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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

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.

Introducing the “TIGERMAN ON TOUR” Blog Tour! @TigerManGuest

I am pleased to welcome author Colin Guest to The Indie Spot today.

Take it away, Colin. . .

The second book I wrote was An Expat’s Experiences of Living in Turkey. Readers who are thinking of moving to Turkey will find a wealth of information related to living here.

The book starts with how I came to Turkey back in late 1988, to work on a five-star hotel project down on the Turkish Meditteranean Coast. After only five weeks of being in Turkey, my late wife stunned me one day. “When you finish your contract, why don’t we buy some land and have a house built,” she said. It just shows how impressed she was at what she had found and seen in Turkey. As a result of that conversation,  along with a Turkish friend, we bought a piece of land and had a house built. Although at first intended as a summer holiday home, after some discussion with my wife, we sold our house in England and moved to live fulltime in Turkey. Without a doubt, we did the right thing by moving to live permanently in Turkey.

After my wife died in 2007, I later met, and at the age of 72, married Gulden aged 69. We live in Istanbul, one of the most exciting cities in the world. Although living in Turkey has been a roller coaster of experiences, I have never regretted living here.

So, if you want to get out of the rat race, who knows, an expats life might be just what you need. For those considering this kind of life, there are specialist organisations that handle overseas contracts. They can also provide a wealth of information related to expat life.

Bio

 

As an expat who worked in fifteen countries spread through the Middle, Far East and North Africa, Colin Guest has lived a life most only dream. He started writing after his retirement and has had nine books published, with five made into Audiobooks.

 

 

 

Social media contacts

http://www.tigermanpress@gmail.com

http://www.colinguestauthor.com

http://www.turkmed.wordpress.com

http://www.twitter.com/Tigermanguest

http://www.facebook.com/tigerman55

http://www.pininterest.com/colinguest9

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/9857414

http://www.linkedin.com/in/tigerman77

http://www.instagram.com/tigerman105

To follow along with the rest of the tour, please visit the author’s tour page on the 4WillsPublishing site.  If you’d like to schedule your own blog tour and have your book promoted in similar grand fashion, please click HERE.  
Thanks for supporting this author and his work!

Welcome to the “OPERATION IVY BELLS” Blog Tour! @RGWilliscroft

Greetings! Today on The Indie Spot I am honored to welcome author Robert G. Williscroft on his blog tour.

 

OPERATION IVY BELLS: A MAC MCDOWELL MISSION

Robert G. Williscroft here, with an updated version of my bestselling, semi-autobiographical Cold War Novel. Operation Ivy Bells is a first-person account of a team of saturation divers locking out of the nuclear submarine USS Halibut on the bottom of the Sea of Okhotsk. Fearlessly risking death, these dare-devil divers placed a tap on Soviet underwater communication cables and retrieved spent missile parts from the seafloor. They gathered intel that tipped the scales to win the Cold War. This story is reality-based—I led one of the teams depicted in this book.

Am I Mac McDowell? Some folks would say Yes, but even though I based his character on my own experiences, there are many differences between us. I was an excellent submarine and diving officer, but Mac is more capable and smarter than I. I would welcome your visiting my website to check out my background. Then compare the real me with Mac and let me know what you think.

A warm thank you to my host for sharing this blog.

Recognition for Operation Ivy Bells

Here’s what a USS Seawolf sailor had to say about Operation Ivy Bells:

For those who have an interest in Cold War secrets this is a must-read. Some minor details and names have been changed, but most of it is pretty close to the real deal…close as you can get without going to jail. My source of information? Memory—I was an Ivy Bells submariner.

Excerpt from Operation Ivy Bells

“OK, Dive Control.” Jimmy sounded a bit winded. “Now we need you to jack the port shaft in reverse—slowly. With a bit of luck, the cable will pull free and snake to the bottom.”

Once again, Buck moved in from the stern, behind the screw, which gave us a great view of the action.

“Roger that, Red Diver.”

The Skipper started talking on his handset again. He kept it to his ear. The screw started turning very slowly.

“That’s it!” squeaked Jimmy. “Slowly…slowly…” And then, “Stop! Stop!”

Even on the monitor we could see that the cable had crossed itself.

The Skipper said something to the handset.

“The cable crossed,” Jimmy told us. “Jack forward about a quarter turn.”

The Skipper passed it on.

“OK – Stop!” Heavy breathing. On the monitor the cable snapped free from its constraining hold on the other wrap. “Now back slowly…” More heavy breathing, from both divers. “Slow…slow…SLOWER!”

The Skipper stayed with him. And suddenly, the cable started slipping through the screw blades.

“Bingo! That’s it! We did it!” Squeak or no, he definitely was excited. “Let’s get the fuck outa here!”

Buck stayed with them until they reached the bottom of the Can. Then he headed back for the Aquarium.

Ten minutes later we could see Jimmy and Whitey emerging into the outer lock through the lower hatch. Bill had wrapped their umbilicals on the bulkhead hooks as they swam to the hatch, and now he pulled them into the lock. He unhooked the hatch and swung it closed. Whitey stooped to spin the locking wheel.

“Dive Control, Outer Lock, hatch secured.”

“Dive Control, Aye.”

“Conn, ROV Ops, we’re secured and the hatch is shut.” And that was it.

I gave the Skipper a thumbs-up, and he ordered the XO to secure the hover and get the ship underway. I headed back to the dive locker. The guys had been out for about an hour at a maximum depth of 250 feet on standard heliox. Ham or Jack would have already worked out the decompression schedule. I needed to check it, and then we could start bringing the guys back to the “surface.”

It would take a while, but that’s what we got paid for.

Watch the one-minute trailer

Author Bio

Dr. Williscroft is a retired submarine officer, deep-sea and saturation diver, scientist, author of numerous books and hundreds of articles, and a lifelong adventurer. He spent 22 months underwater, a year in the equatorial Pacific, three years in the Arctic ice pack, and a year at the Geographic South Pole. He holds degrees in Marine Physics and Meteorology, and a doctorate for developing a system to protect SCUBA divers in contaminated water. A prolific author of both non-fiction and fiction, he lives in Centennial, Colorado, with his family.

Links

Website

Amazon Author’s Page

Goodreads Author’s Page

Twitter

Facebook

LinkedIn

To follow along with the rest of the tour, please visit the author’s tour page on the 4WillsPublishing site.  If you’d like to book your own blog tour and have your book promoted in similar grand fashion, please click HERE.  
Thanks for supporting this author and his work!

Welcome to the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! – Bernard Foong @bernardfoong

Vignettes Parisian by Bernard Foong

Vignettes Parisian

Vignettes Parisian is a collection of four short stories about the Author’s past and present experiences in the French City of Love and Romance, commonly known as Paris.

 

Christian Dior Couturier Du Reve

It is impossible not to have a close encounter with fashion when I am in Paris. Even if I had to wait in the freezing cold for an hour and a half to enter the Christian Dior Couturier Du Reve (Christian Dior Couturier of Dreams) exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (Museum of Decorative Arts). My husband, Walter, and I were the lucky few who arrived early before the museum opened its doors. The late arrivals were banished to the back of the queue for a five hours wait before admission was granted.

This spectacular exhibition was worth the wait. Not only were the lives, times, and accomplishments of Christian Dior, one of the great French couturier and his successors well documented, the exquisite fashions and well-thought-out displays were equally impressive.

Since my first visit in 1966 to the French capital of romance, luxury, and fashion, my love for Paris has never waned. Before I left sunny Maui, I had designed and made a haute couture gold, silver, and black embossed velvet fleur-de-lis patterned coat to wear during my recent holiday in France. It was at this exhibition that I received compliments for my one-of-a-kind creation.

A stranger approached me at the exhibition to buy the coat off my back because he loved what I wore. Perhaps I should be the next designer to take over the reins for this resplendent Maison – The House of Dior. After all, I am a knowledgeable and seasoned fashion designer who knows every aspect of the international fashion industry.

Shopping In Paris (Then & Now)

I am one of those blessed individuals with a pair of discerning eyes and can detect items I wish to purchase in cramped spaces on my crazy shopping sprees. It was in such a circumstance that Walter and I found ourselves in the middle of the crowded shopping Avenue, des Champs Elysées.

A sole of my shoe had divorced itself from the body of my long-lasting suedes and left me to hobble around Paris like a circus clown with flapping feet. I had to take immediate action to remedy this unanticipated situation before the remainder of my footwear disintegrated onto the wet and soggy ground, while my beloved, sniggered at my fashion malfunction.

I remembered an amusing incident that happened in 1969 at this boulevard. Back then, I was a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed fashion student. Accompanying Moi was Count Mario, an accomplished Vogue fashion photographer, Andy, my model-looking lover and Valet, and Sammy, a flamboyant young fashionista. The four of us were shopping at the avenue, that drizzly day.

To elongate his petite stature beneath his wide bell-bottom jeans, Sammy wore a pair of eight inches high platform shoes. He also donned a fitted denim jacket over a sassy body-hugging bodysuit. To complete his eccentric ensemble, his dyed cornflower yellow, emerald, and turquoise hair flowed behind him like an exotic mane as our quartet floated down the street.

Eyes turned in our direction as we trotted around Paris in style. Before I realized what had transpired, Sammy was flat on the pavement. Colorful socks bounced around him like raptured pom-poms. The lad had stuffed pairs of rolled-up socks inside his footwear so he could fit his tiny feet into the platforms. He had stumbled on the wet and slippery sidewalk.

Mario, wasted no time whipping out his camera to capture this unanticipated fashion faux pas, while Andy and I looked on in shock.

As if modeling for a Vogue fashion shoot, the quick-witted Sam posed this way and that on the wet thoroughfare while the photographer clicked away at the gaffe. A pedestrian circle had formed in the middle of Avenue des Champs Elysées to witness this “fashion happening.” Advertently, our friend had transformed an embarrassing situation into a photo-opt as the applauding crowd showered the boy with accolades. By the time Sammy got on his feet, he had saved his face with poise and grace.

 

The Magical Power of The Written Word

“Why are there beds located at different corners of the bookstore?” I asked Monsieur Mercier, an assistant at the Shakespeare & Company bookshop.

“The beds are available for writers to stay a night in Paris for free,” the man responded before he resumed, “ Are you a writer? Do you intend to stay the night?”

Surprised by the man’s inquiries, I evinced, “I am a writer. But no thank you to the lodging offer.”

“What genre of books do you write, Monsieur?” Mercier queried.

“I’m an autobiographer,” I replied. “Because of its controversial and provocative contents, my books are often classified under the Erotica genre.”

The bookseller questioned, “What are the titles of your books, and what is the author’s name?”

A HAREM BOY’S SAGA; A MEMOIR BY YOUNG. It’s a five-book series,” I declared.

“I believe we have your books in the store. Are the titles: INITIATION, UNBRIDLED, DEBAUCHERY, TURPITUDE, and METANOIA?” he promulgated.

I nodded, delighted by his information.

The Frenchman led me through a series of narrow pathways covered with volumes and pamphlets of the written word. When he finally extracted five volumes of my autobiography from a shelf, my heart nearly leaped out of my chest.

“I read the series. What a compelling teenage life you’ve led. I wish my school had a secret fraternity program like yours,” the teller quipped smilingly.

He recommenced, “Our store is a focal point of English literature in Paris. Anais Nin, Henry Miller, and Richard Wright are frequent visitors. We also host literary activities, like poetry readings, writers’ meetings, book readings, writing festivals, literature festivals, photography workshops, writing groups, and Sunday tea.

“Ms. Sylvia Whitman, the owner, might invite you for a book reading at our store.”

“That will be splendid. Unfortunately, my husband and I are in Paris for a short period. Maybe we can arrange a book reading and signing session when we are in Paris again,” I proposed.

Monsieur Mercier and I had exchanged contact information before I left the Shakespeare & Company bookshop. Hopefully, during my next visit to Paree, I will get to meet Madam Sylvia Whitman with a book reading and signing gig in place.

 

S.O.W. and R.E.A.P.

Over the years, I have been asked by many, “Why do you love Paris so much?” My reply is always the same – S.O.W.

Although the Parisian cityscape has changed over the years, these three alphabets continue to shadow my existence whenever I am in or out of Paris. S.O.W. is also a reason Walter and I chose France as our home away from home.

In the autumn of 1966, when the Simorgh (one of my Arab patriarch’s private jet) touched down in Charles de Gaulle airport, I had contracted the romance bug. Back then, the ebullient Moi, an inquisitive teenager with a quest for adventure, was whisked to the Paris Ritz Carlton in a luxurious Bentley by my host, Prince P. I had fallen head-over-heels in love and in awe with both the prince, Andy, my then chaperone and Valet, and Paris, the city of romance. That was before our entourage visited the haute couture fashion Houses of Chanel, Dior, Ungaro, Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent, Patou, and the fancy eateries, such as Café de Flore, La Belle Époque, Maxim’s, and last but by no means least, Le Folies Bergers. Back then, these infamous Parisian establishments were places to go, to see and be seen. Nowadays, they are tourist attractions.

Through the subsequent years, I had accompanied many princes, princesses, sheiks, sheikas, and their aristocratic Arabian entourages to the French capital. Most significantly, this city of love and romance had taught me the art of Seduction (S), Originality (O), and Wit (W). Some may say that wittiness is a congenital trait, but I purport it as a learned art of human relationships. Whatever definition one chooses to use, I had returned to this electrifying metropolis of S.O.W.; where I had sown many a wild oat. Now, with my beloved husband in tow, I’m here to R.E.A.P. its rewards.

“What the hell is R.E.A.P.?” you ask.

I will explain:

RRomance continues to exist in this alluring Capital of Love; even amid an influx of foreign refugees and political upheavals. Another series of stories, I will narrate another time.

EElegance in this sordid city of high culture is a trait Walter and I find irresistibly seductive.

AAuthenticity is historicity in this Center of Romance. And I am not referring to the faux reproduction of the Las Vegas ‘Paris’ in Nevada, United States of America.

PParis equals Sophistication, Originality, Wit, Romance, Elegance, and Authenticity. But last and by no means least, this French capital is where Perfection reigns supreme.

PARIS – Mon Paree!

 

Bernard Foong (aka Young)

***

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Welcome to the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! – Karen Ingalls @KIngallsAuthor

Nature Speaks by Karen Ingalls

 

NATURE SPEAKS

Why did my life spiral into darkness in a second? One minute I am married to my soulmate, a mother to a beautiful daughter, and owner of a successful bookstore. My friends asked me, “How do you have the perfect life? It is so easy for you.” They were right. I had the perfect life.

My husband was an engineer, and I opened a bookstore naming it Mile High Books offering old and new books, coffee or tea. Leather chairs and couches provided comfort to the patrons. Classical music played in the background. I loved going to my store enjoying the smell of books, coffee, and leather.

We had our first and only child, Lynn who also loved classical music and dreamed of being a ballet dancer.

One Saturday morning, my life changed forever. I had awakened with a migraine headache, which was intolerable. It was best if I stayed in a dark, quiet room until the medication relieved the blinding pain.

My husband, Miles volunteered to run the bookstore that fateful day. “Lynn and I can manage the bookstore today. You stay home and take care of the headache.” He leaned over and kissed me. “I love you,” were the last words I would hear him say.

I curled up, closed my eyes, and waited for the pain to go away.

A pounding on the front door and the continuous ringing of the bell awakened me. “This had better be important,” I muttered while staggering down the stairs. Two police officers with grim looks were standing on the porch. I collapsed when the words, fire, death, husband, daughter floated around my confused mind.

My once perfect life was unbearable with the memories of it everywhere. I sold everything, bought a second-hand Volkswagen Beetle, and drove west with just the clothes on my back and a photograph of Miles, Lynn and me. I didn’t know where I was going, but I didn’t care.

 

The small cabin in the foothills of Costa Mesa, California overlooking the Pacific Ocean was my new residence. It was not a home. It was a place to sleep, eat and try to escape from my past.

The land was arid with brush, oak trees, scattered thistle weeds, and clay soil. Every evening, I walked down a short path from the cabin to a flattened area where I sat under a large oak tree and watched the sun dip into the ocean. One day at dusk, I leaned against the tree, closed my eyes and dreamed that Miles arms were around me while we watched Lynn ballet dance on a large stage. I could hear the music of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.

When I awoke there were two limbs embracing me, and leaves and acorns were swirling around creating Tchaikovsky’s music. “Am I still dreaming?” The bark of the trunk and the limbs was rough and uncomfortable. I squirmed and pulled at the limbs. “What is happening? This is crazy.” I yelled for someone to help me, but the only words I heard were not human.

Ginny, you are a strong woman. Use your strength to get through this storm in your life. 

I pulled the limbs off, jumped up, and looked around expecting to see someone nearby. “Is anyone here?” I yelled again. Everything was quiet. A full moon radiated light around me.

Staring at the tree, I brushed my clothes, scratched my head, and said, “That was quite a dream, but how did those limbs wrap around me?” I shook my head trying to clear the confusion. “It was a beautiful dream of Miles and Lynn. I miss them so much.” With the sleeve of my sweater I wiped the tears. “I’ve got to get hold of myself. I’m losing my mind.”

The voice said. That was not a dream. I am here to help you.

“Oh, my God, I am going crazy. Trees don’t talk.”

Ginny, you are not going crazy. All trees talk, but humans do not listen. Do you remember your friend, Meredith who told you she talks to trees?

I nodded. “How do you…?”

I saw a friendly face of a kind, elderly man etched in the trunk. Every flora and fauna communes with humans, but they are too busy or unbelieving to listen and learn from us. 

I fell to my knees, grabbed a handful of soil, and watched it slowly stream out of my clenched fist. “This was my life. Time was going by with no troubles.” I opened my fist and let the soil out in one burst. “Then everything changed. My life was never the same. It is now an empty hand.” I sobbed and my whole body shook.

You are strong. Your faith is like my roots: stretching wide and going deep. 

The limbs stretched out, wrapped around my shoulders and leaned me against the trunk. Miles and Lynn are speaking to you through me.

Then I heard them say, We love you and will always be with you. Follow your heart.

The limbs were gentle and comforting. The rough bark was now smooth. My tears dried up, and I drifted into a deep and peaceful sleep.

The warm and bright rays of the morning sun radiated through the tree’s canopy bringing warmth to my body nestled against the oak tree. Standing up, I stretched and looked out at the blue waters of the Pacific marveling at its majesty and beauty. I smiled as the words follow your heart floated around. “Wow! That was quite a dream.”

I walked a few steps on the path back towards the cabin. I stopped and looked back at the oak tree. “It might have all been a dream, but thank you.”

A thistle plant with its purple flower in full bloom was further up the path. I stopped. “You are beautiful, but your spikes are sharp.”

The spikes turned inward. Do not let fear hold you back.

I couldn’t believe what was happening. “Now I hear a flower talking to me. I am going crazy.”

The thistle plant swayed back and forth though there was no breeze. It bent forward bringing its flower near my hands. Touch me and accept my gift of peace.

I placed my hand on the purple flower and a deep sense of serenity swept over me. For the first time since the deaths of my family I was at peace. I whispered “Thank you.”

A short distance from the cabin porch, I saw the white silken top of a trapdoor spider’s home. I did not remember seeing it before and bent down to get a closer look. The trapdoor opened and a dark spider poked his head out. I stumbled as I tried to jump back.

The spider was small and ugly with fine hairs covering its dark brown body. He was frightening to look at, but his kind words put me at ease. You have walked by many doors, but you didn’t open them. 

“What is going on? I am hallucinating with all these voices in my head.”

You are not hallucinating. Your family is talking to you through the oak tree, the thistle and me. The spider moved back into his home and closed the trapdoor.

 

For days I paced around the cabin, reliving each moment and the words about strength, peace, and opportunities. I prayed and cried. I read about mysticism and nature.

One morning, I awoke and saw Miles and Lynn standing beside my bed. We will always be with you in your heart. Let nature continue to teach you.

 

The magnificent oak tree taught how to be strong of body, mind, and heart. Staying healthy and opening my arms to others became my ways of living.

I found beauty in my life and other people after removing my thorns of bitterness and self-pity.

My cabin was a trap shutting out people until I opened its doors and made it a home and retreat center. I added rooms for guests to stay and classrooms for teaching.

I called my new endeavor Nature Speaks, helping people to commune with and learn from all aspects of nature. When people open their hearts and minds to nature there are opportunities for a richer life.

***

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Karen Ingalls RWISA Author Page

 

 

Welcome to the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! – Suzanne Burke @pursoot

Thursday’s Child by Suzanne Burke

 

 

THURSDAY’S CHILD

By

Suzanne Burke.

Copyright 2019.

 

She hadn’t really intended this to happen. Oh, sure, she’d thought about it often enough, but thinking about something didn’t make it a crime. A convergence of circumstances had prompted her choice. Regret was such an outmoded commodity.

She checked her latex gloves fitted well, and flicked her dark eyed gaze across to where Peter Cameron lay, still and silent. “You brought this on yourself, Peter. Did you think me a complete fool?”

Carol moved across to the edge of the bed and stood over him. She reached down and flicked the blonde hair back from his forehead, then gently rested her hand there.

“You’re cold. Shall I fetch you a blanket?” Her laughter soothed her.

The man’s eyes were now open, and Carol revelled in the fear she witnessed in their blue depths. “Ah, there you are. How do you feel?” She laughed again. “Oh, silly me. You can’t feel anything. Can you? Such a handy little drug, and no taste I believe, especially in your malt whiskey.”

Peter Cameron’s blue eyes registered the words and Carol watched on as he commanded his brain to activate his fingers, his arms. He had no control of his voicebox. His brain refused to obey. He remained still.

“Oh, don’t fret so, darling. You’re not going to die … yet. The paralysis will last just long enough for my needs. It’s all in the timing. You need to helplessly contemplate what I may have in store for your immediate future.”

Carol walked away from him, and headed for the bar, whistling happily in anticipation. She placed his used glass and the bottle of Glenfiddich into her handbag, then poured a stiff belt of burbon into a paper cup, and seated herself comfortably on the sofa in the large living room and admired afresh the warm ambience of her surroundings.

“The best that all my money could buy.” Her voice brought her comfort.

She drained the cup and refilled it. When empty she crumpled it and placed it alongside the other items now concealed in the bag.

The wall clock reaffirmed that she had an hour remaining before company arrived. She nodded in satisfaction and rested.

With twenty minutes remaining she stood and checked on her captive one more time. “Not long now.”

A low groan came from the bed.

Carol gently stroked his cheek. “Are you terrified, my darling? Your eyes tell me you are. Good. That’s as it should be.”

Carol smiled in satisfaction and left the room, content to wait this out for a few minutes. At exactly 11.02p.m she heard the front door open and close again. A musical female voice called out, “Peter? Darling, where are you?”

Carol listened carefully from her dark space in the hallway. She held her breath as the woman came into view and she watched her enter the master-bedroom in search of her lover.

“Waiting in bed for me, darling? That’s different. I thought we were going to share a late supper.”

The woman sounded disappointed.

“He can be very disappointing. I agree.” Carol said from the doorway.

The woman jumped in fright and managed to say “Oh, my God. I’m not, that is, we aren’t, this isn’t.” She shut her mouth when her frightened eyes took note that her lover’s wife was standing in front of her wearing latex gloves and aiming a gun at her head.

“It isn’t what? An affair? Oh, please. Do you expect me to believe that you’ve come here to my home every second Thursday at 11.00p.m for 3 months to do something innocent?  Go ahead, enlighten me. I’m a reasonable woman. Convince me I don’t have a reason to hate you.”

“Please! I’m so sorry. It doesn’t mean anything.”

“Oh, no, Thursday’s Girl. It means everything. The others meant nothing to him, therefore I ignored them. Ah, but you, you’re different. Turn around, let me take a closer look at you.”

Carol walked across to the shaking woman and prodded her with Peter’s handgun. “I said turn around.”

The younger woman nodded and hurriedly complied.

“He does love a tight ass. Long legs too. That’s always a bonus.”

“He doesn’t care about me. It’s a … a fling.”

“Nice try.”

“I’ll end it and never see him again. I promise. I’m sorry, please. Let me go.” The woman was sobbing now.

“Don’t you want to know how I know your special?”

The woman shook her head. “I’m not ….”

“Shut your stupid mouth and listen!” Carol barely controlled her anger and shoved the nozzle of the Glock into her rival’s chest.

She drew a deep calming breath and lowered the gun slightly. “I know, because he’s been happy. Happier than he’s been for many years. The only thing that’s different in his life since the advent of his peculiar behaviour is you!”

Carol fished inside the pocket of the coat she was wearing and drew out a small velvet box. “He brought you this little diamond trinket from Caliago. His jeweller of choice. It’s an engagement ring for you, Thursday’s Girl. The ring size is smaller than mine, and besides I only wear emeralds. My contact at the jewellers tells me it’s worth upwards of one million dollars. I do hope it’s insured. Give me your hand. Let’s try it on for size.”

The hand the woman held out was shaking. Carol nursed the gun, and held out the jewellery box. “Now place it on your finger. Don’t be stupid enough to flex your hand. Slide it on.”

The diamonds glistened as the ring slid into place perfectly.

“And lastly, should you think me presumptive, then don’t. You see our darling Peter visited our attorney to get the ball rolling for divorce proceedings. I can only wonder that he made such a stupid mistake. Our attorney was the one I recommended twenty-years ago. He earns every cent of the additional fees I pay him every month.”

Peter groaned again from the bed and his lover stood there watching on, too afraid to move.

Carol smiled. “How tragic love is. How very sad that you came here to end your relationship. Peter Cameron had never been denied anything in his life. He couldn’t take the rejection. He apparently decided that if he couldn’t have you, then nobody would.

The woman began to scream, and Carol laughed with pleasure. “Oh, yes, scream. Go right ahead! We do love living out here. There’s a righteous freedom in having no near neighbors.”

The woman was still sobbing as Carol sat next to Peter on the bed and shot her three times in the chest. She calmly watched as the body was flung backward by the impact and dropped to the floor.

Carol gazed down on her for long enough to see the faint hold on life vacate her eyes.

Carol checked the spandex gloves, satisfied that they’d worked as they should. She placed the weapon down for a moment as she removed the other things that she’d need from the bureau.

Peter’s arm felt like a dead weight as she wrapped the tourniquet around his upper bicep. The veins responded beautifully, and Carol inserted the syringe and watched in fascination as her husband’s body jerked several times. She watched him begin to foam at the mouth. She watched him die. “Heroin is so deadly, if you don’t get the dosage just right. I believe it’s referred to as a ‘hot shot’.

She placed the Glock in his right hand and checked to ensure the trajectory married up with the bullet’s impact on his dead companion. Carol squeezed his fingers closed around the weapon with his finger on the trigger, then let his arm drop and the gun lay loosely in the dead hand.

Carol stood back and admired her handiwork. Content now she hurried outside.

She ran to her car secreted behind a tall stand of trees and drove it into her driveway, behind the visitors Porche. She let the car idle and punched in 911 on her iPhone.

“911. What is the nature of your emergency?”

“Please! Help me. I need help! Please!” The voice was frantic.

“I’ll help you, Ma’am, but I need you to calm down. Please tell me what is happening.”

“I heard a woman screaming! Then I think there were gunshots! Now I can’t hear anything. Please! Please, I beg you, please hurry, I think my husband is inside. Should I go in? I have to help him!”

“Please give me your address.”

Carol gave it.

“Do NOT enter the dwelling. Police and Paramedics are on the way. Stay on the line with me. Are you close to the house?”

“I’m outside in the driveway.”

“Please move away from the property. Stay away from the windows. They’re on their way.”

***

CNN breaking news.

“In breaking news! The body of United States Senator Peter Cameron has been found at his home. A crime scene now exists. Early indications from our sources indicate that another body has been found at the scene. Murder/Suicide has not been ruled out.”

“Tragically it was the senator’s wife who made the grim discovery. She is reported to be resting under sedation. In deep shock as these events unfold. Police at this stage don’t believe that a third party was involved in the tragedy.”

Carol listened to the excited broadcaster and smiled.

Then she settled down in her pristine hospital bed and drifted off to a contented sleep.

***

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Welcome to the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! – Fiza Pathan @FizaPathan

The Star Pupil’s Diary Entry by Fiza Pathan

The Star Pupil’s Diary Entry by Fiza Pathan

Dear Diary,

I had a wonderful day at school today. I got a star and I’m going to tell you all about it.

I’m eight years old, but I’m the tallest boy in the class. I, and the other kids in my neighborhood, study at the school down the block. Actually, our school was once something terrible; it was a disgusting Christian church, something called “Catholic.” The school officials tore it down and made it into a proper school for us kids.

So, I went to school today. I was the first one there so I got the biggest teddy bear to do my training with. The kids who were late got teddies that were way too small, the cheap ones that our soldiers stole from the hands of fleeing Jewish kids before they shot them in the head.

My teacher made us do our practice training in the morning. He handed us our daggers. We each checked with our fingers if they were sharp enough. Since I was early to class, I got to demonstrate. I put the dagger on the neck of the teddy and slit it the way my teacher had taught me to do. The other students followed me, but I was the best at cutting off teddy’s head.

“The jugular,” my teacher scolded another student who was cutting the wrong part of the teddy. “The jugular and do it slowly; it should make them cry.”

After dagger practice was over, we all sat and singing practice began. Singing is important; it touches souls and bring them closer to God.

We sang the national anthem. Teacher said I was the best singer and patted me on the head.

“Now, who knows a good English song, a hymn for our nation?” our teacher asked.

Every kid was stumped. They knew plenty of English songs, some of them were American. But you couldn’t sing those songs anymore. They knew “If I Was Your Boyfriend” by that Justin Bieber nonbeliever and “That’s What Makes You Beautiful” by One Direction, another group of nonbelievers—may the devil plague them!

But no one knew a hymn in English to our cause. Not a single kid. Well, everyone except me!

I raised my hand and teacher smiled.

He asked me to stand up and sing in place.

The other kids turned to look at me. They were jealous because they were not as smart as me.

I put my hands behind my back and stood straight like I do when singing the national anthem. I opened my mouth and began to sing:

We for the sake of Allah have come under the banner,

We for the sake of our Caliph have torn the world asunder;

We for the sake of our raped sisters will kill the ones responsible,

We for the sake of our nation will die, but not before we become incredible.

I didn’t know the meaning of raped, but daddy had taught me this song while we were fleeing India to come here, to this land of milk and honey. Daddy taught me a lot of songs and hymns as we fled India. We almost got caught, but our fake passports worked. Daddy is so smart. He is now working as a soldier here.

“Bravo, my son,” my teacher said, and he shook my hand. The other kids clapped, but some spat on the ground with disgust.

“Bravo, my son,” my teacher said again, holding me by the shoulders and looking into my eyes. “You are a gem of a man already. You get a star for this.”

And I did; a star made of metal shining like gold, the ones soldiers put on their uniforms. I was so proud that I couldn’t stop smiling.

The teacher then said it was almost time for prayers, but before that, did any of us kids know who we were deep in our hearts? Many kids answered:

“We are Allah’s blessing in flesh.”

“We are the terror of the Westerners.”

“We are the protectors of our faith.”

“We are true worshippers of the almighty.”

But the teacher said all their answers were wrong. I knew that too, because I knew the real answer. Teacher then asked me, “Tell me, son, who are we?”

I smiled, fiddling with my gold star before answering: “We are men who love death just as some people love their life; we are soldiers who fight in the day and the night.”

My teacher clapped, and so did the other kids, except for the ones who yet again spat on the floor and gave me angry looks.

We spent the rest of the day praying, going to the mosque that was once a church. They called it Lutheran, which sounds so ugly. I then came home, and here I am writing in this diary, which Daddy gave me to record the fun time I’m having here in this new country, the place where Allah truly lives with his beloved people.

I’m so happy to have earned my star. I’ll wear it tomorrow to the next beheading on the main square of those bad men who were trying to escape heaven, this place where we stay. I love beheadings. I take pictures of it on my uncle’s cell phone. I love the blood, snapped bones, and torn veins the best.

Tomorrow, our class will burn crosses at the beheading. I will burn not a cross, but a small statue of Mary, mother of that prophet who sinned against us. I’ve never burned her before, not because I haven’t gotten a chance to do so, but because . . . her eyes, her eyes when they look at me are funny.

Well, it’s time to go for prayers. I shall write later.

Yours always,

Alif Shifaq of the ISIS children brigade,

3 Bel Anif Mansion,

Sultan Saladin Road,

Raqqa,

ISIS Syria,

March 12, 2015.

*

After the fall of ISIS in Raqqa, an American soldier with his entire team were on the ground for inspection purposes. It was the year 2017, and the whole city had been razed to the ground.

The American soldier’s name was Emmanuel, and as he walked over the immense quantity of rubble, he spotted something.

It was a diary. A bit battered due to the bombing, but in good shape.

The hand of a preteen was found holding a pen beside it. The hand only. Not the rest of the body. The body had been incinerated.

Emmanuel lifted the diary and dusted it. He took it along with him, jumping over a pile of dusty teddy bears with their throats cut.

“City of the dead,” Emmanuel intoned, as he opened the diary to read. The first thing he read was an inscription in black ink from a fountain pen. It was done in calligraphy—skillfully done.

 

We are men who love death just as you love your life,

We are the soldiers who fight in the day and the night.

 

Emmanuel sighed and turned a page.

***

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Meet Spotlight Author Karl Morgan @karljmorgan

It is always an honor to host fellow authors here on The Indie SpotToday, it is my pleasure to introduce to you Rave Reviews Book Club’s July Spotlight Author Karl Morgan. Take it away, Karl. . .

Lessons I have learned about the writing process

It is hard, sort of.

For me, writing comes in spurts of inspiration. When the muse is sitting beside me, ideas pour from my mind through my fingers and onto the screen in front of me. At times, I beg my fingers to type as quickly as the thoughts coursing through my cerebral cortex. By the time my muse takes a nap, hours may have passed and I feel wonderful and excited for what comes next. My second sci-fi novel comes to mind. It is entitled The Second Predaxian War. The rough draft for that 60,000 word story was written in four weeks. Those are the good times.

Good times are not that common. Carl Prescott and the Sleeping One is illustrative. While I do not remember how long the rough draft took, six months passed between the day I started and the day I sent it to my editor for review. The book was somewhat longer than the earlier example, but not six times longer. There were other reasons for the longer period, such as my employment situation, working to publish earlier novels, etc.

The only advice I would offer on the process is to not reread your story until the rough draft is complete. The two best days in an author’s life are the publication date and the day the rough draft is complete. On that day, you are an author. You have written a book. Starting over and trying to fix problems is a death knell. You may decide massive rewrites are needed, or worst of all, you may decide the whole book sucks. In effect, you are denying your right to be an author. Do not do that. There is plenty of time, I mean really a lot of time, to fix it once the words “the end” are typed at the bottom of the last page.

Write for the reader, not yourself.

Some time ago, I read a book by a well-known author about the writing process. He warned writers about telling their own story, especially in memoir form. There are two exceptions to that. One, if you are a famous celebrity (film, TV, music, politics), millions will buy your book to learn about your every habit. Two, if you have been through some terrible times due to illness, war, and the like, others in the same position may flock to your story to find solace in their own lives. For the rest of us, we have to entertain our readers. While we will make the story our own by incorporating our beliefs and convictions, the reader must have an incentive to read it. Being a guy, I like fast-paced action stories, which is exactly what I prefer to write as well. In essence, we are screenplay writers, actors, directors, and producers all rolled into one. Write something to make people glad for the experience of turning each page.

Do not give up.

Yes, I have written quite a few stories, and yes, I wish more books were sold. One thing I have learned about myself is that storytelling is my passion. I hope one day to be able to focus on marketing more. That may have to wait until I give up my day job. At my age, that is not too far away. With the online tools now available to writers, all I pay for is editing and cover illustration. That means I am free to do what I love for a long time to come. That pleases me immensely. If you feel the same as I do about writing, please realized how blessed we are to share our words with the world.

 

Expanding the Laws of Physics in Carl Prescott and the Demon Queen

First let me state that I firmly believe the laws of physics. As I have noted before, I am an avid fan of books on cosmology, quantum mechanics, and astrophysics. The ones I read are designed for the regular reader. I once tried to read a book by noted physicist Roger Penrose, but immediately got lost. It turns out that book was a series of his university lectures for post-graduate physics students. Yikes! Small wonder I was overwhelmed.

As I considered the plot for this novel, I realized I needed an over-the-top problem that would require supernatural efforts to avoid. Ultimately, I decided that the Demon Queen would try to destroy the universe in order to get rid of her seemingly uncaring father, Lucifer, and Carl Prescott, the man she had been married to many times, but was not available to her in his current life. If she succeeded with her plan, a new universe would be born where she would be God.

To date, no one has been able to look back beyond the Big Bang, so I had to create my own laws to govern what happened. Perhaps my solution was not realistic, but it is a fantasy after all.

In the Carl Prescott universe (not unlike our own), it is believed space will continue to expand more and more rapidly. Eventually, the galaxies will run out of material to form new stars. All the stars will eventually die, resulting in an almost infinitely large, dark, and lifeless Big Freeze. While that is depressing, we can take comfort knowing that will take many, many billions of years. Also, our sun will die long before that, so none of us will be around to witness it.

In Carl’s universe, when all life is extinguished, God will summon all the matter and energy back into another singularity, and bang, a new universe is formed. This cycle continues as long as God wants it to. Of course, in Carl physics, a new God is in charge of the next universe, which is Sylvia’s plan.

That is the challenge that faces Carl and his friends in his second adventure. To succeed, he will need his friends, along with significant help from God, Death, and Lucifer. Along his journey, he will visit Heaven and Hell as well as the Crossroads of Existence. He will venture into the precedent universe and discover his destiny at the end of the Rope Bridge. Ultimately, he will have to enter the gravity wave to save the world as well as the Demon Queen.

 

CARL PRESCOTT AND THE DEMON QUEEN

Carl Prescott may have saved the world from the Beast, but the duties of the Invisible Hand never end. The story begins when a medieval castle is discovered hidden beneath the Thorndike Institution. While the professors search for clues, our hero is summoned to Hell to meet the demon Sylvia. She once ruled a satanic kingdom in Eastern Europe from that castle, and will do so again.

There is much more to this beautiful woman than evil intentions. To stop her plan, Carl must first understand why she is so focused on him. To learn the truth, he must face God, Satan, and Death. In this nonstop action-packed adventure, he must stand at the Crossroads of Existence and cross the Rope Bridge to meet his destiny.

If he succeeds, life can return to normal. If not, the galaxy and every soul therein will be devoured by a voracious black hole, which even God will be powerless to stop.

 

Author Bio:

Karl Morgan has a lifelong fascination with stories in the science fiction and fantasy genres, whether it was the Tom Swift novels by Victor Appleton he read as a young boy, or television like Lost in Space and Star Trek, and especially films like Star Wars, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. All of those tales put the protagonist in terrible situations where the odds are against them and, yet, somehow they prevail. The reader/viewer is always left with a sense that something greater than ourselves is watching over us.

In his new Carl Prescott young adult fantasy series, the journey continues as our hero faces terrible danger and odds to help his friends and family. At the end, he will learn new things that will change his perspective on life.

Karl lives in the San Diego area with his best, four-legged friend, his toy poodle Chachis.

 

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