Monday, November 29, 2010

Excerpt: On Maggie's Watch by Ann Wertz Garvin

I hope everyone had WONDERFUL Thanksgiving, enjoying time (and food) with friends and family. I know I did!

Today is Excerpt Monday, and I'm very excited to be introducing Ann Wertz Garvin and her newly released book, On Maggie's Watch, published November 2, 2010 by Berkley (Penguin Publishing).

The story:

Maggie Finley has returned with her husband from the big city to her Wisconsin hometown, where she reunites with her best friend and awaits the any-minute-now birth of her baby. She's determined to create a safe haven on Hemlock Road, a neighborhood that has always meant security, community, and love. One way to do that: resurrect the defunct Neighborhood Watch program.

The Watch folks are mostly concerned with dog poop and litterbugs. But Maggie's done some digging and discovered a potential threat living just around the corner-a threat that must be eradicated. And the more Maggie tries to take control, the more out of control she gets...

What readers are saying:

“On Maggie’s Watch shows how we thrive, how we go on, in a life that’s neither perfect nor fair. Ann Wertz Garvin writes with humor and compassion so well; just when I’d feel about to cry the scene would twist and I’d laugh out loud. She has such a deep understanding for her flawed and trying-to-get better characters; she obviously loves them and so do we.” -- Luanne Rice, author of The Deep Blue Sea for Beginners.

And now for an excerpt from Chapter One of
On Maggie's Watch:

“Wash your hands and say your prayers/'cause Jesus and germs are everywhere!”

Maggie Finley smiled at her best friend and rolled her eyes. “Tell me you did not just make that up, Julia.”

“God, no. I heard it on that country western music station. One of those Judd girls said it. But it’s perfect, don’t you think?”

Sitting in a wicker chair with her hand on her seven-months-pregnant shelf-of-a-belly Maggie said, “You can’t use that slogan at a Catholic church. It’s blasphemous.”

Julia shoved a blond strand of hair off her forehead with the back of her hand and said, “No it’s not. It’s the perfect marriage of hygiene and religion. If you’re going to be on the food safety committee, sweetie, you’ve got to start thinking outside the box.” The two women sat on Julia’s sun porch, surrounded by markers, poster board, and water bottles. It was the only place in her house not occupied by her sons’ wet swimming trunks, plastic action figures, and shoes without laces.

“I didn’t ask to be put on the committee. You volunteered my services. Besides, the parish doesn’t want a full scale movement against bacteria. They just need someone to make a poster for the pancake breakfast. Something with bullet points. You know, ‘don’t bring desserts with peanuts and don’t cough on the forks.’”

“You don’t know what they want because you didn’t come to the first meeting,” Julia pointed out.

“From what I understand, the first meeting was Bingo night.”

“I love Bingo night. It’s all about comfortable shoes, a good marker, and the potential of winning a canister of caramel corn. We talked about bacteria at the break.”

“You’re right, that sounds so official. How could I not want to be involved?”

“Look Maggie, Home & School needed help for the fund raiser. You wanted to get involved. As I remember, you said” – here Julia sat up straight and linked her fingers together in front of her, Yin/Yan fashion, resembling a Quaker ready to give an oration – “I want to use my energies for the betterment of the community.”

“I did not look like that,” Maggie said, smiling and looking irritated at the same time. “I do want to get involved, but I was hoping for something a little broader than taking a stand against germs and tree nuts.”

“Don’t underestimate the tree nut. The tree nut will be the death of us all.”

“You’re a big bratty kid, Julia.”

“A bratty kid with saggy boobs,” Julia said, adjusting herself. “No offense, Maggie but I don’t need your help.” She pointed to her poster and said, “Look, my peanut has tiny shoes and he’s walking toward the exit with the hand sanitizer bottle.”

Maggie stood and gazed past the wooden, backyard play-structure and plastic yellow slide into her neighbor’s homes. As if from the same family, they all had similar features with only slight differences. A playhouse here, a feeble Arbor Vite privacy hedge there. All seemed to invite in the American Dream without promising too much individuality or too much success. The American median. As she bit a nonexistent hangnail for the hundredth time, she said, “I need something to keep me busy. To distract me. I can’t stop thinking about Ella.”

Suddenly uncharacteristically serious, Julia moved closer to Maggie’s side. “You’ve had a really hard couple of years,” she said. “Why don’t you try to relax a little? Just take care of yourself.”

The shadows under Maggie’s eyes seemed to become more noticeable with the mention of the last twenty-four months. “That’s what I’m trying to do. Take care of myself while keeping busy.”

Julia placed a strong arm around Maggie’s shoulder and touched her forehead to her friend’s temple. “You don’t think an immunology think tank will help you, huh?”

“No. I don’t think so. I need something that makes me feel safer. Helps me to obsess less about this baby’s chances.

“What about Martin?”

Maggie pursed her lips at the mention of her husband’s name. “What about him?”

“Is he helping?”

“If working is helping than yeah, he’s helping like a fiend.” She laughed mirthlessly.

“Every time I bring up Ella, the funeral, or being afraid, he looks like I poked him with a sharp stick.”

Julia sighed. “Sometimes I dream about poking my husband with a sharp stick, but I’m afraid the poking would become a stabbing motion and the next thing you know I’d be sharing a cell with Lorena Bobbit.

“Oh, she’s not in jail. I saw her on Oprah this year.”

“God bless her.”

“I just want to know that moving home was the best thing for us.”

“Your moving back has been the best thing for me.” Julia squeezed her friend closer and dropped her arm. “I missed you when you were living in Minneapolis. Are we going to the book signing tonight?”

“Yeah, definitely, but that’s not enough to distract me either.”

Julia sighed and said, “Okay, let me think. Maybe you could go work at the food pantry, or help the DNR get rid of the Ash Borer – that nasty bug eating all our trees – or better yet, volunteer for the neighborhood watch.”

“There’s a neighborhood watch?”

“Well, not anymore. You’d have to revamp it,” Julia said. “It folded. We used to have great potlucks. We’d spend fifteen minutes talking about dog poo pick-up and then Lou Loomis would grill the brats.”

Maggie raised her eyebrows at this new possibility.

Julia returned to her poster and sketched a flipping pancake on a skillet, shared a look with her old friend and said, “You’re always complaining about how everything went to pot when you moved away. Now you’re back, here’s your chance. Spruce us up.”

“We do need some sprucing,” Maggie admitted.

“Prevention is the key.”

“I’d be perfect for that. The other day I walked past that abandoned gas station on Main. Someone had rearranged the letters on the free bag of donuts and hot coffee sign to read free douche bag here. So I took a bunch of the letters and threw them in one of those huge green dumpsters.”

“Hey, I saw that. Now it says free dog here. I remember wondering what that was about. thinking ‘oh, good a new pet store.’

As if to herself, Maggie said, “Prevention is the key. A neighborhood without crime.”

“You always were afraid of robbers.” Julia smiled at the memory. “You couldn’t sleep over at my house until your mom came and went through the drill. No, there are no robbers in this town. No, no robbers in the next town. All the robbers are in New York City at a robber convention, where they learn to take money very quietly, leaving the nice people alone.”

“Our streets could be the kind of streets they were when we were growing up. Playing kick the can at night, riding bikes during the day. No worries.” Maggie sighed a dreamy sigh and pressed her hands lovingly to her stomach. “Safe.”

“You wouldn’t have to do much. You could resurrect the watch, elect a president and let other people do the work.” Julia blew the eraser bits away from the penciled-in syrup bottle on the poster and said, “There you have it.”

“There you have it,” Maggie repeated, as if it was all decided. “No longer will I be a rebel without a cause.”

Julia said, “A rebel without a peanut allergy.”


The bells chimed prettily as Maggie pushed open the bookstore doors and breathed in the scent of new books and coffee. Her favorites. She spotted Julia, waiting near the entrance, engrossed in a photography book.

“Check this out.” Julia slid the glossy coffee table book in her direction. “Hot firemen.”

“That’s totally redundant.”

“Totally. Look at this one.” She pointed to a photograph of a shirtless man, holding a kitten, dressed only in fluorescent green baggie fireproof pants. He had dirt on his face and his helmet was cocked at a jaunty angle.

“You’re too easy, Julia.”

“You’re just saying that because you knew me in high school.”

“Everyone knew you in high school.”

“Very funny. God, look at those abs.”

“Doesn’t Steven have abs like that?”

“I haven’t seen Big Steven’s abdominal muscles since – well, actually, I’ve never seen Big Steven’s abs.”

Maggie shut the book and grabbed Julia’s elbow. “Come on. Let’s go get a seat.”

“My painters kind of look like that,” Julia said as she let herself be dragged over to the chairs set up at the other end of the store.

“They do? That’s good, because they’re sure taking their time getting your house done.”

“Come see for yourself. They take off their shirts around one.”

“Coo, coo, ca-choo, Mrs. Robinson.” Maggie laughed. “Now you’re kinda creeping me out.”

“I’m kind of creeping myself out,” Julia admitted. “Steven’s out of town so much now we hardly ever park the bus, if you know what I mean. Mostly that’s okay, but occasionally I get the urge.” She elbowed Maggie and leered.

“You are a juvenile.”

“You are a prude.”

“Who’s watching the boys tonight?”

“Daphne, our neighbor’s daughter. That’s why I can’t stay too long. She may be able to run the hurdles but she’s no match for my boys.”

At the book table in the back of the store, Maggie and Julia mingled with the other, mostly female readers, waiting for their favorite author to come out. Maggie picked up a hardcover, lifted it to her nose, breathed in its scent. She looked at the author’s photograph and tucked it under her arm. She lifted another book and asked, “Did you ever read this one?”

“That’s the one with the kidnapping in it, right? I just couldn’t. I heard nothing bad happened to the kid, but I was pregnant with little Steven at the time and Mikey was just a toddler. I couldn’t bear even the thought that kidnappers existed in the world, let alone read a story with one in it.”

“It was a good book.”

Julia grabbed Maggie’s arm playfully. “You know how it is when you’re pregnant,” she said. “You kind of lose your mind with horror and possibility. I was completely obsessed with washing my hands; a kidnapper was fear beyond the realm. When bacteria is your terrorist, a kidnapper is like a nuclear war.”

“If you kill all the bacteria, there’s always the peanut allergy, though.”

“Just another kind of kidnapper.”

Taking their seats a few rows back from the front Maggie said, “I went home today and did some research on Neighborhood Watches.”

“What’dya find out?”

“There’s lots of great information online. Like safety tips, Things to watch for. How to create a safety net.”
Julia shrugged, “It’s not like we’re the nexus of crime here in Elmwood, Wisconsin. I mean what are we really talking about here?”

Maggie floundered a little, trying to think of a recent crime, something to validate her fears, her need for safety. “I don’t know. I’m just getting started.”

It’s not like we live in the big city, where there are sex offenders everywhere. Besides, these days, you can check online for those.”

“You can find sex offenders online?”

Julia said, “Yeah, but I doubt we have any here. If I were you, my first order of business would be those skateboarders on the post office handicap ramp.”

Absently Maggie said, “Skateboarders?”

Those kids scare the crap out of me. Especially the one with the huge grommet in his ear. I’m afraid he’s going to crash into me and break my hip.”

“Who are you kidding? If he hit you, Julia, you’d break his arm. When did they put sex offenders online?”

Julia waved her hand, “I don’t know. Who cares?”

“I don’t think I want to check for offenders.”

“Talk about creepy.”

Maggie shuddered. “I definitely don’t want to know.”

“Listen Mags, you don’t have to dredge up crime to have a watch. Send a few emails. Pretty soon you won’t have time to round up all the peanuts in the county and wrap them in latex, you’ll have a newborn.”

“I can’t even think about it.”

Julia frowned and pushed a lock of hair behind her ear and said, “Wouldn’t it be great if you could give sex offenders a peanut allergy? Then all you’d have to do is put a peanut in your child’s pocket. Mothers everywhere could rest easy.”


Ann Wertz Garvin has a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a doctorate from University of Wisconsin-Madison in Exercise Psychology. She is a professor at the University of Wisconsin Whitewater where she teaches courses on nutrition, stress management and other health topics. On Maggie’s Watch is her first novel. Ann has lived all over the country but currently resides in a small town in Wisconsin that provided the inspiration for this novel. To learn more please visit Ann Wertz".

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giveaway Wednesday: a Take the Monkeys and Run T-Shirt!!!

FIRST - I want to thank everyone who entered last week's Giveaway for Not What She Seems by Victorine Lieske.

A name has been drawn at random . . . and that name is . . .



Cathy, you left your email address, so I will be contacting your shortly to arrange for delivery of your prize. CONGRATULATIONS!


something different

hope you like it

not something to read

but something to wear

It is a Take the Monkeys and Run t-shirt

what I think is especially fun about this shirt is the back. As you can see - the front is the book cover, then on the back, it reads "Don't mess with Barbara Marr. She has a gun and she doesn't know how to use it."

You enter the same way as always:

Leave a comment to this post, saying you would like to be entered in the t-shirt giveaway. The winner will be announced NEXT Wednesday, but if you leave an email address, I'll be able to contact you as soon as the name is drawn.


And a Happy Thanksgiving to all.


Monday, November 22, 2010

CONTEST: Be an Insane Character

That is to say, win a chance to be a character in my upcoming Barbara Marr Murder Mystery, Citizen Insane.


Oh, that's easy!

Just leave a comment on this post, saying that you would like to be entered for the Insane Character Contest. AND if you've read Take the Monkeys and Run, let me know who your favorite character is in that book and why! If you haven't read Take the Monkeys and Run, that's okay, maybe the comments will spark some interest for you! :-)

Remember, it is always easiest for me to find winners if you leave an email address, but if you don't feel comfortable doing that, just remember to stop by when I announce the two winners on DECEMBER 20th.

So, ready, set . . . . COMMENT!!!!

Good luck everyone!!!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Book Video Friday!

And to top off a week of Not What She Seems, I now proudly post, the fun book trailer as well! This one is a must-watch!

Here are a few Amazon statistics about Not What She Seems:

#10 in Romantic Suspense
34 Amazon Customer Reviews, average 4.5 Stars

One review:

"A woman on the run for murder. A man escaping his high society life. A chance encounter...

I was hooked from the first page. Victorine Lieske weaves a captivating tale of murder, intrigue and romance. The writing is fluid and easy reading, pulling you right into the story. With all its twists and red herrings, I was suspicious of everyone, never sure who to trust. Not What She Seems kept me guessing right to the end.

Not what she seems, indeed. An impressive debut."

Next week is Thanksgiving week and to celebrate, I have something fun planned, so stop by Monday. In the meantime, Have a GREAT weekend!

And as always, thank you for following my blog.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Giveaway Wednesday: Not What She Seems by Victorine Lieske

Last week's giveaway was the military-themed mystery anthology, Murder to Mil-Spec.

Without further ado, I'll announce that winner . . . .



Linda, we'll get that book out to you right away. You won't be disappointed.

And this week's giveaway is a signed copy of the romantic suspense, Not What She Seems by Victorine Lieske.

Steven Ashton, a billionaire from New York, and Emily Grant, on the run from the law... and when they meet he can’t help falling for her. What he doesn’t know is that interfering in her life will put his own life in danger.

Not What She Seems holds you in suspense from the moment you begin down the path of murder and romance.

When billionaire Steven Ashton couldn’t stand his high society social life anymore, he left the stress of New York on a vacation for his soul. The need to meet real down to earth people lead him to a small Nebraska town he remembered visiting as a child. He didn’t want to lie about who he was, but he couldn’t exactly tell them the truth.

Emily could have easily fallen in love with Steven, under different circumstances, but her past was catching up with her and she needed a new life. If the authorities found out about her, she could lose the one thing that meant everything, her four year old son.

I know - you want to win this one, don't you???!!!

So to recap rules for entering: leave a comment to this post saying you'd like to enter a chance to win Not What She Seems. If you leave an email address, it's easier to find you if you win. If you don't, just make sure you check back NEXT WEDNESDAY!!! :-)


Good luck.

And as always, thank you for following my blog.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Excerpt: Not What She Seems by Victorine Lieske

Today's excerpt is from Not What She Seems by Victorine Lieske -- a romantic suspense novel that's tearing up the Amazon Bestselling charts.

Steven Ashton, a billionaire from New York, and Emily Grant, on the run from the law... and when they meet he can’t help falling for her. What he doesn’t know is that interfering in her life will put his own life in danger.

Not What She Seems holds you in suspense from the moment you begin down the path of murder and romance.

When billionaire Steven Ashton couldn’t stand his high society social life anymore, he left the stress of New York on a vacation for his soul. The need to meet real down to earth people lead him to a small Nebraska town he remembered visiting as a child. He didn’t want to lie about who he was, but he couldn’t exactly tell them the truth.

Emily could have easily fallen in love with Steven, under different circumstances, but her past was catching up with her and she needed a new life. If the authorities found out about her, she could lose the one thing that meant everything, her four year old son.

There are many great reviews for Not What She Seems, but here's just a taste:

"I loved this. Edge of your seat suspense along with an excellent plot and great twists that keep you guessing. Pacy and well written, it's got everything you could want for an engrossing read." - Sibel Hodge author of The Fashion Police

I know! It sounds really good, right??? So now, for your reading pleasure, is. . .

Chapter One of Not What She Seems:

Steven stalked down the hotel hallway toward his room, gripping his briefcase, glad that no one was around. He needed to get out of his Armani suit before someone recognized him. Not that anyone staying in this run-down hotel would be hanging around his social circles. But someone might recognize him from the news.

Excitement shot through him. He almost felt like a little kid. If he could get away with it, he would be just another regular person by tomorrow.

He heard footsteps coming up the stairs. A young tow-headed boy appeared, followed by his mother. The child ran down the hall sideswiping him, knocking his briefcase out of his hand. Files and papers spilled out onto the floor.

The boy turned around. “Oh, sorry.” He bent down and scooped up some files, while his mother rushed to help as well.

“No problem, I need to sort through these anyway.”

The young woman flashed a smile at him, and then turned to her son. “Connor, you need to be more careful,” she said, getting down on her hands and knees. Her hair was piled on top of her head in a loose bun, with several curly blond strands hanging down. She was quite attractive, despite her frumpy sweat pants and t-shirt. Steven found himself checking out her left hand. No ring. Then he mentally smacked himself. What was he doing? He needed to get away, and have some time for himself. Forget about women. They all wanted the same thing from him. He had six point four billion reasons why any woman would want to be with him. Unfortunately, none of them had anything to do with his personality.

Oh, he was good looking enough. He knew that. His jet black hair and bright blue eyes turned plenty of heads. But he could always tell the moment they recognized him, and the mild interest would be replaced with strong attraction.

The woman handed him a pile of papers, with an apologetic look on her face. “Sorry about that. He’s just been cooped up in the car too long I think.” She stood and brushed some hair from her face.

“It’s no big deal.” He adjusted his overnight bag on his shoulder. “Thank you,” he said, searching her face for any sign of recognition.

“You’re welcome.” She shied away from his blatant staring, looking to the floor, then to her son. “Come on, Connor, we need to get going.”

Steven turned around. She hadn’t recognized him. That was a good thing. His plan might work. Pulling out his key card, he walked to his door while they disappeared into their own room. He made a mental note of the woman’s room number. Maybe he would pay for her bill as well. Her tattered clothes gave him the impression the seventy five dollars a night might be a bit steep for her.


Emily opened her hotel door, and followed Connor into the dimly lit room. Richard sat on one of the beds, waiting for her.

“Who were you talking to in the hallway?” he asked, his hair hanging in his face, concealing his dark eyes.

“No one. Just some guy down the hall.” She turned her head away.

“Well, what were you talking about?” He glared at her, and she knew she had better satisfy him.

“Nothing. He dropped some papers, and we helped him pick them up. That was all.” She folded her arms and her eyes flashed at Richard, daring him to keep it up.

He stared back at her for a moment, and then lowering his voice he said, “Well, who is he anyway?”

“I don’t know. Some guy that looks like Steven Ashton.” She reached up to her hair, fiddling with it.

“Yeah, right. Like Steven Ashton would stay in this dump.” Richard kicked off his shoes, letting them land in the middle of the floor. “You and the kid get the bed by the air conditioner. The noise will keep me up all night.”

He stretched out on the bed and turned on the television with the remote. He fell asleep on his back, still in his dingy Iron Maiden t-shirt and jeans. Emily rolled her eyes as his snores filled the room. She dressed Connor in his green dinosaur pajamas, brushed his teeth, and tucked him into bed. She smoothed his long blond hair out of his eyes and kissed his forehead. He desperately needed another haircut. She would have to trim it herself again. Richard would never let her spend the money to get it done at the barber shop.

Emily slipped into her flannel nightgown. Her life was a mess. Connor needed stability, a place to stay and call their own. This constant running needed to stop.

If only she hadn’t killed William, then none of this would have happened.


Steven stood, waiting for the balding man behind the hotel counter. The man seemed to be a walking advertisement for how one should look when needing a room at the Sleepy Time Inn. He punched some keys on the computer. “Do you have your key card?”

Steven flipped it onto the counter. “I’d like to pay for room two-fifteen also.”

The man scowled, and punched some more keys on the computer. “That room is already paid for.”

“Then when she checks out you’ll have to tell her there was a mix up in the computer, and that you have to give her a refund.” He smiled and added, “And you can keep this for your trouble.”

He pushed several bills at him and left before there were any more arguments.

The September sun wasn’t up when Steven slipped into his new truck. As he left Mesquite, Nevada and crossed the border into Arizona, he marveled at the beauty of the land. The rising sun danced off the vast open desert as it peeked above the mountains. Splashes of color changed before his eyes as the day began. Starting to feel renewed, he stretched back, glad that he had decided to do this.

Not that he had been planning to get away. It was actually a spur of the moment decision. After his Friday meeting in LA, he told his pilot that he wouldn’t need him for the return trip. A quick call to his mother to say he was going on a vacation, and he turned off his cell phone and split.

He probably wouldn’t have felt the need to get away if it weren’t for the last few gala events that he had been forced to attend. The women clung to him, babbling on about senseless things. Since when had his life become an endless sea of socialite cocktail parties and fundraisers which had little to do with saving the dolphins or AIDS research? He was so tired of being used.

Desperate for a break, he had decided to leave, to go where no one would recognize him. Where there were no social elite, where everyone just left you alone. He wanted to have a conversation with someone without wondering if they would be talking to him if he weren’t Steven Ashton the billionaire.

He used to visit his great aunt in the small town of Huntington, Nebraska when he was young. He had fond memories of the town. He figured it would be the perfect place to go.


The small cramped car, filled with everything they owned, radiated heat. Emily sat in the back seat with Connor while Richard drove, smoking a cigarette and flicking the ashes out the window. She had no idea where they were going, nor did she care. The only thing in the world she cared about was her son. She caressed his cheek with one finger while he played with his toy dinosaur.

Richard turned off the highway, following a road into a small town. Emily watched the scenery change from the outskirts of town, to the business district. Richard stopped in front of a pawn shop. He left the motor running. “Stay in the car.” He grabbed a duffle bag from the front seat and left.

Emily closed her eyes, and pretended she didn’t know what he was doing. He never took her and Connor on the jobs with him, but sometimes they were with him when he unloaded the merchandise.

What a life she was subjecting her son to. Pain washed over her as she thought of his innocence. He would be old enough for kindergarten soon. What would she do then? Richard would never allow him to go to school.

She would have to get some money somehow, and leave Richard soon.


Victorine and her husband live in Nebraska where they manufacture rubber stamps for the craft industry. They own and operate Victorine Originals Rubber Stamps from their home, where they raise their four children. Victorine has a degree in Art from BYU Idaho, and designs many of the rubber stamps they sell. She has always loved to read, and in her spare time she writes.

Check out her blog at Victorine Writes and her website, Victorine

Friday, November 12, 2010

Book Video Friday!

Today's video is a lovely little piece which I think really fits this week nicely, since yesterday was Veterans Day. I especially like this video because it is so different from those that I've featured here in the past. I hope you enjoy it as I much as I did!

The Flag Keeper by Stacy Juba

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Guest Blogger: Debbi Mack!

I'm thrilled today to have a guest blogger and fellow writer here today as she rides through the month of November on her Twenty Questions Blog Tour -- author of the hardboiled mystery, IDENTITY CRISIS, Debbi Mack. Please help me in welcoming Debbi, as she talks about something very near and dear to my heart - the movies.

Question 11: Can you picture your books being made into films? If so, who would you want to play your protagonist?

First, I'd like to say it's really awesome to be a guest on Karen's blog, Fiction for Dessert. I've gotten to know Karen from Sisters in Crime, Chesapeake Chapter. We both had short stories in the chapter's anthology CHESAPEAKE CRIMES: THEY HAD IT COMIN'. I feel like Karen is not only a kindred indie author spirit, but a friend.

One of the things I like most about Karen is her interest in movies. We're both hopeless movie buffs. Frankly, I can think of no better way to spend an afternoon (or evening or morning LOL) than watching a great movie.

Many of the books I've come to love I learned about by seeing the movie first. So, to me, movies are an essential part of the writing experience.

Identity Crisis

Having said that, I have to say I can totally see my novel IDENTITY CRISIS being made into a movie. There are a couple of reasons why this is so.

First, I tend to use screenplay writing structure when I develop my novels. This involves dividing the plot into three acts. The first act includes an "inciting incident." This is something that sets the plot in motion. It gives the protagonist a reason to do what she does (in this case, investigate a murder and identity theft scheme). The first act ends with a plot twist of some kind. This sends the story into yet another direction. And it should also ratchet up the suspense and conflict between the characters. In the second act, the story should keep moving forward and unfold with increasing tension and suspense. By the time you reach the third act, things (ideally) will look hopeless. The protagonist will reach a point where things look dire and she has to solve the problem in a creative way. This is the act in which the final puzzle piece falls into place and the protagonist reaches a resolution before the story comes to an end.

If this sounds formulaic or easy, think again. Coming up with creative ways to put obstacles in the protagonist's way and cause conflict between characters, while moving the plot forward is tricky stuff. And remember you need to be planting clues along the way and all the threads and clues have to be resolved and come together in the end. So, not so easy, huh?

I followed the three-act structure when writing IDENTITY CRISIS and have used it in writing other novels, including the sequel LEAST WANTED (and a couple of other novels I'd like to publish eventually).

Second, in writing my novels, I tend to think visually. In IDENTITY CRISIS, I created a couple of scenarios I hoped would translate well into film. The book has a rather gritty (and I think evocative) scene in which my protagonist, Sam McRae, gets beaten by mobsters. It also includes a couple of car chases. (What can I say? I like car chases. Think Bullitt. Think The French Connection. Think The Seven Ups. Heck, think The Rockford Files.)

Now, having said that, who would I want to play Sam? Wow, that's a good question.

I've thought Jody Foster would be particularly good. She has the All-American looks I picture Sam having. Blue eyes, reddish-brown hair. She's also played some tough gals (Silence of the Lambs comes to mind – *shiver*).

But then I thought, even if I sold the movie rights today, how long would it take to actually make the film?

So, my choices have become younger and younger. Kirsten Dunst, maybe? Um, Kristen Bell from Veronica Mars? Ellen Page from Juno?

You can see my problem here, can't you? I suspect the best person to play Sam is probably still in diapers. LOL

* * * * *

Thanks for reading, everyone! Don't forget to leave a comment with your email address if you'd like to enter the drawing for the 10 autographed copies of IDENTITY CRISIS I'm giving away. (One entry per person, but comment as often as you like.)

The drawing will be held on my blog My Life on the Mid-List after the tour is finished. Check my blog for the entire tour schedule.

And please join me at my next stop tomorrow: Tina's Book Reviews

* * * * *

Debbi Mack is the author of IDENTITY CRISIS, a hardboiled mystery and the first in a series featuring lawyer Stephanie Ann "Sam" McRae. She's also a short story writer whose ebook anthology, FIVE UNEASY PIECES, includes the Derringer-nominated "The Right to Remain Silent," originally published in The Back Alley Webzine. Debbi's work has also appeared in two of the CHESAPEAKE CRIMES anthologies.

Be on the lookout for her next Sam McRae novel, LEAST WANTED, which will be published soon (in print and ebook versions).

Debbi practiced law for nine years before becoming a freelance writer/researcher and fiction author. She's also worked as a news wire reporter covering the legal beat in Washington, D.C. and as a reference librarian at the Federal Trade Commission. She lives in Maryland with her husband and three cats.

You can find out more about Debbi on her Web site, and her blog My Life on the Mid-List. Her books are available on Amazon,, Smashwords and other sites around the Web, as well by order at stores. You can also buy autographed copies of her novel from her Web site.

Having read and THOROUGHLY enjoyed IDENTITY CRISIS, I highly recommend you take Debbi up on this offer to win a copy of her book - you won't be disappointed. Start leaving your comments today. Oh, and I vote for Ellen Page to play Sam MacRae!!!

Thank you for stopping by Debbi, and good luck on the rest of your tour.

Debbi is also guest blogging today at Lori's Reading Corner.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Giveaway Wednesday: Murder to Mil-Spec, a short story collection

Murder to Mil-Spec

It's that time again! Giveaway Wednesday!!!!

First, let me announce the winner of last week's giveaway: We Interrupt This Date, by LC Evans . . .

The lucky winner, picked by random draw is: Kristie Leigh Maguire!!! YAY!!!

Kristie - CONGRATULATIONS! I will be contacting you shortly to arrange for delivery of your prize. Thank you for entering.

If you aren't a winner of this lovely book, I have to say that I'm reading it right now and am LOVING it, so if you're looking for something with a lot of humor to make you giggle, consider checking it out anyway. You won't be disappointed.


On Monday, my guest was author Barb Goffman who specializes in mystery short fiction - and I might add, she specializes very well, as she is a two-time Agatha nominee! One of her most recent stories appears in this week's giveaway, Murder to Mil-Spec.

Murder to Mil-Spec is a series of military-related short stories published by Wolfmont Press and they are giving all profits to an AMAZING CAUSE: Homes for Our Troops. To read more about this charity, CLICK HERE and visit Wolfmont's site where they explain more. To honor our veterans during this week of Veterans Day remembrance, I am personally donating $5.00 for every Murder to Mil-Spec sold through this blog. It's a great cause and you'll get a wonderful collection of stories at the same time!

PLUS you can enter here for a FREE COPY through my giveaway this week! How do you enter? LEAVE A COMMENT TO THIS POST SAYING YOU WOULD LIKE TO BE ENTERED. SIMPLE!

AND TELL YOUR FRIENDS TO COME ENTER TOO! The more people who know about this GREAT CHARITY the better!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Author Interview: Short Story Writer, Barb Goffman

Murder to Mil-Spec

As many of you know, I am a huge fan of the short story. As a writer, they are a challenge to produce and as a reader . . well, it's like having a little piece of fiction for dessert. :-)

That's why I'm very excited to be sharing an interview today with two-time Agatha-nominated mystery short story writer, Barb Goffman:

K: Welcome to Fiction for Dessert, Barb. I appreciate you taking the time to do this interview.

B: Thanks, Karen! It’s always fun to talk about short mystery fiction.

K: Your website says you are a mystery writer focusing on the short story medium. When did you first start writing short stories?

B: It was in the spring of 2004. I had recently attended the Sleuthfest mystery conference, where my beautiful diamond and sapphire ring was lost (stolen!). I’d stupidly left it beside a public bathroom sink at the conference hotel, and by the time I realized it fifteen minutes later, the ring was gone. My public pleas for the ring’s return went unanswered. When I heard a call for short stories for Chesapeake Crimes II, I realized this was my chance at catharsis – I wrote a story in which I killed the thief!

K: What, specifically attracts you to short story writing?

B: I used to be a daily newspaper reporter, and starting and finishing writing projects in short order is in my blood. Writing a novel could take months or longer (especially if you work full time, as I do). With short stories, I can get an idea and sit down and in a few hours, or a few days, have a good first draft of the story completed. That’s very appealing. With shorts, I also get to spend time with different characters and different settings. I enjoy the variety.

K: Where do you find inspiration for your stories?

B: I’m often motivated by revenge. When you have a bad guy that you feel really deserved his (or her) just desserts in real life and didn’t get them, it can be so satisfying to make it happen on paper. My second short story published, “Compulsive Bubba,” was inspired by a woman I knew growing up. Her husband cheated on her. She deserved better. While “Bubba” is fictional, I feel I got some justice for her in the story.

I also like a good challenge. If you ask me to simply write a short story, I might come up with something. But if you ask me to write a short story with a particular theme (like murder at the holidays), my creative juices are quickly off and running. I have a friend who once bet me I couldn’t kill someone with jelly. I can’t pass that up. So you can be sure that at some point, you’ll see a story from me with jelly as the murder weapon.

K: You’re a two time Agatha nominee! Can you tell my readers about the Agatha Award and the nomination process?

B: The Agatha Awards, named after Agatha Christie, are fan-based awards given out each spring at the Malice Domestic mystery convention. Being nominated is an incredible honor because it means that readers in the mystery community really appreciated your work.

Anyone who registers for the Malice Domestic convention before the end of a calendar year is eligible to submit their choices for Agatha nominees. (Best novel, best first novel, best short story, best non-fiction book, and best children’s novel of the year that just ended – all mysteries, of course.) The Agatha committee tallies up all the submissions, ensures they meet the Agatha Award guidelines, and then the five (usually) submissions with the most nominations are officially nominated in February of each year. (It’s actually a little more complicated than this, but that’s the gist.) The winners are announced at the Malice convention, which is held at the end of April/early May. Anyone who attends the convention is eligible to vote for the winners.

K: Do you have a favorite story or possibly a favorite character?

B: It’s hard to pick among your babies, but I think I actually do. My newest story out is “Biscuits, Carats, and Gravy,” from the anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry. In this story, my main character, Dotty, is hosting Thanksgiving, as usual. But this year, she learns that an airhead will be joining the family, and that airhead will be getting her deceased mother’s engagement ring. That’s simply unacceptable to Dotty, so she comes up with a plan to stop it that involves some horrible gravy. I love Dotty because she’s smart and snarky and devious and funny. When the call for this anthology came out, the publisher said it wanted humorous stories involving Thanksgiving foods. I love writing humor, and I think it really worked in this story.

Here’s a little excerpt:

We have three big Thanksgiving traditions in my family. Everyone gathers at my house. We all hold hands when we give thanks. And we all avoid my big sister Agnes’s gravy like the plague.
Unfortunately, I can never dodge it entirely.

“Happy Thanksgiving, Dotty,” Agnes said, click-clacking into my kitchen, holding out her gravy container as if it held gold. More like mold, if this year’s version resembled last year’s. And every year’s before that.

“Happy Thanksgiving, Agnes.” I pecked her on the cheek as she handed off her creation. I set it down next to my silver gravy boat. My poor boat that everyone passed around the table each year, never actually pouring anything from it. Not that you could. Agnes used so much flour, the gravy practically stood up on its own.

“You want me to use the lower oven again this year, Dotty?” asked my brother-in-law, Fred, carrying in Agnes’s turkey.

Someone should have told that man years ago that just because it’s Thanksgiving, he doesn’t have to wear a bright orange sweater with a turkey on it. Nonetheless the same sweater. Every year.

K: I like that! Do any of your characters appear in more than one story?

B: All of my stories have been stand-alones, but I enjoyed writing about Dotty and her family so much, I might try to come up with some more stories about them.

K: At the end, I will list the anthologies in which you appear and where readers can purchase them, but would you mind talking about one of the most recent – Murder to Mil-Spec and the charity it benefits?

B: Thanks for asking about Murder to Mil-Spec. It’s especially timely because Veterans Day is later this week, and the publisher is donating all of its profits from the anthology to veterans’ charity Homes For Our Troops. HFOT helps severely disabled veterans who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. Unfortunately, these veterans sometimes need their homes retrofitted so they can use them (with an elevator, wider doors, etc.) Or they need an entirely new home built. HFOT does that for them. It’s a wonderful organization.

Murder to Mil-Spec contains 12 short stories all involving the military – the characters are either veterans or current soldiers. My story, “An Officer and a Gentleman’s Agreement,” involves a veteran with a deadly secret who threatens a powerful general’s career. The story spans from West Point in 1972 to northern Virginia today. Anyone who enjoys reading about the military should like my story (I hope!) as well as all the others in this book.

Everyone who lives in the Washington, D.C. area has the opportunity to meet three of the authors in this book. On the evening of December 7th (Pearl Harbor Day), I’ll be appearing at the Reston Regional Library with my fellow authors Charles Schaeffer and Elizabeth Zelvin, talking about this anthology.

K: What advice would you give new writers looking to break into the world of short story writing?

B: Read, read, read. Write, write, write. The more I read, the more I learn from other authors. Simply reading different types of writing helps an author because good writing seeps into the soul and influences you. And then, of course, you need to practice your craft. Come up with an idea, write the very best story you can, then revise and revise. Write on a regular basis (daily is best) because it keeps your skills sharpened. Join a writing group you trust – other authors who will give you honest and helpful comments on your work. Keep your eyes out for markets, and remember that this is a hard industry. If you get a rejection, buck up and submit that story somewhere else. My story that was nominated for the Agatha earlier this year, “The Worst Noel,” was rejected by the first two places I submitted it. After each rejection, I embarked on major revisions. The third version worked out pretty well.

K: Thank you so much for stopping by my blog and talking about your work!

B: Thank you, Karen, for this opportunity. I’ve really enjoyed it.

These are a few of the collections where you can find Barb's stories. For more on Barb Goffman and her writing, check out her website at Barb

Also, remember that proceeds from Murder to Mil-Spec go to an AMAZING cause to support our veterans, so if you want to remember them in a VERY special way this week, consider purchasing the collection. For every book sold from this site over the next week, I will personally donate another $5.00 to Homes For Our Troops.

As always, thank you for stopping by and for following my blog!

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Thank you to all who participated in my Promotional contest for The Chronicles of Marr-nia. It was a great success and many Kindle versions were sold - so many in fact, that during the week, I DID hit #20 at one point on the bestsellers list for Short Stories, so that $25.00 Amazon Gift Certificate magically turned into a $50.00 Amazon Gift Certificate. Yahoo!!!


So based on random drawing, I have three winners:

-- the GRAND PRIZE winner who will receive both a $50.00 Amazon Gift Certificate and a Take the Monkeys and Run t-shirt


-- two runners up who each win a Take the Monkeys and Run t-shirt

Who are the lucky winners????


Runners up: Carol J and April

Yipee!!! Congrats to the winners (I know where to find you and make arrangements) and THANK YOU to all who participated and helped get the word out on The Chronicles of Marr-nia, Short Stories Starring Barbara Marr. I can't thank you enough.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Moose Walked Into a Bar - Sit Down Comedy!

I am so excited to announce that I have joined three other funny female authors, Barbara Silkstone, LC Evans and Markee Anderson, in creating a new blog in the great blogosphere: A Moose Walked Into a Bar - Sit Down Comedy.

Each week, one of us will post something fun and funny for those in need of a good laugh.

This was my first week to post, and I would LOVE IT if you popped over and read my tale of woe about people talking a LITTLE TOO LOUDLY on their cell phones in public.

And we would love it if you would follow us if you like what you read and tell your friends too.


What was that blog again, Karen?

A Moose Walked Into a Bar.




I'm just passing it along - for ALL INFORMATION, see the CONTEST SITE.

Some wonderful Independent authors, David McAfee, Daniel Arenson, Mike Crane, David Dalglish, and John Fitch V, are sponsoring this fantastic contest that I simply MUST pass along.

Q: HOW do you enter to win a Kindle AND a $50.00 Amazon gift card?

A: Buy a book or ebook by an Independent author during the month of November. Each purchase gets you another entry.

What is an Independent author? Any author who has chosen to publish their book or ebook on their own rather than through a publisher. I am an Independent author.

Many of these books are only $2.99 or less!

NOTE: It is stated that No Purchase is Necessary for this contest, so again, for full details see the CONTEST SITE.

EDIT: Joe Konrath also just listed MANY great and affordable Kindle books on his blog A Newbie's Guide to Publishing - so there's another resource for finding books you may enjoy.

I'm listing several suggested Independent authors and their books below. For more information on this contest and entering, you can go directly to the CONTEST SITE.

Now for Indie author suggestions:

WHEW! I tried to give you some different types of options with genres there, but if you want more ideas, they have a link to check out over at the CONTEST SITE so be sure to pop over there for your info and more ideas.

And GOOD LUCK if you choose to play!!!!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Giveaway Wednesday: We Interrupt This Date by LC Evans

WELL! I must say, last week's giveaway contest for Louann Carroll's Gemini Rising was VERY POPULAR!! It was an exciting race, but we do have a winner! Would you like to know who it is? I thought you would. Okay, hold onto your seats . . . the winner is . . .

Jean M.!!!!! YAY!!!

I have your email address so will be contacting you today to arrange for Louann to mail you your book!

And now for this week's giveaway - a signed copy of LC Evans' We Interrupt This Date, featured yesterday. It was a great excerpt, so start leaving your comments and enter to win this book!!! Remember, the best way for me to reach the winner is if you leave your email address in the comment. I understand if you don't want to do that, but then you'll have to check back and find out how to contact me if you do, in fact, win.

So are you ready to try to win a funny book??? :-)


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Excerpt: We Interrupt This Date by LC Evans

Are you ready for some fun? I hope so, because today I'm proud to be posting Chapter One from the very funny We Interrupt This Date by LC Evans.

Since her divorce a year ago, Susan Caraway has gone through the motions of life, feeling at best mildly depressed. Now she is finally coming out of her shell. Just when she decides on a makeover and a new career, her family members call on her for crisis assistance. First there’s her sister DeLorean who has come back from California with a baby, a designer dog, and no prospects for child support or a job. As soon as DeLorean settles in at Susan’s home, Susan’s son Christian comes home from college trailing what Susan’s mama refers to as “an androgynous little tart.” Then there’s Mama herself, a southern lady who wrote the book on bossy. A secret from Mama’s past threatens to unravel her own peace. But not before Mama hurts her ankle and has to move into Susan’s home with her babies—two Chihuahuas with attitude. Susan would like to start her new job as a ghost tour operator. She would like to renew her relationship with Jack Maxwell, a man from her past. But Jack isn’t going to stand in line behind her needy family.

And now, for Chapter One:

If I’d had the sense to say no to Mama, I’d be safely at work right now contemplating the passage of time on the clock over my desk. I’d be planning a quiet celebration of the one-year anniversary of my divorce from T. Chandler Caraway, cheater and emotional abuse expert. Instead I was clomping along the sidewalk of a busy Charleston street wishing there were such a thing as parental divorce.

“Walk more slowly, Susan. I do not have long legs like yours to take such giant steps. And please brighten up your expression. Do you know that if you smile when you walk it will automatically improve your mood?”

“Yes, Mama. I believe you’ve mentioned that before.”

A few thousand times. I wondered if fake smiles counted. Going by my current mood, I doubted it.
My mother hadn’t stopped talking about my shortcomings and my need to plunge back into the dating world since the moment we’d stepped out the door of her condo. And now we were on our way back to my car after a morning spent in her doctor’s office. I sidestepped a herd of tourists and pasted on my blandest isn’t-it-a-beautiful-day smile.

Mama leaned closer and traced one finger down my forearm, lighting up a thousand nerves. I jumped as if she’d poked me with a cattle prod.

“You’re already forty and not getting a moment younger. Shall I tell Stanley you’re interested?” She wore one of those mood-lifting smiles she was always recommending for me.

Resisting a childish urge to throw a fit, I increased my pace, nearly mowing down a touristy-looking couple trying to access the door to a trendy King Street restaurant.

“I declare, you are nothing but rude.” Mama lunged, caught the back of my blouse in her fist, and hauled me to a stop.

I yanked my blouse out of her grasp and ground my teeth so hard it felt like I was about to snap off one of my best molars. “Mama, I love you, but the answer is no. I do not need to energize my social life by going out with guys you dredge up for me. By the way, men named Stanley do not make good dates.”

“Stanley is a wonderful man. I met him at Sunday School.” Since her retirement a few months ago, Sunday School was my mother’s main social outlet. She’d already introduced me to two of her fellow Bible Studiers—a widower closer to her age than mine and Clive, a short, intense fellow who’d asked me if I thought pythons should be allowed as pets in apartment buildings.

“And Stanley is so kind, so devoted to his mama.”

“I’ll bet. Does he wear a polka dot bow tie and part his hair in the middle?”

“You are unfair and biased and plain silly. Let’s have lunch and we’ll talk about it.”

“Of course I am. Unfair, I mean. As well as biased against all men you find for me. And you, Mama, are taking your sweet time as if we have all day to spend discussing this person you found at church when you know I have to get back to work.”

I tried to nudge Mama forward. She displayed all the mobility of a two-ton rock, no doubt still caught up in her fantasy of me strolling hand in hand along the harbor with Stanley-of-the-church.

“I’ve so looked forward to a nice chat over lunch. Why do you think I insisted we park near East Bay, even though it’s so far out of our way?”

“I don’t know, Mama. To annoy me?”

“Don’t be hateful. You know Magnolias does those fabulous crab cake sandwiches and, I declare, their tomato bisque is exquisite.” Her eyes darkened from sky blue to twilight in the shade cast by the brim of the sun hat perched on top of her over-sprayed, apricot-colored hair. “My treat?”

“I’ve already made a lunch date with Veronica.” As it happened, my friend Veronica and I were meeting at SNOB, also on East Bay.

I’d no sooner gotten the words out, then Mama put a pincer grip on my arm. Her “my daughter is up to something” radar had a hair trigger.

“Veronica Howell? You haven’t seen her in months. What’s going on?”

“Nothing.” I pulled my arm out of her clutches and rubbed the circulation back. “So I haven’t seen her for two months. That’s not exactly dropping the friendship. Besides, we phone each other every couple of weeks. Don’t you like Veronica?”

Her liking or disliking Veronica was not the point. I was simply redirecting her thoughts so she wouldn’t keep trying to talk me into meeting this unsuitable person—Stanley--or, even worse, inviting herself to lunch with me and my best friend. Veronica had told me she had great news. Having news meant just the two of us, heads together sharing secrets and friendship. Definitely not the two of us plus my mother, the gossip queen of the Low Country.

“I do like Veronica, and God knows you need more friends. But it’s been a whole year--time for you to forget about T. Chandler and his flagrant immorality with that creature he dumped you for.” Mama shuddered like a lady who’d just spotted a bug in her soup.

“Yes, Mama, I’m a real slacker about diving back into the dating pool. I can’t imagine what’s wrong with me.” Biting my lip, I stared down at my feet. Wasn’t my marital split hard enough without my mother reminding me I was the dumpee instead of the dumper?

They said divorce meant freedom. They promised that from the moment my ex pulled out of the driveway for the last time, I was free to heave my cleaning supplies into the nearest trash can, toss my wedding ring out the window, and lounge around the house in pajamas stuffing myself with chocolates. The “they” who imparted these words of wisdom were my sister, my friends, and a divorce support group I attended for two weeks.

But certainly not Mama. Mama has made it her life’s work to keep me from getting too comfortable with myself.

As I recall, her words to me the day I announced my impending divorce were, “Why, Susan Caraway, I am shocked.” She’d swayed on her feet and then plumped down in the nearest armchair to lean back with a handkerchief plastered over her face like a mini shroud. “You are going to regret this hasty decision,” she’d added, her breath puffing up the handkerchief, so I’d broken into uncontrollable nervous laughter, which she had immediately let me know she did not appreciate.

But despite Mama’s take on things, there was nothing hasty about my decision. T. Chandler Caraway and I had never been meant for each other. We’d stuck things out for too many years before he decided he was moving on with someone else. I was only sorry I’d hung around so long he’d ended up being the one to make the decision, leaving me feeling rejected, unwanted, and just plain low.

No, freedom was not the issue. The way I saw it, if life were about nothing but freedom, there’d be no reason to get married to begin with. For me divorce meant just one thing—failure. And it was my own fault. No one had forced me to marry T. Chandler Caraway. Or bribed me. Or threatened to throw me off a bridge if I didn’t don a white dress and look starry-eyed while I chirped, “I do.” So who could blame me for deciding I’d take my time choosing someone else to share my life—or never choosing, for that matter. I was managing fine on my own for the first time in my life, if only Mama would stop trying to shove me back into couplehood.

“Stop squinting or you’ll ruin your eyes, dear.” Mama patted my shoulder and I blinked about half a dozen times to bring circulation back to my eyes, so she wouldn’t add, as she usually did, that I was courting retinal detachment. “Now about Stanley.” She shot me the same smile she used to use when I was a child and she wanted to convince me my medicine tasted like cherry candy.

Before she could tell me Stanley’s hobbies included turning water into gold and doing yard work, I cut her off. “I promise I’ll make time for you Thursday.” If I didn’t stop her now, she’d bring me a new man every week until my brain turned into a mass of quivering jelly and I gave in out of sheer exhaustion.
I glanced over my shoulder half expecting Stanley to materialize and announce in a nasal voice that his mother had said we could go out and there was a new sci fi feature at the movies. Déjà vu had gripped me in its own special vice from the moment Mama mentioned a fix-up.

The first time she meddled in my social life, I was sixteen. Mama and her best friend Cora Haymans got together and paired me with Cora’s son Hartley, a pudgy fifteen-year-old my mother referred to as “promising.” Enough said. As far as I know, the promise was a false alarm and Hartley now spends his days strumming a banjo on a street corner near the Marketplace.

Undaunted by my threats to lock myself in my room for the next forty years, Mama then set me up with Myron Lenley III. Myron was one of those boys who specialized in drawing skulls and motorcycles in their notebooks instead of working on algebra problems. After him, there were a series of other silent, mouth-breathing youths. Mama didn’t give up meddling in my social life until I left home for college and found my husband all on my own. Unfortunately, she made no attempt to fix me up with the one boy I really cared about—Jack Maxwell. Jack had moved away years ago, gotten married, and as far as I knew lived in New Jersey. So much for her matchmaking skills.

I put my hand on her elbow and steered her to the left. “Mama, your babies are going to worry if you’re late getting home.” The babies were her two spoiled Chihuahuas. I knew it was good strategy to remind her they were fretting at home.

“I told them I was seeing Dr. Frey this morning.”

The light on the corner changed and we stepped into the crosswalk. Mama hung onto my arm, weighing me down as if she had anchors fashioned to her shoes.

“Will you look at that?” She dragged me to a halt and nudged me discreetly in the ribs. “Joyce-Ann Frampton in the flesh, sashaying down the sidewalk in public, like three-fourths of the people in this town don’t know she cheated on poor Wade with that loud, overdone man. You know the one I mean. He used to be the governor of one of those big square western states. Or so he said. Personally, I never--”

“Mama.” I locked both hands around her shoulders and yanked her out of the way of an oncoming SUV. “I don’t care how many Joyce-Ann Framptons you see parading around Charleston. You can’t stand in the street and expect traffic to come to a standstill for you.” My heart was thumping wildly at the thought of how close Mama had come to getting flattened, and I had to suck in a couple of extra deep breaths.

“Why are you in such a hurry today? Pardon me. I must say, I am shocked. When a woman can’t ask her own daughter to carry her to the doctor, then it’s time to simply give up and accept the fact that the entire world has deteriorated into a hotbed of ill manners and selfishness.”

“Or melodrama.”

“What was that? You’ll have to speak up if you expect me to hear you over the traffic.” She cupped her hand over her ear.

“As you well know, I had to take time off work this morning to drive you to the doctor. I don’t dare come in late this afternoon.” Even if I had to miss lunch with Veronica, I couldn’t be late. Odell, my boss, had made that clear when I said I needed a few hours off, telling me he wasn’t running a camp for lazy employees. He seemed to be in a worse mood than usual, and I wondered if his wife had kicked him out again.

“Surely you can take time off for family emergencies. It’s simply a job we’re talking about, not a matter of life or death.”

“It’s the only job I’ve got and without it I have no way to pay my bills.” The sad fact was that a boring job working for a guy who still had the first dime he’d ever gotten for his allowance was all that kept me out of the homeless shelter. I couldn’t afford my house and my car on the measly check I got from T. Chandler.
“There are other jobs.” She stopped and held her hands out to her sides palms up. She lifted them up and down if she were weighing things on separate scales. “Job or taking care of your mother?”

I shrugged. If there were other jobs, I hadn’t found them and I didn’t expect I would. Hadn’t Mama read the feature article in Sunday’s paper about the rising unemployment rate and the shrinking paycheck? Hadn’t she noticed the classified job section had shrunk over the past year, so it wasn’t even big enough to wrap vegetable scraps in?

Not for the first time this morning, I wondered why I’d volunteered to take Mama to her doctor. It wasn’t as if she couldn’t have asked one of her church friends. Or one of the ladies from her book club at the library. Or one of her neighbors. I marched away and when I got almost half a block ahead she finally followed. I waited at the corner until she caught up in her own good time.

I forced myself to slow to Mama’s pace and not scream when she took seven whole minutes to walk the rest of the way to my car and another seven to take off the wide brimmed hat she always wore when the sun was out. Then ten more to get out in front of her condo when I’d finally fought my way through traffic to get her there.

“I’ll walk you to your door,” I said through tight lips. “The flu shot you had this morning might make you woozy.”

“I am not the least bit woozy and I know you’re aching to race away like a horse out of the starting gate. You’ve certainly made that clear.”

I would not react. I would not bring up the fact that she’d made me thirty minutes late for my first job interview because she kept changing her make-up. Fifteen minutes late for my high school graduation because she couldn’t decide which of her three favorite pairs of shoes looked best with her hair color.

Twenty minutes late for my wedding because her “digestion was out of sorts”—southern lady code for she had diarrhea. Given that I’d chosen the wrong husband, maybe it would have been a good thing if her digestive system had kept me away from my wedding altogether.

I escorted her up a flight of stairs. Mama doesn’t trust the elevator in her building since it got stuck once when the power went out. While she was still fumbling in her purse, I unlocked her door with the spare key she’d given me. I pushed the door open, and the Chihuahuas converged yapping from their plush little bed in the corner. They squirmed at her feet, fighting each other for position. She squatted to scoop the two trembling bodies into her arms.

“Babies, babies, give Mama some sugar.”

I tried not to gag. If sugar was the dog spit they were depositing on her face, she was getting plenty.

“I’ll call you tomorrow, Mama. Promise.”

She sniffed. “I wouldn’t want to be a bother to my daughter who has such a rotten attitude. I always said I would lie down and die before I’d become a bother in my old age. Though sixty-two is not old, goodness knows. Why, only yesterday Doris Leland told me I don’t look a day over fifty-seven.”

“No trouble at all,” I sang over my shoulder as I scurried back down the stairs.

Before I could get out of the building, Mrs. Barkley, Mama’s downstairs neighbor, planted herself in front of me at the bottom of the stairs. She was wearing a black chenille sweater that hung to her knees over a shapeless yellow housedress. The flip-flops on her feet were neon blue.

“Got a message for your mama. Man was here looking for her. Heard him pounding on her door and went up to check. You know I am all for neighborhood watch.”

“Thanks. Probably Fred from the garage to tell her he dropped off her car.” Why couldn’t he have brought it earlier, so Mama could have driven herself to the doctor? And why didn’t Mama’s building have decent security so people couldn’t just waltz in and pound on doors?

“Didn’t look like a garage man, didn’t have grease on him or anything. Tall, older fella. Dressed in one of those golf shirts and wore plaid pants and a gold chain around his neck like he thought he was somebody. Now, Mr. Barkley, bless his heart, he would never dress that way, especially not in public. Too flashy, he’d say.”

No doubt. I’ve met Mr. Barkley and the only thing I’ve ever seen him wear is a wife beater shirt and pajama bottoms, both beige in color. “Thanks, Mrs. Barkley. I’ll give Mama the message.”

I managed to slip past her and I broke into a trot as soon as I hit the sidewalk. Whoever had been looking for Mama--probably one of those people who sometimes handed out religious flyers in the neighborhood--would be back if it were important.


L.C. Evans currently lives in North Carolina with her husband Bob, their three or four Chihuahuas, and a grandson, the Boy. Taking on the care and feeding of the Boy has made her a born again minivan pilot, who suffers from occasional bewilderment over what kids like these days. Ask her what she said when the Boy asked for a skateboard that "shoots sparks" and goes up ramps "at about a hundred miles an hour."

When not wrangling the Boy and the Chihuahuas, L.C. writes. She is the author of four novels, including We Interrupt This Date. Visit her at her website:
LC Evans or her blog, LC Evans Author.