a dozen raves, and none of those were ever raided.

Tommy’s one-eyed Cutlass angles hard onto the shoulder, finds that service road leading away from Summitt Highway. You never drive directly to a rave; there’s a proper etiquette involved. Besides, they won’t let you in if you just show up. Not even for a hundred dollars.

The designated pickup point calls to mind a crop circle at the center of Hatcher Field. A lonely pair of white minivans promise travel to other worlds.

It’s the swirling crowd that yanks at my attention, puts me up on the little secret nobody else in the car has deciphered just yet.

“Let us out,” I demand, kicking at the back of Tommy’s seat. It’s mostly guys doing all that swirling, which means girls are the priority to board those vans. And if Tommy catches on, none of us are going.

Pizza-face Dale pops his door open.

Moll and I spill into the night like twist-cap wine from an overturned Dixie cup. We bolt toward the closest van and ignore Tommy’s orders to wait for him and Dale. But they’re not coming along with us—at least not on this trip. Any fool with eyes can read a scene like the one we’ve tumbled into. Moll and I—we’ll be welcomed on this go-round. And a ride home, well, what did that matter at this moment?

A black guy spies us, waves us over; he lures me and Moll into a void between those white minivans. I recognize him from school, though I doubt if I could come up with a name to match his face if given a dozen guesses.

Dark eyes roll over Molly first, then me. A grin parts his lips, shows off teeth like fine white porcelain. “Freshmen, huh?” he asks.

Neither Moll nor I acknowledge his question; we both offer him our twenty dollars instead.

“Awful eager, ain’t you?” he asks, drifting between us like lazy smoke. “Suppose it ain’t money gonna get you on one of them rides? How bad you wanna go?”

I hear Molly’s voice before words have a chance to form on my own tongue. “Whatever it takes,” she promises.

That’s not the Molly I know.

The Molly I know is far too shy to undress even in front of her own shadow.

That dark gaze of his attaches itself to me. “How about you, Robishawl?” he wonders. “How far are you willing to go?”

Hesitation nearly steals my words—but only for a moment. “I’m with Molly,” I inform him. Just leave it open, let him interpret the meaning.

His grin softens into a familiar thing—almost friendly. “Go on and get in line for communion,” he says.

Communion?

I’m not even Catholic.

And neither is Molly.

The black guy snatches our money, straps red bracelets around our right wrists, and warns against us taking them off for any reason at all. “That’s the only thing gonna get you inside once you get there.”

This is the part I love most about raves: all that secrecy, the feeling of being someone special, a chosen one.

Moll and I join a small congregation behind those vans, out of sight of Tommy and Dale and every other guy getting left back tonight.

“Kneel for the rites,” orders a skinny white guy sporting stringy black hair down to his shoulders.

The grass, wet with dew, is cool beneath my knees. My head tips back, my mouth falls open, awaiting the chemical sacraments about to be administered.

“Ecstasy,” says our high priest, placing a tablet on my tongue.

I swallow before I can chicken out.

Moll swallows too.

Midnight’s moon splits the clouds just for a moment; it’s large and swollen, shiny as a new dime.

Molly’s lips brush against my ear. “Are you gonna, you know . . . ?” she whispers. Bubblegum-sweetened breath warms my neck.

“I have to do it,” I assure her. “I’m gone past due.”

“We can’t have that,” she says, snatching hold on my hand, yanking me into the van.

*      *      *

The pull of freedom lures us an hour south of town, out where the old Piven Industrial Park crouches low among tangled weeds and ancient willows long past weeping, forgotten by all but a few hundred ravers.

The van door slides a wide yawn and, like an overfed bulimic, vomits us in front of the warehouse. Familiarity like a scent fills my head. I know some of them, these other girls; upper-class types, mostly; the very sort who’d normally call me Icky Nicky.

But not tonight.

Tonight, everybody’s equal.

Molly’s the eager one. Those small hands of hers clasp my shoulders from behind; she gives me a push inside the oversized building, into a swirl of underdressed boys and girls bumping and rubbing against a thumping beat intent on recalibrating my heart’s natural rhythm.

Lights of yellow and red, blue and green, flash from above like stalking nymphs bent on finding us out.

I pull Molly closer. “Find the water station,” I yell over the din. “Keep hydrated.”

That smile of hers—that’s what makes her Molly. “You picked one already?” she hollers, her small body becoming entangled with that steady beat.

A nod bobbles my head; I leave her there at the edge of a makeshift dance floor alive with hope and boys.

Molly likes boys.

A nameless guy hovers near the door, blue eyes clouded over with that familiar euphoria only a thing like Ecstasy can conjure.

“I’ve been waiting for you,” I tell him, mixing promise with potential.

His fingers find his chest, a gesture meant to convey a Who, me? tone. But words fail the boy’s lips; he’s too far along for conversation.

My hand fits snugly into his. It falls to me to find a private place for us to get through what has to be done. Fine by me; I’ve been this way before, done this sort of thing innumerable times. But there’s never much chase, not like there was when it first started. Back then, well, it was usually the older ones, the perverts, that went for the chase.

“There’s a place around back,” I tell him, pulling the guy into night.

“I wanna touch your hair,” he says, stumbling behind me like a freak on a leash.

Overhead, the spring sky opens wide, clouds flee, leaving us to our shared intimacy.

Beneath the loading docks is where I take the boy, in full view of a witches’ moon—if you’re so inclined to believe in such things.

My lips find his; a sneaky gesture meant only to settle any loose nerves.

Clammy, clumsy hands grope me beneath my nightshirt, finding my body bare and eager—maybe even hungry for such a touch. Had this one been in the car with us to take the bet, he’d have easily taken twenty bucks off Dale.

But tonight isn’t his night.

A quick nip with my incisors opens the skin just below his jaw, exposing the plump jugular. Barely a flinch, is all he offers. Ecstasy makes our moment easy; there’s no room for a fuss.

It’s instinctual, that urge pushing me to rip into that purple vein. His salty rush fills my mouth, stirs a familiar frenzy inside my soul. The boy’s struggles come cheap, a thing most fraudulent. I hold his body tight against the crumbling concrete, draw long and deep on his life until there’s nothing left to take.

They’re beautiful when they fade, so pale and blue, like a years-old rose pressed between the pages of a lost lover’s book of poems.

*      *      *

Molly is bare beneath her nightshirt. I can tell by the way the pink fabric clings to her sweat-dampened body.

That smile of hers ignites a heated rush through my blood no drug could ever challenge.

“Did you drink any water?” I holler, stepping between her and the Asian kid she’s dancing with.

That’s the thing with Ecstasy: it’ll keep a person moving for hours, without a thought toward maintaining hydration.

And Moll, she won’t stop dancing—not even for necessity. “You’ve fed already?” she yells, keeping pace with that relentless beat.

To tell the truth, I hate dancing. But it’s Molly’s urging that has me folding myself in with her and the Asian boy.

Moll’s hand finds mine, yanks me closer. “Can we take him home with us?” she asks, hopeful in this bold change of plans.

He’s not bad to look at, I suppose—if you’re into that sort of thing.

My head tips a subtle nod. “Gonna have to be quiet, though; can’t wake my mom.”

Yeah, Molly likes boys.

And so do I, I guess.

Just in a different sort of way.

© 2012 Beem Weeks

This story, along with 19 others, is available in Slivers of Life: A Collection of Short Stories. Find it at all online booksellers.

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An Impressive Debut

Rating: ★★★★★

The Blurb

9781947893252_Ebook Cover, Crimes, Lippert 800wideLippert was thrown into the bowels of the Michigan Department of Corrections as a seventeen-year-old adolescent. He remained entrenched in a world of malfeasance for the next forty years. With astonishing honesty, he reveals the raw details of what a life of incarceration looks like from the inside. His observations of human behavior and his stellar ability to tell a story reveal the courage and resilience of a man who has survived horrifying and savage injustice. These are stories of miscreants and corrupt institutions. They are tales of men who have made poor choices and suffered grave consequences.

His tales of the criminal counterculture are sometimes tragic, but often humorous and redemptive. Through it all, he displays a sly sense of humor and the quiet wisdom of a man who is, ultimately, a survivor. Lippert’s journey has been one of an unrequited longing for freedom. This book is a resonant journey through the geography of a resilient soul.

My Review

Phil Lippert is a man who has lived a most unconventional life. Thrown into prison at the age of seventeen, Lippert, who served a forty-year stretch, has viewed the world from a position most people only know from fictionalized Hollywood treatments.

His collection of short stories offers readers a glimpse inside that world. Though mostly fiction, these tales contain a thread of truth concerning human nature. Lippert’s style is laidback and easygoing. He knows how to tell a story that holds the reader spellbound, waiting for something like redemption for these characters that might otherwise seem unworthy.

He narrates as Dude, an inmate who collects stories of life as lived by others. Some are humorous and hopeful. Others fall into a darker place where hope falters before it has a chance to find its own legs.

My favorite is the heartbreaking “Good Night, Ruby Slippers” with its darker shades mingled with streaks of light. “A Canticle for Frank” reads like a cold-war thriller mixed with prison intrigue. “My Summer Vacation” tells the story of a young bank robber. Each piece introduces unforgettable characters that often seem both familiar and other-worldly.

This is a solid collection from a promising writer with plenty to say. It’s one I’ll likely return to from time to time.

Author Interview on the Voice of Indie Podcast

Buy it Now!

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Country Music Hall of Famer Returns!

Country Music Hall of Fame and Fresh Ink Group member Mark Herndon is back to performing again with his wife, country/gospel singer Leah Seawright. Mark is the author of The High Road: Memories from a Long Trip, his memoir about growing up an Air Force kid who went on to live his dream playing drums with supergroup Alabama, selling out arenas worldwide for decades of #1 hits. Watch for Mark and Leah to appear on Fresh Ink Group’s Voice of Indie podcast with hosts Beem Weeks and Stephen Geez this summer, taking your calls and responding to your tweets. You can order inscribed and autographed copies of Mark’s book at MarkHerndon.com. Hardcovers, softcovers, and all ebook formats can be found at your favorite retailers worldwide, including Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Fresh Ink Group produced the book trailer below to help promote Mark’s fascinating behind-the-scenes story. Every country-music fan knows Alabama and likely has seen Mark perform in person, on TV, or at sites such as YouTube. What a terrific gift an autographed copy makes! How great is it that Mark and Leah and her terrific band are back on stage again, starting with small clubs in—where else—Alabama?Mark and Leah

Mark and Leah Closeup, Easy Street, June 2021

My First (and Only) Tropical Storm

I’m a Michigander, born and raised. I’m used to cold winter months where the temperatures dip well below zero and the snow piles up by the foot. Summers in these northern climes can reach one-hundred degrees—though that’s not often. The point is, I’m used to weather extremes. But nothing the Great Lakes state has to offer could prepare me for my Florida experience.

I relocated to Ft. Myers back in June of 1988. I’d needed a change of scenery, a new beginning, whatever you want to call it. A girl broke my heart—or I broke hers—and so the long trek from mid-Michigan to south Florida seemed the best remedy to soothe lost love.Hurricane-Hermine-Anclote-River-832x400

I had family there. My father, step-mother, and younger brother had made the move a year earlier. The journey made perfect sense to my 21-year-old mind.

Finding employment came easy. My father, having retired from General Motors, held a supervisor’s position in a concrete pipe factory. Ft. Myers in the late 1980s was transitioning from cow town to booming metropolis. This expansion called for lots of concrete pipes for sewer systems and water drainage. I operated a forklift, taking pipes off the production line, loading them onto big rig trucks to be shipped to destinations all across south Florida.

Flood Damaged HomeThe differences between Florida and Michigan are stark and immediate. Where Michigan is gray, cold, and snowy at Christmas, Ft. Myers offered 75 degrees and sunshine. In Michigan, we’ll see rain a few days each month. Grass and vegetation will often die and turn a brittle brown under the dry summer heat. But Ft. Myers sees rain pretty much every day—sometimes several times a day—which keeps the scenery green and lush. There were even moments where the sun would be shining and the rain would be falling at the same time. We don’t get that too often in Michigan.

Another thing we don’t get in Michigan is the tropical storm. These massive storm systems are the precursor to hurricanes. In late 1988, I experienced my first—and only—tropical storm. Called Keith, this storm system dumped rain upon southwest Florida in amounts I’m sure Noah himself could certainly appreciate. Powerful winds whipped through the area, ripping roofs off many structures.

I remember working in the factory yard that day beneath a light but steady rain. Yellow rubber rain slicks covered me from head to toe—and still I found myself soaked to the bone. Late in the day the rain picked up strength, pelting me in the face, causing me to put on safety glasses to protect my eyes. I worked until ten o’clock that night, doing a job that normally had me clocking out around six o’clock. It would be past midnight by the time I arrived home.

Keith_1988_rainfallAll through the night the wind howled its threats against our house, promising to remove roof and siding with barely a thought. Rain spilled from thick, dark clouds that swirled across the sky like menacing gods. The power abandoned us sometime during the night, leaving us to candlelight and a battery-operated radio.

By first light the following morning the worst of the storm had passed. We were expected to report to work, just like any other day. Seems unless it’s a full-fledged hurricane, it doesn’t count for much with the boss man. But our entire neighborhood was under water. In our backyard, we had a boat canal. Across the street flowed the Caloosahatchee River. These two entities rose together, flooding the area, leaving houses—ours included—stranded like dozens of islands. And still, we were ordered to work—though the boss man had given us a few hours to make the thirty minute drive.

We survived. We even made it into work just before noon. Nobody else at the plant lived on the river, so flooding didn’t hinder their travels, which made me and my father the only ones who were late that morning.

I’ve since moved back to Michigan. I missed those familiar sights and the people with whom I grew up. But I still have a head full of memories of the nearly two years I called Ft. Myers home. I intend to one day return to south Florida—if only for a visit—just to see the changes that thirty-odd years can lay on a city and its sights. And every year, right during hurricane season, when the storms begin their march toward dry land, I break out my story of Keith and the night I survived my first—and only—tropical storm.

Book Signing Featuring Fresh Ink Group Author B. A. Johnson

Today I am sharing a post written by Fresh Ink Group author B. A. Johnson. She shares details of her recent successful book signing.

Sassy Discovers the AME Church

Noted children’s literature author, Beverly Cleary, said, “If you don’t see the book you want on the shelf write it.” Barbara Johnson was looking for a children’s book that narrated the history of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in language children could understand. She did not find that book, so she wrote it. Sassy Discovers the AME Church details the founding of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in a story narrative that children can read and understand for themselves.

Book Signing, MeSassy seeks information about the AME church from her “Big Momma” who has been an AME all her life. She and Big Momma begin the journey of learning everything there is about AME history in preparation for Children’s Church. Along the way, Sassy learns why everyone is so proud to be AME.

Sassy, her brother Franklin, and their friends encounter issues kids deal with daily, such as bullying, inclusion, death, grief, and forgiveness. They along with other AME members must deal with the deaths of nine members of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. No other story has been written from the children’s perspective regarding the deaths at Emanuel AME Church. Sassy and her friends share their feelings for the first time.

The book launch party for Sassy Discovers the AME Church was held on Saturday, May 1, 2021 on the grounds of historic, St. John AME Church. Church members, family and friends came out to purchase an autographed copy of the book and take a photo with the author. Everyone was excited to receive a copy of the book with a picture of St. John AME Church on the cover. All expressed great interest in reading the history of the church from a child’s perspective.Book Signing, Owens - Copy

Barbara Johnson is a retired educator and a lifelong member of historic, St. John African Methodist Episcopal Church in Huntsville, Alabama. She writes under the pen name, B. A. Johnson.

Sassy Discovers the AME Church is published by The Fresh Ink Group. Books may be purchased online at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and BooksAMillion.com.

Book Signing, Malone Book Signing, Tami Book Signing, Vazquez Family Book Signing, PKW

Who is My Neighbor?

Sure, the title of is a line from a parable Jesus used in teaching his disciples a lesson in treating even strangers with dignity and respect. But this blog piece isn’t really a religious lesson. It’s just an observation.

Pharmacist handing medication to customer

In today’s world, do we really know who our neighbors are? I’m not talking about the strange guy up the street, the one who talks to himself while sweeping the front walk. I’m talking about those people we cross paths with every day while going about our lives. You know the ones, like the little old lady in front of you in the grocery store check-out; or the young man walking along the side of the road, heading to who knows where. With the popularity of internet sites like Facebook and Twitter, we can connect with people all over the world. We can log on and learn that Reggie in West London ate crab cakes for dinner tonight, Tanya is Los Angeles broke up with her long-time boyfriend, and Danny in Sydney recently had his first novel published. We friend them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, and make a connection on LinkedIn, but we never really meet these wonderful people.

And what of that little old lady in the checkout line in front of us? Chances are we won’t get beyond a polite smile or an insincere “Have a nice day.” The young man walking along the side of the road? We’ll ignore him—he might be dangerous.

young handsome bearded hipster man

Don’t misunderstand me. I believe social media is vital to those of us looking to promote our work while building an audience. It’s a great way to meet interesting people in corners of the world we’re not likely to ever visit in person. But the cost of this technology seems to have had a negative effect on how we treat the people around us. We don’t have an instant profile to pull up telling us that the young man walking along the side of the road is a father on his way to work so he can support his wife/girlfriend and their newborn baby; or that his car no longer runs so he has to make that 5 mile trek both ways each day. We couldn’t possibly know the little old lady in front of us in the checkout line is struggling to make ends meet since her husband of 56 years passed away last fall. Without that profile, we won’t bother finding this out the way we as social human beings once did—before the internet.taxi

One of my favorite episodes of the classic American television show Taxi has character Elaine Nardo receiving an invitation to a high-class party. She needs an escort. The obvious choice would be her co-worker and friend Alex Rieger. He’s a level-headed guy, understands proper behavior and good manners in these situations. But, for reasons I’ve forgotten, Alex is unable to attend with Elaine. So, after failing to secure a proper substitute, Elaine finds herself saddled with Jim Ignatowski, played brilliantly by Christopher Lloyd. Jim had once been a bright and near-genius young man—until LSD trips during college left him slow and somewhat addled. The Reverend Jim (he was ordained through a mail-order school) was prone to goofy observations and embarrassing behavior at times.

The thought of attending this high-class shindig with the likes of Jim proved too much for Elaine, so she lied and told the man she wasn’t going to attend. Jim eventually caught on and, despite having his feelings hurt, suggested Elaine attend alone. In the end, Elaine brought Jim along, having discovered a true fondness for her fellow cab driver.

screen-shot-2015-05-28-at-4-48-13-pmWhen the entertainment fails to show up for the party, Jim volunteers to fill in on the piano. Imagine Elaine’s shock and horror over what is surely to be an embarrassing moment, most likely barring her from future invites.

Jim sits at the piano and immediately begins playing “London Bridge is Falling Down” quite poorly. The room full of snobs begins murmuring complaints. Jim stops playing, says “Oh, the hell with it!” and launches into some beautiful classical playing that soothes the room. He stops again and says, “I must have had mmm music lessons!” before continuing his solo concert.

Elaine worked with the man and had no idea he was so much more than the college dropout with a fried brain. We’re all guilty of this on some level. We know more about the guy on the other side of the world than we know about those in our own neighborhood. While social media might bring the world together, it can also contribute to pushing people apart.

So take the time to get to know those who are closest to you. You’re bound to learn something.

Remaining Ruth: A Short Story

This is a short I wrote back in 2013. It’s about a girl trying to hold tight her grasp on self-identity. This one appears in my first short story collection Slivers of Life.

Remaining Ruth

I heard my mother say, “It could be she’s just that kind of girl.”

I knew she meant me because my father responded, “No daughter of mine will be that kind of girl.”

I’m an only child, so forget any misunderstandings. Besides, just what kind of girl were they debating me to be?

I slipped through the back door, just inside the kitchen, crouched low near the refrigerator, and listened to their talk in the next room. I’m either a lesbian or a drug addict, depending on their deciphering of my mood on any given day.

Okay. True. I do keep my hair cut short and dyed black. I also prefer jeans and T-shirts to dresses and skirts. But that doesn’t make me a lesbian. Of course, there is that other thing…

My father said, “Maybe we should send her to one of those Catholic schools.”

“We’re not Catholic, Fred,” my mother reminded him.

“But they know how to deal with these sorts of things, Miriam.”

What sorts of things? I wondered, angling for a closer peek into the living room. I didn’t need to see, though. My father would be parked in his recliner, newspaper open and held in front of him. My mother, she’d be seated on the sofa, watching the television with the sound turned all the way down.

I’d never get past them. At least not without a hundred questions tossed in my face.

“Maybe we should just leave her be,” my mother offered. “I had my own moody moments at that age.”

A low harrumph, is all my father managed.

As much as I hated the idea of confrontation, I despised even more the notion of hiding out in the kitchen all night.

He’s the one who caught me, came right up out of his recliner as soon as I entered the room. “Let’s see what’s in your pockets, young lady.”

I knew the drill. They’d been doing this since the end of the school year, when I’d been stupid enough to leave a joint in my jacket, where my nosy mother happened upon it.

“I’m not carrying,” I told my father. “I smoked it before I came in.”

“So disrespectful,” my mother lamented. “I never sassed my parents when I was fourteen.”

“Gonna let them nuns straighten you out,” my father threatened, searching the pockets of my jean jacket.

He found nothing incriminating. I’d learned to never carry anything on me—at least not where they’d bother to look.

“Can I go to my room now?” I asked, not really looking for that argument my parents seemed to enjoy so much.

My father gave up a subtle nod I’d have missed if I hadn’t been looking for it.

They took my phone—and my bedroom door.

But I still had the bathroom.

I closed myself inside, pressed the lock. They’d come knocking in a while, demanding to know what all goes on when they can’t see.

They’ll never see what they don’t really want to see, though.

Muffled voices trickled through the floorboards, putting them still in the living room.

My mother’s the one who caught me kissing Megan Vennerhull. That’s where the whole lesbian thing came from. But we were just practicing. Megan pretended I was David Skillsky and I, well, I too imagined Megan was really David Skillsky—I just told her I’d been dreaming of Michael Kranshaw to keep her from freaking out. Megan has been in love with David since the third grade. But so have I.

Can’t tell that to Megan, though.

My fingers worked at the buttons on my jeans; I tugged them off my hips.

My father never used those multi-bladed razors. “One blade is all it takes,” he’d tell the television, whenever one of those commercials touting three blades came on.

I agree. One blade is all it takes.

I twisted the razor’s handle, retrieved the shiny blade from its open mouth.

It’s not a suicide attempt. I’ve never wanted to die. It’s just something I need, something I dream about when moments of stress find in me an easy target.

And I never cut too deep, either; just enough for bleeding.

Just enough for a taste of pain.

They never look at my hips—or my inner thighs. Nobody looks there. Nobody sees or knows.

My mother’s voice disrupted my moment of pleasure. “Are you going to be long in there, honey?”

“Be out in a minute,” I assured her, knowing full-well my father would be beside her in short order, threatening to remove even the bathroom door.

A quick cut just beneath my stomach let go that crimson release.

Better than an orgasm, this.

My father intruded; his meaty fists banged against the door. “I’ll break this son of a bitch down, Ruthie, you don’t open this door!”

“Can I wash my hands first?” I asked, rinsing the blade before returning it to its proper place of honor.

They weren’t quick enough—not this time, at least. I still owned one secret belonging only to me.

One more day I could still be the Ruth I wanted to be.

© 2013 Beem Weeks

This story, along with 19 others, is available in Slivers of Life: A Collection of Short Stories. Find it at all online booksellers.