Broken Pieces

Jack Canon's American Destiny

#Excerpt from PEGASUS by Marilyn Holdsworth @M_Holdsworth #WomensFic #Contemporary #AmReading

Friday, April 24, 2015

Pegasus by Marilyn Holdsworth 

SATURDAY WAS A WARM, sunny day, just as Win had predicted, and the drive out of Los Angeles was a welcome change from the heavy work schedule Hannah had been demanding of herself for the last few days. Sitting next to Win, wearing a plaid shirt and jeans with her hair pulled back and fastened with a barrette at the nape of her neck, Hannah looked young and vulnerable. The miles sped by, and they chatted easily together, but Win made no further mention of what was so important for her to see at the ranch.

“I’m looking forward to riding today. I haven’t been on a horse for ages. Hope I haven’t forgotten how,” she worried.

“Like riding a bicycle,” he laughed. “Once you learn, you never forget. You’ll do fine.”

Win turned the sleek, midnight-blue Jaguar into a long, narrow drive flanked by split-rail fencing. On either side, rolling green pastures spread as far as she could see. An arched gateway marked the entrance to the ranch. Mounted at the top of the crescent was an imposing round emblem emblazoned with a large metal sculpture of Pegasus at its center.

“Pegasus, the winged horse,” she exclaimed. “What a wonderful name for a horse ranch. Do all your horses fly?”

He smiled. “I’m sure when my dad was so into racing, he wished they could. But it was my grandfather who founded the ranch and named it Pegasus. He named it after the Greek mythological horse in hopes of pleasing my grandmother. She was a very scholarly lady of Greek heritage, very interested in the arts, especially the Greek classics. Grandfather spent his entire lifetime trying to please her, but I’m afraid to no avail. I’m told she detested the West and the ranch, preferring Eastern city life and its more sophisticated offerings. They separated shortly after my father was born. She kept her Eastern townhouse, attending operas and grand parties while he built his empire out here.”
“Sad she couldn’t have enjoyed it with him,” Hannah said. “It’s so wonderfully tranquil here, a truly rare and beautiful setting with the mountains in the background and the rolling green hillsides. Didn’t she ever see the horses race? Not even when the ranch’s prize winners were entered in all the country’s grandest races?”

“No, she never did. And it was a great sorrow to my grandfather. But, oddly enough, he never divorced her. He always hoped she’d change her mind, come back to him, and learn to love the land as he did. My father was raised by Mary Little Deer’s mother here at the ranch. He was an only child, of course, and the lifestyle Grandmother lived in the East was not meant for a boisterous little boy. So he grew up at Pegasus and loved the ranch until his dying day. Now it’s mine, and I must say, I share his deep love for the place.”

They had pulled up to a sprawling Spanish hacienda with a red tiled roof and thick adobe-brick walls. Built around a central courtyard, the house had the look of an early California mission.

“It’s really the picture of the Old West, Win. I can see why you love it here,” she said as he helped her out of the car.

The house’s thick walls and Mexican tile flooring made it cool and inviting. He ushered her through wide carved doors adorned by large bronze knockers shaped like horse heads. As they stood together in the dimly lit hall, Hannah blinked to adjust her eyes. From a stained-glass window at the end, a prism of light slanted across the floor, illuminating a majestic bronze sculpture of Pegasus standing like a sentinel in the massive entry. She stared at the beautiful sculpture. “It looks like it would take flight at any moment, leave its marble pedestal for the heavens.”

“My grandfather had it made in Europe,” Win explained as she continued to study the art piece.

“Another futile attempt to win back Athena’s heart, I suppose. The artist who did the piece has become quite famous. Perhaps you know of him—P. J. Mene. He did some smaller renditions of the same subject for him. One is in the garden, but I’m not sure where the others are now.”

Hannah walked closer to the exquisitely detailed bronze statue, gently touching its flowing mane and extended wings. “He certainly captured the spirit of the horse.”

“I thought you might like it.”

“And is this what you wanted so much for me to see?”

“No, it isn’t,” he said, smiling mysteriously. “You’ll have to wait for that,” he teased. “Now let’s see if Mary Little Deer left us a snack in the library.” He led her through wide double-oak doors into a large high-ceilinged room with open carved beams. At the far end was a massive stone fireplace surrounded by walls lined with bookshelves.

“What a lovely room, and such a collection of fine books,” Hannah said, scanning the leather-bound volumes.

“Another of Grandfather’s attempts to please Athena. All the classics are there, with a very special collection of Greek literature and ancient mythology. I’m afraid the architecture he chose when he built the ranch and its name do seem a bit incongruous, but when you know the history of the place, it fits together after all. I’m rattling on about the past too much,” Win said, suddenly glancing across the room. “Sure hope you’re hungry, Mary Little Deer’s done her usual I see. Light snack just isn’t in her vocabulary. Unless she hears the legs groan the table isn’t set, “ he laughed. A tray of assorted sandwiches , a large fruit bowl and a plate of freshly baked cookies with a pot of coffee stood waiting on a long, low knotty-pine table in front of a deep saddle-brown leather sofa.

“It all looks delicious, “ Hannah said. “And actually I’m starved.”

When lunch was finished and cleared away by the silently efficient Mary Little Deer, they went in search of the stables. Once again, Winston Caughfield III was right; it was like riding a bicycle. Hannah settled easily into the saddle on a bay mare. Riding next to her, astride his favorite horse, Alabaster, Win guided them around the barns, past the corrals and the training track, and toward the gently rolling hills. They rode for more than an hour, enjoying the sunny afternoon and clear, fresh air. The bay mare responded eagerly when Hannah nudged her into a canter. Although spirited, the horse was smooth-gaited and perfectly trained, and Alabaster pranced, tossing his head to show off for them both. Win rode with the grace and skill of an accomplished rider. It was obvious how much he loved the horse as he reached over to pat his arched neck when they pulled up after galloping across an open meadow.

He called to Hannah as she reined in beside him. “Over there,” he said, pointing to the ridge. “Just over that crest is where we’re going.” He urged Alabaster into a trot, beckoning for her to follow. At the top of the rise, they pulled the horses up, and Hannah gazed down into a small valley. Several corrals dotted the landscape, each with its own enclosure and hay bin. A feed storage shed stood close by, and a barn was under construction at the far end.

Hannah looked questioningly at Win, but he said nothing, just guided his horse down the slope; she fell in behind him. Hannah’s mare picked her way down the hillside and came up next to Alabaster at the base of the hill. “Well, this is it,” he said, spreading his arm wide to indicate the corrals and structures.

Hannah looked at him blankly. The corrals were empty, and there seemed to be no one around.

“Come on,” Win said. “I want to show you something.” They dismounted, tied the horses, and walked toward the newly erected barn. He swung the door wide for her to enter.

“Almost finished. Some work inside and some paint outside left to do,” he said with satisfaction.

“This week will do it, and then we’ll be ready for occupancy. Don’t you think?” He turned to a very puzzled Hannah.

“Yes, it does seem to be almost finished,” she responded. “Are you planning on moving some of your horses here from outlying pastures or the main barn?”

“No,” he said. “I’m not. This is where I thought we could put your adoptees.” His eyes were twinkling with delight now.

“My adoptees?”

“I read those articles you gave me last month,” he said soberly. “And I know how you feel about what’s happening to the American wild horses, the mustangs. You told me yourself about wanting to do a series of stories on the Adopt-a-Horse Program sponsored by the Bureau of Land Management and all the problems plaguing the plan. I thought if you had some space to save a few yourself, it might ease the pain I know you feel for those animals. And we do have room here at the ranch to take in a few.” He looked at her hopefully, wanting so much to please her and let her know he understood how seriously she took this cause.

“Win, I can’t let you do this for me,” she said. “Even if I wanted to, it’s not right. And besides, I could never afford it. At best, I might scrape up the money for the initial adoption fees.”

“Who says it isn’t right?” he broke in quickly. “We can make it strictly a business deal. You can rent the space at a price you can afford, and I’ll give you the feed to start you off. Simple as that. Now it’s settled. How soon do you want to see about the adoption? I’ll even throw in a little assistance in the training program if you’ll settle for one old trainer, me. We’ll turn them into trail mounts and find homes for them. When you begin to turn a profit, you can start buying the feed, stock, and all that. I know there must be good homes to be found for well-schooled riding horses.”

She hugged him. “Oh, Win, it’s perfect.”

“One stipulation,” he cautioned her sternly. “You do your articles on saving the horses, but leave all the corruption, especially Vincent Rossi, out of it. He’s major trouble.”

Her brow furrowed, “Well, if he’s involved in any way, that will be hard to do. But I’ll try. I give you my word on that.”

“Good. Then let’s get down to business. As I understand it, all you need is a $125.00 adoption fee and a horse trailer to haul the animal. Do you have any idea where to go to get these horses? Are they rounded up out in Montana, Wyoming, or where?”

“I’ve gotten some information, Win, but I’ll get more next week. I think a lot are in Nevada. I’ll find out.”

“Good. I’ll wait to hear from you about it in a few days,” he said. “Now we better get back to the ranch and to the city. I have an early-morning deposition to prepare for if I’m going to continue to have any law practice.”

All the way back to the ranch house, she chattered excitedly about the mustangs, the Adopt-a-Horse Program, and their plans. Win smiled happily at her, knowing the project was sure to bring her closer to him. The idea had come to him almost immediately after she had shown him the tiny newspaper clipping about the BLM’s horse adoption program. Her passion and love for her work involving the humane treatment of animals really did impress him. She was dedicated and tireless in her efforts to expose animal abuse and exploitation. He was really looking forward to helping her, but mostly, he had to admit, he just wanted to be important in her life. He’d known that much after their first date.
They had met so unexpectedly. She was seated with friends in the box next to his on the opening day of the Penbrook Park Races. Quite by accident, they were introduced by his friend Neil Jacobs, whose thoroughbreds were running that day. She immediately impressed him with her quiet, unassuming manner. Neil had spoken of her articles and told him she was sure to be a candidate for the Pulitzer Prize one day.

Long ago, after losing his first wife to cancer, Win had resigned himself to a solitary life. But looking at Hannah’s young, eager face today, he felt how much he wanted her near him. At forty-five, Winston Caughfield III was a handsome, distinguished man, and he was very aware that he was fifteen years her senior. But when they were together, the age difference seemed of no importance to either of them. In many ways, she seemed mature far beyond her years, perhaps because of her total commitment to her work and the tragedy of her young husband’s death. She seldom spoke of her loss; only once had she mentioned that ill-fated Chicago flight. She was very courageous. He looked over at her now, long stands of hair loosened from the barrette streaming in the wind as she rode. He never would have suspected that there was such strength in that delicate figure riding beside him, but more than once he had seen her face her adversaries with determination. Some secret source of energy seemed to well up and spill out of her. He’d known when she started her investigation into this horse thing that she would be relentless. He looked forward to sharing in it, but at the same time he felt a foreboding sense of fear for her. Above all, he wanted to protect her and keep her near him.

As a novelist, I draw on many real life experiences to provide background for my books. After completing studies in Literature and History at Occidental College, I became a staff writer on a travel magazine, and throughout my career I have traveled extensively all over the world. Because I love horses, I owned and trained them. I support horse rescue and wild mustang preservation. Based on my experience with horses and my research on abuse issues, I wrote Pegasus.

As a descendant of James Monroe, I did extensive research at the James Monroe Museum in Virginia about him and his wife Elizabeth Kortright Monroe. I also visited their home, Ashlawn/Highland in Albemarle County. This resulted in my novel, The Beautiful American. Making Wishes, was based partly on my experiences as creator, owner and operator of a greeting card company.

Elloree Prince is an attractive, creative young woman who marries a wealthy businessman, Tom Randall. After courting his bride with unrelenting determination, Tom moves her into old-moneyed Oak View, where generations of Randalls have lived for years. Outwardly, Elloree appears to settle into raising their two sons within Oak View’s stifling social structure, but inwardly, she yearns for her artistic work. An unexpected phone call from Mark Williams, her former employer, offers her the career opportunity of a lifetime, and she must make a choice. She is torn between her devotion to her sons and her love for her work. Her decision to return to Wishes, Inc. brings dramatic life changes to her and the people she loves.
Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre - Women’s fiction
Rating – PG-13
“Abby Long is thrilled when she offers the winning bid for an antique desk at an auction. With its intricately inlaid woods and elegant style, the desk is perfect for Abby; it is the gift she promised herself to finally celebrate her thriving antique business. She has no idea that the antique desk holds a secret that will lead her on a fascinating, life-changing journey back in time.

When Abby discovers a hidden diary stuffed inside a secret compartment in the desk, she can hardly wait to read the spidery, faded script. As she carefully turns the tattered pages, she reads the captivating story of two remarkable women from opposite backgrounds who somehow manage to form an unforgettable bond against the backdrop of a fledgling America struggling to find its place in the world. Elizabeth Kortright Monroe, the wife of James Monroe, and Jasmine, a young slave girl, develop an extraordinary relationship as they are united by pivotal historic events, political intrigues, and personal tragedies.

From a bucolic Virginia plantation to the bloodied, starving streets of post-revolutionary Paris, this powerful tale follows the lives of two courageous women from the past as they quietly influence—and inspire—a woman of today’s world.”
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Genre - Historical fiction
Rating – G
Widowed at thirty, Hannah Bradley is a successful journalist focusing on animal abuse issues. An accidental meeting introduces her to lawyer, Winston Caughfield III. Drawn to Hannah’s gentle beauty and fierce commitment to her work, Win joins her in a fight to save wild mustangs from slaughter. Together they rescue a badly injured horse with a mysterious background. 

Hannah’s search to discover the animal’s true identity leads them into a web of black marketeering and international intrigue. Action packed with crisp colorful dialogue the story propels the reader to a race against time conclusion. Marilyn Holdsworth delivers a gripping tale of mystery, adventure and romance guaranteed to hold the interest and capture the heart. She brings true-life characters together with real-life issues to create a fast-paced irresistible story.

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Genre – Contemporary fiction
Rating – PG
More details about the author
 Connect with Marilyn Holdsworth on Facebook & Twitter

#Geronimo ... (and the ones with religion) - LUCIFER & THE INDIGO KIDS by @Lord_Ra_Krishna #Poetry

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Geronimo... (and the ones with religion)

Dear Geronimo...
My Great, Great grand Father

They took you from us
And our people were slaughtered...

They didn't break your spirit
You passed it unto me

And I will spark the movement
As soon as I get free...

They hunted and chased you
I clearly remember
They would have never caught you
They're lucky you surrendered...

They tricked you and stole your land
and we even have the audacity to celebrate Thanksgiving...

They used you for mascots
the Red Skins
and the Chiefs

Your great land was stolen
By the ones with religion...

"This “new age” book of poetry reflects the diverse views and philosophies of it’s author Ra Krishna EL. It’s an intimate, humorous and thought provoking group of poems intended to evoke strong emotion. To quote the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, this style of poetry can be called “Zukunfts poesie“ which translates into “Poetry of the future”, where truly original ideas are presented thru poetry. Also known as post Nietzschean poetry.

It’s subjects include society, pop culture, love, religious dogma, God and the new age of Aquarius. This book was written and published during the false incarceration of its author in Chicago’s notorious Cook County Jail, the largest jail in the country."

Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre - Poetry, Philosophy
Rating – PG-13
More details about the author
Connect with Lord Ra Krishna EL on Facebook & Twitter

@JohnEWadeII Introduces the #Inspirational #Authors from "Glimpses of Heaven on Earth" #AmReading

Thursday, March 19, 2015

For those looking for some inspiration during these troubling times, look no further than Glimpses of Heaven on Earth. The four co-authors and I have scoured the globe for eloquent quotations about issues regarding such diverse topics as peace to gender harmony. Following a dozen or so quotes on these topics is a brief essay by one of the co-authors. Many involve the theme of education, and how we can all improve our lives through education—and by helping to provide for the education of others, especially those in developing countries and places of conflict.

One of my personal favorite essay is by Charlotte Piotrowski, on the topic of freedom. She touches on the obvious freedoms that most American’s and others enjoy, such as speech, but goes on to talk about the importance for everyone to enjoy the freedom of association (including marriage—a strong argument for allowing same-gender marriage). Charlotte quotes Dwight D. Eisenhower as saying, “To be true to one’s own freedom is, in essence, to honor and respect the freedom of others.”
One aspect of this book that is especially interesting is that the five co-authors write from very different perspectives. I previously published, How to Achieve a Heaven on Earth, and invited four of that book’s essay contributors to join me in writing for Glimpses of Heaven on Earth, which made for a very interesting read. I am a fairly conservative retired CPA and now write and invest full-time. You can learn more about me at my main website:

Charlotte, who is also from New Orleans, left a ten-year career in litigation to pursue a freelance career in writing, editing, and website/social media content. She works closely with me on all of my literary, media, and creative projects. Daniel Agatino is a practicing attorney in New Jersey, and also teaches law and communications courses on the college and graduate level. Additionally, he offers radio and television commentary on current events, especially as they relate to the law. Michael Nagler is the founder of the Metta Center for Nonviolence in California, and has given lectures and workshops around the world about nonviolent solutions. In fact, we recently returned from such a trip to India. Martin Rutte, who currently resides in Canada, was a co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work and founded the Heaven on Earth Project. In addition to writing, Martin is a motivational speaker.

The fact that the contributors come such diverse backgrounds means that this book should truly appeal to everyone. There is no religious or political agenda, even with the reference to heaven. In fact, there is an entire chapter on the topic of spiritual harmony, by Michael, who writes about how we are all as one, spiritually. Therefore, we should respect other’s choices of religion (or lack thereof). My essay on democracies does not advocate for a particular political party, but simply for the right of all people across the globe to have a say in their government.

This book would be excellent for use in a book club, church book group, or for any other group that is interested in discussing meaningful topics. And, although some of the subject matter can be quite deep, the book is simply written and a very pleasant read.

Glimpses of Heaven on Earth

Editor and author John E. Wade II has compiled a spiritual guide of invaluable insight for finding peace and meaning in life while making the world a better place for all. Along with co-authors Charlotte Livingston Piotrowski, Daniel Agatino, Michael Nagler, and Martin Rutte, this collection of enlightening essays and inspirational quotes from renowned thinkers and leaders throughout history provides the intellectual tools needed to live a more harmonious life.

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Genre - Inspirational
Rating – G
More details about the author
Connect with John E. Wade II on Facebook

Me versus God from LUCIFER & THE INDIGO KIDS by @Lord_Ra_Krishna #NonFiction #AmReading

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Me vs. God…

Dread Locs on my head
Like snakes on Medusa

Get to close
and you turn into stone

If I were a girl
Then I would be Medusa

Tell Jay-Z and Kanye
Get the f#ck out of my throne

It's the clash of the Titans
It's me vs. God

They're just mad
Because I stole back the fire
Like Prometheus

You see,
Prometheus stole the fire
From the Gods and gave it to mankind…

That's a metaphor for knowledge
Now I'm giving it to you…

It's the same as the apple
In the Garden of Eden

Just take one bite
And you will know that you are God…

"This “new age” book of poetry reflects the diverse views and philosophies of it’s author Ra Krishna EL. It’s an intimate, humorous and thought provoking group of poems intended to evoke strong emotion. To quote the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, this style of poetry can be called “Zukunfts poesie“ which translates into “Poetry of the future”, where truly original ideas are presented thru poetry. Also known as post Nietzschean poetry.

It’s subjects include society, pop culture, love, religious dogma, God and the new age of Aquarius. This book was written and published during the false incarceration of its author in Chicago’s notorious Cook County Jail, the largest jail in the country."

Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre - Poetry, Philosophy
Rating – PG-13
More details about the author
Connect with Lord Ra Krishna EL on Facebook & Twitter

"Minneapolis Court House" - HUSH #Excerpt by Kimberly Shursen @KimberlyShursen #Thriller #Legal

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Minneapolis Court House
September 3, 9:00 a.m.

Ben ran a hand down the lapel of his suit jacket. “I call Paige Werner to the stand.”

Putting a child on the witness stand to testify was the worst part of Ben’s job. But if a child was over the age of ten, and sometimes even younger, they were usually called to the stand. For many of these children their lives would always be a living hell. They would go from foster home to foster home until they were eighteen.

Today, Ben was representing twenty-nine-year-old Jeremy Werner. The Werner’s oldest daughter Paige had just turned ten and the oldest of three siblings. Recently divorced, both Rachel and Jeremy Werner wanted sole custody.

When Ben had deposed Rachel Werner, he’d seen through her. She wanted child support—not her children. Oh, she’d put on the drama-queen act and cried like a baby when Ben asked her questions. She’d ranted and raved hysterically about how Jeremy Werner had never been there for her or his children. But Ben had done his homework and found it had been Jeremy who’d attended his children’s school conferences, had signed Paige up for a dance classes, and enrolled his two younger boys in T-ball. It was also Jeremy who’d attended dance recitals and baseball practices. Rachel Werner had not only been a silent partner in this marriage, but as a mother.

Dressed in gray sweat pants, her ample breasts bulged inside the blue-and-white striped tank top, Rachel sat at the defense table, her right leg bouncing up and down rapidly. The stringy, unkempt hair, the sallow complexion, Ben was well aware of the signs of withdrawal. Most junkies tried to stay off dope long enough to win a custody case, and then they’d be right back at it.

The door of the courtroom opened, and a diminutive Paige Werner appeared. Wearing a navy cardigan, sundress, and sandals, she was small for her age. Staring at her fingers weaving in and out of each other, her light brown ponytail was tied with a white ribbon. Ben recognized the DHS worker who walked beside her.

“It’s okay, Paige,” Ben soothed and opened the gate. A courtroom was overwhelming for an adult, let alone a child; the judge donned in a black robe perching God-like on the bench, the twelve empty jury seats and parents sitting at opposing tables.

Paige slowly walked to the witness stand, picking up each foot as if it was too heavy to lift. Robot-like she stopped when she reached the three steps that led up to the witness stand, turned around, and faced the bailiff.

“Please raise your right hand, miss,” the sober-faced bailiff said.

Paige’s dark, doe-like eyes looked so full of pain Ben didn’t know how much more of this she could take. She raised her hand, her petite fingers curled over slightly.

“Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?” he asked the sad-looking child.

Her blank gaze went to Ben, and he nodded.

“Yes,” she said faintly.

“Witness may take the stand.”

Ben unbuttoned the middle button of his jacket. “Paige,” he said and took a few steps toward her, “do you know who I am?”

“My daddy’s lawyer,” she said shyly.

“That’s right,” Ben said evenly. “And do you remember what I told you?” He turned his head and briefly glanced at the defense table. “That your mommy’s lawyer and I would be asking you some questions today?”

“Uh huh.”

“Please answer with a yes or a no,” a voice boomed.

Paige jerked her head toward the judge, her eyes like saucers.

“It’s okay, Paige, you didn’t do anything wrong.” The judge nodded at the court reporter. “We just have to have a yes or no, so we can write it down.”

“Okay,” the child said, barely audible.

“Let me ask this again.” Ben smiled warmly. “Do you remember I told you that both Mr. Lansky and I would be asking you some questions today?”

“Yes,” she said and looked down.

“Do you know why you’re here today?” Ben took a couple of steps to his right, blocking Paige’s view of her mother.

“Uh huh.” A panicked expression quickly came across her face. “I mean yes.”

Ben wanted to walk up the steps, wrap his arms around her, and tell her everything would be alright. But everything wasn’t going to be alright and hadn’t been since the day Paige was born.

“And as you know, Paige, we’re here today to ask which parent you feel you would like to live with.”

She wiggled anxiously in her seat. “I know.”

“Do you remember I told you that we’d be asking you one very important question?”

“’Bout whether I want to live with my mommy or daddy?” Her tone pleaded with Ben to say no.

Ben nodded. “That’s right.”

Her chin started to quiver. “But I don’t want anyone to get mad.” A crocodile tear rolled down a freckled cheek.

“I know.” Ben walked back to his table and picked up a carton of Kleenex. “This is tough, but it’s important everyone knows how you feel.” He put the box down on the ledge in front of her.

Paige pulled out a tissue and wiped her cheek. She sat up straight, her eyes focused and clear. “I want to live with my daddy.”

A high-pitched shriek of resounded through the courtroom.

Ben shot his head toward Rachel Werner, giving her an arresting look. He turned quickly back around and faced the child. “I want you to pretend it’s just you and me talking, okay?”

“I’ll try.” She gnawed on her lower lip.

“That’s good enough for me.” Ben took a few steps to the side, blocking Paige’s vision of her mother again. “Can you tell us why you would like to live with your daddy?”

“My mommy’s…” Paige paused. “She’s too tired.”

“Can you tell us why you think your mommy’s tired?”

“She…she…” Paige covered her face with her hands and shook her head.

Rachel Werner stood up so fast, her chair toppled backwards. “You’re a liar!” She pointed a shaky finger at her daughter, her face balled in anger.

Paige cowered in her seat as Rachel Werner’s state appointed attorney stood and put a hand on his client’s shoulder, but Rachel Werner shirked it off. “Leave me the hell alone, asshole.” Angry spittle sprayed out her mouth.

“Mrs. Werner.” The sound of the gavel came down hard on the bench, and the judge’s face turned an angry crimson. “Sit down.”

“Everyone knows children should be with their mother,” Rachel Werner said hysterically. “She’s a little liar and everybody,” she screamed and bent over from the waist, “everybody knows it.” Her eyes glared fiercely at Paige. “You hear me, you little liar!”

“Counselor.” The judge shook his meaty jowls angrily. “Get your client under control, or I’ll throw her in jail for contempt.”

The fresh-faced attorney leaned over and whispered something into his client’s ear. Reluctantly, the mother sat back down, her hands and legs trembling in sync.

“Mrs. Werner.” The judge looked over the top of his glasses at her. “In this day and age, the parent who will be awarded custody will be because of the best interest for the child. The rights of both parents are equal. A mother has no more rights than a father.”

Rachel Werner bowed her head, her shoulders flinching with each muffled sob.

Ben leaned over the witness stand and patted Paige’s hand. “It’s okay, honey. We’ll stop if you want.”

“I knew she was gonna get mad,” Paige sniveled. “My brothers and I want to live with my daddy.”

“And why is that?” Ben asked.

“He makes us bunny pancakes and stuff.” Paige managed a slight grin.

“So, you have breakfast before school when you stay with your daddy?”

“Weekends we get to choose what we want.” Paige changed positions and smiled at her father. “Like eggs or pancakes and I get to help.”

“And what about dinner when you’re staying with your dad?” Ben locked his hands behind his back. “What kinds of things do you eat?”

“Daddy says we need to eat good stuff.” She wrinkled up her nose. “Like broccoli and carrots.”

Ben smiled. “And when you’re with your mom what kinds of things do you have for dinner?”

“Well.” Paige looked up pensively. “Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.” Her eyes lit up. “Sometimes pizza”

“And your mom makes the pizza?” Ben probed.

Paige slapped a hand over her chest. “I’m big enough to make pizza.”

Ben swallowed a chuckle. “So, if there is one big reason why you would like to live with your daddy, what would it be?”

“He plays with us.” Paige put her hands out to the side. “Like we do dog piles and all jump on top of him. And…hide-‘n-seek.” She shrugged her shoulders. “Lots of stuff.”

Ben raised an eyebrow. “So, he plays with you?”

“Uh huh.” She stiffened. “I mean yes.”

Even though Ben wanted to ask her more questions, he knew when to stop. Attention spans were short, and sometimes children became confused and would answer the same question differently.

“No further questions.” Ben winked at Paige, walked back to his table, and sat down. He put his hand over the French knot in his tie and moved it back and forth a few times. Hopefully Paige would remember to focus on Ben and not Rachel Werner when she was being questioned by her mother’s attorney.

The judge nodded at Rachel Werner’s attorney. “Counselor?”

“Thank you, Your Honor.” The slightly built attorney with black-rimmed glasses perched on a pug nose stood and approached the witness stand.

This case was over. The lawyer would hound Paige until she cried, the judge would recess, and by the end of next week, the father would have sole custody. A mother who was a practicing addict as opposed to a father who was clean and sober with a job that would support his children was a no-brainer.

Nothing enraged Ben more than children being placed with a parent who hadn’t earned their title. Men’s rights had come a long way. Two decades ago children were almost always awarded to their mothers, no matter how bad of a parent they were.

After the judge announced he would render his decision by the end of next week, the courtroom was adjourned.

“Thanks.” Jeremy Werner’s face beamed as he shook Ben’s hand.

“Just take care of Paige.” Ben stared into the father’s tired, young eyes. “Or I will guarantee you I’ll see you on the otherside of the courtroom.”

“I will, Mr. Grable.” Jeremy grinned. “I promise.”

Ben picked up his briefcase and took a fleeting glance at Mrs. Werner. Head on the table sobbing, her right leg moving up and down rapidly, she was a mess.

He marched down the aisle and pushed the door open at the back of the courtroom. As usual, the hallways were jammed. Women in faded jeans and somber frowns sat on benches in hopes a judge would issue a restraining order against an abusive husband; young women held crying toddlers, trusting an absent father would be jailed for lack of child support; and anxious, supportive fathers sat beside teenage sons about to face their first DWI charge.

He rode the elevator to the skywalk level as it only took minutes for Ben to walk from one building to the next. From eight until four, the above ground, indoor walkways were always crowded with professionals carrying attaché cases, as well as the homeless who wandered aimlessly through the maze of heated, indoor paths. Meshed inside a faceless crowd seemed to calm Ben down, especially after an intense courtroom session. He caught the musky scent of leather when he passed Wilson’s, and next to it, the sweet, succulent aroma of Godiva chocolate. With all the boutiques along with a sundry of restaurants, the skyway was a city in itself.

Ben took an escalator up to the top floor. It was a little after eleven, but people had already started to filter into the food court. His stomach did a flip-flop when he spotted Ann at a table as she’d told him she’d try to get away and meet him for lunch. Ben was already crazy about her. It felt like they’d known each other a lot longer than two weeks.

“You made it.” He leaned over the table and gave Ann a quick hug. “You like Chinese?”

“Love it.”

“You sure? Because there’s everything from pizza to—”

“I really, really, really want Chinese.” She flashed Ben a dimpled smile.

He snatched the Star and Tribune off another table and handed it to Ann. “Hey, do me a favor and find the New York Stock Exchange. Search for the cymbal DBS and let me know what it’s at.”

“It’s at thirty-five,” Ann informed Ben when he set a tray on the table. She folded the paper and pushed it aside. “That smells wonderful.”

“Great. Up a point.” He took the cartons off the tray and set a paper plate and plastic silverware in front of Ann.

Ann opened one of the red-and-white checked boxes and leaned over the steaming carton. “Ginger chicken?”

Ben grinned. “Ginger chicken.”

“Iced tea, too? Can you read my mind or what?” She scooped out a portion of the chicken onto her paper plate and then served Ben an ample portion. “What’s DBS?”

“A research company I invested in a couple of years ago.” Ben pulled out a chair across from her and sat down. “The research center is trying to find a cure, or at least diminish some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.”

Ann took a sip of her drink. “Do you know someone with Parkinson’s?”

Ben’s expression turned somber. “My grandmother. Watched her suffer for years before she passed. People shouldn’t have to live like that.”

“Oh, Ben,” she said sympathetically, “I’m sorry.”

They chit-chatted about their morning as they ate, Ben sharing with Ann that his heart broke every time a child had to testify in court, and Ann telling him about the newest arrivals in the nursery.

“How old are you?” Ann blurted. “Oh, sheesh”—she leaned back in her chair—“that came out of nowhere. Sorry.”

Although she had that wholesome girl-next-door look, she was beautiful, and Ben caught himself staring at her. “Older than you. I know that.” Ben scooped up the last of the chicken on his plate. “Twenty-eight.”

“When’s you’re birthday?”

Ben swiped over his mouth with a paper napkin. “Why? Wanna know what I want?”

“Maybe,” she said flirtatiously.

“You into signs and all that?”

Ann rolled her eyes. “Not at all. My father would not be proud if I were.”

“December twentieth,” Ben said. “Almost a Christmas baby. When’s yours?”

Ann’s mouth dropped open. “You’re kidding, right?”

“Why would someone lie about their birthday?” Ben closed the empty carton and put it back on the tray.

She slapped a hand over her chest. “Mine’s December twenty-first.”

“Okay, sock it to me. What year?” Ben eyed her. “Please don’t tell me I’m a cradle robber.”

She cocked her head to the side. “Same year as yours, Mister.”


Soon after Ann Ferguson and Ben Grable marry, and Ben unseals his adoption papers, their perfect life together is torn apart, sending the couple to opposite sides of the courtroom.

Representing Ann, lawyer Michael J. McConaughey (Mac) feels this is the case that could have far-reaching, judicial effects -- the one he's been waiting for.

Opposing counsel knows this high profile case happens just once in a lifetime.

And when the silent protest known as HUSH sweeps the nation, making international news, the CEO of one of the top ten pharmaceutical companies in the world plots to derail the trial that could cost his company billions.

Critically acclaimed literary thriller HUSH not only questions one of the most controversial laws that has divided the nation for over four decades, but captures a story of the far-reaching ties of family that surpasses time and distance.

*** Hush does not have political or religious content. The story is built around the emotions and thoughts of two people who differ in their beliefs.

 EDITORIAL REVIEW: "Suspenseful and well-researched, this action-packed legal thriller will take readers on a journey through the trials and tribulations of one of the most controversial subjects in society today." - Katie French author of "The Breeders," "The Believer's," and "Eyes Ever To The Sky."

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Genre – Thriller
Rating – PG-13
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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Inside the Mind of An Author

In the Darkness brought on by a closed room and narrow stairs, I slowly ascend to the top and push the attic floorboard to the side. This stairwell, conveniently hidden in a second floor wall, has been very dusty and full of cobwebs. I’m really not sure what to expect when I go into the attic. I have, however, heard strange noises.

Climbing up into the attic, into the mind of this author, I look around. The walls are cluttered with post it notes, and most of them had small symbols and some writing. There were papers that had fallen to the floor, and the whole area looked like an old bomb shelter.

I’m immediately dodging the many different children who are running around. The voices that each one uses to taunt the others are all different.

I stop one of them. His name is James.

“Are there any others around?”

“Oh, there are plenty.”

“Where are they?”

“Sitting in a corner of the filing room in the back. They’re waiting for their opportunity to come join the fun.”

“What are they waiting for?”

“Why, everyone knows that they’re waiting to be heard. Not all of us characters can be heard at the same time. Sometimes, he listens to three or four of us for a short time, and sometimes he listens to one of us for a long time. But, we’re all here. Waiting for our chance to be heard.”

“So why are you three out here running around?”

“We’ve already been heard. He’s concentrating on us right now, and it’s our chance to play and rest while he figures out what he wants us to do next.”

“How many are in the back room?”

“The last I checked, the room was crammed, and the waiting list was endless. Lots of voices like us want to be heard. We want to tell our stories.”

James escaped from my vision and went back to running around.

When I saw them return, I also saw them carrying long sticks, using them as play swords. I beat a hasty retreat from the mind of this author.


James Crofter was ripped from his family at age 11. 
Within a year the prince was a pauper in a foreign land. 
Is nature stronger than nurture? And even if it is, can James find the happiness he so richly desires? 

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Genre - Historical Fiction, Romance
Rating – PG
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Friday, January 16, 2015

Why Book Covers are So Important

There’s marketing, of course, but I don’t want to get too hung up in that. For me, my book cover was so important because it gave me a way to like my book again.

In general, I like what I write because I write things that I’d like to read. But the process of soliciting feedback, editing, and otherwise sitting with your book in an analytical way can drive away a good chunk of that affection. Especially when you’re about a year deep into the project and you aren’t feeling quite the same rush you did when you blazed through the first draft. And after you’ve been grappling with how seriously to take the 1 out of 40 beta readers who ended up hating your book and tearing it apart. I faced this scenario with my book, and I was having a very, very hard time liking my book right when I was finishing it up and getting ready to publish it.

But working with a good friend of mine to design the book’s cover pulled me out of this funk. The process and the final cover design helped me like, and then even love, my book again.

Why? Because instead of worrying about the text, I got to sit back and work with her to create a piece of art that was beautiful in its own right, but which also tapped into the book’s overall theme and tone.

What’s more, I got to bring someone else in to help work on the book with me. So I wasn’t just sitting by myself worrying about whether everyone was going to hate what I wrote. Instead, my friend and I just chatted on the phone, sent a lot of emails with pictures of book covers we liked, and talked about art. And then we talked about what we liked about the book, and why it resonated with the two of us. And suddenly I had this great avenue for thinking about, and appreciating, the book, while remembering why it meant so much to me in the first place.

Even better, I was able to give my friend a great opportunity—she got to design her first book cover from scratch. She’d worked on many book covers before mine, but she didn’t get to take full ownership of a cover design before. So no matter how I felt about the book, I knew that putting it out there would at least help my friend take a step forward in her career.

And ultimately, the whole process gave me something to love about the book that didn’t come from me. It’s always hard to feel totally positive about something that you made with your own two hands. Even if you like it, and even when you fall in love with it again, you still look at it and see the seams. And hear everything negative anyone has ever said about it. And think about all the worries, and concerns, and anxieties that went into it. But I can look at this cover that my friend designed and love it unconditionally. And that means there’s at least something about this book that I can approach without doubt.

The Girl Who Came Back to Life

When you die, your spirit wakes in the north, in the City of the Dead. There, you wander the cold until one of your living loved ones finds you, says "Goodbye," and Sends you to the next world. 

After her parents die, 12-year-old Sophie refuses to release their spirits. Instead, she resolves to travel to the City of the Dead to bring her mother and father’s spirits back home with her. 

Taking the long pilgrimage north with her gruff & distant grandmother—by train, by foot, by boat; over ruined mountains and plains and oceans—Sophie struggles to return what death stole from her. Yet the journey offers her many hard, unexpected lessons—what to hold on to, when to let go, and who she must truly bring back to life.

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Genre – Middle Grade
Rating – PG-13
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