Book Review: Passion, Power & Sin – Books 1-5: The Victim of a Global Internet Scam Plots Her Revenge by Mike Wells

 

I feverishly listened to this title by Mike Wells after finding him on Twitter. I had several posts where I called upon my fellow indie authors for suggestions on what to listen to and review next on Audible. Nobody loves me, as it were, and I was left to my own devices.

Author Bio:

Mike Wells is an American bestselling author of over 20 “unputdownable” thriller and suspense novels, including Lust, Money & Murder and Passion, Power & Sin. He is also known for his young adult books, such as The Mysterious Disappearance of Kurt Kramer, The Wrong Side of the Tracks, and Wild Child, which are used by English teachers in high schools and colleges worldwide. Formerly a screenwriter, Wells has a fast-paced, cinematic writing style. His work is often compared to that of the late Sidney Sheldon, with strong and inspiring female heroes, tightly-written scenes, engaging action/dialogue, and numerous plot twists. He currently lives in Europe and has taught in the Creative Writing program at the University of Oxford.

 

Talk about branding! And “unputdownable” is right. I blew through the 20+ hours of these five books in less than a week (partly thanks to commute and stakeouts). Mike Wells’ work is his own brand, complete with predictable cover design and profitable categories. He has got his thing here and he does it well. I’m glad to have stumbled upon his work.

 

Book Description:

One spectacular financial scheme. One woman alone against the world. Young, beautiful, and yearning for love, Heather Bancroft meets the “perfect” man…and is lured into a game in which she begins to make more money than she ever imagined. Betrayed by her own innocence, she loses all that is dear to her and discovers that she has been mercilessly used. Defeated and broken, but surviving with sheer persistence and ingenuity, Heather emerges from her trying ordeal, determined to punish the ruthless man who destroyed her life. Her thirst for revenge takes her halfway around the globe, to the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean, where her nemesis secludes himself in obscene wealth that he’s gained from the financial ruin of others. Heather is playing for the highest stakes in a lethal game. Only one man loves her – he’s handsome, confident, and just as determined as she is. Only one man can stop her – a criminal mastermind who is intent on her destruction.

 

What I Liked about this Book:

 

I sometimes look for value when using my precious Audible credits. At a run time of 21 hours and 4 minutes, this book provided a lot of air time and is jam packed with twists and turns. I loved the opening scene which showed the antagonist and his doings first before going to the protagonist Heather Bancroft.

Characterization was great in this book, even minor characters had a soul and some dark secrets to boot. The protagonist Heather Bancroft is morally ambiguous yet somehow centered. She is both pretty and practical, driven by emotion, while still cunning. I couldn’t help but fall in love with the redhead just a little.

I absolutely love books and movies that span a great deal of time and space. Up for some international travel? Well, you can surely find it here. Heather tramps across New York, France, the old Soviet block, Turkey, the Mediterranean, and Japan.

If you are looking for a good beach read or need to kill time on an international flight, this will do the trick. You’ll be entertained, you’ll commit some white collar crimes, and you’ll have fun along the way.

 

What I didn’t like about this book:

 

Some of the twists were unbelievable, even for Heather Bancroft, but it is entertaining. The author also seems to have an imbalance of “show verses tell” but maybe that’s the point. If he didn’t tell some of the scenes, this book would be twice as long which might not fit into Mike’s audience.

The ending. Without giving anything away, I feel the ending was abrupt and unexplained a bit. How did she have a reunion in France without the authorities ruining the party? I asked this of myself and made a note.

 

What this does for My Writing:

 

Yet another author that I feel could write circles around me and is probably doing so as we speak. He spans a lot of time, covers a good bit of ground, and makes me wonder in sickening delight, just how long it took him to write these books. Everything is reasonably believable, and straight to the point. I would love to take some lessons from him and cringe as he crosses out in red all of my useless explanations and garbage.

I believe his branding style could be adapted to my gritty crime novel Modern Waste, a book I have mostly written a sequel for but I am worried that nobody cares about.

I will need to investigate Mike Wells further to figure out how he sells books, as it is certainly worth noting. He seems to have book 1 in every series as free with some configuration of package deals.

 

This book is an easy read and can be picked up and put down on your beach blanket over and over again. You won’t avert your eyes or ears long as it keeps you enticed, just to see what Heather encounters next.

4- Stars

Mike’s blog

Connect with Mike on Twitter and Facebook

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Book Review: New Horizons by Joanne Van Leerdam

 

 

I first got serious about Joanne’s work on Twitter when I halted my incessant scrolling for answers. I was stopped short by the cover of her poetry book titled Stained Glass– This is the best cover I’ve seen in like forever so Joanne has to tell me who designed it.

 

 

 

 

I’m not in the poetry mood yet. as I am about to release my own short story collection (whenever the cover design is done), and, I am really into writing the short form right now. So, I checked out everything else by Joanne and bought New Horizons instead. I will read and review Stained Glass in a few weeks though.

Description:

A change of scenery. A new direction. A break in the weather.
Who hasn’t hoped for something different at some point in their life?

These sixteen short stories offer insights into how people respond when they encounter experiences and events they have not foreseen, or when they discover new horizons in their lives.

 

What I liked about New Horizons:

This book was settling and comforting in a way that I was not expecting. She must be a decent poet because her word choice and melody in this short form is astounding. No story is more than a handful of pages, and without counting, I’m sure some of them might be considered flash. One could read this book in under an hour as I did, or a story a day with your morning coffee.

I felt most of her tales were inspiring and left me wanting to know more about the characters, even the secondary. Each focuses on one character facing some kind of new beginning. Yawn all you want now, but there is some real depth here, and a kind of tease into the satisfaction of gossip or living vicariously.

Even small, supporting roles have their place and form here. Check out this excerpt from “Time Will Tell”:

A nurse works at her station on the corner of the small, cool room, making notes: a silent witness of every dreadful moment.

 

I teach English at an orphanage and work with children who are often in and out of foster homes. The story “Rube” really hit home for me and I believe it to be my favorite. Sorry Joanne, that’s favourite. This is the last line:

Heading for the railway station, Rube’s stride was brash and confident, but the tune he hummed was melancholy.

 

“The Karma Train” was another good one and it had me thinking for a moment that these were all parables in a way, life lessons for the willing. There is a steady theme of starting over and moving on that is hard to get away from.

Then, I found it. The dark and twisted side of reality shown through and I was in my special, evil place. “Coward” knocked my socks off with its form and economy of words:

They all think I’m a coward. That I couldn’t have done it. That I’d never fight back. But they’re wrong.

“A Most Educational Quiz” was very clever in the telling, I even read it twice, once to my wife out loud.

“Lucy” was another tasty treat as we danced in the dark once again, sin and ambition.

 

What I didn’t like:

Layout issued are paramount but should be an easy fix for the author. I’m reading on a Kindle Fire HD 8″ . This was so short that I didn’t read it on anything else as I sometimes do at work.

I’ll pay 2.99 because I write everything off like a wild bandit but I’m not sure everyone else would. My mom will after she reads this post. The author would do best by writing more and more and posting this for .99 cents. Kindle Unlimited wouldn’t do much for this title because of length but who am I to know such things?

“Revelation” should be a Letter in Letters Never Meant to be Read. It was more of a rant and didn’t quite have a place after “Lucy”.

It was strange to end with “Late Fall” because there was no suspense or cliff to hang, but that may be the point considering the subject matter. Still, in a house full of tease, I wanted more of that kind.

 

What this does for my writing:

It is so nice to bask in the real once again and feel the morphing and twisting of human nature. I can’t thank Joanne for all the evil thoughts either, it was the parlor crowd inside my head and their commentary. Sometimes, you have to go home and mix it up a little. Don’t know what I mean, do you? No, you wouldn’t.

When I was reading “Rube” I stumbled on this passage:

He didn’t want to go to the pokey country town school with all the farmers’ kids who couldn’t think of anything better than to grow up and work on the farm with their dads.

Oh the mayhem that occurred in my brain and the evil laugh I am giving off right now. Thank you Joanne for giving me the fuel to douse my barn with. Not really, but let’s just say that I have the perfect story idea that involves a steep body count and a poor farmer’s son. I made a few scribbles in my notepad before reading on and I am happy for the lead.

5-Stars

So I’m pretty much going to read everything by Joanne Van Leerdam but she better tell me where I can get a physical copy of Stained Glass or I will pitch a fit and blame the local banker for the trouble. Her work is soothing, calm, yet it packs a punch that leaves you waiting for another turn at the potter’s wheel.

Joanne van Leerdam’s blog: https://wordynerdbird.com/

Follow Joanna on Twitter

 

All works by Joanna:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review- Book Marketing is Dead: Book Promotion Secrets You MUST Know BEFORE You Publish Your Book by Derek Murphy

 

 

I know, I am late to the party again with this 2013 release with 2016 forward but… I have a funny story to tell.

First, the Description:

How to sell a ton of books (even if you’re starting with no platform). If you’ve found this book I’m assuming you have or will soon have a book out on the market, and are exploring ways to turn it into a best-selling powerhouse that will slaughter the competition and pay for your retirement. The indie publishing world is thrilling because of the possible returns, and I hope you and your book do well. You’re probably searching for things like “book marketing” and “book promotion” so you can learn how to find readers and convince them to buy your book. But almost everything you read will be wrong.That’s because marketing in general is dead. Advertising is dead. Selling and convincing people to buy: also dead. The new law of book sales is this: if you’re talking about your book, promoting your book, sharing your book… you’re screwing it all up. Don’t make “Old School” marketing mistakes that will sabotage your efforts! This book will help you to…

  • Avoid the common mistakes that kill book sales
  • Set up an author platform quickly that will triple your results
  • Use Social Media (like an expert) without being annoying
  • Advertise for maximum impact (at the lowest cost)
  • Make powerful friends online who can move thousands of books

Before you spend a lot of money on book marketing services or author publicity… Make sure you’ve plugged all the holes in your sales funnel so you’re not throwing money away. If you’re looking for a “Bestseller Campaign” but don’t have a big budget… This book will show you plenty of ways to improve sales without spending a dime.

Now the Funny:

Over the past year, I have seen Derek Murphy on You Tube while searching in a desperate, late-night manner for help with book marketing. His awkwardness and his soothing gravel-voice always put me at ease. I took in and nodded at everything he said.

I’m a good student, I swear. After all, I learned Russian in a year from those ladies at DLI and somehow survived. But I didn’t practice what Derek Murphy preached. While I nodded, agreed, and clicked on more videos, my left hand looked for quick fixes. Those one-time bandits in the book marketing world.

About a month ago, I was on a long stakeout (I moonlight as a Private Investigator) and I had Audible credits burning a hole in my pocket. I searched “book marketing” and found this book.

I did not, however, put the author and the videos I already watched together. Perhaps because I work 3 jobs + writing. Perhaps I am my own worst enemy.

This book is a new template for my Battle Plan. Because I want Letters Never Meant to be Read to be a thing, and because I want Letters pouring in from all over the world, I needed some guidance.

What I Liked:

This book is full of the basic concepts that don’t require an attempt at bludgeoning new readers into advertised submission.

Derek Murphy talks about marketing as we know it far into the actual book. He emphasizes having your pages, cover, reviews, and author platform in place before putting any money up for advertisement.

Also, the concept of stacking marketing efforts is much easier for my military brain to understand and more clever than hoping on those one-offs.

Unlike what most people think of authors, I am an extrovert and I love to make friends.

This is a blessing and a curse. Pitching my book to people is easy in person. Where I have failed in the past with social media is blasting “Buy My Book!” type stuff which Murphy warns against. I now see how silly this is. It’s hard to stop.

Instead, I need to use my talents for making friends and be the all-around likable guy I already am. I NEED to actually meet people on the web, which is awkward for me even though I can talk on the phone for days.

I am doing this, Derek Murphy. I am out there replying to Tweets instead of re-Tweeting after reading articles. I used to read anyway, then just re-Tweet. How dumb. These are difficult habits to break.  I feel awkward sometimes, but I just remind myself that most people are real and will respond similar to what they would in person.

I am also working on my battle plan. I have a 15 short story collection coming out soon, and I will make the stars align just as Mr. Murphy suggested. I will align the free days for Letters Never Meant to be Read, I will run simple Facebook ads for my book page, and I will get reviews. Slowly but surely.

The truth is, I like it better and I get discouraged less by marching the slow ground. The easy solution that my left hand looks for, that quick fix, is always there.

In reality, there is no silver bullet to shoot off when it comes to book marketing. I know that now but I have to remember, daily. Derek Murphy explains so many pitfalls, some I have already toppled into, head-first. I feel silly, but I have to keep moving.

 

What I Don’t Like:

If you’re looking for a “Bestseller Campaign” but don’t have a big budget… This book will show you plenty of ways to improve sales without spending a dime.

Yes, it does this OK. I tallied all of his advice and you would need some chump change. If you want to do it “right” you will need a little more. Every time he mentioned a figure, I cringed when I added it to my total. Not his fault, but I am an unfortunate older millennial with 3+ jobs and “My number is negative, I work for a negative number…” 

Of course, I was looking at it through the goggles of my latest Letters Book and I know what I need to do.

Some tasks I’ve already done since reading this book, like fixing my Amazon page, optimizing keywords, and  adjusting my categories using almostfreemoney on Fiverr. Worth every penny.

I’ve signed up for MailChimp but that is as far as I’ve gone so far, sorry Derek. I HATE pop-ups and I only signed up for yours on CreativIndie because I wanted to. For the most part, I ignore my email. I KNOW that email lists are important and I will come around and find my way eventually.

I also  have a hard time with his other section on reviews. I advertised that I would do book reviews on my blog. I did not solicit or ask for  reviews in return. Most of the books I bought and I will continue to buy with Kindle Unlimited or Audible Credits unless I need an ARC to do the review.

Yesterday, I received a nastygram from Amazon with a warning about reviews which I can only assume are the ones I got from other authors or a marketing campaign. Murphy does warn about this. If authors are in the same category, you can get tripped up. I didn’t think I was in competition with any of the reviewers. The Amazon warning, which is not uncommon, doesn’t give specifics, go figure.

This is less of a knock on Derek Murphy and more of a pleading to Amazon. If I lost access to selling books, I don’t know what I would do. This is my dream, my purpose. Amazon doesn’t care and is likely ran by a robot that has no feelings. Still, I need that mean robot.

I also get the feeling from his latest videos that Derek is getting away from helping authors to work on his fiction. That’s understandable. Perhaps I am reading him wrong here, but I need him to stay with me for a little while longer, or come back someday.

How this Book Changes My Writing:

Collaboration. I am working on a psychological thriller now with AM Hounchell and it is quite exiting. I am also thinking about the next book or series in a different light. I want to write something that will market itself. For some of you that think this is selling out, I don’t care, and neither does Mr. Murphy. I want to be prolific. If that means writing what people want to read for awhile, fine. The Beatles did it, then went on to make what they really wanted. In this case, The Beatles and Derek Murphy can’t be wrong.

5 Stars

Ok. I’ve spent some time here and this is a long post. I love this book and have listened to it 2.5 times in the car and at home. I am making my battle plan and this is my manual of sorts. I will have to buy the print version too so I can circle things and make notes. Derek Murphy does mention in a more recent version that there are some things that might not be valid any longer.

I want to thank Derek Murphy for writing this book. I know he sold a bunch of copies the past four years, but he has given me hope. And that, Dear Reader, is priceless.

Derek’s site: Creativindie  Post after post of helpful guidance.

Watch Derek Murphy on YouTube

Follow Derek Murphy on Twitter @Creativindie

 

 

Check out D.S. Murphy’s latest fiction:

 

 

Buy the Reviewed Book here:

 

My Latest Book:

Book Review: The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene

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I recently read, or rather, listened to The 48 Laws of Power on audible. My friend had the physical book and I shuddered at the length in print form, but love long books for my listening pleasure in the car. Enjoy history and powerful quotes? This book is packed full of both.

I must warn you though, most people either love or hate this book. If followed directly, it may turn you into a charlatan, or a politician.

Description:

Robert Greene and Joost Elffers have distilled three thousand years of the history of power into 48 essential laws by drawing from the philosophies of Machiavelli, Sun Tzu, and Carl Von Clausewitz and also from the lives of figures ranging from Henry Kissinger to P.T. Barnum.
 
Some laws teach the need for prudence (“Law 1: Never Outshine the Master”), others teach the value of confidence (“Law 28: Enter Action with Boldness”), and many recommend absolute self-preservation (“Law 15: Crush Your Enemy Totally”). Every law, though, has one thing in common: an interest in total domination. In a bold and arresting two-color package, The 48 Laws of Power is ideal whether your aim is conquest, self-defense, or simply to understand the rules of the game.

 

Powerful Quotes from the book (There are so many)

 

“person who cannot control his words shows that he cannot control himself, and is unworthy of respect.”
― Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power

“Remember: The best deceivers do everything they can to cloak their roguish qualities. They cultivate an air of honesty in one area to disguise their dishonesty in others. Honesty is merely another decoy in their arsenal of weapons.”
― Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power

“The key to power, then, is the ability to judge who is best able to further your interests in all situations. Keep friends for friendship, but work with the skilled and competent.”
― Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power

 

More quotes from Robert Greene can be found and interpreted on Goodreads.

 

What I like about this book:

Historical significance. This is packed with examples from history, quotes, and famous writings. Even if you are not interested in “playing the game”, looking at history in this point of view is quite enticing. If you want to find ways to improve your life as a predator, this book will work for you too.

This is not exactly self-help but applying these tactics with historical backing could really set you apart. To a degree, I believe in this book. I think it is important to take the life lessons from history and apply them to your situation. It is also important to understand how those in power achieve it, and how they maintain. Simply ignoring power plays can leave you feeling stranded and alone. At the very least, one can find a way to watch out for the traps of others.

What I don’t like about this book:

This is for the lone wolf. Yes, it does call for socialization to achieve power, but it does not promote the aspects of teamwork. In this light, everyone is using each other. Not exactly team friendly, right? I’m not always a shark to the people I’m trying to collaborate with. Should I be?

Even though I have the ability to manipulate situations, this book does not address a group mindset unless you are the top dog. You have to be willing to assert yourself and bend the will of others to achieve your goals. What about common goals? What about teammates?

4-Stars

Robert Greene has several books of this genre and over 2000 reviews with 4.6 stars on Amazon for this book alone. Must be doing something right.

Research, I imagine all of his books take years to come to fruition and copious amounts of time spent between other people’s pages. Hats off to him and his work. While I don’t want to read this kind of book every day, I will be reading/listening to more of his work with my Audible credits in the future.

How it applies to writing:

This book is well-written and the narration is gold. This spawned some of my writing marathons the past few weeks that had nothing to do with the content of the book. It is always good to branch out and read another genre, especially a work that is crafted in this way. Might have been the narrator, but the work provoked ideas and a writing fury in me that had nothing to do with the book.

Since I have my own narrator that talks to me too much, it’s always nice when I get a change in voice for the better.

Also, as we are all now Authorpreneurs, it is important to keep a business sense as you go out there in the world. Nothing has to be taken literally, but honing in on some aspects of this book will surely keep you from getting ripped off by the book marketing charlatans, of which there are many.

A hilarious, illustrated summary of the 48 Laws can be found here on YouTube

A blog-style cheat sheet can be found here on Sam Parr’s blog 

A link to buy the book on Amazon here

In Review – Letters Never Meant to be Read

REBLOG: Thank you so much for reading our collection.

Dream Village

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Letters Never Meant to be Read by Marc Crepeaux, Kristi Denker, Joel Dockery, Brandon Lawrence, Meghan Rynn
Published by: Rusty Wheels Media, LLC
Genres: Nonfiction
Pages: 107
Format: Kindle Edition

4-star


About The Book:

Sometimes angry, occasionally sad and often with humorous quotes, the authors of Letters Never Meant to be Read share their views on life with the power of the written word. In the today’s world of 3 second text messaging, emojis and Facebook, most people don’t know how to write a letter that connects with others. Imagine the effect that you could have on the object of your unrequited love, if you could express yourself through letter writing!

Letters Never Meant to be Read contains a compelling series of writings which have been created by five accomplished authors. Immerse yourself in these amazing letters and allow your full range of emotions to be experienced as you…

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Who’s That Indie Author? Marc D. Crepeaux

Such a great blog for Indie Authors to discover and share. Thank you.

Book Club Mom

whos-that-indie-author
Author name
:  Marc D. Crepeaux

Genre:  Crime, Poetry, Letters and Correspondence

Books: Modern Waste; Worked Stiff: Poetry and Prose for the Common; Letters Never Meant to be Read (collaborative)

Bio:  Marc D. Crepeaux is a curator, editor and writer for Letters Never Meant to be Read. Marc has also authored the gritty, Southern crime novel Modern Waste and the poetry collection Worked Stiff: Poetry and Prose for the Common. He is from Killawog, NY and spent much of his late-teens and early twenties in NYC where he acted like a maniac. He now works as an English teacher and a Captain in the Army Reserves, among other entrepreneurial endeavors, and holds an MFA in Creative Writing. Marc lives in a more calming environment with his wife, two daughters, two dogs, and two fish in Rome, GA.

Favorite thing about being a…

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Why Audible and ACX are a MUST for Indie Authors

With Audible pushing advertising and more people reading on the go, it just makes sense for Indie Authors to add the Audio book to their means of reaching readers.

It used to be that Audio books were limited to CD’s that got lost or scratched in the car. Now, people are consuming books via Bluetooth on their handheld supercomputers  at rapid rates on iTunes and Audible. With membership programs on Audible and decent pricing, the consumer only need to push a few buttons and be entertained during that long commute to nowhere.

For Indie Authors who want an edge as well as another revenue stream, ACX, owned by Amazon, is the best there is. Using their royalty system, an author can sample, audition, and hire professional voice actors without spending any money upfront. Funds, after ACX gets their cut, are split between the author and voice actor, known as the producer. You can hire the producer via royalty or pay their hourly rate. ACX has strict standards, so one does not have to worry about quality control. You can also go out on a limb and produce the work yourself with ACX.

For my first book Modern Waste, I was propositioned by Scott Pollak after hanging my 50/50 royalty split audition out there. The voice of NPR Atlanta, Scott wanted to do my book because it had the North Georgia flavor he knew well and I needed several Southern accents due to my unique and long character list. He did a great job and I was able to ask Scott to edit a few parts after the final product was delivered. The experience was great, easy, and exciting.

Having an audio version of your book for sale on Amazon can help with your professional status. When customers see you have an eBook, print, and audio, it gives a sense of the complete package. One of the challenges I see going forward with Letters Never Meant to be Read is just how to get several voices for an anthology? While this may not be possible in the current configuration, I can rest easy knowing my short-story collection Worked Stiff: Short Stories to Tell Your Boss will one day be read by a professional.

As a rabid consumer of Audio books, I have found another way to consume books while driving and I am able to hone my craft of writing in ways I never thought possible. While writing my next short-story collection, I tore through anthologies and collections to keep myself in the zone and my mind open to the possibilities of the form.

There is so much to choose from on Audible too, from 30 minute erotica for 48 cents to history books that will take you a whole month to listen to on your morning commute. When I get in the car, I can’t wait to push play, especially now, as I am listening to Edgar Allan Poe – The Complete Short Stories.

Read and Write on, Dear Reader, in any way you choose. Do so often, I dare you…

“The Paratrooper” -A Story a Day

“The Paratrooper” first appeared as a poem in my book Worked Stiff: Poetry and Prose for the Common but I decided to give a more meat to those bones and give the young man a little background as he made his decent. Even though I will likely never jump again after my neck surgery, I look back on all those Airborne Days with a great fondness for the camaraderie and exhilaration that is being a Paratrooper. Also the fact that, as a young Rigger officer, I packed my own parachute-twice, and my ocean jump in Tampa. I can’t help but think that I have been a part of the history that started at Camp Toccoa and continues to develop to this day. I would also be remiss not to include this awesome old school Airborne video for your enjoyment.

Feedback is always appreciated.

 

The Paratrooper

 

Time stops but the figures before the man keep moving. On and on, they perform with a lone purpose in mind. The boy finds his body in ritual too, copying their every move and singing. The grumbling beast then turns on its side, just when the birds thought that particular section of the sky was safe. The move for another pass captures the boy’s stomach. His will to ever say no again is gone. The men in front of the line all hook-up and chant, Private Mitchell does the same.

He turns around to see that nobody is there to copy his movements. There is no one there to push him out if he doesn’t seem to have the action required at the door. Mitchell is the last in his line and the time is coming. He knows this to be deathly true as the other men near the door show an inch on their fingers. The chant and sign echoed by the lines of the willing. All were done in ritual before, now this is for real. He tries to pretend it is not real, that this is another rehearsal and he is waiting in the long line on the ground in the hot sun, merely to jump off a pedestal again and again.

The fear inside of Private Mitchell is so great that it reaches absurdity. Boiling over, he can only smile and sheer himself out of his physical form. He can hear nothing. He can feel nothing but death playing the odds, rolling the dice on his behalf. He examines his body and his gear as he hovers above himself. He watches the soldier he once knew as a boy walk towards the door. Mitchell recognizes the boy somewhere in the face, but only a little. The youth he once knew for what seemed like a lifetime in the bathroom mirror of his mom’s house was fading. It was a lifetime, a lifetime that is now vanishing.  Private Mitchell watches himself hand off his static line. His life turned over in trust to another, grittier man’s hands. Time allows only a momentary stare with the man, a real man. This cracks Private Mitchell back into his own body, that knowing look.

He exits the door into a sudden free-fall, and intense wind steals the young man’s lungs. Broccoli and toy trucks below morph into a pause for judgment. The soldier’s mind can only whirl through the many decisions he has made. Did he need to bomb that test? Did he need to take her out? Did he need to buy that car? Those and certain events have driven him into this life, into this panic.

“Well, if you are going to go off and join the godforsaken Army instead of going to college, the least you could do is keep your room clean when you come to visit,” Mom said when he brought home the pamphlets and a way out. She had her way of sneaking in jolts here and there to deal with pain.

“Yeah, I tried to join the Marines once, only lasted about three weeks, had to come home,” Uncle Bill said while they were digging a ditch in his yard the spring before he went to basic. “I was too tired all the time. Your aunt Nadine was the true reason, couldn’t spend one day without her. We weren’t married then, yet, but I worried that she would go and marry Bobby Burleson instead if I never came back. It pained the shit out of me more than any of the exercises and the yelling.”

With the air swirling around, Mitchell thinks of all the girls he flirted with in high school, even the one he met at that party, the one that went to Roschell High instead of his own school. The one that let him in, took his virginity and left. The one he scored. She wasn’t here, none of them were. There was nobody to leave this panic for.

Private Mitchell wonders if it will end. He feels the slight relief that perhaps he could just perish here with the adrenaline soaking in his blood. How romantic. The paper headlines back home would be righteous and his mother would get the four-hundred thousand they promised his beneficiary, the only choice on the form. Maybe she would pay off the car.

No, a snap of his torso gives Private Mitchell dangerous hope. His eyes look in wonder straight up at this moment’s only love. He can only guess this violence of body must mean survival. The pain in his groin from the leg straps and the burning around his neck must mean he has made it. A canopy, a savior, a prince.

Work to do now to ensure the rest goes well. Proper descent is only up to him and the ritual he remembers, wait. The soldier catches a peak of the horizon, the beautiful reality meeting him at his same level. The unreachable is there. Eye to eye, mesmerized to be equal to the Earth and the Sun. The spectacle has captured only him, is only for him. Mitchell’s eyes follow the streaks of light to the ground, past the tops of his trusty boots, an act the ritual warned against. They said he must never ever look straight down as he has just now. He forces his head back to the horizon, his eyes must not betray the work.

The soldier pulls with all his might this way and that. He combats the wind with his silk savior. He looks to the trees for permission. The sign is there to release his only belongings to the feared below. Down the weight of the ruck sack zings on a line, stopping far enough under his feet. He released his weapon case, it doesn’t follow suit. His actions are violent, frantic. It has all gone so well up to this point. Finally, the equipment obeys.

The time is coming, and soon. His eyes were no longer equal with the horizon, they are starting to recognize things that normal men see.

“Be loose! Be loose!” the soldier cries only to himself, his feet and knees together. Mantra, mantra, all the way down. He can anticipate no more or the sheer act will kill him altogether…

“Oomph!” The air leaves his body as he rolls to counteract the hit. Tall blades, crisp and sweet, had no idea he was coming. They are his forced friends now. They are who he will give all his life to. A reassuring fraction of a second without swelling pain is taken as a litmus. That is all the soldier needs to know that he has survived.

He cackles, playful as a child, the spilling parachute covers him like a blanket.

 

 

 

 

“Secrets of a Wife”- A Story a Day

Secrets of a Wife is a short regarding certain aspects of modern marriage. I will be posting a story a day for a good while. These short-stories and shorts will likely be a part of the next collection in the Worked Stiff Series, Worked Stiff: Short-Stories to Tell Your Boss. Your feedback is always appreciated. Happy Reading!

Secrets of a Wife

Back at the house, Linda continued to tidy up the kitchen. When she stashed the cookies and made small preparations for her usual guest, the act felt both methodical and therapeutic. These small actions tended to make her appear human for a change, less problematic. Linda remembered when she hated the domestic portions of married life so much that she opted for a live in maid. This idea had thrilled both her and her husband at the time. Having both adults out of the house fourteen hours a day meant flying over and past domestic responsibilities. The maid filled the void, gave an anchor to the cave that was their home.

She chuckled to herself as she dried the cookie sheets, as her mother had done, the auto washer idle for weeks. She remembered her forty-two-year-old self-setting the clever maid trap for her husband. Yes, they did need someone to take care of them and watch over the house. Yes, they both agreed this was the best solution for their hectic but loving home. She took it upon herself to hire a live-in servant. She also made it a point to find the most beautiful. The top candidate had been a graduate student at her university, in another department of course. She chose a person she felt could be more trusted with her possessions, but not her husband. This was a test, for her at least. Linda thought that she could gauge what her husband, and all men for that matter, lusted after.

As smart and accomplished as she was, in this, she couldn’t have been more wrong. Linda found just the right treat too, someone who was both pretty and smart. The new hire was intelligent, yet easily domesticated and, the most important trait, fertile. This was a test not only of her husband’s affection for other women but litmus for a promise that had defined their marriage. No children, careers prominent. Linda thought that if she tricked her husband by getting him to bite on the pretty maid, adultery would have been nothing compared to the misunderstanding of their shared life purpose, their work.

Linda had obtained two doctorate degrees from different universities, taught geology at a third, won numerous awards, and published works all over her field, spilling into others. For a time when she cared, she was surpassing Michael’s academic success with ease and quiet competition. Michael was so supportive, and still was after Linda turned her back to corporate fortune and decided to stay an academic. Michael knew that in order to make his machines breathe life, he would undoubtedly have to be successful and earn hoards of money. That was his option, but in her mind, she was still smarter for not taking the cake. She reinforced this choice to herself while taking off her apron and worrying about the corporate goons whispering in the shadows, plotting against Michael’s success.

She made her way upstairs in her parent’s old house and stood in front of the mirror. She looked at and touched softly the neck and shoulders seen in the reflection. She hardly recognized these parts as hers. She thought: “How could I have failed to lure my husband between the legs of another woman?” Linda had suspicion all along that what he really wanted was a plaything housewife. All the while, she was ignoring what she still truly desired, to bear children. She tried to prescribe her own cure onto a twenty-three-year-old beauty. It didn’t work. Her stupid, sweet, dog-haired husband had the dapper sensibilities and the eccentric charm to be both the best thing for a young, smart play-bunny trap, and the worst. He was completely oblivious to the advances of younger, attractive women that he struck out already on several known sexual conquests. Michael was awkward. Linda caught him a few times looking in public, especially from behind, so she thought she made just the right choice in maids.

In the end, Linda knew less about her husband’s extramarital tastes and even less about herself. A few weeks after the maid quit, finished with her degree, Michael looked up blank from his toast and asked, “Where’s Cindy?”

Remembering she expected company, Linda changed into less domestic apparel and tucked those facts, along with many other secrets, into a tiny box below her stomach.

 

“Midnight Fare” -A story a day

Here is another for the collection and your pre-football Thanksgiving entertainment. Let me know how you like the ending…

 

 

Midnight Fare

The driver fumbled for his phone, eager to call the number given to him by his dispatcher. Roger Dallingher was anxious to start making money which he would later count in front of his aging wife. She would put the bounty into separate piles to dole out later to other people. That is how it worked and that is all Roger knew, except if he didn’t come home with the right amount, his wife Tina would go on for days about how little Bobby wouldn’t be able to go to camp or Wanda would be without shoes. She might not even make him dinner or let him sleep in the bed if the figure was not correct, so he had to stay out. Roger needed to pound the streets on this hot summer night and stay with the people, stay with the money. He had to fill his back seat to continue getting paid.

“Liberty Urgent Care, how may I help you?”

Roger sighed before responding, thinking of poor people without cell phones trying to pay him an actual fare, let alone tip. “Ah, yeah, this is the driver from A Plus Taxi?” He responded with another question, Roger hated it when other people did that to him, he thought it was a sign of weakness and was unsure why he was doing it now. Roger felt off.

“OK, well, you’re here now are you?”

“Yes sir.”

“Our member will be right out.”

“Member? What is this, a yacht club?” Roger asked out loud after hanging up the phone, he did that more and more towards the end of a long shift. He also realized that he was on the ambulance only side of the facility. His old Crown Victoria lurched and squeaked as it made its way to the “member” side. He saw the guard wave a protective hand, bringing the car in.

The shiny badge ducked away before producing a little old lady with a slow, cautious walk and a brand new sling, set carefully on her left arm. The guard eased her into the back seat.

“Where to ma’am?”

“Well…let’s see now” she looked around her new surroundings, “OK, go to Gadston, yes, and take a right, ah…no, that’s not quite… oh just go out to Gadston, I’ll be able to tell you when we get there.”

“Alright, ma’am.” Roger turned on the meter and rolled out of the parking lot toward Gadston Parkway. The empty restaurants still lit up the sky and left a haze over everything in the humidity. He came to the intersection spoken of and paused his accelerator, waiting for the woman to catch up with her decision.

“Ah, actually, you know what? Just go on straight ahead there, yes.” The woman’s thick accent made her graveled with age voice a little more soothing. She had a deep southern drawl, yet it was proper and kept. “And take a left onto Sulfur Road, yes.” The old woman was marking the time, same as Roger, going through her own directions in her mind. Roger preferred to know where his trips ended so that he could command the vehicle as any professional would, but in this case he obliged her uncertainty.

Recognizing a straight shot for a while, Roger felt it rude not to at least inquire over her injury. He felt that since she was taking a taxi at this hour, she didn’t have anyone to sympathize with her and he sure knew how to pass the uncomfortable time between strangers. Roger also asked because he thought he might even get a better tip.

“Did you break your arm, ma’am?”

“Yes, it’s quite silly. I was putting on my pajamas Saturday night, last night, yes.  I got caught up and fell against my chestnut set of drawers. I went on all day today but realized something must have been wrong by this afternoon, so I went in.”

“Sorry to hear that, ma’am.” Roger’s acceleration slowed again due to indecision, this time, his own. He had thought the next left to be Sulfur Road but didn’t see a street sign to confirm. He cruised past the intersection real slow, not yet committing to the left. He came to a coasting stop just in the middle of the road. No one was out, no one to care. The young man and the old lady were the only two in existence that night for miles. “That might have been Sulfur Road, but it wasn’t marked.” Roger had not felt in line with his own intuition for the past few days, something which he felt necessary for his profession.

“Well…I’m not sure, let’s see here…” She looked around and out of the car as best she could, trying to recognize a landmark amongst the humid haze and the stores that didn’t care at all about their electric bill. “Everything has just changed so much, I don’t recognize anything these days.”

Just then, Roger grabbed a peak at her through the rear-view and noticed the woman’s eyes-they were beautiful, stunning, and as green as the grass on every lawn there ever was. She was an old woman with pale skin, but her eyes gave off just enough of an exotic look to make her unique. Roger knew of old women whose blue eyes faded over the years and turned gray, his mother’s, for example, or even his wife, but this lady was different. Roger began to wonder if all green-eyed people were different like that. He glanced at her red sweater, she sported some typical jewelry for her age, and even though she had been visiting doctors all day, her hair and makeup were still quite perfect.

The driver’s intuition snapped back into focus, he pulled a U-turn as comfortable as he could. “Ah, that was it, don’t worry ma’am, I know where we are.” And just as if they had worked through the problem together, he said with confidence, “Sulfur Road.”

“Ah yes, this is it, isn’t it? Yes, I recognize it now, it’s a wonder how you do this business at night. I’m so glad it’s you…” At that, Roger raised an eyebrow. He heard that kind of before I pass out let me tell you tone from the drunks before. Roger looked in his review mirror hoping she hadn’t fallen off the cliff of drugs and exhaustion in the backseat before giving her address in confidence.

Roger almost swerved clear off the road at what he saw. The woman he had guessed at about seventy was now a serene southern belle in her twenties. Her hair was gorgeous, with a straight part and purposeful curls at the ends. She sat erect, not looking at him, but at the road, lips pursed, with a tad look of concern in her eyes.

Roger’s face snapped forward, he took back ready command of his old Crown Victoria. “Yes driver, in two lights, make a left.” Her voice was not grumbled with age or drugs from the hospital. Her sweet sound swept past her perfect, kissable lips. They were not wrinkled with age around the edges as before. This made Roger’s heart jump, his ears had now confirmed what his eyes had seen. He caught another glimpse, though, only to gain another detail for his mental scrapbook. She wore a string of black pearls on her porcelain neck, her dress of white lace made her brunette curls shine in the night. Roger filled his nose with a deep conscious breath, taking in her classic perfume which filled his once smoky cab. One more sense to confirm his dazzling observations. He dare not speak, nor do anything else but drive. Roger squeezed his hands around ten and two and blinked a few times out the windshield to make sure he was still in control.

“Yes, this- turn here, now- and when you get to an all-way stop, just go on straight through, then make your first right after, yes.” She reassured herself she knew the way, which made Roger know the way too, like a good soldier obeying his orders.

“Yes, ma’am.” He quivered. Roger dare not say anything else, do anything else lest he breaks the spell. Her voice and sweet accent melted his northern ears. He candled in his seat as they approached the four-way. The driver followed her every direction for the next few miles, going through a new neighborhood to an old back road with the houses farther and farther apart.

“Dear, if you could, pull on into the next drive on your right, just a ways down ahead, yes.”

“Alright ma’am,” the driver said, catching glances and feeling her presence. She never looked directly at him in the mirror, allowing herself to be observed. She kept to the distant glare as if driving herself, looking into the turn, even if he wasn’t. The Ford and its two passengers pulled into the long gravel drive. Roger couldn’t see her house by the roadway, great Magnolia trees skirted the property. The driver feared what would happen to her when they reached their destination. He turned down her drive and they crossed over a small bridge traversing a duck pond. The house they finally came to was modest and older with wide porches, chipping and weathered paint-its setting held all the charm.

Roger pulled to the side closest to the front porch, taking in where he was and instinctively put the car into park. He read the meter and turned on the interior light. Delighted Roger found that although he shocked the mood, she was still as beautiful and young as before. He could steal her all in at this moment as she was fumbling through her clutch for the fare. Roger swept himself back to a time he hardly knew. It was 1967 and he was in love at a social with this doll, a true beauty. She had a simple and classic look that women his age now just didn’t understand, Tina definitely didn’t understand.

“Will this do? You’ve been so kind.” She handed him a crisp twenty from the same era as her dress.

“Yes, just fine ma’am.” Roger took the bill from her, not even taking a glance at the once precious bounty. He couldn’t take his eyes off her.

“It has been just a dreadful day, won’t be any better tomorrow I fear.” Roger pulled himself from the chasm of her gorgeous green eyes that pierced his soul and remembered his duty. He hurried to the place he should have been, opening the lady’s door. Just as he pulled her latch he thought his eyes were playing tricks on him again and his heart sank. Gulping down his disappointment, he stood for a moment then assisted the injured woman of seventy with a red sweater out of his backseat.

“There you go,” He strained to get her upright, not because of her weight but he was trying to avoid the injury.

“Oh, you are a nice young man. I’m afraid my purse is still in the car, would you get it for me?” He obeyed, just the same as when she was beautiful. Roger walked her with tenderness to her door but she began having trouble with the key meeting the lock.

“Let me help you there,” he took her keys from her, squinted in the moonlight, unlocked and opened the heavy door.

“Oh dear, thank you so much.” They were close as he reached under her good forearm to brace her as he would his grandmother for that final step. They stood together in the darkness of the foyer, she was at once sturdy on level ground but he was unsure about what to do next. “Would you mind turning on the light over there? You’ve been so kind.”

Roger obeyed. He would do anything to see her young again. As he turned back from the switch, relief filled his veins as he saw her standing there, white lace dress, clutch in hand, staring him right in the eyes with the purpose of anxious and nervous youth. He could smell her, he wanted her. To kiss her meant everything just then and her eyes beckoned him closer. One foot in front of the other, he approached. An awkward gentleman, he almost asked but then thought better of it. Roger took off his driving cap and laid it on the side table. He put one arm around the small of her back and closed his eyes to meet her gentle mouth.

As he made his move, the beautiful southern belle grew and grew in length, meeting the high ceiling with the top of her head. Torso curving, her snake body rose over the puckered up driver. Her dress tore clean off, black pearls scattered across the floor.

Roger opened his eyes, wondering why they hadn’t kissed yet. Instead, he cocked his head up and saw the serpent staring at him from above with those same enchanting green eyes and spiny layers of small razor teeth. Roger just stood there, frozen. The spell she had over him wouldn’t let him even think about running now. With a hiss and a guttural grunt, the serpent opened her mouth shoulder wide. The man just watched, eyes blistering from contact. It was as if this were all happening to someone else. She snapped her large flexible jaws over the top, engulfing half the man in one striking motion. Roger cried out a blood curdle that no one heard. His other half was more labored and took three or four large swallows but the driver’s heels were eventually in the air, taken down to the last. The serpent shuddered a few times to aid quick digestion before morphing back into her youthful, naked beauty. The beautiful, young, naked woman made her way up the creaking wood stairs for a long sleep.

Outside, vines and other predatory vegetation covered the car as the ground beneath slowly sank. The last to protrude was the glowing top light of a known, dangerous profession.