Friday, October 2, 2020

October First Friday--Bell, Carenen, Manning

Edward Howell on Unsplash
 It's First Friday again, when three talented authors with different voices give their take on one photo in 150 words. Take a look at the authors--you'll want to see their books too.


Well, that didn’t work out so good. My name is Frank Pushman and I’m a confidential PI. The last thing I remember Vinnie the Snake Marconi hires me to investigate his wife. Seems Vinnie believes Lucille, the Las Vegas showgirl he married, is being unfaithful. I know Vinnie ain’t no rocket scientist, but he may be clairvoyant. Cuz, not even 24-hours into the case, I discover Lucille has a liaison on every corner. I deliver my report to Vinnie, and the next thing I know, Vinnie’s crying buckets. He calls in his goons, accuses me of disparaging the Missus. Now, with all those guns aimed my way, I admit I may need my eyes examined. I offer to write another report. I beg him to give me another chance. All I can say is, Vinnie and the Big Guy must have connections, cuz here I am in the body of a cat.


"The cat waited, knowing that all he had infected would eventually find their way to the cemetery he patrolled. During daylight, his smoky color allowed him the benefit of fitting unseen into shadows under porches, in bushes, near bird feeders. Then, at night, he would slip into unguarded homes and hunt for someone to infect with his blood-evaporating burden, the curse inflicted on him by The Evil. He liked having the weight lifted a little as he sank his teeth quickly into human flesh and rid himself of the terrible pressure. This night, several teenagers trying to scare each other among the tombstones would come by and he'd go up to one of the girls and purr and she would pick him up and rub his ears. And take him home."


The man in the tattered overcoat handed the thumb drive to the woman in the red dress. “Are you sure this is safe?”

She glanced around the graveyard. “There’s no one here but the dead and a cat. The cat won’t talk.” She passed him an envelope.

The cat, seated on a gravestone, stared with cool yellow eyes.

The man shrugged. “Can’t blame me for being nervous. If they catch me handing off the security protocols….Treason, you know.”

The cat’s tail twitched.

“It would ruin my plans, too. Why we’re meeting here. Schedule of production next week?”

He nodded. “I’ll be here, same time.”

They left separately.

The cat gracefully leapt off the stone and trotted two blocks where a blond man waited. The man offered her favorite treats on a plate and removed the collar with the camera and microphone. He rubbed behind her ears. “Good cat.”


Donnell Ann Bell

Donnell Ann Bell gave up her nonfiction career in newspapers and magazines obsessed with the idea she could write a full-length novel. Years later, she’s an award-winning author, including 2020 Colorado Book Award finalist for her latest release Black Pearl. Donnell’s other books include Buried Agendas, Betrayed, Deadly Recall and The Past Came Hunting, all of which have been Amazon bestsellers. Currently, she’s writing the follow up book to Black Pearl and her cold case suspense series.
How to Buy

John Carenen

John Carenen is a native Iowan and graduate of The Iowa Writers Workshop in Iowa City. His work has appeared in numerous periodicals. A novel, Son-Up, Son-Down was published by the National Institute of Mental Health. His three-part Thomas O'Shea Mystery/Thriller series has been called by William Kent Krueger, "the very best in midwestern noir." Carenen is a retired English professor living in a little cottage just a tad bit south of Travelers Rest, South Carolina. You can find his books at

How to Buy

  S. Lee Manning

S. Lee Manning (Sandy to her friends), a reformed attorney now living in Vermont, writes espionage thrillers and does the occasional stand-up routine, depending on whether she feels like torturing people or making them laugh. Her first thriller, Trojan Horse, debuts on October 16 from Encircle Publications, and introduces her protagonist, Kolya Petrov, a Russian Jewish immigrant to the United States working for American intelligence. (Kolya also makes an appearance in the above short story.) In Trojan Horse, Kolya is betrayed by his own agency in a devious plot to thwart possible terrorism by an anti-Semitic neo-Fascist Romanian.  Trojan Horse questions how far an American agency should go to fight terrorism, and also whether unspoken and unacknowledged bias can be as problematic as open and violent prejudice. Kirkus Reviews calls Trojan Horse "A remarkable tale that makes espionage rousing, demanding, and occasionally terrifying."  Diane Donavan, Senior Editor, Donovan's Bookshelf and Midwest Books, states: "Thriller readers looking for powerful plots replete with strong characterization and international intrigue are in for a treat.” The first chapter is available on S. Lee’s website, and Trojan Horse is available for preorder from Amazon, from Encircle Publications,, or from independent book stores.

How to Buy

Join in! Leave your idea in the comments--150 words. 

Friday, September 4, 2020

First Friday! West, Whitaker, Vidler

 Woohoo! It’s First Friday again—three little stories by three markedly different authors, all based on one photo. Take a look. You may find another author to love.

Photo by Edward Howell on Unsplash


Jogging through the park on her morning run, the young officer swiped at a trickle of sweat threatening her eye. The temperatures soared even as the big clock on the corner struck eight a.m. Splashing and giggles caught her attention, as she drew near a small pond, usually inhabited only by ducks. The sight slowed her steps and brought her to a complete stop. A smile teased up the corners of her mouth. An entire family danced in the water. They were fully clothed, but for their shoes which they’d left lining the edge of the pond. They must’ve been picking flowers, which was against the rules, because one of the shoes held gorgeous orange blossoms. Of course, playing in the pond was also against the rules. The family was having such fun, and it was so hot, she couldn’t blame them. She envied them their joy. Joy she had little of since the death of her partner.


No one knew where the shoes came from, but they showed up every year on the same day.

Everyone knew why, of course. The shoes belonged to the victims.  

Children filled the shoes with flowers, pennies, and pieces of candy meant to calm the spirits for another year.  And some years, it worked.  

But more often than not, on the fall harvest moon, the black water and the demon within demanded more.  Another soul to take down to the shadowy depths.  Always the shoes left as the reminder of the power that lay beneath.

This year, the newly-elected modern council had a novel plan.  Everyone would walk the seawall.  If they were all present, they reasoned, the demon could not take them. They would be saved.

Mothers and babies, elders and youth, fathers and sons. All came. They walked in silence, holding hands, from dusk until morning light revealed the new day. And a seawall lined with shoes.


Colonel Greely arrived near dawn at the battery beside the fast-flowing river. Jumpers always left their shoes for those in need. Five pairs lined the wall—Ari’s entire family. Greely checked his watch; he’d learned of their disappearance twelve hours too late. The ocean, only meters away, devoured those who departed with the tide, their bodies never found.

He’d planned to arrest Ari and eliminate the man’s family today. Flushed with anger, Greely cursed. Someone had warned them, allowing the dissident to escape a slow, unpleasant end.

The flowers puzzled Greely. Who was left to mourn the man? He dismissed the only one in sight, an old beggar rummaging through a trashcan. As Greely bent to retrieve the delicate blossoms, he felt a rush of air.

Strong hands slammed into his back. Helpless, he tumbled into icy water racing out to sea.


Ari signaled his family to retrieve their shoes.


Marsha Riegert West
At Amazon

The theme of Marsha’s seven books is always second chances. She even has a four-part series titled The Second Chances Series, because she believes in Happily Ever Afters. Her husband picked up a plaque for her on one of their several trips to Maine that states her philosophy exactly. Everything will be all right in the end. If it’s not all right, it’s not the end. The Heroines and Heroes in her books are in their 40s and 50s with their parents and children often playing supporting roles. Finding a new life while danger threatens is challenging but makes the win all the more worthwhile.

You can find out more about her and her books, her blog and her newsletter on her website

SECOND ACT, Book 1 The Second Chances Series.  When a member of the board of a non-profit arts agency in Fort Worth turns up dead, the homicide detective Mike Riley assigned to the case looks at everyone involved in the organization, including Addison Greer the Executive Director.

LM Whitaker

 At Amazon 

Linda M Whitaker is a retail data scientist, and a writer of science and technology thrillers.  By day she plays with numbers, by night, with words.

Linda started writing around 2011 when she took her first mystery class with Ellen Hart, a prolific Minneapolis mystery author. Though Linda lived in Minnesota only a few years, she quickly learned the benefits of writing fiction as a means to hide from the long, dark, cold winters.

Fast forward a decade, and the
many years of learning and perseverance have finally led to her debut novel.
The Crucible of Steele is a fast-paced techno-thriller filled with unexpected twists, ethical entanglements and provocative science.  Buy here, or visit her website,, for more details.

Today Linda resides with her husband in the mountains of Western North Carolina.  She loves running in the forest, gardening, cooking, and playing with her dog and cat.

Ellis Vidler

At Amazon

Ellis is filling in for the third author, who was unable to participate due to illness. Ellis writes the stories she likes to read—action, adventure, and heart. She falls in love with the characters, flawed but striving to do the right thing, and hates leaving them when the book is finished.

Her most recent novel is Prime Target: After witnessing her husband’s murder, Madeleine Schier flees, relying on her wits to survive in world where death waits at every turn. “Heartwarming and yet suspenseful. Lots of twists and turns. Couldn't put it down!”


Please join us! Write your own take in 150 words and post it in a comment. We'd love to see it. 

Friday, August 7, 2020

First Friday--Christmas, Handley, Lazar

It’s First Friday! Read three great little stories. Three very different authors share their takes on a single picture.

Dashed Dreams
The fetid odor drew Arlene closer. With ballerina grace she rose to her toes, lifted herself, and landed inside the dumpster. Restaurant discards squished under her boots, but off to a side she spotted a Styrofoam container. When she flipped it open, she found a few spare ribs with sparse meat, a small pile of slaw, and an entire baked potato. Elated, she breathed, “This’ll feed us for days.”
Container secured, Arlene vaulted over the side of the bin, landing back in the alley on her tired feet. She glanced down at her worn boots and emaciated body and longed for her life before. Before the foreclosure. Before her parents died of hunger. Before she had to take care of her younger brother. Before she abandoned her dreams of becoming a prima ballerina. She shook her head and said to herself, “At least Raymond and I are still alive. So far.”

One Thing Right
When she heard footsteps, Aggie quickly stuffed the letter inside her overalls pocket.
“What’s taking so damn long, you lazy cow?” her mother shouted as she entered the barn.
Aggie grabbed the basket of eggs and handed them to her mother. As the scowling woman took the basket, one of the eggs rolled on the floor and smashed.  “Now look what you’ve done. You never could do anything right,” she shouted.  “Now shake that fat ass of yours and clean out these stalls.“
Aggie followed her mother to the barn door and watched until she saw her slam the back door shut. She reached inside her pocket and pulled out the letter.  As she read, her mouth widened into a smile. They found her baby girl. Her adopted mother wrote that she wanted to be a ballerina. Aggie clutched the paper to her chest. She had done one thing right.

Mount Marcie
The trail winds higher under the crisp autumn breeze, luring me to Mount Marcie’s peak. Bright white clouds tease across the azure sky, yet my heart aches.
Today is the day. I decide at the summit.
Living in this prison has scarred my soul. Cowardice has doomed me.
Shall I jump? Or take flight?
I trudge upward, my heavy boots betraying the lie that is me.
Now I can see the top. Almost there.
The ghostly image of my real self helps me climb the last few feet. I morph into the delicate limbs of the ballerina, en pointe, trembling with feminine strength.
I made it. I’m here.
Turning on a boulder the size of a sailing ship, I inhale the majesty of the deep purple mountains stretching for miles. Strength fills me.
No, today’s not the day to die.
I can do this.
Marcie. I like that name.


Bobbie Christmas has been a professional editor and writer since the 1970s, working with radio stations, newspapers, magazines, and corporate communications. In 1992 she moved to metro Atlanta to form Zebra Communications and concentrate on writing books for writers and editing book-length manuscripts.  
“I was a teen when I declared I wanted to be a writer. My supportive father who gave me three books, all of which I still have almost sixty years later: The Elements of Style, On Writing Well, and Roget’s Thesaurus. Dad warned, however, that writers can’t make a living. I set out to prove him wrong. After majoring in journalism I told myself I’d write anything for money. My determination landed me fascinating jobs, one of which included travel to Europe and many states domestically.
“I love giving writers support, knowledge, and encouragement. Toward that end I write books about creative writing and offer a free monthly newsletter about creative writing.
“I’ve lived alone and been self-supporting as a writer and editor for most of my life, and I proudly can say I own a house that words built.” Check out her website for more information.

President of the Upstate Carolina Chapter of Sisters in Crime, Sally Handley is author of the Holly and Ivy cozy mystery series. She is currently working on Tuscan Blooms, the 4th book in the series. If you’d like to get acquainted with her gardening sister sleuths, you can find the first three books in paperback and on Kindle at Sally also writes a blog entitled “On Reading, Writing and Retirement” at You can friend her on Facebook and if you have a chance, check out her podcast interview about all things cozy on The Cozy Sleuth.

Aaron Paul Lazar is obsessed with writing. He's completed twenty-nine books to date, and has earned twenty literary book awards. He writes mysteries, suspense, love stories, and more. You'll usually find him writing his heart out in the early hours of the day - preferably in the dark, quiet hours when no one else is awake in his bustling household. Visit his website at to sign up for a free book and to learn about future book deals.
A USA TODAY Bestselling Author, Aaron’s newest novel is The Asylum, a Carmen Garcia novel (Bittersweet Hollow Book 4) Visit Aaron on Facebook or at Aaron’s website to explore all of his series and read excerpts from twenty-nine books.
“Addictive, award-winning fiction.”

Friday, July 3, 2020

FIRST FRIDAY! Iyer, Lewis, Sartor!

It’s First Friday, stories in about 150 words on one picture by three very different authors. This month it’s Polly Iyer, Howard Lewis, and L.A. Sartor.

Please join in and add your take on the photos (150 words) in the comments. 


A construction crew unearthed the forgotten kudzu-covered shack while clearing

land for a new development. Roots and rot destroyed everything inside except for six photos of little girls, lovingly framed and tacked to the plank wall.

Detective Janet Forman recognized only one of the faces. Eight-year-old Violet Hamm had gone missing over sixty years ago. Other girls had disappeared then, too, but Violet was a local girl, and her fate had become the warning of every mother in town: “Be careful, or you’ll get snatched like Violet Hamm, never to be seen again.” Janet had heard it from her mother.

“Is there a basement?” she asked one of the officers.

“Yeah, but it’s full of mud and critters, and the stairs are rickety.”

“Show me.”

Halfway down the flight, she detected the tiny mounds on the basement floor.

“Get a crew in here. Dig it up, and be careful.”


Pacing, his body remembered her shiny, blond hair, crystal blue eyes, and smooth, silky skin that glowed like only a thirteen-year old girl’s could. He couldn’t wait to touch her, to feel her, to taste her. His hands stroked down his chest to his belly.

He smiled thinking about his first, Abigail.  Her screams. That first month, she screamed a lot. He should have probably let her go after two. A mistake he wouldn’t make with Grace.

The bathroom door opened revealing her in silhouette. She looked shorter and wider. Stepping into the light made it worse. Her blonde hair had turned curly and dirty. Her nose was wide and broken the way porcelain breaks. She looked like a forgotten picture from the last century.

This couldn’t be the same girl. This girl made him want to scream. “Grace?”

“I think you met my great, great, great granddaughter, Abigail.”

That first month, he screamed a lot.


“Leave it alone,” Mom quietly reminded me every time we visited the cabin.

Now the run-down cabin was mine, and it was time to rid the place of that ugly picture.

I gripped the edges of the antique frame and pulled. Nothing, except a muscle quiver in my arms.

Grabbing my crowbar, I pried upward beneath the frame. An instant later a shimmery wave flowed through the cabin. The walls buckled, then held. Well, Quantico was nearby, perhaps they were testing something new.

Not to be defeated, I grabbed my cordless saw and cut the rough wood wall around the frame, cheering as it fell to the ground and the glass shattered. Obscuring those haunting eyes and broken nose.

The wave hit again, knocking me to the ground. Moments later, a child stood in front of me, her blue eyes glowing, her nose broken.

She smiled. “Your turn.” 

I watched through shattered glass as she walked out the door.


 Polly Iyer

Polly Iyer is the Amazon bestselling author of nine books of suspense and mystery, one novella, and four sexy romances she writes under the pseudonym Maryn Sinclair. She started out as a fashion illustrator and storyboard artist, importer, and store owner before embarking on her fourth, and last career as an author. Her novels include four books in the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series, Mind Games, Goddess of the Moon, Backlash, and The Scent of Murder; five standalone novels, Hooked, InSight, Murder Déjà Vu, Threads, Kindle Scout winner Indiscretion, and one novella, The Last Heist, from the anthology Lowcountry Crime. One reviewer described her stories as "...making heroes out of damaged people."

The Scent of Murder 

Two independent cases involving missing women vie for the attention of psychic Diana Racine and her life partner in crime, NOPD Lieutenant Ernie Lucier.

At Amazon

In the first case, Diana and Lucier search for the missing mother of a street boy they've taken under their wing. In the process of finding her, they expose the secret underbelly of crime and corruption among some of the city's most upstanding citizens, while putting Diana's and the boy's life in jeopardy at the same time.

An eccentric socialite pressures Diana to rid her mansion of her twin sister's ghost in the second case. With no clues to go on, Diana and Lucier must first prove the missing sister is dead.

Howard Lewis 

It's your reality. Own it or change it.

The longer I live the more important I find laughter, although you couldn’t tell it from this story.

I’ve written three books—a cozy, a romance, and a young adult. I prefer to think of myself as versatile instead of wishy-washy. Right now, these books only live on my hard drive. If you want to read one, let me know, but please, please don’t take my hard drive.

I ended up in the foothills with two horses, a mule, three dogs and some pretty fish.

In my spare time, I teach tai chi, write, ride and work wood.

It’s a good life!

For more pictures of my guys, blogs, and a few videos, check me out at 

L.A. Sartor

I started writing as a child, really. A few things happened on the way to becoming a published author … specifically, a junior high school teacher who told me I couldn’t write because I didn’t want to study … urk … grammar…

That English teacher stopped my writing for years.  But the muse couldn’t be denied, and eventually I wrote, a lot, some of it award winning. However, I wasn’t really making a career from any of this.

My husband told me repeatedly that independent publishing was becoming a valid way to publish a novel. I didn’t believe him even after he showed me several Wall Street Journal articles. I thought indie meant vanity press. 

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I started pursuing this direction seriously, hit the keyboard, learned a litany of new things and published my first novel. My second book became a bestseller, and I’m absolutely on the right course in my life.

Please come visit me at, see my books, find my social media links, and sign up for my mailing list. I have a gift I’ve specifically created for my new email subscribers. And remember, you can email me at 

Stone of Heaven 

At Amazon
A treasure hunter disappears in the Yucatan jungle. Her twin sister, a reclusive jeweler with none of the skills necessary to do so must rescue her. Then comes along her sister’s untrustworthy, but experienced ex-partner!

Friday, June 5, 2020

FIRST FRIDAY! Blackburn, Lovely, and Vidler

The Delivery Guy © Alberto Jorrin Rodriguez |
It's First Friday again! One picture, three short pieces by three very different authors. Check them out. 


Send in the Clown
   Tips, baby. It’s all about tips. And so I wear this mask … sometimes. Because it’s also about who answers that door. If a woman answers, she screams, yanks the pizza from me, and slams the door. If a guy answers, he shakes my hand, and tips me well. And if little kids are in the house? Oh, baby! Then, whoever answers the door tips me well, because children love my mask.
   So it’s also all about guessing who will be on the other side of that door. Houses with kids are easy to spy—toys and other junk strewn outside are sure giveaways. Now, if I could only master the kid-less households ...
   But this delivery was pretty obvious. A two-pizza order in a warehouse? Didn’t think I’d be disrupting a ladies’ bookclub meeting, right?
   I was right! Four guys sitting around a rickety card table playing poker. Cha-ching!!


   Joe’s brain cells were sparser than the pepperoni stingily dotted on the pizzas he delivered. It was Joe’s first night working for Harry’s Pizza, and customers were emailing to gripe about the foul smell of the pies he delivered. He didn’t realize his dearth of brain cells was balanced by tear-inducing body odor, and his technique of wedging pizza boxes against his ribs exposed them to his potent armpits.
   Why were customers upset? He reasoned it had to be the medical mask he was ordered to wear. It scared them. “People who stick needles in you wear those masks,” Joe thought. “I have a friendlier one from last Halloween.”
    Pleased with his solution, Joe rang the bell for his first clown-masked delivery. A woman opened the door, screamed, and fainted.
   “Was it bad breath?”
   Joe exhaled into his hand through the large hole in his mask and sniffed. “I’ll chew gum before I make the next delivery.”


   This had to be the dumbest idea ever.
   But Boyd, his best friend since kindergarten, insisted his wife was having an affair.         “Dianne thinks I’m out of town.” He handed Jason the pizzas, a red shirt, and a mask. “She’ll open the door. Blame the mask on COVID-19, and whoever’s with her will want to see it. And I’ll know who he is.”
   This wouldn’t turn out well, but Jason couldn’t reasonably refuse. Reluctantly he dressed and checked the mirror. His moustache showed through the mouth. He sweated beneath the hot mask; Dianne would surely recognize him. And Boyd would be watching from the car.
 * * *
   Dianne answered the doorbell. “I didn’t order piz— Jason?” Laughing, she grabbed him and hugged. “Come in, quickly.”
   “You?” Boyd bellowed from the car. “My best friend?”
   Jason took a deep breath and turned. All he could see was the gun in Boyd’s hand.

About the Authors

Cindy Blackburn

Cindy Blackburn writes cozy mysteries because she thinks grim reality is way overrated. When she's not thinking up unlikely plot twists and ironing out the quirks and kinks of her lovable characters, Cindy is feeding her fat cat Betty or taking long walks with her cute hubby John. A native Vermonter who hates snow, Cindy divides her time between the south and the north. Most of the year you'll find her in South Carolina. But come summer she'll be on the porch of her lakeside shack in Vermont. Yep, it's a place very similar to Lake Elizabeth. Cindy's favorite TV show is Young Sheldon, her favorite movie is Moonstruck, and her favorite color is purple. Cindy dislikes vacuuming, traffic, and lima beans.


Welcome to Lake Elizabeth, Vermont, where Santa Claus is due to arrive any day now, and Cassie Baxter is going nuts. Who wouldn't go nuts? This is her first Christmas with her adopted son Truman, and she's determined to make it memorable. But that human skull the kid found when he was searching for Christmas decorations in the attic wasn't exactly part of the plan. And Joe Wylie, Cassie's supposed boyfriend, isn't making life any easier during this frantic week before the holiday either. Then there's Cassie's father, and her best friend Bambi, and her other best friend Sarah, and all those crazy, quirky, kooky neighbors that make Lake Elizabeth--Lake Elizabeth! Santa's sure to have a jolly good time when he finally does come to town! Ho Ho Ho

Linda Lovely

Linda Lovely, the author of eight mystery/romantic thriller titles, finds writing pure fiction isn’t a huge stretch given the years she’s spent penning PR and ad copy. She hopes readers have half as much fun reading her novels as she has researching and writing them. Amazing how much better she sleeps after finding a really cool way to do away with fictional villains who share personalities with real-life hypocrites and bullies. Her goal is to deliver thrill-packed reads, while ensuring justice is served, laughter is plentiful, and love triumphs. Though not perfect, her heroines and heroes are smart and determined. A long-time member of Sisters in Crime, Lovely also belongs to International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America. When not writing or reading, Lovely takes long walks with her husband, swims, gardens, and plays tennis.



The plot for BAD PICK, Lovely’s latest mystery, is as current as today's headlines. But you'll also find plenty of laughs and a delightful side of romance. Vegan Brie Hooker lives with her feisty Aunt Eva at Udderly Kidding Dairy, a hop, skip, and jump away from South Carolina’s Clemson University. In BAD PICK, Brie’s fun farm outreach backfires when religious extremists decide goat yoga is a form of devil worship.  Picketers at Udderly’s gates soon become the least of Brie’s troubles. Not only is she accused of murder, she worries the death might actually be her fault. Danger mounts when an old family friend’s visit ensnares Brie in a high-stakes feud between a U.S. Supreme Court nominee and the woman determined to expose his secrets. 

Ellis Vidler

Ellis Vidler lives and writes in the South Carolina Piedmont. She's also an editor and has taught fiction writing. Ellis’s books can be found at Amazon.
All Ellis’s stories have some degree of romance, a little bad language, and a lot of suspense.  The McGuire women psychics and the Maleantes novels are available in audio, print, or eBook and her short stories are available in eBook.


Suspense with a love story. When a New York ad exec’s husband is murdered before her eyes, only her wits can save her from the long reach of a ruthless crime lord.
Madeleine Schier heeds her husband's panicked call to come home, only to witness his brutal murder by a crime boss and become a target herself.

Friday, May 1, 2020

First Friday! 3 visions, one photo--by Hallinan, Lane, Monajem

Reposting these great little stories from years ago. I loved these First Friday gems.

Hooray! It's First Friday again, and three great authors have described, in 150 words or less, what they saw in this picture. Each one had an entirely different idea. This is how creativity works. Wonderful examples.

For thirty years, Andres played his guitar in the corner of the little Barcelona bar as the clientele changed from working-class people to thugs and gangsters from the wharves, to slumming aristocrats, and finally to gay men and women. But Andres played on: seguedillas, flamenco, classical.  On the night Andres didn't show up for work, the bartender went to his one-room apartment and found it empty, except for his guitar.  No effects of any kind.  The bartender brought the guitar back and leaned it against Andres' chair.  In the 1990s the bar was closed and shuttered for the last time.  A year ago, the building was scheduled for demolition, and the workmen found a room rotten with damp, the walls cracked and peeling, everything shrouded in plaster dust.  But the guitar leaning against the chair in the back corner: it looked like someone had dusted it every night for years.
“Thank you . . . thank you.” He nodded to the enthusiastic crowd that overflowed the smoky basement club. Breathing in the sweet smell of weed, he flashed his best boyish grin at the table nearest the stage. Three sexy chicks, all giving him the eye.  He’d go home with at least one of them – shit, maybe all three.  If a good looking guitar player couldn’t get laid…
He shifted his butt on the stingy-seated folding chair and struck a tentative chord…
His wife’s voice shrilled down the stairs. “Damn it, Mort, can’t you shut the basement door?  You couldn’t play guitar fifty years ago; you can’t play it now, you old fool.”
         The door slammed; the nightclub disappeared. Alone in the dank, mildewed basement, Morton sighed and watched another leaf of paint peel loose and drift, like a discarded dream, to join the others littering the floor.
Rafaela DaVinci bared her fangs. “You put my guitar in the dungeon?” 
“Strictly speaking, it’s a cellar,” I said mildly. Damp, with peeling paint and fractured linoleum, sure—but it was also the closest time portal. “I propped it against a chair.”
She snarled, all flying hair and furious eyes.  “That guitar cost ten thousand bucks!”
“So it’s the perfect bait,” I said. “Titus can smell an antique from eons away, and if he opens the portal to take it…”
“I can get back to the future.” Where she wouldn’t have to hide her fangs.  “Where I’ll have to buy back my own damned guitar!”
“That’s where my brilliance comes in,” I said. “I’ve rigged the pickup inside the guitar. Any noise in there and we’ll hear it. You’ll have ten seconds  to cross the portal, snatch the guitar—
The portal opened, squawking a warning through the pickup. Rafaela ran.


Timothy Hallinan

Street Music
Edgar, Shamus, Macavity and Lefty nominee Timothy Hallinan has written twenty-one published novels, all thrillers and mysteries, all critically praised. He currently writes two series, one set in Los Angeles and the other in Bangkok, and in 2017 he also revived his earlier series, written in the 1990s about the overeducated slacker private eye Simeon Grist.

Eight years ago, Poke Rafferty, an American travel writer, and his Thai wife, Rose, adopted a Bangkok street child named Miaow, forming an unconventional intercultural family. That family has weathered extreme challenges—each of its three members carried the scars of a painful and dangerous history—but has stuck together with tenacity and love (and a little help from some friends). His blog is in his website.

Vicki Lane

And the Crows Took Their Eyes
Vicki Lane is the author of the critically acclaimed Elizabeth Goodweather Appalachian Mysteries from Bantam Dell -- Signs in the Blood, Art's Blood, Old Wounds, Anthony- nominated In a Dark Season, and the recent Under the Skin, as well as The Day of Small Things, a standalone.  Vicki draws her inspiration from the past and present of rural North Carolina where she and her family have tended a mountainside farm since 1975. Learn more about Vicki and her books at .  There is also a daily blog with lots of pictures
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During the Civil War, in bitterly divided western North Carolina, Confederate troops execute thirteen men and boys from a rural community opposed to secession. A microcosm of the deep horrors of civil war, the Shelton Laurel Massacre as it came to be known, pitted neighbor against neighbor, touching every family with violence at their own front door. Told by those who lived it; Confederate and Unionist alike--Keith, who ordered the execution, Polly, whose children's death precipitated the massacre, Judy and Marthy, who bore torture to protect their men, and Sim, conscripted by the Confederates and haunted by his part in the Massacre—the novel offers an intimate glimpse into the lives of five people tangled in history's web, caught up together in love and hate. And all five will bear the mark of the massacre long after the event, struggling to come to terms with the bleak consequences of civil war.Based on an actual event and historical characters, And the Crows Took Their Eyes is a richly imagined portrait of a dark and bitter time—illuminated by gleams of humanity at its best.

Barbara Monajem

Lady Rosamund and the Poison Pen

Barbara Monajem started writing at eight years old. She has wandered from children’s fantasy through mystery to paranormal and now historical romance. Today’s little e
ffort is her first stab at science fiction.
 Lady Rosamund and the Poison Pen
Lady Rosamund Phipps, daughter of an earl, has a secret. Well, more than one. Such as the fact that she’s so uninterested in sex that she married a man who promised to leave her alone and stick to his mistress. And a secret only her family knows—the mortifying compulsion to check things over and over. Society condemns people like her to asylums. But when she discovers the dead body of a footman on the stairs, everything she’s tried to hide for years may be spilled out in broad daylight. First the anonymous caricaturist, Corvus, implicates Lady Rosamund in a series of scandalous prints. Worse, though, are the poison pen letters that indicate someone knows the shameful secret of her compulsions. She cannot do detective work on her own without seeming odder than she already is, but she has no choice if she is to unmask both Corvus and the poison pen. Will Corvus prove to be an ally or an enemy? With the anonymous poison pen still out there, her sanity—and her life—are at stake.

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Friday, March 13, 2020

Those Pesky Apostrophes

Plurals are formed by adding s or es to the root word. That’s it. Nothing else. This is a simple rule but apparently it’s a difficult one for some people to learn. When I see an apostrophe s instead of plural in a book, I think it’s a typo, but when I see several, I figure the author or editor doesn’t know how to form a plural. When I see misused apostrophes, I usually see many other grammatical errors too, which confirms my impression.
Here are a few examples:
One dog is a dog. Three dogs are dogs.
A single person named Jones is Jones. Two or more people named Jones are Joneses.
One potato, two potatoes 
Photostock image
One tomato, four tomatoes

Photo by Taoty

The Mertz family moved into the neighborhood. There are four Mertzes in the family and one mother-in-law, Mrs. Sartoris. The other Sartorises live in Timbuktu.
Wrong: The Jennings’ live across the street. The cricket’s are loud tonight.

Shall I go on to possessive, the way to show ownership? Might as well. This is where the apostrophe comes in. To show possession for a singular noun, add ’s.
The dog’s bone is buried there. Four dogs bones are buried in the garden.
The horse’s hooves kicked up dust in the ring.
The Mertzes house is at the end of the street. That’s Mary Mertz’s bicycle in the front yard.
This is true in most cases, but there are a few exceptions. The Chicago Manual of Style, which I use, says the possessive of singular nouns is shown by the addition of ’s except in a few cases, such as species and series, in which it’s generally better to use of as in Darwin’s The Origin of Species or of the as in the last game of the World Series.                                                                       
Right: Ms. Sprouse’s office
BK Photo
Wrong (or possibly AP style): Ms. Sprouse’ office
Someone may chime in with the AP Style (journalistic) on possessives. I think (but I’m not certain) it recommends adding only the apostrophe for the possessive of a noun ending in s. That style evolved in the interest of saving space in narrow newspaper columns.
That’s my rant for today. Does poor grammar turn you off? What makes you roll you