Thursday, May 31, 2012

Blood and Tacos #2

I'm proud to have a review published in this issue of Blood and Tacos, and  I'm thrilled to be sitting alongside Ray BanksJimmy CallawayFrank LarnerdAndrew NetteJosh StallingsMatthew C. Funk, and the incredibly kind and equally crazy Johnny Shaw. And extra props to

ROXANNE PATRUZNICK 

for the gorgeous cover art! Isn't this cover AWESOME?


Issue 2 is available on Amazon, but you can also read it  
for free at the home of Blood and Tacos.

Friday, May 25, 2012

ANTE MORTEM by Ellie Anderson

Chapter Four

2012

It was nearly 11.  CJ had just gone to sleep.  She padded out of the bathroom and was startled by the soft knock at the side door.

“I wasn’t sure you’d make it,” she whispered as she opened it.  If she’d woken up 10 minutes earlier, she would have been sitting out on the front porch when he pulled up to the house.

“The jury kept calling out with questions and they didn’t come back until 9:30 and then after all that it was a ‘not guilty.’”  Steve absent-mindedly brushed past her through the doorway, removed his suit coat and hung it on the back of one of the kitchen chairs.  “It should have been a slam dunk, but you know how juries think these days.  Life is like CSI and they all think they know more than the experts and they’re gonna be the next new Sherlock Holmes and they’ll get to be on Oprah and she’ll give them a new car because they solved the case of the century.”

“Oprah’s not on anymore.”

Della rubbed some of the sleep from her eyes, closed the door and thought of the way her dad used to smell when he came home from work when she was a child.  His suit coat would be off by the time he walked out of his office and he would have loosened his tie and rolled up his sleeves on the drive home.  She could imagine the feel of her face against his shoulder as he picked her up to hold her when she would run to greet him. Every once in a while, she’d be caught off guard by flashes of her childhood and she was sure that she could actually still smell the soft, warm whiff of lingering smoke that clung to him.  That soft, musty odor meant love.  Every time she smelled a cigarette, it made her think of him and she felt loved.  It was probably the reason that she smoked.

Della thought of herself as a closet smoker and was very selective about who knew about her nasty little habit.  She only smoked at night and it was only just one... out on the big front porch under cover of darkness and only after CJ would fall asleep, and never if she thought Steve might be coming by.   He hated smoking.  She didn’t think about smoking all day long.  Never wanted one.  The idea made her sick.  But by the time 10 or 11 would roll around and the busy street she lived on would start to quiet down, she was always drawn to the front stairs to sit in bliss and smoke her single, solitary cigarette.  Sometimes she’d go a few days without one.  And usually, the pack that she kept hidden in the filing cabinet in the kitchen would go stale and give her horrible headaches by the time she had reached the halfway point in the pack.  But she wouldn’t buy another pack until the one she had was all gone.  They were expensive.  And when she’d run down to the corner store to buy a new pack, they’d always try to sell her two for a discounted price, but she’d always say, “Oh, no thanks.  I don’t smoke that much” because that made her feel less ashamed.  She’d secretly tell herself on the drive home that she probably wouldn’t die from smoking because she had lots of friends that had been smoking packs at a time for years and none of them had ever gotten sick.  In fact, the only person she’d ever known that died from lung cancer was her former father-in-law and he quit smoking decades before he was diagnosed.  Her dad stopped smoking, too, when he was 45.  Cold turkey.  He never smelled like love anymore… but her moments on the porch did.

Steve’s mixed-up scent of old cologne and a long day’s work brought her back to the present.  He grabbed her hand and pulled her to his chest, wrapped his arms around her shoulders and exhaled heavily.

“I’m exhausted,” he muttered.

Della looked past his shoulder towards the filing cabinet.

“I’ll get up early and be out of here before CJ wakes up in the morning.”

CJ was a heavy sleeper.  It was a good thing, too, because sometimes Steve would oversleep and get out the door just in the nick of time before CJ woke up.  Della wasn’t a prude by any means, but she never wanted her son to feel like someone was taking over his role as man of the house.  It had been just the two of them since Barry had left them a week after she returned home from her C-section.  CJ had enough “daddy issues” that she didn’t want to complicate his life by forcing a man into his routine.

Steve pulled her to the hallway and they started moving towards the bedroom.  Della saw something dark and out of place from the corner of her eye and when she looked to see what it was, there was nothing.  Nothing except the filing cabinet.  Her dogs were asleep in the bedroom when they walked in, so she knew the shadow had not been one of them.

Steve neatly hung his clothes on the chair in the corner while Della let hers just fall in a pile where she stood.  She grabbed a nightgown from the hook on the closed door that led to CJ’s room, slipped it over her head and crawled in beside Steve. She instantly wished that she hadn’t put the nightgown on because the warmth of his body was muffled by the fabric and she wanted to feel his skin against hers, but she decided she was just too lazy to get back up and take it off.

“Did you get a chance to read over that initial report today?”

She hesitated, caught the words in her mouth that she wanted to say and rearranged them before she replied and said something that she would regret.

“Yes.”

“What’s going on with it?”

“Seriously?  You’re exhausted, yet you want to talk about work right now?  Can we just go to sleep without talking about any dead babies tonight?  Please?”

“Mmmm hmmmm.”

He was already starting to breathe deeply, but she was becoming more alert as her mind started racing with irritation.  He would have a good night’s sleep now and she would just be cranky and agitated because not only did she have to pass on the filing cabinet but she’d passed on the skin-to-skin stuff.  She turned away from Steve, reached over to turn off the side lamp, and let her eyes adjust to the darkness.  She saw Steve’s neatly draped clothes and gritted her teeth.  Her eyes darted around the room and her irritation at his “neatnickness” turned to thoughts of the house and all the renovations she wanted to do.  Steve had tried to help a few times, but he wasn’t very handy.  She knew her way around power tools much better than he did and he always complained, “I’m an attorney.  I don’t know how to do this stuff.”

If she could figure out how to take the door out between the two rooms and put in some drywall, she could put a little desk right there and maybe use it to put her makeup on in the morning.  CJ had another doorway for his room that led off  the mudroom and she’d been trying for years to get him in the habit of using that doorway instead of traipsing through her room, which was definitely more convenient for him, but highly annoying for her.  If that door was gone, then he’d have no choice but to start directing his flow of traffic out the other door.  She wondered why they ever designed houses like that.  It was such an odd thing to have a door leading off into a second bedroom.  It was obvious from the lay of the house that the second door in the mudroom… well, even the mudroom itself, had been added onto the house later than when it was originally built.  The mudroom had an L-shaped set of steps that led to what used to be the coal cellar, which now housed the furnace, the water heater and the washer/dryer; none of which had even yet been invented when the house was built.  She’d had part of the cellar carpeted, so there was a cozy little spot to sit and watch TV while the laundry tumbled.  It was a little bit creepy down there but she could always dismiss the feeling. There was just one little makeshift window which used to be the spot where men used to shovel the coal in. And then there was the front porch.  It should be redone.  Maybe it would be best to do it in concrete, but she’d sure like to have it done in wood so that it was in keeping with the period of the house.  How often did you see a little craftsman bungalow with a concrete porch?  Wood would be so much better.  So much more inviting.  Her mind was running full-tilt now and she breathed deeply in an effort to calm herself.

The adjoining door popped open.  Not much, just enough that she saw a slit of darkness between the white of the door trim and the door itself.  She lifted her head to look and couldn’t imagine how the latch had loosened.  It had never done that before.  Neither of the dogs noticed it and Steve was by now sound asleep.  She noticed her heart beating against the wall of her chest and thought about how uncomfortable it felt.  As she swung her legs over the side of the bed to sit up, she felt a breeze come from the slit in the door. The house was drafty, but this was ice cold.  There must be a cold front coming in.  She should have gotten up earlier and watched the news to see what the weather was going to do.  A soft humming (or could it be traffic outside?) seemed to gently fill the room but wasn’t clear enough for her to discern the direction it came from.  The adjoining door began to slowly and slightly open, and then slowly and slightly close again.  Back and forth, slowly fanning, until the door was almost fully open.  Della couldn’t move.  Her mind and heart were competing for her attention as she saw a woman holding the hand of a small child materialize in the doorway.  A dark mass loomed behind the transparent pair and it followed them as the woman helped the toddler walk awkwardly out of the doorway and towards the door that led out of the bedroom. The figures drew closer; Della thought about all the things that she should be doing right now instead of sitting, paralyzed.  Scream.  Wake Steve up.  Run to check on CJ.  Turn on the light.  They were all good ideas, but she just sat there, transfixed.  The woman turned to look at Della, smiled gingerly, cast her eyes down, grabbed her long skirts with her free hand and continued out the other door.  The light that shone down the hallway from the outside blacked out momentarily as the three proceeded down the hall and towards the kitchen.  Della stared, open-mouthed, until all she could see was the filing cabinet.  

Friday, May 18, 2012

ANTE MORTEM by Ellie Anderson

Chapter Three

1917

“Come on, Cy,” she pleaded.

He looked past her, exhaled and ran his fingers though the waves of his hair.  “I’m tired.  Just leave me alone, and can you get her to stop crying?”  He turned away from Mary and headed to the bedroom.  “Welcome hooooome, Cy,” he sing-songed defeatedly to himself.

The afternoon had been unseasonably warm for May and the bricks of the house tended to sponge up the heat until the early morning hours.   Of course he would be short with her.  He hated the heat and judging from the temperature in the valley, the return across the west desert must have been dreadful.

“I’ve got your favorite meatpie with shortcrust ready for you.  I could bring you some fresh water so you could wash up.”

“Did you get that…good Lord!  What is up with that child, Mary?”

“Cy, please.  I think she’s cutting a molar.  She’s had a fever and it’s been so hot and we’ve been so looking forward to you comin’ home.  Can’t you just come sit down on the porch with me for a while?”

Cy’s father had built them a porch swing when the house was about halfway done and it became obvious that there would be a covered front porch that spanned the front.  There was always a bit of a breeze coming down from the canyon and the porch tended to be cooler than inside.  Maybe if she could just get him on the swing and away from Ivy’s wailing, he’d calm down and they could have a few moments of peace like when they first set up housekeeping.  Maybe she could even get a smile out of him.

Their wedding had been simple.  Pastor Hodge from the Methodist church in town married them.  She wore her best Sunday dress.  Cy did his best to look good, but since he didn’t go to church often, he wasn’t very practiced at cleaning up.  Both sets of their parents walked into town with them and Cy’s folks paid to get their picture taken.  Pictures were expensive and the only person in town that had a camera was the undertaker, Tiffin Gram.  Most families didn’t take pictures of their loved ones until they died, because it cost so much.  Mr. Gram was pretty well-to-do, between embalming and taking photos.  Cy’s parents had a little more money than most folks.  His dad, Jim Earl, was a beet farmer and he supplied the entire northern portion of the state and some of the counties just over the border with his “bloody gold.”

Cy looked up from where he sat on the bed, removed a boot and let it drop to the floor.  “Woman, why are you hounding me?”

“It’s just that, well…you’re finally home and I wanted to pass some time talking.  It gets lonely without you here and I was just looking forward to some conversation.  Ivy’s been a handful the last week and your mother hasn’t been over to help for a while.  I guess I just thought that you’d be happy to see me.”

“What?  You must be joking!  Why are you doing this to me?  Isn’t it enough that you have this house and you don’t have to work like most of the wives around here?  If I was a farmer, you’d be toiling away.  But, no…you have a nice house.  You don’t have to work.  You got the baby and now your pressuring me ‘cuz I’m not worrying about taking care of you and your loneliness?”  His voice became louder the longer he talked.  “I get back home and all you can do is complain about how rough your life is?”

Ivy was crying louder now and Cy was scowling back and forth between the nursery and Mary. 

“No, that’s not what I’m saying at all!  Please let me explain.”

“You ungrateful little bitch!  You have been leading me to think that you’re happy, but now I find out that everything I’m doing just ain’t enough for you!  You’ve been lying to me!  Do you know the kind of pressure that puts on me?”

“Lying?  You’re misunderstanding what I’m saying!  I swear!  Give me a chance!”  She was begging and found that her fingers were intertwined in front of her as if she was praying.  She thought about Pastor Hodge.

Cy picked up his discarded boot and she tried to stop him from leaving the bedroom by filling the doorway with her body.  He took a deep breath, jutted his bottom jaw forward, gritted his teeth and shoved her out of the way.  “I am gone!”  He hopped several times as he tried to put his boot on as he proceeded out the side door.

She stood in the doorway, sobbing.  “I’m sorry!  Where are you going?  Please come back!  Don’t leave like this!”

He waved her off and kept on moving.

Tears ran down her face.  Ivy was screaming.  Mary spun around and awkwardly stumbled into the nursery.  “Stop it right now, Ivy!” she screamed.  Ivy was standing and holding the edge of the crib.  The child’s eye opened wide; she paused with fear for a moment and then started wailing again. Mary’s hands flew to her temples, she grabbed her hair and she started screaming and muttering unintelligibly.  Both mother and daughter continued their delicious duet until night began to fall.  Ivy finally went down and her tears gradually diminished as she dozed off.  Mary eventually slipped to the floor and slept, as well, her tears staining the wooden floor beneath her face.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Lost Children Guest Post by Thomas Pluck

As many of you know, I endured abuse when I was younger. All forms, so, you know… when some good friends of mine decided to put together an anthology to benefit children I was thankful that they would take time out of their already busy schedules to support projects that can benefit so many.  The collection of short stories found in Lost Children: A Charity Anthology is not easily read, and the contents are often overwhelming. But that’s how life is for children of abuse and neglect. It isn’t easy, it’s always overwhelming, and happy endings to such tales can be hard to find.  So, in an effort to bring awareness to this great cause I’m planning to spotlight the anthology periodically on the site, and I also plan to help push the support of the next Lost Children anthology scheduled for release later this year.

Today, I’ve asked my good friend Thomas Pluck to talk to us about the creation of the Lost Children anthology, as well as his short story, Little Sister. Little Sister tells a story of a young girl abused by her father and brother, later forced into a life as a sex slave, and her fight to break free of the life literally created for her at the hand of another. Dark and disturbingly real, Thomas Pluck doesn’t hold back the realities that are found in the real world; you know… that world we often try to tell ourselves doesn’t really exist.  But it does exist. And for many of us, the scars that hide below the surface are a constant reminder of the cruel reality that we’ve been forced to endure; unfortunate memories that never fade with time.

***

Crime fiction shines a light onto some wrong in the world. It began as much neater than reality. The mystery was solved through deductive reasoning, and justice was served. Over the years, we have become accustomed to the complex realities of crime, vengeance and justice and expect more from our stories than an eye for an eye in black and white.

But the dragon of our reptile brain is not slain, but merely sleeping. The smoke and fire from its dreams seeps out the crevices. We still need catharsis, now and then. To see the bad man die.

That is what inspired my story, "Little Sister," in the Lost Children charity anthology. Fiona Johnson sparked a fire when she guest hosted at Ron Earl Phillips's Flash Fiction Friday site, and challenged us to write about children that society has neglected, overlooked or ignored. As a teacher, she sees them all to often. It angers us, to see this waste of human potential, this callous cruelty inflicted upon the small and innocent. Few choose to do something about it, but Fiona did. And she inspired me to do the same.

I had read my friend Josh Stalling's excellent novel OUT THERE BAD, which deals with sex slavery in American strip clubs. Human trafficking, slavery under our noses. So I read up on it, and found a charity called Living Water for Girls in Atlanta, who help get girls forced into prostitution off the streets (I thank journalist Nick Kristof for making me aware of that organization). I read one girl's story and it made me furious that we, as a society, allowed this to happen and now branded her the criminal.

Not the adult who drives by in his car, offering a child money for sex.

Not the pimp- a term that has somehow become laudatory- who beat and raped her into submission, and made her his slave.

We brand her a ho, a slut, a whore, a "child prostitute."

There are no child prostitutes. They are sex slaves.

We have the gall to call it a victimless crime.

I had 700 words to put these feelings into a story. It was the toughest story I've ever written. You can read it in the anthology. I hope you do, and I hope it makes you as furious as I am.

Proceeds from the sale of Lost Children: A Charity Anthology goes to benefit Children 1st Scotland, and Protect here in the United States.
Lost Children can be found at Amazon  and Barnes and Noble.
Thomas Pluck is a writer living in Montclair, New Jersey. He is the editor of the Lost Children charity anthologies, and his work has appeared in Spinetingler Magazine, Pulp Modern, Shotgun Honey, Beat to a Pulp, The Utne Reader and Plots with Guns. He is working on his first novel, and his home on the web is www.pluckyoutoo.com


Saturday, May 12, 2012

ANTE MORTEM by Ellie Anderson


Chapter Two

2012

“Mom, where are my socks?”

“Seriously?  This is the third time this week you’ve called me at work to ask about your socks!  I don’t have time for this crap!  We’ve got a homicide screening coming in this morning and I’m trying to get everything together before the detectives get here.   I put at least 27 pairs of socks in your drawer last weekend.  Where did they go?”

“Oh.  I forgot to look there.”

“Get yourself to the bus, young man.  You should have left home by now and I swear to God that if I find out you were late for Biology again I’m gonna rip off your arm and beat you with the bloody stump!”

“Geez… you don’t have to go all postal.”

Della hung up and sighed deeply.  Teenagers.

***

Della Denoria had been a paralegal at the Office of the District Attorney for  about 15 years, eight of which had been on the Special Victims team.  She didn’t get away from her cubicle too often but she knew most people around the office.  The SV team was isolated from the rest of the office on its own floor.  It was best to keep them separate from the flow of traffic, especially when the public was coming in on a constant basis, checking in with their subpoenas on the way to court to testify about the forgeries, assaults and criminal mischief cases that kept their office so busy.  You never knew what details you might hear in the normal flow of conversation as the SV prosecutors discussed their cases.  They handled sex crimes, child abuse, domestic violence, child homicides…pretty much if it involved guts or sex or death, it came to the SV team.  It wasn’t unusual to hear terms like “digital penetration,”  “blunt force trauma,” or “blow job” wafting over the walls of the cubicles.  Words that would be shocking to the general public were as shocking as the word “toast” or “sofa” to the members of the SV team, thus their exile from the mainstream areas.  When Della first transferred to the team she deliberately desensitized herself to the words, the sights, the stories that she had to endure every day as part of her job.  It used to be awkward just to say the word penis, so she practiced saying it to herself over and over until it became natural.  However, it had become so natural for her and her co-workers that when they were together in a social setting outside of work and some funny penis story would come up, they forgot the impact it had on the “gentiles.”  One time, her husband’s friend was so uncomfortable with the word that he shouted, “Don’t call it a penis!  It’s a dick!”

Detective Franks poked his head around the wall of her cubicle.  “Where we meeting?”

Della liked to think of her workspace as a cave.  The charcoal colored fabric walls were 6’ high and from where she sat, there was no sunlight or view available whatsoever.  This suited her just fine because she hated the sunshine.  It made her feel unsafe.  Exposed.  Vulnerable.  Give her rain or a snowstorm any day and she’d be happy.

“Follow me to the conference room.  Steve should be here pretty soon but we can get you settled.”

She knew Steve would be late.  He consistently scheduled more than one meeting at a time and then forgot about both of them.  And when he had early morning appointments it was worse because he never bothered to think about what his day looked like until he got to the office.  The man was brilliant in court but when it came to the everyday ins-and-outs, he was lost.

Della stepped from the cubicle and nearly ran into another detective who appeared to be with Franks.

“Dell, Todd.  Todd, Dell.”

“Hey.  Uh… nice to meet you. Follow me, guys.”

They got to the conference room and the two men sat down.  Franks was alert enough that she didn’t ask if he needed a cup of coffee.  He’d looked like he’d probably been up for hours, but she decided to get herself a cup.

Steve almost ran into her as she started through the doorway.
 
“Mornin’.  What’ve we got fellas?” he blared.

“Vic is baby Bea.  Seventeen months old.  Allegedly found dead at home in the crib.  Mom and dad were both home.  They both say they found the baby that way.  The ME found some extradural hematoma spots on the inside of the scalp.  Petechiae in the eyes but no external signs of injury.  We’re waiting on the results for the skeletal scan to see if there’s any history of old or healing injuries and he says it’s up to 14 weeks before his final report and he’s not even ready to make a commitment on the manner of death, much less the cause.”

“Have you interviewed mom and dad yet?”

“Not formally.  We just spoke briefly with them at the hospital, but they don’t seem to be responding appropriately.  They’re pretty quiet.

“Just leave what you’ve got with Della.  Go talk to mom and dad and neighbors and babysitters and everybody and their uncle.”

She could tell Franks was annoyed as Steve turned and dismissed himself from the room.  He was hoping for at least a go ahead to arrest somebody.

“Sorry, guys.  He’s a tough one to pin down,” she apologized.

“Well, here’s our photos and the initial report.  Call us when he can give this some attention.

Della took the report and the photos and sat at the table as the detectives left.  She slipped the photos out of the envelope.  The crime scene photos were pretty unremarkable… they usually weren’t too bad.  But when she got to the autopsy photos, she paused.

Detectives who attend autopsies take their own photos separate from the ones that the ME and his staff take.  Della was often tasked with sorting the photos into the order of the chronological order of the procedures.  She’d been to several autopsies…so she was familiar enough with the routine that she could sort the photos accurately and identify body parts that had been removed and put them in the stack in the right place.  The first photo was always of the body in the bag.  The pictures progressed as they went further into the body.  The scalp was discreetly cut from the back and peeled up and over the face so that you wouldn’t see it when the person was later displayed in their casket.  An assistant would cut off the top of the skull.  When the brain was removed it was quite fascinating to gaze into the cavernous void of the skull. Then came the Y incision in the chest.  All the organs weighed and recorded.  Vaginas and uteruses were removed.  Tongues were removed.  The ME let her hold a uterus one time and she was awed by the thought that the cold, wet yellow-ish pink thing in her hand had once held a growing life.  She observed an explosion/burn victim autopsy once.  The ME opened up his throat lengthwise and slit open the esophagus.  When she leaned in closer, it smelled just like a steak at a barbecue on the Fourth of July.
 
“See… right here… there’s soot on the lining of the esophagus.”  The vic had beautiful teeth. Her eyes drifted down from his charred and inwardly curled lips to the incision in his chest.  “This soot indicates that he was alive and breathing after the initial flash of the explosion.  If there wasn’t any soot, I would determine that he had died immediately. And yes, I know what you’re thinking.  He smells like a steak.”

She would never forget the smell of the raw ones.  The first time wasn’t as bad as she thought it would be, but the scent stayed in her nostrils for days.  No amount of saline spray would get rid of it.  And then there was the smell of blood.  Oh, God.  One time there was a man who had severed his aorta.  The ME literally had to scoop the blood out of his chest with a stainless steel ladle that you might find in the kitchen at your church.   The man’s entire chest cavity was filled with blood and the smell was unforgettable.  When she asked about the lopper tool that cut the ribs open, the ME grinned and said, “Craftsman.  Straight from Sears.  Seriously.  They never ask questions when you have to return something.”

The first picture is of Bea’s procedure had the bag open and the child lying inside.  She was wearing only a diaper and one sock.  One precious, little sock.  The same kind she used to buy for C.J. when he was a baby.  White with a gray toe and gray heel.  She started to cry.  Softly, but enough that she had to wait a while before she was composed enough to return to her cave. 

***

She fell asleep on the couch watching Ghost Hunters.  CJ came home from skateboarding and went straight to his room.  Della softly snored and CJ decided to turn the TV off and just let her sleep.  It was almost dark and she would wake up eventually when she had to go to the bathroom and go to bed.  She was always grouchy if he tried to wake her up, so he just let her be.

Images of baby Bea crowded her dreams.  A womanly figure drifted in and out.  Not really a figure as much as a shell of condensation that had formed over a body that  had simply vanished.  Occasionally a drop of condensation would trickle down and leave a shiny trail behind.  There were no distinguishing features but for the outline of the being.   She thought of a piƱata she made in first grade.  Her tiny hands covered a balloon with paper strips dipped in watery paste and when the paper dried, she popped the balloon, pulled it out and was left with the empty shell.  The woman’s arms were melted into a clump at the front of her body and she was holding a swaddled baby.  Della stepped closer, looked at the bundle, saw a baby wearing one sock and she cried.

Friday, May 4, 2012

ANTE MORTEM by Ellie Anderson

Chapter 1

1917

The air inside was crisp and cold after the midnight rainstorm.  Even though the house was new, there were plenty of drafts.  It was dark outside and her husband, Cy, was sleeping in their adjoining bedroom.  She stood in the nursery at the edge of the crib.  Ivy was lying on her stomach with her right arm up and to the right.  She leaned over, reached in with two fingers and loosened a remnant of fabric from the child’s mouth.  It caught in the gap of the two lower teeth as the young mother removed the 6” square of calico.   Hhhhmmmm…that’s one of my quilting scraps, she thought.  She squeezed it gently and let it fall to the floor.  It was strangely dry, considering where it had just been.  She loved those two teeth.  They erupted about the same time that the baby started smiling and they made for lovely, drooly memories.   The child was as beautiful at 18 months as she had been back in those early days, but today in the early morning hours, even though her eyes were open, they seemed dull and she looked tired.

Ivy was a good baby. She was born at home and she slept through the night when she was only a few weeks old. Ivy rarely fussed and when she did, she was easily soothed.  This was fortunate, since Cy was away a lot and raising a child alone can create tremendous strain.  Cy would be gone for days at a time working as a brakeman for D. & R. G. W.   They lived close enough to Bingham Junction that he could easily walk down, hop on the train and then be gone for days until the run was complete. 

She used to like to go to the junction and welcome him when she knew he was due home, but recently she’d stopped because she was plagued by thoughts of poor little Wilda Andersen back in ’98.  Wilda was cut in three by a locomotive pulling three overloaded cars of ore, when she froze in terror on the tracks.  She had slipped her hand from her mother’s grip to run and see the children playing outside the schoolhouse on the other side.  She stopped short, dead center in the tracks and froze in terror as the train approached.  The engineer applied the brakes when some of the school children started to shout.  He tried to signal his brakeman, but it was too late.  The three parts of little Wilda Andersen had to be swept up in a tray.

She pulled her shawl tighter and stood upright.  Maybe she should fire up the parlor stove.  It was earlier than her routine usually dictated, but she knew there was no chance of squeezing in any more sleep.  She sneaked into the parlor, started the fire and returned to the nursery.  The young mother gingerly wrapped a blanket around the child as best she could before heading to the rocker by the stove, but every time she tried to pull Ivy’s arm down so that she could swaddle her, her arm just popped right back up.

Heavy, heavy sigh.   It was good to have Cy home…the whole family under the same roof.  These were her favorite times.  She rocked, tilted her head back, rocked, pulled the baby under her shawl, rocked, felt the warmth of the fire, rocked, rocked, rocked, rocked, rocked and started to sing a lullaby. 

 “The night is here, my little lamb.  Try not to cry.
Soon the sun will rise again and light the sky.
And though the night seems dark, my child
The morning will come again.
So close your eyes and sleep for a while.
Don’t be afraid.
Morning will come…
So sleep.”

She stopped rocking.  Ivy’s eyes were still open.  The right side of her face was darkly mottled but it reminded her of the lovely shadows of the swaying tree outside her and Cy’s bedroom.  Sometimes when she’d lay down for a spell, and when the light shone just right through the bedroom window onto the surface of their bed she would become mesmerized by the dancing shadows of leaves.  Ivy’s unrelenting arm was still saluting, tucked up under her mother’s left arm as she cradled her.  It was awkward, but not distractingly so.  The mother lightly placed her fingertips on Ivy’s eyelids and closed them.  She pulled her closer, and felt the torso was now becoming as rigid as the limbs.  The coolness of the baby’s body against her chest made the warmth of the fire disappear.  She smiled to herself and started to rock.  Rock.  Rock.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Introducing Ellie Anderson

When Dawn Kirby finished the Turning series I was wondering if I'd find another writer interested in writing a weekly series on the blog. I mean, the time it takes to write a weekly, fresh series can't be easy. But, thankfully, I remembered Ellie's excitement about the idea, and without hesitation (okay, maybe a little), I approached her and she readily agreed to do it.

So today I'm pleased to introduce Ellie Anderson to the blog. Ellie really is a brilliant writer with a unique style that's all her own. Starting Friday we invite you to read her weekly chapter and offer feedback in the comments. Nothing rude... honesty is important, but make sure it's written professionally.  Ellie is a mysterious one with a gift of story telling, and I hope you'll read along each week and enjoy the story.


Death, cemeteries, haunted houses and ghosts have been my passion since I was a girl of seven.   Budd Lake, New Jersey.  1970.  That’s where it started.  My mother put me to bed.  The fire station sounded their siren like they did every night for the 9:00 town curfew.  A tall, thin, transparent man materialized at the side of my bed.  Dark hair.  He wore what I call a “burglar cap.”  Think of cartoon icon Andy Capp.  Remember the hat he always had on?  Yeah… now you can see it.  The thin man’s t-shirt was striped red and white.  Big, thick stripes.  Three to four inches.  I've always had the sense that it was a French-looking shirt.  No idea where that thought came from.  I've never been much on fashion.  His baggy trousers (I call them trousers because he seemed to be from a time well before ours when pants were trousers and clothes were more of an “event” than just a way to keep covered) were gray and flannel-esque.  His trousers were cinched with a thin, black belt.  And the best part…he was smoking a corn cob pipe.  He just stood there.  Looking down at me, smoking his pipe.  Yes, the covers went over my head several times, accompanied by a lot of eye scrunching.  And then the covers came down again several times.  He still stood there.  Smoking and looking at me until he eventually faded.

You may say it was my imagination.  I was young…probably dozed off and dreamt it in the early stages of slumber.  My parents thought the same thing when I ran screaming into their room.  I have questioned it myself many times.  But there are few memories from my childhood as clear as this and I always return to the confidence of knowing that it was real.

For the next ten weeks, beginning May 4, 2012, I will tell a ghost story that covers more than a century and meshes my life experiences of writing, cemeteries, ghost-hunting, and working in the field of criminal law.

Ellie Anderson

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Times... They are a Changin'

I've been meaning to type this post since the beginning of the year, but... things get in the way, I get busy, and blah blah blah.

So, *takes deep breath* I've decided to go back to reading the books that I want to read, and writing the reviews that I want to write. When I opened the blog up to review requests, I really didn't expect many people to be interested. I guess I thought since my style wasn't as professional as other book reviewers out there that there wouldn't be much of a demand for reviews from me. But... I was wrong. 

The majority of the books I read last year were for review requests. I quickly became tired and overwhelmed trying to balance the demands of work, home, medical appointments, and life in general.  And on occasion I was mocked, sent horrible emails, and  even received one written letter to my place of employment making it clear that I had no place in the book review writing world. Add to that the lack of support from family and close friends of mine in Utah, and, well, the stress almost caused me to shut down the blog altogether.

Thanks to good friend and fellow book reviewer, Elizabeth A. White, I received the advice that I needed (not to mention a written ass-kicking) that helped me take back control of my blog. She helped me to refocus and remember why I started the blog, and pushed me back on track. After all, this is my blog... and I can read the books I want to read, and review the books I want to review in the style that works best for me... and regardless of what others may think, there is no right or wrong way to write a positive review. We all have different styles... and you're certainly not obligated to read mine if they don't suit your taste.

With that being said... I'm not stopping review requests completely. Just know that the reviews probably won't be written by a set date. I'm currently reading a book of my choice and then a review request. It helps maintain a balance for me. Things may take a little longer, but it's less stressful for me and I promise... it's much better for the person I'm writing the review for. So if you've sent me a book to read and review and it hasn't been done yet... know that it's on my list to be read.

I love my blog. It's got me written all over it. Even the girly picture is me... although I really wouldn't mind switching for something a little more... badass! I write because it's fun. I write because my friends enjoy it. I write because I want to serve and support authors. And some days I write to free myself from my own past.

I'm thankful for all of my followers, and all of the friends I've met through twitter, and all of the wonderful people I've met from having this blog. I hope we can continue and grow in the crime fiction community together. When one succeeds, we all succeed. And when one stumbles, falls, or fails... we all lose in the end. 

So, with that out of the way... I'm pleased to tell you that I've found another wonderful writer that has agreed to write a short story at My Friends Call Me Kate. All original. All written week by week. This author is a good friend of mine and is interested and encouraging feedback during the weekly posts. I've read some chapters in a novel that she has written and I know that she'll be a great addition to the site. I encourage you to participate. Leave comments. Give advice. Instruct and teach. I'll be introducing her tomorrow and her weekly series will begin this Friday.

I'm also starting a new series on the blog called... My First Literary Love. I've received some great posts from some wonderful authors, and I'm hoping to get more people involved with the project. So, if you get an email from me requesting your participation- please, please don't delete it. And, yes, men... I want you to join in on the fun, too. 

 I'm hoping for some great things this year... even if it is almost over. So I hope you'll stop by from time to time and check things out. 

Love to all of you-

Sabrina Ogden 
My Friends Call Me Kate