Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Which One Next?

As many of you know, since November 2009, I've been posting one of my stories in serial form. I never expected "Take a Bite Outta Crime" to last as long as it did. Now that it's done, I feel rather at a loss. Where do I go now?
I decided to appeal to my readers. I've got several stories to choose from. Below I've written a short synopsis of each and I'm asking for people to pick the two that most interest them. I'll tally up the votes and narrow down the list. Hopefully, people will give me some feedback and I won't have to decide myself.

Set for Love: Bern Cortland is a small town boy. Having come to the big city to work in live theatre, he thinks he's also found love. Unfortunately, that relationship ends in disaster. Paige Russo is the leading lady with an attitude problem. She has her own burdens to carry. Can they make a go of it or are they really Set for Love?

Fragrance Lingers: Mara Cross has spent the last ten years of her life building a career instead of a relationship. Lonely, but not really looking for love, she goes on vacation for the first time in five years. Enter Cole Bayard. When his volleyball goes awry, he finds himself falling for the saucy redhead. Is this true love or merely a vacation fling?

Love Undercover: Saige Ingalls has been living with Ben Watson for three years. He's always been distrustful of her relationships with other men, but his jealousy of her boss has gotten out of hand. In a fit of spite, he throws her out of her apartment, tossing her things out the window onto the street below. Romany (Romy) Cross is the guy downstairs. He's tall, dark and handsome as well as being a bit of a bad boy. Little do either of them know that danger stalks them both.

Love Afloat: Kyle Scott is a young widower with three children. He's not dealing well with his wife's death, so his boss & friend, Web, insists he take a vacation and tells him to book a cruise. Kyle, his children and their housekeeper, Carmelita, embark on a voyage to Mexico. On board, Kyle meets the lovely and frail Emily Geraci. Having just watched his wife wither away from cancer, he knows an ill woman when he sees one. There's a priest who claims that he can take away any disease and Emily is on her way to see him. Unfortunately, meeting the priest wakes old monsters for Kyle. Can their new blooming love survive?

Posed for Love: Ianna Eaton is a talented art student who works as a bartender part time. She dreams of finding someone to love, but feels she isn't pretty or interesting enough to attract a man. Her luck changes when Reed Owens walks in the bar. Taking refuge from the rain when he has car trouble, the handsome young man appeals to Ianna. The night of their first date, someone breaks into Ianna's apartment. Police think it was Reed. Is he really the man the police say he is? Or is he the man that will win Ianna's heart?

Those are the choices. Tell me which you'd most like to read and I'll set it up. Meanwhile, "Take a Bite Outta Crime" has a few more episodes left. It ends May 24th. Thank you for your support.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Next on What's Write for Me!

This month, I'm delighted to have two fantastic authors. Join Christina and me on Wednesday, March 28th at 1:00 PM EDT on Blog Talk Radio! Our guests will be Katherine Tomlinson, author of Toxic Reality and Allen Malnak, author of "Hitler's Silver Box". http://www.blogtalkradio.com/rrradio/2012/03/28/rrw--whats-write-for-me



Katherine Tomlinson is a former reporter who prefers making things up. This story is from her collection Toxic Reality, available on Amazon and Smashwords. Her chapter in Paul D. Brazill’s Drunk on the Moon series comes out in March, the same month as her short story collection L.A. Nocturne II: More Tales of the Misbegotten. You can find more of her fiction on her blog, Kattomic Energy.
Amazon link





After completing his medical residency and liver disease fellowship, Dr. Malnak practiced as a board-certified internist. He served as Chief of Internal Medicine at the US Army Hospital, Fort Sill, OK., and was medical director of several organizations. Dr. Malnak was also a Clinical Assistant Professor at the Stritch School of Medicine of Loyola University. His interest in the Holocaust was sparked by all the men, women and children of his father’s Lithuanian family having been sent to a death camp by the Nazis and exterminated. He and his wife Patricia live in Florida with their Whippet—Paige and Parakeet—Kiwi.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Hammer of Thor by S. Evan Townsend


 Hammer of Thor is unexpected. I thought it would be about gods and goddesses of Norse mythology, but I was pleasantly surprised. Instead of being all about Valhalla, it's about a man named Frank Kader. Frank is an ordinary guy—except for the fact he wields magic. An adept, he heads from Minnesota to California to join the West Coast Guild. The year is 1939.
Frank's skills save him from a long series of incidents that would have killed a lesser man. He travels the world across the U.S., to war torn Europe, and all the way to China. Along the way he makes an interesting group of friends as well as some powerful enemies. He must pit his skills against theirs in order to save himself and his friends from disaster.
Hammer of Thor is an incredibly complex novel that intertwines true events with a great deal of imagination. Spanning eleven years, readers watch Frank as he grows more powerful and finally faces the ultimate foe—a god of Valhalla!
I greatly enjoyed Hammer of Thor and recommend it to anyone who likes novels that pair recent history with a paranormal twist. Five Golden Acorns

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Excerpt from "Under the Western Sky"

This is from my retro novel, Under the Western Sky. Set in western Nebraska in 1976, the novel follows Libby Marshall, her boyfriend Bobby Menendez and their friends during a troubled time. There are organizations who don't think that the races should mix. They hide in shadows on the fringes of society, they are still very influential.

Libby and Bobby get dragged into a crisis not of their making, when Bobby's best friend, a white boy named Danny Emerson, is forced to attack Bobby to pave his way into a group he doesn't want to join. Threats of violence against his family coerce him into making a decision he could regret the rest of his life. This scene is where Danny confronts Bobby on the street between Libby and Bobby's houses. Unbeknownst to Danny, there are several federal agents camping out at Bobby's in order to protect his family after another group boys from the same organization, brutally beat Bobby's cousin.


Strolling across the street, Bobby was thinking about Libby and how much he loved her, when someone got out of a car just down from his mother's house.

Acting like he didn't notice, he walked slightly faster to his front porch. If he made enough noise, Jim would hear him and come out. He wasn't scared, not yet. The other person came forward until he stood under the streetlight. It was Danny. His face was bland, expressionless, which was more frightening than seeing anger. If he'd been mad, it would mean he still cared.

Bobby faced his former best friend, checking the car and shadows to see if the bigger boy was alone. Bobby didn't see anyone else, but that didn't mean they weren't there.

"Roberto, you and I need to talk."

Bobby held his arms out from his body, shrugging. "I'm here, amigo. Talk." He said loudly, hoping someone would hear.

Danny didn't move, his hands in the pockets of his jacket. He spoke quietly, calmly. "You know I didn't beat Ramon, right?"

"I know you were there. I can't believe you'd hit him with a fucking bat. That's not your style."

Danny's mouth quirked and he dropped his head. "What is my style?"

"Take a swing, kick his ass, but a bat's bad form. You weren't ever a cheat, Dan."

"Really?" The reply was dry, sarcastic, not Danny's usual style either.

Something was wrong. It was a warm night. Why was Danny wearing a jacket? Why were his hands in his pockets? Bobby knew he was in trouble. It was late, his friends and family were going to bed, and, despite Toby's warnings, he was alone.

"You know, Danny," he said rather too loudly. "That was a cheap shot you did to his balls. Were you trying to emasculate him or just mess him up so he couldn't take your woman?"

"I didn't do that, Bobby. You have to believe me. That wasn't my idea."

"I hope not because I'd hate to be the man who did that to Ramon. Whoever did better hope he recovers full use, or he's gonna wish he'd killed my cousin. Because Ramon will come after whoever it was. And that man will die badly. Make no mistake."

"Nobody needs to die here, Bobby." Danny was getting nervous.

"What's in your pocket, Daniel?" Bobby took a step toward his friend.

"Don't come near me," Danny cautioned, holding out his left hand like a stop sign. His right hand stayed in his pocket.

"Lemme see," Bobby took another step. "We never used to have secrets. We're brothers, remember? When we were ten, we cut our hands and did blood brothers."

"Bobby, I mean it. Don't come any closer." His voice shook, his left hand trembling.

"Gonna shoot me, Danny? Is that the plan? You gonna come and kill your best friend? Is that what it takes to be part of the clan? Sever your ties, kill the Mexican vermin. Jesus, Danny, did our friendship mean so little?"

"Don't, Bobby. Stop. I mean it!" Danny yelled, yanking the gun out of his pocket.

The streetlight glittered on the barrel of a snub nosed .38 revolver. Danny's hand shook, but he kept the gun trained on Bobby.

"Drop the gun, Danny. Fight me like a man. You never needed a weapon against me. Don't you think you can take me? I'm half your size."

He was willing his friend to come closer, begging him in his mind to drop the weapon and let down his guard, but it wasn't happening—yet. He kept talking, taking little steps closer. The gun didn't drop. Danny's hand shook uncontrollably. The closer Bobby got, the more danger he was in that the gun would go off by mistake.

Bobby reminded Danny of every time they had been there for one another, all the pranks they had played, how their mothers called them the Dastardly Duo. Each statement started as an "I remember when," cataloging the last ten years of their lives. Tears formed in Danny's eyes but he blinked them away. When he was close enough, Bobby stopped moving.

Danny's arm was within reach, the gun leveled at Bobby's forehead. Steadier now, it didn't waver. He shifted his grip on the gun and Bobby moved. Lunging at his friend, he grabbed the barrel of the gun, pulling Danny toward him, catching him off balance.

With an easy shift of his hands, he put pressure on Danny's wrist, forcing him to drop the gun. Bobby kicked it away, slamming his elbow into Danny's chin. The other boy should have dropped, but Bobby hadn't hit him hard enough. A vestige of their friendship remained, tattered and shredded as it was.

Danny tried to head butt Bobby, but the young Mexican man dodged, pulling Danny further off balance by a shift of his weight. Knocking his friend down, Bobby flipped Danny on his face, holding his arm up behind him as his foot pressed into the white boy's shoulder. Hand at an awkward and painful angle, Danny screamed as he felt his shoulder pop out of the socket.

People poured out of the houses, rushing toward them. Dark figures fled from the bushes, running in four different directions. Danny's backup had finally decided that hanging around was dumb. Toby ran after one, bringing him down with an amazing flying tackle. Jim got another and Evanston took down a third. The fourth ran away, but police sirens were coming from that direction and the guy was running in the middle of the street. He wouldn't get far.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Spring Cleaning - It's for the Birds!

I belong to a small writing group which meets once a week. We get a writing prompt every week and (usually) write on that subject. One week, it was spring cleaning. This is what I wrote.

"Effie!" Mama screeched from the back porch.
I'd almost made it. I was halfway over the fence between us and the Mason's when I heard her. Had I been on the other side, I could've claimed I didn't hear her, but she'd see me in a second if she looked.
"Effie Marie!"
"Coming, Mama!" I hollered, pouting. "Dang it, just about got away!" I shuffled my feet as I approached the porch.
"Where you runnin' off to? Today we start spring cleaning."
"Mama, we just cleaned up the house last week."
"But that was just regular cleaning. Now we got to open up the house, freshen the air, beat the rugs, scrub the floors...."
"Why, Mama?"
"Because it's spring. Need to greet the new season with a fresh house."
Pouting and griping, I followed her inside. She handed me an armload of dirty rugs and told me to go beat them clean. I took 'em to the side of the house and whacked 'em against the corner until she fussed at me and took over the process.
"Go mop the kitchen," she ordered.
I got the mop and bucket and marched into the kitchen. I slopped some water around and left big puddles of grubby water on the floor. Mama came back in while I was shoving the pools around and fussed some more.
"Swear to God, Effie Marie, you can't do nothin' right! Give me that mop!"
I handed it over. "Sorry, Mama."
"Go sweep the front porch. Can't tell me you're not able to do that right!"
"Yes, ma'am." I took the broom and went out to the front porch.
There was quite a wind blowing. Every time I got a pile of dirt together, it blew away before I could sweep it up. I went and got Daddy's leaf blower and fired it up, blowing the crap off the porch that way. Mama came out screaming.
"Effie Marie, what're you doing now?"
"Sweeping the porch, Mama. Wind kept blowing it all back around...."
"You're more trouble than you're worth, child. Go on up to your room and stay outta my way! If you want something done right, got to do it yourself!" She griped & grumbled as she finished working.
I went up to my room with a sly smile. I closed the door and lay down on my bed to watch some TV. Yup, there's sure something to be said for incompetence. "If you want something done right....do it wrong so Mama will do it." Boy, do I love spring cleaning!

Monday, March 05, 2012

Qwantu Amaru - One Blood


For Every Action...
Lincoln Baker, born a ward of the state, has gone from orphan, to gang banger, to basketball superstar, to lifer at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in the space of eighteen years. During his prison term, he meets Panama X, a powerful and mysterious father figure who gives Lincoln a reason for living – he must assassinate Randy Lafitte, the sitting Governor of Louisiana.
There is an Equal and Opposite Reaction...
In order to force a pardon, Lincoln orchestrates the kidnapping of Karen Lafitte, Randy’s only daughter. But Randy Lafitte is a man who built his fortune by resurrecting a family curse from slavery to kill his own father. A curse that may or may not have been responsible for his son Kristopher’s death in the gang crossfire that sent Lincoln to prison for life. Randy will stop at nothing to save his daughter, even if it means admitting the curse is real. Even if it means committing greater atrocities.

Too bad for Anyone Stuck in the Middle.

Three days after Karen’s kidnapping, an explosive cocktail of revenge, manipulation, serendipity, fate, truth, and redemption detonates throughout Louisiana. When the dust settles, the ending is as unexpected as it is illuminating. There are secrets sealed in our blood, you see. The best answers, as always, lie within.


Chapter Six

1963
New Orleans, LA

Randy stepped out of the air-conditioned womb of the hotel into the kaleidoscope of sights, sounds, and smells that made up his favorite street in his favorite city. He paused under the hotel awning, rubbing his hand through sandy blond hair, his clipped nails unconsciously brushing the still sensitive scar. His father had dropped him on his head as a baby—the first of many injuries. Randy wasn’t a baby anymore, though, and the delights of Bourbon Street beckoned.
It was near dusk. The French Quarter was ablaze with the orange glow of electric lamps. The thick, sticky air hung suspended like spider webs of moisture, flavored by an eye-watering aromatic stew of magnolia, urine, cayenne pepper, and exhaust fumes. Randy’s virgin ears buzzed with dusky jazz and blues melodies echoing down a street too narrow to contain the soulful yet sorrowful notes. The foot traffic of hundreds of thirsty, starving visitors—beckoned by the holy trinity of cheap booze, cheap (yet exotic) eats, and cheap thrills—replaced automobile traffic.
Randy was here for none of these, although a few drinks would probably help ease his self-consciousness. He stood out like an aristocrat among the groveling masses in his blue blazer, polo shirt, and khakis, but knew the uniform would please his father. After all, Randy’s father was footing the bill for this little excursion, even though he was in the dark about Randy’s real reason for wanting to come to New Orleans.
To keep up the fa├žade of a celebratory party trip to the Big Easy, Randy had brought his partner in adolescent crime, Bill Edwards, along for the mission. Bill was a physical Adonis whose mental faculties were not much more advanced than a statue. His simple, go-with-the-flow attitude made him the perfect traveling companion.
After the four and a half hour train ride from the heel of their boot-shaped state, into the big toe, Randy and Bill checked into the luxurious suite Joseph had reserved for today’s dual celebration of Randy’s graduation from boarding school and his eighteenth birthday. Atop the dresser his father had left them a stack of cash and a note instructing the boys to explore the city. He’d try to meet them for a late dinner.
As the young men passed throngs of street musicians, hippy hustlers, and tourist shops, Randy considered New Orleans’ deceptive nature, the gluttonous beast beneath the cultured veneer. The city reminded him of a decrepit venus fly trap, opening up her decaying petals to emit what was left of her allure. Randy could relate to that kind of deception and duality.
For an instant, Randy felt the presence of something dark, wet, hairy, and profoundly hungry stalking him. He looked over at Bill to see if any of this was registering.
His taller, bulkier buddy gestured excitedly at a sign advertising penny peep shows. “Check this out, Ran!” Bill whipped his head around and gaped at an attractive blonde who looked around their age. The girl glanced over her shoulder and gave Randy a look to which he’d grown quite accustomed. Southern girls played at being prim and proper but were easier to play than a pre-schooler’s recorder.
Forget those girls, Bill,” Randy said. “We’ve got other plans.”
You serious?” Bill asked, following the blond and her buxom red-headed friend into a nondescript bar. The sign outside read: Jean Lafitte’s Old Absinthe House.
Lafitte, hmm. Maybe it’s a family-owned establishment.
Come on, buddy, let’s get some beers,” Randy said, turning Bill away from the bar and pointing him in the opposite direction. Randy actually had no idea where he was going, but knew what he was looking for. He found it down a dark alleyway three blocks off Bourbon Street.
Explaining the essence of his plan to Bill, Randy got the response he anticipated.
No way, Ran. I ain’t goin’ to no fortune teller.”
Who said you were?” Randy pushed Bill out of the way. His eyes were drawn to the sign on the worn door before them.
GOOD FORTUNES, it promised.
Bill interrupted his reverie. “Somethin’ ain’t right about this place. Can we please go?”
Calm down, you big chicken,” Randy replied. “Drink your beer and wait for me.” Randy didn’t anticipate much help from a mere fortune teller, but hoped she could at least point him in the right direction. He was searching for a place where spells, curses, and secrets were traded. Where blood sacrifice was the only currency that mattered. And later at dinner, Bill would corroborate Randy’s story about how they’d spent their evening.
Randy winked at Bill and turned the knob.
Now why you gotta go and do this, Ran. These places ain’t safe!”
Only one way to find out,” Randy replied, pulling the door open. Lavender spice tickled his nostrils as he moved into the building. “See,” he said, “what’s so scary about this?”
Bill peered in briefly before Randy closed the door in his face.
Randy stared up a candle-lit stairway. “Hello! Anyone here?”
Upstairs,” a girlish voice sang.
Well, here goes nothing.
Randy’s boldness was replaced with childlike fear and wonder. Swallowing his nerves, he slowly ascended the staircase, gazing cautiously at his surroundings. At the top, he was greeted by a golden light emanating from a room just off the landing. He looked around for the owner.
The space was empty, but for a myriad of plants and a small round table in the center of the room. Light radiated from a globe in the middle of the table. Randy sat in one of the two chairs and examined the sphere.
You can touch it if you want,” a voice whispered, an inch from Randy’s right ear.
He jumped up and whirled around, his gaze falling upon a beautiful woman with curly, black hair. Her height and youthful bone structure surprised him even more than her sudden appearance. He’d always pictured fortune tellers as older and gypsy-like, but this woman looked barely older than him.
Did I scare you?” the woman asked, her green eyes glinting with mischief. Her near-white skin glowed from the light coat of sweat afflicting nearly everyone in this tropical town.
A little,” Randy admitted. “Why did you sneak up on me like that?” His eyes devoured the yellow summer dress clinging to her sultry Creole curves.
I like to get a good look at my customers before we engage.”
Are you satisfied with what you see?” he asked. He noticed that her delicate hands were wrapped in looping henna script.
Not quite. Come. Sit.”
Randy sat before the beautiful prophetess. He felt an uncomfortable rigidness in his crotch.
Stay focused.
What’s your name?” he asked.
The woman smiled. “Madame Deveaux,” she spoke softly.
Randy had to lean in to hear her. “You…you’re not…what I expected.” Their faces were inches apart.
People rarely are. So, what brings you to me?”
Randy was losing himself in her eyes, forgetting his purpose. Willing himself from her hypnotic sway, he blurted, “I…I want to curse someone.”
Her gaze sharpened. “I do not play games, young man. Nor should you.”
I’m very serious.” Now that his dark request was out in the open, his heart pounded against the walls of his chest like a giant trapped behind a great steel door.
We’ll see about that. How much money do you have?”
Money? I thought…”
You thought you could pay me in pig’s blood or some other foolishness?”
Favors,” Randy choked out, his cheeks burning with embarrassment. “I read…I mean, I thought you were paid in favors.”
Madame Deveaux’s face softened as she erupted in laughter.
What’s so funny?”
You’re just a boy,” she replied. “Who could have possibly hurt you so deeply that you feel the need to hurt them in return?”
Randy stared at the impossibly young fortune teller, trying to decide how much to reveal. Either she would believe him, or she wouldn’t. Either she could help, or she couldn’t. “My father,” he said finally.
She nodded. “Our families are often the cause of our deepest pain. What makes your case so special?”
Taking a deep breath, Randy began his story. It was amazing how easy it was to talk about this secret subject with a complete stranger.
He killed my mother. In a car accident when I was twelve. Tried to say it was some kind of accident, but I know he’s happy she’s dead…”


* * * * *


After his mother’s funeral, Randy was often dragged to meetings his father had with a group of men that Joseph referred to as his brethren. Even at the age of twelve, Randy was well aware of what his father and his friends did to pass the time. After getting drunk, they’d pull out their white robes and hoods and head into North Lake City to “maintain the order of things,” as Joseph liked to call it. Randy once asked his father why they had to patrol the area if that was the police’s job.
Joseph snorted laughter and replied, “Look around the room, son. The police are right here. We just wear different uniforms at night.”
One such night, the brethren were drinking heavily, their pores oozing the rotting oak aroma of Kentucky’s finest bourbon. Joseph, three sheets to the wind, began recounting the accident that took his mother’s life, looking Randy right in the eyes while doing so, as if daring his son to shut him up.
According to Joseph, he and Rita were returning to Lake City from Shreveport on US-151, just outside of Deridder, when a stupid black child chased a ball or something into the middle of the highway, right into their path.
When I saw that niglet, I had a mind to do one thing and one thing only.”
What was that, Joe?” the brethren asked as one.
To jam down on the gas and run ‘im down!”
The brethren howled like hyenas before the kill.
But then my stupid cunt of a wife grabbed the wheel and instead of hittin’ that niglet we hit a ditch. Well…I hit the ditch. Poor Rita flew out the windshield like a witch on a broomstick! Ha! Good riddance, I say.”


* * * * *


It was supposed to be me,” Randy whispered to Madame Deveaux. “It’s my fault she’s dead.”
How is it your fault?” Madame Deveaux asked.
On trips, I was the navigator, so I always got to sit up front with my father. But I was sick this time and couldn’t go, and she died because of it…”


* * * * *


Randy began two different lives in the wake of his mother’s death.
In public, he played the part of the grieving only son of the affluent businessman. He attended school, studied hard, and hung out with friends. But he never shed a tear. That would have brought on a severe beating from Joseph for certain.
In private, he was in agony. He didn’t sleep, eat, or pray. His brain was on a never-ending doom loop. Before long, he fell apart like a long buried skeleton.
One day, while desperately searching for some way, any way, to relieve himself of the crushing grief, guilt, fear, and shame, he took a steak knife in one unstable hand. Before he knew what he was doing, he slashed his upper forearm in a swift motion, reminiscent of a violinist with a bow. After nearly fainting from the sight of his own blood bubbling up to the surface of his pale skin like lava, the sensation of vertigo was quickly replaced by a surge of adrenaline and release.
Eventually, he graduated to butcher knives and long precise cuts to his upper thighs. He even grew accustomed to the additional sting from the sour-smelling vinegar he used to cauterize his self-inflicted wounds. Nothing compared to the merger of pain and exuberance he experienced whenever he plunged a knife into his flesh.


* * * * *


So you wish to curse your father to punish him for killing your mother, correct?” Madame Deveaux recapped.
He nodded.
Why a curse?” Madame Deveaux asked after a moment’s reflection. “Are you afraid to get your hands bloody?”
Randy stared at her over the shimmering globe. “No. I’m not afraid. But there is a certain symmetry to doing it this way. You interrupted me before I could finish my story…”


* * * * *


One afternoon after the cutting started, Randy was wandering deep in the stacks of the Lake City Public Library, planning more self-inflicted incisions, when a book spine caught his attention. He pulled out the book called The History of Magic and cracked it open. Hope whispered to him from between the dusty pages.
He devoured the tome, chock-full of true stories about apparitions, divination, witchcraft, and spirit-rapping. Afterward, he became obsessed with all things occult, reading everything he could get his hands on. Most of the books dealt with the homegrown magic of Hoodoo and the religion of Voodoo. They described New Orleans as the epicenter of American magic.
Randy began daydreaming of one day possessing the power to bring his mother back from the dead. But those plans got derailed when their maid found his stash of bloody rags and damning books, prompting Joseph to ship him off to a boarding school in France.
While exiled, Randy had the opportunity to meet distant relatives and learn more about his origins. His father had always expressed extreme pride for their ancestor Luc Lafitte, a French buccaneer famous for many things, including the founding of their hometown, Lake City, in 1802. However, Randy quickly learned that his French kin didn’t share the same affection for Luc. To them, Luc and his direct descendants were decayed branches that had thankfully rotted off the family tree.
After weeks of searching the library of his boarding school for the French version of Luc’s story, Randy uncovered Le Roi des Pirates, (The Pirate King), which described the beginnings of the Lafitte lineage in America. Apparently Luc had made his fortune hijacking Spanish ships in the Gulf of Mexico, eventually settling down in Lake City. The Lafitte’s had always been an opportunistic clan, and Luc possessed the foresight to open a French trading outpost in Lake City that became a strategic center for French military operations. He married the daughter of a French aristocrat who eventually gave him a daughter and two sons.
Luc’s life then became very unremarkable until his apparent suicide three days after his oldest child and only daughter, Melinda, threw herself from the roof of the Lafitte mansion on her eighteenth birthday. Randy combed through account after account of who was born to whom, who married who, and who died when. A dark trend emerged; Melinda’s suicide had started something.
The more he read, the more he became convinced that fate put this knowledge into his hands at the precise moment when he could appreciate its significance. It was as if his mother were reaching out to him from behind death’s curtain and pointing the way.


* * * * *


Today is my eighteenth birthday,” Randy concluded.
And you want your father to die three days from now, just like Luc Lafitte, am I right?” Madame Deveaux asked.
Randy nodded.
What if you’re wrong? What if the curse doesn’t work that way?”
Randy hadn’t considered this, but couldn’t let her know that. “Well…if it doesn’t work…I expect a full refund.”
Madame Deveaux laughed. “You really have no idea what you’re getting yourself into, do you?”
Randy suppressed the urge to lunge across the table and choke her laughs quiet. “Look, there are a hundred so-called fortune tellers in this town. Are you going to help me or not?”
Madame Deveaux straightened. At once, she appeared taller and more present. Randy felt her essence envelop him from all sides, even though she never moved.
I am no fortune teller, boy,” she said. “I am mambo…ahh, I see you know this word, yes?”
He nodded slowly. “So…you are a voodoo priestess?”
Yes. Now you know what and who you are dealing with. Do you still wish to proceed?”
Yea-yes,” he stammered.
Very well, Randy,” she replied after a moment. “Come back tomorrow afternoon and I will have everything you need.”
Plodding down the stairs, Randy couldn’t remember when he had told her his name.
Oh man, am I glad to see you!” Bill exclaimed as Randy stepped out of the building. “What the hell took you so long?”
Randy’s head buzzed. Madame Deveaux’s incense had done a number on him. “What do you mean? How long was I gone?”
Nearly two hours!”
That long?
Well? What did she say?” Bill asked.
She said that I should get rid of any and all chicken shit friends.”
Come on, man. What did she really say?”
In three days, Joseph is a dead man.
Ran? You with me buddy?”
Randy looked over at Bill. “I need a drink. Then I’ll tell you all about it.” Randy stared back at the sign – GOOD FORTUNES.
Am I really going to go through with this?
He visualized his mother’s kind face and felt his jaw muscles clench painfully. For the first time in years he felt the compulsion to bleed himself.
Okay, no problem,” Bill replied. “Hey, cheer up…it’s still your day for another coupla’ hours. Let’s make the most of it.”
Randy allowed Bill to wrap his arm around his shoulder and lead him back into the lights of the French Quarter.


* * * * *


Over the next three days, Randy followed Madame Deveaux’s instructions without exception. She told him that sometime after midnight on the third day, Joseph would do something completely out of character. That would be Randy’s cue that the curse was in effect. Just when he’d convinced himself that he’d been swindled, his father burst out of the front door of their hotel, a drunken, disheveled mess.
Randy suppressed his impulse to call the whole thing off and followed his father instead.
Joseph was clearly scared out of his mind. The stench of his fear hung in the air like a trail of breadcrumbs as Randy lagged behind him.
Before long, Joseph reached Jackson Square.
Randy found a spot where he could observe without being seen. He watched as his father knelt next to Andrew Jackson’s statue and placed a revolver in his mouth.
It’s working. He’s really going to do it.
Joseph looked up as if in prayer and a tall, black man emerged from the shadows.
Randy stood. This wasn’t part of the plan.
Joseph removed the revolver from his mouth at the sight of the black man and offered it to him.
Randy ran across the square.
Joseph sat in rapt attention as the black man spoke to him. Then the black man shoved the barrel of the weapon back into Joseph’s mouth and pulled the trigger.
Randy watched the back of his father’s head torn apart by the bullet. He stopped in the middle of the square like he was the one who’d been shot. Finally, he found his voice and screamed, “Stop right there!”
Randy broke into a run, but arrived at his father’s side too late.
The murderer was gone.

Qwantu Amaru has been writing since the age of 11.  An avid reader, he has always aspired to write suspenseful page turners and socially significant literature like those of his writing influences Richard Wright, Harper Lee, Walter Mosley, Tananarive Due and Stephen King. Qwantu draws his inspiration from his modest upbringing in small towns and cities across Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Louisiana, and Florida. In addition to his first novel, ONE BLOOD, Qwantu has published six volumes of poetry:LightbringerLovelostAfter the StormMidnight's ShadowAwakening, andActual-Eyez.Qwantu is an active member of the outstanding socially active poetry collective Black on Black Rhyme out of Tallahassee, FL.He has performed spoken word in poetry venues from New York to Los Angeles.He is also part owner and one third of The Pantheon Collective, an independent publishing venture dedicated to bringing high quality independent books to the masses while empowering and inspiring other authors to follow their dreams.Qwantu currently resides in Jersey City, NJ.



Saturday, March 03, 2012

Mountain Mystery

This story is unique. It's historical, set in the early 1940's prior to our involvement in WWII. My mother was fortunate enough to work at Pine Mountain Settlement School in the Kentucky mountains outside Harlan. Though this story isn't about her, her experiences there gave me the inspiration for the story.


Dollie Belloit and her sister, Patty, work at the settlement school. Patty has just become engaged to one of the local men, Willem Henry. Dollie is interested in Willem's brother, Lucius. Looks like it might be a match made in heaven, until a dead body shows up in the creek. This excerpt takes place at the end of the school year party. Dollie and Lucius are on their first official date.


Willem met Patty at the door and the four of them walked in together. Music played on the record player. One of the men had rigged it so that it was piped through the speakers. This would do for a time, but the play party games music would be played by a group of local men and one woman who often performed together.
Somehow, Lucius' cousin Jed had been convinced to introduce the tunes and start the records. He was doing an admirable job of it. A new song started just as they walked in the door. Jed smiled, giving them a thumb's up. The opening strains of "Moonlight Serenade" began.
"Miss Dollie, would you honor me with this dance?" Lucius asked.
"I'd be delighted," she replied as he led her onto the dance floor.
Dollie hadn't expected Lucius to be able to dance, but he did very well. Smiling and laughing, they spun around the dance floor with Willem and Patty nearby.
Jed followed the slow dance with another popular song by Glenn Miller, "In the Mood". Lucius surprised her further by swinging her into a rollicking dance. Many of the others hung back, unsure of the steps. The enthusiasm of Lucius and Dollie was contagious and soon all of them were dancing.
Gasping and laughing, the couples had to rest afterward. They gravitated toward the refreshment table where the younger girls served cookies and punch. Lucius got two cups of punch for himself and Dollie.
"It's hot in here. Reckon you'd like to step out for a breath of air before the games start."
"Reckon I would," she replied.
Willem and Patty followed them, keeping their distance. Dollie thought it was so they could keep and eye on them, but her sister and Lucius' brother were too wrapped up in each other to notice.
"Will put the last nail in the house today," Lucius said. "Outside's finished. Got to do the inside, but that won't take long with me and the boys helping."
"That's wonderful!"
"Reckon he's gonna make it official any day," the young man said, raising an eyebrow in the direction of their siblings.
"I think he just did," Dollie added, watching the other two kiss.
"Yee haw," Lucius said quietly. "Miss Dollie...."
"Just Dollie, please. No need to be so formal."
"Dollie.... I'm not a big talker...."
"I know...."
"But I like talkin' to you mighty fine. I think you're about the prettiest girl I ever met. If you'd consider.... That's if you'd...."
A loud screeching wail emanated from inside the dining hall. All the men and older boys leaped to attention. Those sitting down, stood while the others rushed to the doors. Lucius jumped back from Dollie like he'd been stung. Loud laughter echoed from inside as music started to play. Jed laughed louder than anyone as he tried to apologize.
"Sorry, folks. Not a fire drill, it's 'Rhapsody in Blue'!" Doubled over, he laughed until his sides ached.
The moment between Lucius and Dollie was lost. Both of them hoped somehow they could find it once more. There were questions that needed to be asked and answered. It would have to keep. At least Dollie knew he was interested, that much was obvious.
More determined than ever to get his kiss, Lucius led her back inside as the small band took their places and the games and country dances began.

Lone Wolf by Dellani Oakes

Lone Wolf - sci-fi adventure at its best! The year is 3032 and mankind has expanded far beyond Earth’s galaxy. Matilda Dulac is a member of...