Buckwold House

PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll

Photo credit: J Hardy Carroll

With thanks to our gentle and diplomatic Friday Fictioneers host Rochelle Wisoff–Fields, and to J Hardy Carroll for the © photo that’s prompting us to spin our yarns this week.

Buckwold House

We’ll have to appropriate it. We can’t have this monstrosity spoiling our new subdivision.”

“Does the owner say why she won’t sell?”

“Sentimental reasons. Years back Buckwold House was a rehab hospital for war veterans. She nursed here, met her sweetheart, but he never recovered enough to leave the place. I gather she visited him faithfully until the day he died. Later she inherited a bundle and bought the property. She’s been here ever since — refusing all offers.”

“Well, you can’t fight City Hall.”

Next day’s news headline read: “Buckwold House spinster dies of heart failure.”

The battle was over.

A Muse’s Tale

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Yesterday was a sad day for Christine’s muse. Christine had grabbed her, shaken her, and screamed, “This is it! Spring is coming, my last-summer wardrobe is toast — and you keep filling my head with crazy blog posts. Out you go!”

To add insult to injury, some trash flung out of a passing car smacked her in the face, there in bushes where she’d been tossed.

Copyright Liz Young

Photo copyright Liz Young

Yet she smiled. “Just wait, my friend. I’ll rise again. You’ll see another prompt, I’ll be whispering ideas in your ear, and you’ll abandon your sewing machine for your keyboard. You’re so predictable. That’s why I love to haunt you.”

And she’s back already! Rochelle Wisoff-Fields has been her accomplice, via the Friday Fictioneers prompt. My muse thanks you, Rochelle, for faithfully feeding her bright ideas. (I’m hoping putting my icon first will have it show up on the link. Oh, for tech smarts!)

The word count on this one is 105, but I’ve no time to search and destroy excess words. I’m finally in the mood to sew a spring dress and it’s GOING to happen.

A Loving Proposal

I’m going to take my cue from one of Agatha Christie’s novels as my response to today’s Word Press daily prompt. She had such an interesting way with words. And I love her characters’ names!

Swindolthwarp’s Surprise

Amos stood in the hallway watching the young woman hurry down the staircase. Always bustling around, this young lady. Always seemed to know where she was going and why. He liked that. And she was a pretty young thing. His old ticker skipped a beat.

As she passed him in the hall he caught her arm with the hook of his cane. “You. Miss Whats-your name-again?”

“Arthur. Miss Vivian Arthur.”

“Arthur. Yes. Good English name.” Amos drew her closer and wrapped his fingers around her arm. Nice bit of flesh she had, too. Not like some of the scrawny old birds throwing themselves at him lately. “I’d like to have a word with you.”

“Certainly, Sir. Are you wanting your tea already? I should start with dinner preparations soon.”

She took a step backward and he gripped her arm even tighter. “Never mind the tea, girl. I have something important to discuss. Something very personal. Come with me.” He tenderly pulled her into his study. “I’ve been watching you ever since you showed up — has it been a month already? I’ve see what an industrious sort you are. And not a waster, either.”

“Thank you, Mr Swindolthwarp.”

He leered at her lovingly. “To you I may seem like a poor old man, but I assure you, there’s more to me than meets the eye. I’m a lot more robust than my sons think. I’m not about to drop dead and leave them every penny like they wish.”

“No, I’m sure not, Mr Swindolthwarp. You seem quite robust yet.” She looked down at the hand that was clutching her arm.

“I try not to let on, but I do have quite a bit saved up, actually. I could look after you very well. You wouldn’t have to be a char anymore and work so hard every day. Mind you, I wouldn’t hire another cook, since you’re so capable. Having you doing the meals has suited my digestion to a turn. Once we’re married…”

“Married!” Vivian’s eyes opened wide and she turned pale, but quickly regained her composure. “Well. I never expected…”

“Surprised you, did I?” Amos chuckled with delight. “I’ve grown quite fond of you, you know. My wife, may she rest in peace, was okay, but an insipid sort. Not a lively thing like you. I think you could add some real zest to my life.”

“Whatever would your sons say, Mr Swindolthwarp? I fear they would resent me if I…er…if they thought…”

“Who cares what they say? They can go climb the Himalayas for all I care.” He pounded his cane on the floor twice to emphasize his point. “Right now they’re waiting for me to die so they can get their hands on my money and waste it all. But I can see you’re sensible. You won’t be tossing my life savings to the four winds.”

There came a sudden sparkle in her eye. “So this means no honeymoon on the Riviera?”

“Riviera!” The word made Amos gasp and sputter.

Vivian, alarmed, patted his back. “Oh, dear! Are you all right, Sir?”

One last cough and Amos replied, “I’m fine. I’m fine. Don’t fuss. I hate it when people fuss. But, my word! The Riviera. Do you have any idea how much that would cost?”

“You’re quite right,” she replied, her eyes taking in the threadbare carpet, faded wallpaper and the draperies that must have hung on these study windows for thirty years at least. “The money would be far better put into home improvements.”

“I knew you were a practical girl! Think about what I’ve said. You and I could make a delightful match. And I’m not too old, you know…” He ogled her amorously. “There may be snow on the roof, but there’s still a fire in the hearth. We could have a nice little family.”

He saw the hint of a smile flicker on her lips and took it she was delighted at the prospect.

She pulled away from him. “This is all very sudden. I shall have to give this more thought, Mr Swindolthwarp.”

He reluctantly released his loving grip on her arm. “You do that, girl. Remember, if you’re willing to take care of me, I’m willing to take care of you.”

“Thank you, Sir. This is so kind of you. I must start the dinner.” And she dashed off to the kitchen.

Amos chuckled again. He’d bowled the girl right over. But she’d come round, he was sure. Maybe by his 73nd birthday he’d be a married man again. And his sons could go jump off the cliffs of Dover if they didn’t like it.

The Big Bad Pig Reforms

One day my four-year-old grandson was here for a couple of hours while his mom was otherwise occupied, and he was telling me this story:

“At the other grandma’s house we were reading a book. It was a story about three nice wolves and a big bad pig.

“There was a mother wolf and the three nice little wolves. Then the nice wolves had to go and build themselves each a house. And the big bad pig tried to knock their houses down. He did, he knocked down their houses. And the nice wolves ran away.

And the nice wolves ran into a house that was really strong and the big bad pig was going to knock it down, too.”

So what did the big bad pig do,” I asked. “Did he knock the house down?”

“No. He couldn’t. But then you know what happened? The nice wolves opened the door and let the big bad pig in and he became a good pig. Yes! He became a good pig and they were all playing together and everybody was happy.”

I must ask “the other grandma” about this book of hers, I thought. I hadn’t heard this version. No, it sounds very strange indeed. But then my husband went online and found out there is indeed such a book out now. It’s listed on Amazon here: The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig.

One little wolf builds his house of cement and the big bad pig comes with a jackhammer. The next one builds his house of bricks and the pig comes with dynamite and blows it up. (Remember we’re living with savvy children these days. No straw and stick houses. No huff and puff.”

Caution: spoiler alert!
Anyway, the big bad pig does knock down all the little wolves houses, but in the end do indeed invite the big bad pig in to play with them and be their friend. He responds by becoming a nice pig. I can see this as the author’s attempt to show children one way of coping with bullies. Make them friends. Not a bad plan at all.

At least it works with some people. While other bullies, hardened and scarred by a life of brutality, would respond to the offer by trashing the house and devouring his intended victims. In this case the wolves. Or, for a really quirky twist, would the nice little wolves end up eating the pig? Wolves might, you know. (Oh, well. I needn’t inject a dose of morbid reality here.)

Some parents will applaud what the Amazon book blurb calls a “delightfully skewed version of the traditional tale. Some will call this approach enlightenment; some will say it’s a disappointment. I haven’t decided, but I do wonder about the long-term effects of turning the traditional villain into nice little heroes and the traditional victims, the three little pigs, into one nasty villain. But if this is the only version the children ever hear….?

What do you think?

Word Press Daily prompt: disappointment

Both Sides of the Coin

Those of you who follow my main blog, Christine ‘s Collection at christinegoodnough.com will be seeing this first book review for the second time. I decided to post the second book review for the sake of contrast. these are my opinions, for what they’re worth, and you may totally disagree. Please feel free to leave a comment giving your own thoughts on either book.

Only last week I learned that Amazon offers 100 free e-books every month, so I took a chance and downloaded Marcy McKay’s new book. And since this story is all about a feisty, nervy girl, I’ll link it to today’s Word Press prompt.

Pennies From Burger Heaven
by Marcy McKay
SkipJack Publishing

If you desire a compelling, suspenseful, poignant story with lots of twists and turns in the plot, this will definitely fill the bill. Life on the streets of Remington, Texas, is rough and raw at best. It becomes sinister after Copper’s Mama, a homeless prostitute, disappears one morning. Her eleven-year-old daughter, Copper, blessed with determination — and a good deal of scared — sets out from their cemetery “home” to find her. She heads into the inner city they know so well, slowly untangling the web of her mother’s past involvements, hoping one of the threads will lead to Mama.

If the reader doesn’t want to be dragged through the mire of a ghetto — the crime, drugs, gang wars, predators and hookers — then don’t read this. Language isn’t a stream of profanity, but there’s enough realistic dialogue. God, Jesus and religion get a lot of bad press among the destitute. There’s your stereotype phony televangelist, weak in the area of “lust of the flesh.”

That said, McKay has been accurate in her portrayal of the living conditions among the homeless and the people who prey on them, as well as the religious confusion that exists among the unchurched. Coming from a non-religious background as I do, I see the thinking of my own people in this story.

For me the real hero isn’t so much the I-can-look-after-myself, spit-fire Copper. She is very obviously the victim here as well as the protagonist. Rather, it’s the Detective who tries so hard to grab this scrawny little alley cat who’s clawing, kicking, and lashing out at him and everyone else. He wants desperately to rescue her before she gets tossed under a bus and squashed flat.

Thanks to some supernatural — maybe even divine — intervention, this kitten is granted her full nine lives. On one hand, you somewhat anticipate the ending, yet all the slimy twists and turns — and final revelations — are totally unexpected.

Marcy McKay has penned a sequel to this book; this doesn’t appear to have been released yet. If you’re interested, the book is free on Amazon until the end of March.

On the Other Side of the Copper…

I’ve heard that you can learn a lot about good writing from reading the stuff that doesn’t work. In which case you writers may want to check out this cozy mystery because this story doesn’t work well for several different reasons. (Again, in my opinion. Some reviewers think it’s great.)

Starboard Secrets (Series: Cruise Ship Cozy Mystery Series)
by Hope Callaghan
Self-published

This is a rather short mystery and the writer must have wanted to save time; Millie, the main character, boards the ship for her first day at her brand new job, see a dead body right off, and immediately start making inquiries.

I find this story implausible from the get-go. Not much of the first chapter is devoted to her learning about her new position, rather she dives right into this investigation and trying to ascertain and interview the suspects. By the end of the next day the whole staff knows she’s searching for the killer. Not very bright.

There’s not much character development beyond quick descriptions. Millie’s coworkers seem to be of interest to her — and to the author — only insofar as they can contribute to her investigation. This may be getting right to the point, but it would be nice if there was more interaction apart from Millie’s curiosity.

The story is told mainly from Millie’s point of view, but the writer occasionally tosses us into one of the other character’s minds for minute to show us what they are thinking of Millie. I found this distracting.

As she picks up bits and pieces of info, Millie adds names to her “suspects” list, often at the slightest hint of this person having some discord with the deceased. I find this annoying, like she really doesn’t have a clue how to investigate and is grasping at straws.

For me, Millie doesn’t come across as a very bright or likable person, rather nosy and irritating, with an axe to grind. She’s out to prove to her ex (a private eye who isn’t around anyway) that’s she’s worth something by solving her own mystery. Thus her relating to others on board tends to hinge around her own issues.

Millie is portrayed as a devout Christian, yet her so-often-mentioned resentment toward her ex-husband tells us that “forgiving and letting go” isn’t a big part of her creed — at this point. However, betrayal is painful. Her pain isn’t resolved in this first book of the series; hopefully it will be as the series progresses.

I downloaded this book in the Cozy Mysteries & Mystery Books Box Set. In all fairness the third book in this group, Waves of Deception, is a good, believable, quick read.

NaNoWriMo — Wishing for an Ephod?

I was getting the jitters this morning as I contemplated next month’s marathon. I’ve promised my eleven-year-old grandson I’d write him a mystery story and thought that would be a great project to undertake for NaNoWriMo, but it wasn’t coming together in my mind. Yes, I’ve put bits and pieces of the story line together, but actually SOLVING the mystery – how to catch the crooks – isn’t there yet.

So shall I launch out with this story, or fall back on another that I’ve worked on over and over in my mind for the past few years, saving it for a marathon like this? Can you begin NaNoWriMo without seeing the ending of your book? Will the resolution of my mystery fall into place as I write?

There are days when I wish I had access to an ephod! Don’t you?

I Samuel Chapter 30:7-8
And David said to Abiathar the priest, Ahimelech’s son, I pray thee, bring me hither the ephod. And Abiathar brought thither the ephod to David. And David enquired at the LORD, saying, Shall I pursue after this troop? shall I overtake them? And he answered him, Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake them, and without fail recover all.

David got a straightforward answer. No doubt a lot of us wish the leaders of our country had access to an ephod when facing tough decisions.  A wise, clear answer from the Lord would work wonders, wouldn’t it?
I.e.:
President Big-Cheese: “Lord, shall we invade Hong Kong?”
God: “Don’t you think you have enough troubles already? Stay home once.”

This morning as I thought of a plot for my novel, my eyes chanced to fall on part of a poem I wrote once about an old abandoned house and it occurred to me that would be a great place to begin. My setting started falling into place.

As to a suitable ending, it seemed not enough to have the crooks caught and thrown in jail. I asked myself, What good can come out of this mystery? How can you counteract greed and anger in a redemptive way? I’ve read some Christian-focused novels where everybody gets saved in the end but that seems a little unrealistic. I’ve read a few where the bad guy turns out to be a misunderstood good guy. But there ARE bad guys — yet some good needs to come out of this story of mine; some way of reaching out with grace, of offering help to victims, both bad and good.

Well, I didn’t get my answer from an ephod, but a thought dropped into my mind and I like it. I still have to catch the crooks, though.

The word count itself shouldn’t be a problem. My friend Tammy put her nose to the grindstone two years back and I think she wrote 50,000 words in ten days.  But you have to have your story well mapped out ahead of time to accomplish that.

Anyone else writing a novel next month?

This Is My Father’s World

For the first page of my book, Silver Morning Song, I chose the first two verses of this well known hymn. I thought they’d be an appropriate introduction to the poems and short stories I’ve written. What do you think?

However, I didn’t know anything about who wrote it, or that there were actually a number of verses. Thanks to Google, I learned that the poem was written by NY pastor Maltbie D Babcock before his death in 1901 and published posthumously. As I read it I thought of including the last verse as well, as I especially like it. But I decided to stay with just the first two.

Here’s the complete poem:

This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
His hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world: He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass;
He speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world: the battle is not done:
Jesus Who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heav’n be one.

This is my Father’s world, dreaming, I see His face.
I ope my eyes, and in glad surprise cry, “The Lord is in this place.”
This is my Father’s world, from the shining courts above,
The Beloved One, His Only Son,
Came—a pledge of deathless love.

This is my Father’s world, should my heart be ever sad?
The lord is King—let the heavens ring. God reigns—let the earth be glad.
This is my Father’s world. Now closer to Heaven bound,
For dear to God is the earth Christ trod.
No place but is holy ground.

This is my Father’s world. I walk a desert lone.
In a bush ablaze to my wondering gaze God makes His glory known.
This is my Father’s world, a wanderer I may roam
Whate’er my lot, it matters not,
My heart is still at home.

For the front cover I’ve chosen a Shutterstock image of a little yellow warbler on a branch singing his heart out against a blue background. I’ll let you know as soon as it’s available as an e-book.

Writing my own bio for the back cover has been a toughie, though. 🙂  Can you boil your life & writing interests down to 200 words or less?

A Package Deal for Writers

If you have your manuscript ready and you  don’t care to venture into the world of uploads, downloads, and cover design, there are some packages deals you may want to consider. Just be sure you write down exactly what you feel you need and ASK if you’re getting it in the package.

And there are definitely some to beware of. If in doubt check it out with predators and editors.com.  http://pred-ed.com/ There are some horror stories out there.

With publishing packages as well as other purchases, it’s wise to shop around. I went shopping one morning and compared basic self-publishing packages offered by two companies:

The Mass Market Essentials publishing package currently offered by Friesen Press for
E-Book $900; Poetry $900; Fiction $1000; Children’s book $1000; non-fiction $1150

This give you:
Custom layout (inside, front & back covers)
Image insertions : 5 ; Table insertions: 1
Footnotes & endnotes: 5 Layout complexities : 5
Free professional evaluation assesses strengths & weakness; suggests improvements.
One revision round (if you make changes you don’t have to pay for it)
ISBN, ten free paperback copies
Author’s book discount 55%
Online and wholesale book distribution (Listing in their online bookstore)
PDF e-Book distribution; Amazon.com Look Inside; Google Books See Inside.

Extra costs:
Buying graphics including cover graphics you may choose
Content editing 3.9¢ a word ($39 per thousand – so don’t be wordy)
Copy editing 2¢ a word ($20 “)
Line edit or proofreading 1.5¢ a word ($15 “ )
So a 50,000-word memoir would cost $3700 for editing if you went for all three.

Friesen’s has other options. A very basic one called the Niche Market Starter; the Mass Market Best Seller; the All-Inclusive. (This package includes the editing.)

CreateSpace has several packages to choose from as well. To me it appears their $978 Total Design Freedom Standard is about like Friesen’s Mass Market Essentials above.

Package includes:
Custom cover, interior layout (titles, fonts, etc.)
Graphics insertions (photos): 10 free; charts, tables, graphs $25 each
no evaluation; one revision round
ISBN; no mention of free copies
They don’t say anything about e-book sales, but this would include a listing on Kindle

Extra costs:
Same, with prices according to editors you choose
extended distribution package (if you want your books sold in Canada)
**Canadians must present a valid passport and one other piece of ID and apply for a US tax identification number in order to collect all their royalties from CreateSpace.

Further Comparison:

Joel D Canfield offers his package deal as well as individual coaching lessons to help writers get their book out there. He tells me his publishing package includes:
* developmental editing which includes my editorial opinion with recommendations
line editing
* custom layout
* no limit on images, tables, or other things commonly referred to as “content”
* infinite revisions
* free ISBN from all the services, or we’ll help you buy your own
* author’s discount: I don’t profit from selling you books; you buy direct from CreateSpace. (“Author’s discounts” are a way companies make a profit from you selling your own books. I find this common practice offensive. A paid publisher has NO RIGHT to an ongoing share of profit in books YOU SELL.)
* paperback on Amazon.com via CreateSpace; Kindle version on Amazon, ePub everywhere else via Smashwords (includes Nook, Kobo, iBooks, you name it)

I don’t do the “look inside” feature at Amazon, but would be glad to show any client how to do at no additional cost, or do it myself for a fair price.

Another thing: if you spend $1,000 on my coaching (I have packages from $250/month to $1,000/month) I’ll credit that toward the publishing, because I’ll do the developmental editing as part of the coaching. Thus I give 4 months of my simplest coaching package plus the publishing package (which doesn’t include anything you don’t want or need) for $3,000.

If you want something else, we’ll do that. My goal is to create a custom service that fills all your needs and fit within your budget. If you write up what you want, and what you want to spend, I’ll show you how I can deliver that.

Conclusion

Step carefully into the unknown. Write a great story, get sound counsel to guide you through unfamiliar territory, and go for it. Once you hold your own book in your hands, it will seem worth it all.

Be prepared to market your own book, though. No one else can do that for you — and nowadays no one else is going to, no matter what route you take.