Tag Archives: indie authors

The Complications of Fire (A Short Story)

Love, much like fire, can be a very dangerous thing. To some, it can even be deadly—or at least life changing. But can a soul survive without love?

I’m living a coming-of-age tale, and it’s one I wish to share with you. It’s a life story not uncommon to a few billion other souls that have trod upon this earth. And that means it must be lived—every single second. Nobody tossed a completed work in my lap and proclaimed the hard part had already been lived for me. After all, it’s the scars of life’s beatings that bring about a self-awareness needed to complete one’s own destiny.

That’s all anybody is really doing here: living out their destiny.

My name is Judith Zot. And honestly, I can’t recall a time ever hearing my father, in his own voice, tell me he loves me. Not even once. He just isn’t that sort of man. Feelings—or rather the expression of—isn’t part of his makeup. I’m his only child. The daughter he’d hoped would be a son. But love me, he does. I have never doubted this notion. It’s there in his eyes each night I step into center ring and thrill audiences across the United States.

I have a talent for archery. Some might even call it my one true passion. It’s just one of those things that came natural to me the very first time I picked up a bow fifteen years ago—on the very day I turned five. That bow, it had been meant for the boy my mother truly believed occupied her womb. A fortune teller even told her as much.

But that’s not how my story plays out. In my telling of it, my mother birthed a baby girl, then promptly bled out, leaving my father a widower and first-time parent.

My father is not the only man in my life. I have a husband. His name is Abel Zot. We were married two years ago, shortly after my eighteenth birthday. Three months later, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and Uncle Sam drafted all those able-bodied young (and not-so-young) men. My father, well, he walks with a limp. An old elephant injury, he likes to say. The army couldn’t use him. Abel? They snatched him up in the first wave, sent him to Fort Hood for basic, before delivering him to the South Pacific to fight the very ones responsible for the mess our country finds itself in to this day.

pexels-golnar-sabzpoush-rashidi-3723862I didn’t mind seeing him leave—not to face death, mind you. He and I, we just never really clicked as a married couple. I like him sure enough, though I don’t know that I love him. And it’s nothing he did wrong, either. Getting married when we did, well, it just seemed like the right thing to do, taking that first big step in our recently acquired adult lives. We both understood it to be a mistake after that first week. He took to sleeping on a separate bunk in our Pullman coach.

I was born into a circus family—fourth generation. We travel the country by train, visiting places like New York City, Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland. The Midwest and east, mostly, though we do from time to time reach as far west as Denver.

I’m sort of famous. Not like a movie star kind of famous, but darn close. I’ve even been featured in Life magazine—twice. Franklin D. Roosevelt himself requested my services for the first USO show in support of our Troops right after we entered the war. But even being known by the president isn’t enough to stave off tragic circumstances.

*      *      *

photo-1542675454-b3fbb8b41c18I’m the middle act in the circus—following right after my father and his elephants. Jimmy Hoke and I, we enter center ring for each performance at six p.m. on the dot. Jimmy, he’s like the little brother I’ve always wanted—ten years old, a face full of freckles, and fearless. That kid will do anything I ask of him. He puts a shiny red apple atop his blond head, and I run an arrow straight through it at fifty paces. He holds up the ace of spades in his left hand, and I pierce the card dead center. My favorite is when Jimmy climbs up top and walks the tightrope high above center ring, holding a target over his head while walking from one end to the other with perfect balance. I use a flaming arrow for that one. We’ve done these tricks a thousand times without trouble or injury. And the night in question, well, it began exactly the same as any other along the way.

*      *      *

“You’re the archer girl, ain’t you?”

He’d just been hired, the one asking the question. And from the looks of him, he ought to have been alongside Abel Zot, fighting the Japanese, on a ship in the South Pacific. But the United States Army didn’t figure into this boy’s plans. He stood taller than me by a full foot, had one of those lean and wiry frames, and arms a tangle of muscles and tattoos.

I shouldn’t have looked at him, but I did.

“I’m her,” I told him.

He shook my hand, said his name was Daniel. “Like the man in the lions den.”

That’s how it all began. Just small talk meant to pass the time, I told myself. But deep down inside, I guess I knew I wanted more.

Two weeks later, we’re laughing at each other’s corny jokes and having lunch together. Not alone, mind you. My father always ate lunch with me. So did Jimmy Hoke and his parents. The Hokes, they’ve been tightrope walkers since anybody with a memory could recall. Jimmy claims to be the seventh generation.

Lunches turned into afternoon walks or quiet chats during travel. My father took notice, decided to drop his own opinions of the matter into my ear.

“You have a husband,” he said. “And God doesn’t look kindly on those keen to adultery.”

“I’m just talking with the man,” I replied, hoping that would put such gossip to bed.

I will confess there are certain aspects to a relationship that I miss with Abel being gone—even if I’m not in love with the boy. A smile, a touch, a lingering kiss—all can be had without love being involved. This one here, the new guy, he already knew that about me. He’d read me like a dog-eared pulp novel. He began to eye me with mischievous intent—and I liked it.

He and the other men on the crew would raise the massive circus tent, always showing out for the gathering local girls. I’d catch myself watching him swing that giant hammer, driving stakes deep into the earth at whatever city we’d stop in.

It’s there that the fire began. A slow burner, this kind, lots of smoke at the source of it. Lunches together became late afternoon strolls out to where nobody would see. Kisses were stolen and saved and reminisced over late at night. Those very kisses soon became touch revealing heat in the midst of all that smoke.

We made love just once. And that’s all it took to throw the world out of balance. That it happened in my Pullman coach, well, that’s on me. I planned it out of yearning, a deep desire. I thought I needed that emotion, the lust part of it in my life.

“You sure you’re okay with this?” Daniel asked, seated on my bunk.

I read a certain nervousness in the man, like maybe he’d not done such things before—or at least not often enough to be comfortable with the whole ritual.

We were set up to perform in Cleveland, on the shores of Lake Erie. My father had slipped off for a drink with some of the crew, leaving me to my own devices. That usually meant I wouldn’t see him until just before show time.

The thing about Daniel’s kisses, they ran soft and slow and purposeful, as if he were savoring me and the moment we occupied together. His fingers searched out and found the buttons on my dress. Our clothing fell away like silent accusations lying on the floor. I pushed him onto his back and took up on top of him. And Daniel let me. It’s something Abel would never have allowed—this giving away total control of such intimacy.

Such an odd feeling once our heat became extinguished. In the afterglow we lay in silence together—him smoking a cigarette, me staring at the ceiling above. Simple conversation failed us.

I don’t recall when he left. I just remember Jimmy Hoke showing up at my door, ready for the night’s performance.

“You look flustered,” he said. “You mad at somebody?”

“Only myself,” I told him, leading the boy out toward the big tent.

We waited in our usual spot, out of sight of the paying customers. This is where we’d normally bond in our focus, Jimmy and me. A quick check of my bow, the arrows in my quiver, the props we’d take out there with us. There’s never much talking between us. Jimmy likes to think we’re psychic, that our minds are somehow working together in some strange mystical sense. And maybe that’s usually the case.

But this night wasn’t usual.

My father and the elephants danced their familiar routine, completed tricks I’d seen a thousand times before, and walked their slow wander from center ring.

The ringmaster shouted my name.

Fans took to their feet and cheered wildly. Some thrust copies of Life magazine in my direction, begging for autographs.

Jimmy sprinted toward the wide pole holding the big top high overhead—the way he’d done hundreds of times before. He leaned his back against it and set the apple atop his head. The boy trusted me to get it done. I’d never given reason not to.

I ambled over to where he stood, counted off thirty paces, and took my stance. It’s here that I should have called him off, feigned illness, and gone back to my coach. I’d only done such a thing once before—three years earlier in Atlanta. A touch of food poisoning laid me up for a few days back then.

A bad meal couldn’t be blamed this night.

My hands selected an arrow from my quiver.

Jimmy’s trustful gaze fixed on mine.

When I pulled back the bow, inside my mind Daniel’s hands found my breasts again, his kiss stole my breath, and my guilt threatened to expose me to every living soul beneath the big top.

Thwack!

My arrow split the apple atop Jimmy’s head. A clean shot—as usual.

On cue, the boy raised the ace of spades high above his head and held it perfectly still. A single nervous twitch would likely cost him a finger or two—maybe even a whole hand!

As I drew back the bow, my father’s words filled my head: God doesn’t look kindly on those keen to adultery.

Thwack!

The arrow tore through the very center of the card and lodged in the pole behind Jimmy and his still-intact hand.

While Jimmy worked his way to the top of the pole, I wowed the crowd with an assortment of bullseye shots on targets scattered here and there across center ring.

Atop the pole, Jimmy readied himself for the long walk on the high wire. Slow and steady he worked his way to the middle of the rope, high up where one misstep would most definitely be fatal. In his hands he held the heavy wooden target.

I found the last remaining arrow in my quiver, its point wrapped in gasoline-soaked gauze. A silver Zippo came to my hand—a gift from my father, given just before my first-ever performance. Sparks from the flint lit the wick. The crowd offered their enthusiastic cheers, knowing what would come next, daring me to see it through. I touched the lit Zippo to the arrow, set the tip alight.

Jimmy stood still at the center of the rope, held the cedar shingle target over his head.

I’d never missed before—not even in practice. The arrow always found its mark in the wood.

But this night, well, my father’s warning took away all of my focus: You have a husband.

The arrow sailed high and to the left of its intended mark, attaching itself to the very top, up there where the pole and canvas meet. Flames like wicked tongues licked at that thick covering. There’d be nothing to stop it from spreading.

Paying customers scattered for the exits as the orange glow magnified its intensity. Panicked voices of parents calling out for lost children competed with the cries of those certain death had arrived.

I’d lost sight of Jimmy in all that smoke. The last I’d seen the boy, he still stood on that tightrope high above center ring.

“What did you do?” my father demanded, yanking me toward the exit.

*      *      *

When the flames died out, the wreckage revealed three dead souls, each one a child under the age of twelve. Jimmy had been among them.

Life doesn’t just resume after a fire. It doesn’t just stop, either.

The circus shut down for the remainder of the season, putting the entire crew back at our winter home in Tampa, Florida. Nobody blamed me—at least not out loud. A dangerous trick, people would say. It was bound to happen eventually. Can’t play with fire and expect it to not burn once in a while.

Daniel didn’t follow us down to Florida. He’d never live with the aftermath and its heavy burden.

I never again set eyes on that man.

Abel, well, he returned to me a month after the conflagration. The one I called husband had taken a bullet in his left knee, thus rendering him useless to Uncle Sam.

He’d hobbled into the bathroom that first morning I got sick, held my hair back from the spew. “You okay?”

“Just fine,” I told him.

He sensed the thing growing inside my womb, understood the circumstances in its coming to be; the man made offers to raise it as his own.

“You won’t mind?” I asked.

His head gave a short left-right twist, a move meant to settle the thing right then and there. “I don’t even need to know the details.”

“I wasn’t offering any.”

“But you might—in due time.”

Abel’s arms went easily around my body. He hugged me close to him. His scent, both familiar and strange, carried with it a certain comfort, a reassurance of sorts. We’d be all right, me and him.

Love (like fire) can be a very dangerous thing indeed. And yes, to some, it might even become deadly—or at least life changing. But a soul, well, it most assuredly cannot survive without it.

© 2020 Beem Weeks

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.

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.

A New Offering From Author Y. Correa!

It’s Official Release Day!

What else can we say, but, “It’s the official release day”?

 

 

 

Humanity in Retrograde

 

In this retro-futuristic era, the old look and reproduce as if in the prime of their lives. The babies delivered into this world—sickly, fighting for every second to have a slim chance of survival. To turn this existence on its heels, it requires something … or someone … Special.

When a healthy baby is discovered by Nurse Celestine, she makes it her mission to protect what she believes is a well-kept secret.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for the observant Nurse Trudy to put the pieces together to utilize for her personal gain as well as orchestrate Nurse Celestine’s ruin. Can Nurse Celestine succeed in combating the determined Nurse Trudy, or will all that is special be exposed and possibly destroyed? Find out in Reversal.

Babies.

Mere infants … fragile, feeble, sickly and flushed of color, lined the nursery of St. Agnes General Hospital NICU Department. This was nothing new, of course. They were all born that way. Those who made it past their first week of birth were among the blessed.

An almost invisible film of mauve and viridian—a sheath that covered their reality—was the translucent haze that weighed upon all things. It was as though the colors had been embedded into the fabric of the world, tinging everything—no matter what its candescence—in those pigments. The darkest of the dark, and the lightest of the light, all seemed ominous and void of vitality.

Dreary. That was the word that best described this place, these people … these babies.

The atmosphere was inauspicious. Everything seemed afflicted with lifelessness. The hospital, antiquated. Though hundreds of years in the future, the setting felt like a 1950’s time warp. The perimeter of the hospital was as inert as its own appearance—scant trees, barren bushes, leaf and debris covered streets.

The perils that distressed St. Agnes General Hospital was the lack of advanced technologies. It was as though the last ten centuries had never transpired. An entire fragment of time had evidently disappeared leaving behind a woefully dull and mechanically limited world which was forced to operate within its mediocre means.

The hallways of St. Agnes General were long, ominous, and cold. The walls were painted in a tainted light green. The doctors wore perfectly pressed white coats which covered their black business suits. Their hair, slick—brushed back into a tight, shiny do. The nurses donned white nursing uniforms with white hats which had red crosses in the center. Skirts at knee length, taupe pantyhose and white nurse shoes. They looked perfect. In complete contrast to their locality.

 

Beep-beep, beep-beep, beep-beep; first in dots then in dashes. The sound carried a cadence of absolute fear which could give any person goosebumps—that river of icy-hot pimples that ran all over one’s body. Yet the screeching of the monitor’s blaring was far louder than the unhealthy baby that attempted to cry its woes. His voice was as decrepit as his leathery, bony flesh.

Nurse Juliette was an excessively feminine, soft-spoke Asian woman with the tiny frame. Blue-black hair fell to her waist, and Juliette’s spotless face was softly made up.

“Sh, sh, sh. There, there, little one. It’ll all be over soon, I promise. Mommy already knows that you’ll be going to a better place,” whispered Nurse Juliette who was sitting next to his cradle. She gently shook the child’s puny legs. Nurse Juliette’s tone was void of emotion, as though this were an everyday occurrence.

In all actuality, it was.

In complete opposition to the old-looking, ailing child was Nurse Juliette whose stature was strong, young, healthy and … well, perfect. So was the child’s mother and father who both waited for the news of his fate from their hospital room.

And, just as Nurse Juliette swayed the hardly sobbing yet profusely ailing child, the infant took in a sharp lungful and exhaled his last breath.

“Ahh, poor child,” Nurse Juliette concluded, then proceeded to get out of her seat to pick up the phone. “Nurse Celestine? Yes? Good. Please advise the Smithson family that the child has passed.”

“Certainly,” replied the voice on the opposite end. Neither one of the voices even remotely somber.

To learn more about author Y. Correa, visit

www.authorycorrea.com

Layers: A Collection of Short Stories by Zuzanne Belec! Something for Every Reader!

Blurb: 

Layers is a debut collection of imaginative short stories celebrating life and the human spirit despite the ever-present spectre of melancholy in our lives today. With their distinctive blend of wit and humour, they light up any underlying darkness.

From the Americas to India, from Africa to Europe, and through a range of genres, voices and styles, layers are unraveled, revealing the textures and contrasts of old and new in the environments and cultures of today’s fast-paced world. With vivid descriptions, we are drawn into enchanting worlds with characters that leap off the page, leaving the reader lingering long after the pages have been read.

  • In The Christmas Charge: Instead of enjoying their Christmas preparing eggnog cream pie and sipping sherry by the fireside, three batty grannies go on an African safari. At this stage of wisdom in their lives, nothing can go wrong. Right?

 

  • In Paths Taken: When her grandmother ‘kills’ a man on a busy town square, Hecate is forced to face her worst fears and use her own unsettling powers to help her. But where will these new paths take her?

 

  • In White Noise: All Earl needs to do is hand his work over to his successor. But is it that easy to let go? And where does one hide from one’s inner noise when things go wrong?

 

  • In The Old Man and the Donkey: Deep in northern Portugal, an old man and his donkey go about their lonely routine. When an unexpected visitor shows up, everyone is given a new chance of happiness. But have they all been stubbornly avoiding it for too long?

 

  • In The Arctic Haze: Since he was little, bad luck has stuck to George’s soles like clingy dog mess. Some of us are luckier. Or are we really?

 

  • In Penny’s Purple Robot: A loving father exceeds himself to make his daughter happy after her mother passes away. But can he force himself to face a brutal truth?

 

  • In Mothers: Deep in Africa, a desperate mother accepts her own fate, but refuses to face an even harsher reality. Mothers will do anything for their young. And things may not be as they seem.

 

  • In Yeehaw: Running from their regular lives, Sam and Patsy end up in an artificial town – Yeehaw Theme Park. Will they find their true selves in this synthetic world?

If you like a minimalist and dark, yet humorous look at the contrasts we face in the world today, you will enjoy this collection of mixed-genre stories.

Buy now to enter into these worlds!

 

My Review: 

Rating: ★★★★★

Layers: A Collection of Short Stories offers readers a buffet of tales from which to choose. Author Zuzanne Belec has crafted stories filled with originality, intrigue, suspense, and life. Her characters arrive fully formed and breathing, alive with personality that radiates throughout these pages.

Each story is a look inside lives that are both unlike our own and yet very much alike. Though some stories may read slower than others, they are each worthy of a reading.

From the opening story to the final one, it becomes clear that Belec writes from the heart. She has the talent to weave emotion into her work, allowing readers to become invested in the characters and the plot. Among my favorites are The Christmas Charge, and the inventive Paths Taken.

If you enjoy short fiction, there is something here for every taste. This is a fine collection.

 

About the Author: 

Zuzanne is a writer, poet and translator who now lives in the heart of Europe, after being lucky enough to spend her first thirty years absorbing the contrasting textures of Africa.

After she quit the rat race, she spent fifteen years as a translator before discovering the world of writing. This discovery, and the encouragement from her daughters, partner and friends, led to her decision to delve even deeper into writing. She then grew a long grey beard and became a hermit, studying the craft and immersing herself into this world that is magic.
About the time when her beard reached ankle-length, she knew she was on the right path when three of her stories were published in Canadian literary magazines.

This debut collection, Layers, is the result of this passion. And it is only the beginning …

The Perfect Novel to Celebrate Native American Heritage Month!

Today I am honored to host authors Marcha Fox and Pete Risingsun here on The Indie Spot.

FIG Blog Tour Day #1

The Perfect Novel to Celebrate Native American Heritage Month!

The Curse of Dead Horse Canyon: Cheyenne Spirits
by Marcha Fox and Pete Risingsun

“The Cheyenne fasting vigil, spirit animals, and the medicine wheel combined with astrology readings are intriguing aspects of the story that are genuine and authentic.” –Readers’ Favorite 5-Star Review

BLURB
Charlie Littlewolf knows there’s something suspicious about the accident that killed his best friend. Determined to solve the mystery, he must return to a way of life he’s shunned for decades. Will the Cheyenne grandfather spirits respond before a black ops team kills him, too?

BOOK TRAILER

 

EXCERPT
CHARLIE’S CABIN
RURAL FALCON RIDGE
April 19, Thursday
6:19 p.m.

The log cabin was a vestige from another time. Within its rustic interior, Charlie sat in a sagging garage sale recliner, mulling over the past two days. Like his thoughts, the room was dark, the only light admitted by two opposing windows. His gut ached, but not from hunger. The few bites of dried venison and an apple had failed to take it away.
Earlier that day he’d gone by the hospital to check on Sara. She remained in intensive care, visitors restricted to family. He spoke briefly with her father and his wife, who’d taken his number and promised to stay in touch.
Why? Why was his brother taken?
He and Bryan were both thirty-six. Men in their prime. Something felt wrong.
Very wrong.
He needed the truth, whatever it might be.
He cringed as shades of guilt crushed him in a strangle hold. Such knowledge resided in the world of spirits. Something he’d shunned for over two decades.
Perhaps this was one of those hard lessons his grandfather had warned him about.
Eaglefeathers tried desperately to convince him to embrace the Cheyenne way of life. He loved and respected the old man. Thus, he listened to his teachings and attended various ceremonies on the Northern Cheyenne reservation in southeastern Montana.
Accepting any of it to heart, however, stumbled over scars left by his Navajo mother’s harsh criticism of such beliefs. His ears, mind, and heart closed, acceptance impossible.
He knew deep inside his grandfather could have explained this. A true holy man, patient and wise, who always knew the answers. He could have told him why fate left him forsaken and alone.
The Creator’s mind is unlike that of man. His ways are not understood by two-leggeds. You were given this life because you are strong enough to live it.
His head bowed beneath the weight of self-recrimination. His childish behavior the day before was disrespectful and offensive. His throat burned as his anger at the Great Spirit rebounded back where it belonged.
No wonder he was being punished. He’d taken it for granted that he could ignore Eaglefeathers’s teachings according to his own selfish timetable without consequence.
Teachings he needed now as never before.
If you follow the way of Maheo, as I have taught you, then you will never be alone. He will always walk with you and be with you.
He winced as fear and embarrassment shadowed him with shame. He’d ignored Maheo for years. Would the Great Spirit reject him now as well?
Desperation raged.
Was Bryan’s death an accident?
Or deliberate?
The sun hung low in the west as he retrieved a pouch of tobacco and a box of matches from the rough-hewn mantle and went outside. The stone-lined pit in front of the cabin was overgrown with weeds. He yanked them out and tossed them aside, then gathered pine needles, small twigs, and a few branches to start a fire.
He arranged the wood upright, struck a match, and held it to the kindling. The needles sparked, smoldered, then a small flame emerged. His need for answers prevailed, subduing what little remained of his pride. He clenched his jaw, ready to accept his punishment, whatever it might be.
He scooped up a handful of soil, pondered it a moment, then proceeded as he’d been taught years before. He rubbed his palms together, the dirt’s gritty texture a reminder of life’s irritations. He spread it on his arms and face to honor the Earth Mother, then thanked her for the water of life.
The fire’s crackle grew steady, its breath warm against his face. He opened the pouch and took out a pinch of tobacco, then tried to recall the proper way to make an acceptable offering.
He closed his eyes, seeking divine direction for the first time in his life.
Moments later, it felt as if a hidden force raised his hand toward the east. It lowered to the ground, then repeated the motion to the other cardinal directions. The prompting continued. He lifted it above his head, then down in four steps, when his hand touched the ground. The tobacco sifted through his fingers to the Earth.
Heart and mind focused on the world of spirits, he implored them to accept his offering and carry forth his request. He pleaded for forgiveness and that he might yet attain the qualities he’d been taught.
Strength—to shun past unhealthy behaviors he’d fallen prey to in difficult times and endure the hardships required to prove his worthiness and intent as a Cheyenne man.
Protection—from evil forces that may have taken his brother’s life.
Wisdom and courage—to discover what happened and why.
He inhaled deeply, mind open to answers.
None came.
Silence stretched.
His heart fell.
Of course. He didn’t deserve a reply.
Yet still he waited. Being impatient with Maheo was as wrong as ignoring him or his counsel.
What seemed a long time later, he realized why no response had come—he already knew the answer. Eaglefeathers taught him what to do, years before.
His forehead wrinkled with thought. Did Maheo ever respond directly? Or was prayer no more than finding answers within?
Did it really matter?
He blessed himself again with the Earth, then stared into the dying flames until only embers remained.
A few handfuls of earth put them to sleep.

MEET THE AUTHORS


Marcha Fox

Marcha Fox earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Utah State University in 1987, which facilitated a 20+ year career at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Her interests expand far beyond the world of aerospace and hard science, however. The esoteric realm of metaphysics and all things weird and wonderful hold her interest as well.

When her attempt to debunk astrology backfired, she pursued knowledge in that field as well. She graduated from the International Academy of Astrology’s professional development program in 2012 and is the sole proprietor of ValkyrieAstrology.com. Much of the popular website’s content can be found in “Whobeda’s Guide to Basic Astrology.”

Her previous fiction work includes her epic Star Trails Tetralogy series, which has been highly acclaimed for its family-oriented plot as well as its palatable and STEM-friendly science content described in detail on http://www.StarTrailsSaga.com.

Born in Peekskill, New York, she has lived in California, Utah, and Texas in the course of raising her family of six children, now grown. Besides writing, she pampers her two cats, maintains an active astrology practice of international clients, and tries to keep up with her home, yard, friends, and family.

Social Media Contact Links

Email: marcha@kallioperisingpress.com
Author Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/marchafoxauthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/marchafox
Instagram: @startrailssaga
Blog Page: http://marcha2014.wordpress.com/
Series Website: https://www.Dead-Horse-Canyon.com

Pete Risingsun

Pete Risingsun is an enrolled member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe who has served as a spirit helper to medicine men in ceremonial sweat lodges. He’s a proud fifth generation descendant of Chief Iron Shirt, who was a lodge keeper and powerful medicine man.
Born in 1950, he was raised on a small ranch east of Busby, Montana. He attended Montana State University, then worked for Exxon in Billings, Montana for a year before returning home to the reservation as adult education director for the Northern Cheyenne tribe where he also raised black angus cattle and bred championship Quarter horses. He has served as a Tribal Council member and was the first Northern Cheyenne elected to serve as a Rosebud County Commissioner.
He’s the proud father of one daughter and grandfather to two. Pete is currently retired, but in addition to co-writing The Curse of Dead Horse Canyon: Cheyenne Spirits” he makes and sells sweet grass braids, a sacred plant used in various ceremonies.

Social Media Contact Links

Email: prisingsun2@icloud.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pete.risingsun
Series Website: https://www.Dead-Horse-Canyon.com

BUY LINKS
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08DM9PFW5/
Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-curse-of-dead-horse-canyon-marcha-fox/1137410925
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=0fzyDwAAQBAJ
Apple iBooks: https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-curse-of-dead-horse-canyon-cheyenne-spirits/id1525388731
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-curse-of-dead-horse-canyon-cheyenne-spirits
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1034906
Universal Buy Links: https://www.books2read.com/deadhorsecanyon
Goodreads
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54747387-the-curse-of-dead-horse-canyon

Author Gwen Plano Guests on Voice of Indie Podcast Episode 015!

Tune in to the Voice of Indie podcast Wednesday November 11 at 8 pm EST. Our guest this week is Gwen Plano, author of The Heaven and Earth trilogy. Gwen will be with us for the entire hour, sharing news of current projects, chatting about her past work, and answering your questions and comments. So join the discussion via Twitter by using #FreshInkGroup in your tweets. We will also open the phone lines during the show to take your calls live on the air. We hope to find you in the audience!

LISTEN TO EPISODE 015 HERE

Fresh Ink Group Presents The Voice of Indie Podcast!

Hey! Did you know Fresh Ink Group publishing produces a weekly live podcast called Voice of Indie? The hosts of the show are me, Beem Weeks, and author and publisher Stephen Geez. Every Wednesday at 8 pm EDT we welcome authors, musicians, and artists into our studio for a full hour of discussions. We also open the phone lines so listeners can call in with their questions and comments.

Past guests have included author and journalist Ronald E. Yates, musicians Ron and Zach Tippin of the prog rock band Widetrack, sci fi author Robert G. Williscroft, and Robert McKenzie, author of The Chair.

This week’s guest is Christian romance author and gospel singer Jeannie Sharpe. Be sure to mark it down on your calendar. And if you miss any show live, you can always find it in the archive!

Past Guests:

Ronald E. Yates

Traci Sanders

Mary Schmidt

Robert McKenzie

Dr. Helen Borel, RN, PhD

Marc Marlow

Robert G. Williscroft

Ron and Zach Tippin (Widetrack)

Short Story Special

Daisy, Bold & Beautiful – A Review!

Review

Rating: ★★★★★

Daisy, Bold & Beautiful is the debut novel from young author Ellie Collins. A natural-born storyteller, Collins penned her Greek Mythology tale at the age of eleven.

The story follows middle school newbie D. J. as she and her father move to a new city and a whole new life. D. J. enjoys gardening, and it’s here, in an enchanted dream garden, that she meets Persephone, Goddess of Spring. It is through the guidance of this new friend that D. J. gains the confidence needed to navigate her new surroundings.

The author weaves together many fascinating scenes filled with a cast of memorable characters, stoking a plot that suggests this young lady was indeed born to write. Though it’s geared toward younger readers, teens and adults alike will also enjoy this book.

Blurb

D.J. and her dad moved far from the small town and only home she ever knew. Now she’s starting middle school in the city with kids she’s never met. She tries to make friends, but they all appear to be slaves to screen time. D.J. just likes to garden, nurturing plants, watching them grow and thrive. It seems she’ll never find a way to fit in, but then she awakens in a gorgeous garden where she meets Persephone, Goddess of Spring. She must be dreaming; her new friend can’t possibly be real—and what could she know about getting along with gamers? D.J. really needs some ideas, or she might never find her own place in a complicated world.

 

About Author

Ellie Collins wrote her debut novel, Daisy, Bold & Beautiful when she was turning eleven and just beginning sixth grade. She finished writing Mylee In The Mirror, the second in her multi-award-winning middle-grade Greek mythology fantasy series before heading back to school for seventh grade and turning twelve and Mad Max & Sweet Sarah before eighth grade and becoming a teen. She writes amid a very busy extracurricular schedule, including a spot on both a gymnastics team and a trampoline and tumbling team, as well as taking weekly piano lessons. She’s an avid gamer who loves hanging out with friends. Her love of Greek mythology inspires her writing.

Operation Counterpunch by Marc Marlow is Available for Pre-Order Now!

North Korea will be the biggest challenge to your presidency, warned the outgoing commander-in-chief; but to imprisoned journalist Geon Jae-sun, surviving each day in the prison camp proves the greatest challenge of his life. Protecting beautiful young prisoner Ji-su has grown increasingly difficult, too, for this slight man, otherwise powerless but for his prowess at deceiving their captors.

Navy SEAL Andrew Gunnar Jackson is tasked by the president himself with gathering intel from the hermit kingdom. It’s a dangerous gamble where capture means summary execution—if he’s lucky—or death the slow way in a North Korean prison re-education camp. Information is the least of his concerns, though, as the president agrees he can leverage this mission to satisfy a few goals of his own.

How far will each man go to fend off the cruel machinations of a ruthless dictator? And will that be enough for either to survive?