The Open Secret, #FlashFiction

The May 28, 2020, Carrot Ranch Literary Community prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using two words that contradict. Examples include champagne and hard-rock; rosemary and sewage; duck down and firecrackers; sleep and square-dancing. Use one of these or make up your own. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by June 2, 2020.

Image by 4547619 from Pixabay

“Shhhhh… don’t tell anyone what I’ve told you.”

Marnie shook her head. “You’re missing the point, Susan. Jim’s been cheating on Janet for months. This is an open secret, and the entire town knows what’s going on.”

“What? Mrs. Parker only told me the details today when I ran into her at the market.”

“That’s because you’re new in town. She probably told you not to tell anyone because it makes her feel important.”

Susan looked crestfallen as she waved goodbye to her neighbor.

Marnie grinned. Besides, she knew the truth. She and Jim had been lovers for years.

©2020 Colleen M. Chesebro

#Fairy #Tarot #Friday ~ May 29, 2020

Welcome to Fairy Tarot Friday. Each Friday I’ll share a card from the Fairy Tarot deck by Doreen Virtue & Radleigh Valentine, featuring an uplifting message from the fey. I’ll also include a bit of syllabic poetry inspired by the card reading.

The Major Arcana contains 22 cards that describe major events and turning points in our lives (marriage, pregnancy, relationship and career changes, and overcoming personal challenges). The Major Arcana cards also represent the different phases from childhood to old age.

Doreen Virtue numbered the Minor Arcana cards to comprise four suits representing different aspects of human life. They number the Minor Arcana cards 1 (Ace) through 10, plus the four court cards (Princess, Prince, Queen, and King). The Minor Arcana reflects the day-to-day aspects of our lives and the people in them. Court cards represent either a situation or a person during a reading.

The Minor Arcana comprises four suits. In traditional Tarot they are; wands, cups, swords, and coins. In Fairy Tarot, the four suits reflect the seasons: Spring for wands, Summer for cups, Winter for swords, and Autumn for coins. In Angel Tarot, the seasons represent the four elements: fire = spring, water = summer, air = winter, and earth = autumn. Consider these elements in relation to the Fairy Tarot, as well.

The divinatory meanings are given for upright cards only—this tarot is not intended for reversed readings.

Once you get to know the fairies, you’ll see they are strong-willed environmentalists. They get perturbed at people who mistrust animals or the earth. Never lie to a fairy. Instead, help them take care of the planet and other living beings. Do your part. Your actions will richly reward you, and the fairies will encourage you in amazing ways.

Today’s Card: The Dreamer

I spent some additional time meditating this morning as I wondered what today’s message from the fairies would be. There’s so much unrest in America. I can’t force the images of the nightly newscast from my brain.

As of late, I’ve withdrawn from the constant bombardment of negativity that is known as American politics. I feel powerless in a system where my only option is to vote in order for my voice to be heard. Not dealing with the negativity has had positive results. I’m sleeping better and have returned to my daily writing habit. It’s been a life changer!

So, this morning when I drew The Dreamer card from the Major Arcana, I knew the messages from the fey would be special.

In other Tarot decks, the first card in the Major Arcana is the Fool card which suggests that you should forge ahead with your plans without a lot of worry. For me, this has always represented an expedition into examining what my purpose is in this life.

What dreams are you waiting to come true?

In Fairy Tarot, the Dreamer card suggests the first step in making any dream come true is to believe… all happiness and self-confidence begin with an act of faith.

There’s a reason we have these dreams. But first, we must believe in ourselves! Let nothing hold you back. Release your fears and follow your heart’s desires.

This card also suggests that it’s time to fulfill your life purpose. And in true fairy-spirit, the fey ask you to embrace your future with joy and exuberance. Life doesn’t have to be serious all the time. Laugh a little!

Start your transformation by telling supportive people of your intentions. Did you know that when we verbally express our plans, we become committed to moving forward with those plans? It’s all in the power of the spoken word. When said with conviction, the voicing of our hopes helps us find the courage we need to bring about genuine change.

In this card, the fairy dreamer stands at the base of the mountain where up top sits the Glastonbury Tor, a sacred tower dedicated to mighty Archangel Michael. Doreen Virtue was all about symbols, so this tower is a symbol of your beginning journey. It’s a nod at the fool’s journey—Are you ready for a fresh start?

See the cardinal flying above the fairy in this card? The red bird symbolizes power, wealth, and enthusiasm. Knowing what you want, and how to get it, is the central power of the Cardinal bird. (Cardinal Symbolism)

I especially like the dog image on this card. Her paw points in a forward direction, showing that the time to move forward has arrived. Yet, the dog represents loyalty, protection, and devotion. (Dog Symbolism & Meaning)

Additional meaning of this card: Time for a fresh start. Be open to novel ideas. Is it time to embark on a new adventure? Go ahead, embrace your true purpose. Take risks.

Image by jiao tang from Pixabay

“The Dreamer,” A Crapsey #Cinquain

take risks
embrace your dreams
fulfill your life purpose
share intentions to exact change
B E L I E V E

©2020 Colleen M. Chesebro

Fairy Lore and the Plant Kingdom | Coby Michael Ward

Here’s an interesting article about how the plant kingdom and fairy lore interconnect. The Yeats poem below shows the intersection. Clearly, the natural world and that of the fairy world intersect in magical ways. Finding those connections are the most meaningful. Think of all the poetry we could write. Enjoy the read. ~Colleen~

READ: The Stolen Child, by William Butler Yeats

“Plant lore and fairy lore are often intimately connected. The magical provenance of many plants is due to their folkloric association with the fairy realm. Fairies were thought to make their homes in certain plants and were believed to be responsible for tending to their growth. They have also been said to guide the movement of vining and creeping plants, as well as giving flowers their appropriate colors.  Fairies can be thought of as land spirits, plant spirits, and the embodiment of the Earth’s generative powers. These are dualistic and mercurial creatures. On the one hand, they are responsible for the beauty and life that springs from the ground in which they dwell, but on the other hand, they can be fickle, malicious, and dangerous when it comes to humans…

Read more below:

Source: Fairy Lore and the Plant Kingdom | Coby Michael Ward

Who is Word Craft ~ Prose & Poetry?

I’ve been missing my friends at Carrot Ranch, so when D. Avery, suggested we define our blog’s purpose, I considered it a worthy goal. What a brilliant idea! Okay, here we go:

“Yep. Folks, try defining yer blog’s purpose in 99 words; focus that statement even more in 59 words; then hook us with 9 words. Ya might even post these versions at yer own site. Tell us who ya are or what yer about here in the comments, 9 words, no more no less.”

Saddle Up Saloon; Blog Blusterin’

Word Craft ~ Prose & Poetry

99 words:

Word Craft – Prose & Poetry is an uplifting community where poets can learn the basics of writing Japanese and American syllabic poetry by sharing their own poetic inspiration within a weekly poetry challenge called Tanka Tuesday. Participants submit their poetry written in one of the eleven forms: Haiku, Senryu, Haiga, Tanka, Gogyohka, Haibun, Tanka Prose, Cinquain, and its variations, Etheree, Nonet, and/or Shadorma. Poets receive positive feedback from peers who inspire each other to stretch their creativity. Participants and readers return each week to celebrate the weekly poetry stars and to buy books from the Tanka Tuesday Book Store.

59 words:

Word Craft – Prose & Poetry is a poetic community encouraged by Colleen Chesebro where poets learn the basics of writing Japanese and American syllabic poetry through a weekly challenge called Tanka Tuesday. Participants submit their poetry written in one of the eleven forms: Haiku, Senryu, Haiga, Tanka, Gogyohka, Haibun, Tanka Prose, Cinquain, and its variations, Etheree, Nonet, and/or Shadorma.

9 words:

A weekly challenge featuring American and Japanese syllabic poetry.

Interested? Click the link below to learn more about Tanka Tuesday

Colleen’s 2020 Weekly #Tanka Tuesday #Poetry Challenge No. 179, #ThemePrompt

WELCOME TO TANKA TUESDAY!

It’s the fourth week of the month! Are you ready for a theme prompt? Merril D. Smith from last month’s challenge selected a special theme:

This week’s theme is:

“How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.”

― William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

We’ve never done a quote before as a theme, but as you can see, it’s quite brilliant. Words have the power of inspiration! Have fun.

On the Monday before the next challenge, I’ll select someone to choose next month’s theme.

For Colleen’s Weekly Poetry Challenge, you can write your poem in the forms defined on the Poetry Challenge Cheatsheet:

Here are some great sites that will help you write your poetry and count syllables

synonyms.com 

This site even has a link so you can install the extension on Google Chrome.

thesaurus.com

For Synonyms and Antonyms. When your word has too many syllables, find one that works.

howmanysyllables.com

Find out how many syllables each word has. I use this site to compose my poems. Click on the “Workshop” tab, then cut and paste your poetry into the box. Click the Count Syllables button on the button. This site does the hard work for you.

I don't get it

NEW RULES

  • Write a poem using a form of your choice: Haiku, Senryu, Haiga, Tanka, Gogyohka, Haibun, Tanka Prose, Cinquain, and its variations, Ehteree, Nonet, and Shadorma.
  • Post it on your blog.
  • Include a link back to the challenge in your post. (copy the https:// address of this post into your post).
  • Copy your link into the Mr. Linky below (underlined with a hyperlink).
  • Please click the small checkbox on Mr. Linky about data protection.
  • Read and comment on some of your fellow poets’ work.
  • Like and leave a comment below if you choose to do so.

The screenshot below shows what Mr. Linky looks like inside after you click the image. Add your name, and the URL of your post. Click the box about the privacy policy (It’s blue). As everyone adds their links to Mr. Linky, you can view the other submissions by clicking on the Mr. Linky link on the challenge post. All the links will show in the order of posting.

Thank you to dVerse Poets for the Mr. Linky inspiration.

Follow the monthly schedule listed below:

Don't forget

I will visit your blog, comment, and TWEET your POETRY. 

If you add these hashtags to the post TITLE on your blog (depending on which poetry form you use) your poetry may be viewed more often on Twitter:

#Haiku, #Senryu, #Haiga, #Tanka, #micropoetry, #poetry, #5lines, #Haibun, #Prose, #CinquainPoetry, #Etheree, #Nonet, #Shadorma #Gogyohka, #TankaProse

Now, have fun and write some poetry! Don’t forget to add your poetry to Mr. Linky.


Weekly Poetry Challenge Stars | #PhotoPrompt: Frank Tassone

When Vashti Vega sent in the photo of the crocodile for this week’s challenge. I really got excited. There was so much atmosphere to infer from the photo. I had no way of knowing what you all would come up with. I was totally blown away by your creativity and the depth of meaning shared in your poetry.

Photo by Balaji Malliswamy

There was so much great poetry, it took me two days just to read and comment on all the entries! Here are a few of the highlights:

Foreshadows, Kerfe Roig

The Crocodile, Robbie Cheadle

The Enemy Revealed, Linda Lee Lyberg

The Watcher, D.G. Kaye

Man vs. Nature, Jude Itakali

The Reward, Radhika

Everyone had a different take on the photo which made this so much fun! Ultimately, I chose Frank Tassone’s tanka prose because it spoke to the human condition. Short, sweet, and to the point, Frank sets the blame for the coronavirus in our own reptilian egos.

Winston Churchill once said:

BrainyQuote.com

For me, Frank’s tanka prose echoes the political realities of our brave new world. I also like that he wrote in the second person as if pointing his figure at each of us equally. We’ll all have to shoulder the responsibility for this virus for sure.

Isn’t it interesting how the virus seems to color our current perspective? Do you look at things differently now?

Congratulations, Frank Tassone, it’s your turn to pick the photo for next month’s challenge. Please Email me your photo at tankatuesdaypoetry@gmail.com before next month’s challenge. Thank you.

Predation

When did you imagine that the world revolved around you? Did it take a stray strand of rogue gene to prove otherwise?

How utterly predictable of you!

a glimpse of

pitiable reptillian

indifference …

we can only blame ourselves

for the fix that we’re in

©2020 Frank J. Tassone

Click the link below:

Heads up… Starting with tomorrow’s challenge we will begin using the Mr. Linky link-up widget to link your poetry to the challenge post.

All you have to do is click the link, add your name, and the URL of your post. Don’t forget to click the small checkbox on Mr. Linky about data protection. Please continue to do a link back on your post to my challenge post. By using Mr. Linky that means no more copying poems into the comments.

From now on, when you visit the challenge post, click the Mr. Linky icon and you will find a list of everyone who has added their poem to the linkup. This way, you can visit the other poets and leave comments on their blogs.

I tried to do this last year, but for whatever reason the widget wouldn’t work. Now that I’m on the business plan, it works!

Many thanks to dVerse Poets for the Mr. Linky inspiration. You guys ROCK!

#Fairy #Tarot #Friday ~ May 22, 2020

Welcome to Fairy Tarot Friday. Each Friday I’ll share a card from the Fairy Tarot deck by Doreen Virtue & Radleigh Valentine, featuring an uplifting message from the fey. I’ll also include a bit of syllabic poetry inspired by the card reading.

The Major Arcana contains 22 cards that describe major events and turning points in our lives (marriage, pregnancy, relationship and career changes, and overcoming personal challenges). The Major Arcana cards also represent the different phases from childhood to old age.

Doreen Virtue numbered the Minor Arcana cards to comprise four suits representing different aspects of human life. They number the Minor Arcana cards 1 (Ace) through 10, plus the four court cards (Princess, Prince, Queen, and King). The Minor Arcana reflects the day-to-day aspects of our lives and the people in them. Court cards represent either a situation or a person during a reading.

The Minor Arcana comprises four suits. In traditional Tarot they are; wands, cups, swords, and coins. In Fairy Tarot, the four suits reflect the seasons: Spring for wands, Summer for cups, Winter for swords, and Autumn for coins. In Angel Tarot, the seasons represent the four elements: fire = spring, water = summer, air = winter, and earth = autumn. Consider these elements in relation to the Fairy Tarot, as well.

The divinatory meanings are given for upright cards only—this tarot is not intended for reversed readings.

Once you get to know the fairies, you’ll see they are strong-willed environmentalists. They get perturbed at people who mistrust animals or the earth. Never lie to a fairy. Instead, help them take care of the planet and other living beings. Do your part. Your actions will richly reward you, and the fairies will encourage you in amazing ways.

Today’s Card:

Ego – from the Major Arcana

The Ego card… Wow! This is the first time I’ve drawn this card. What are the faeries telling us? Well, for one, happiness will be elusive if you’re not clear on your own priorities, motivations, and behaviors.

The ego card also suggests that by taking the time for some self-reflection will allow you the opportunity to open your heart to experience great personal epiphanies and to practice self-forgiveness. Who doesn’t need a reality check once in a while?

LOUD and clear… see the truth of who you are.

Release what no longer serves you. Let go of the guilt, fear, and blame. Now is the time to feel compassion for yourself. You’re wonderful, you know!

The faeries suggest you look into the mirror and tell yourself:

I love you for being Divinely perfect in this moment.

Detox from harmful foods, substances, or people. Confront your fears and release yourself from any limitations or self-imposed traps. I know it’s hard to do, but once you embrace this fresh way of thinking, you will feel free for the first time in a long while. Breathe!

Do you feel the burden of the material side of life? Perhaps you’ve lost your job because of the coronavirus? If so, this isn’t your fault. Give yourself permission to free yourself from blame. Remember when one door closes, a window opens. Be creative. Dream of a new reality.

This lovely card portrays two faeries standing before a traditional Celtic Beltane Fire, a springtime sacred ceremony to release the old—that is, guilt, fear, blame, and other products of the ego—and welcome the new.

Today is also the new moon. Here is another reading that will help you find clarity on this date. Click the link below:

Additional meanings of this card: Determine what is the cause and what is the symptom. Self-examination. Placing too much importance on material items. Getting caught up in fear and worry. Dependency or addiction.

“Let Go,” Senryu

open up your heart
see the truth of who you are
let go of ego

©2020 Colleen M. Chesebro

Colleen’s 2020 Weekly #Tanka Tuesday #Poetry Challenge No. 178 #PhotoPrompt

WELCOME TO TANKA TUESDAY!

It’s the third week of the month! Time for a #PhotoPrompt

Vashti Q. Vega, from last month’s challenge, has provided the photo for this month’s challenge:

Image Credit: Balaji Malliswamy

Remember, a photo can be a metaphor for your poetry. Think about the mood, the theme, and the color. Think outside of the box. We know there’s a crocodile, but what else is going on here? What do you smell? What do you hear? There’s more here than meets your eye. Surprise me!

On the Monday before the next challenge, I will select a poem from this week’s challenge and share it on my blog. Whoever I pick will choose the photo for next month’s challenge! Email your selection to me at tankatuesdaypoetry@gmail.com a week before. Thank you!

PLEASE support the other poets by visiting blogs and leaving comments. Peer reviews help poets perfect their writing craft. Remember… sharing is caring.

For Colleen’s Weekly Poetry Challenge, you can write your poem in the forms defined on the Poetry Challenge Cheatsheet (click the link below):

Here are some great sites that will help you write your poetry and count syllables

synonyms.com 

This site even has a link so you can install the extension on Google Chrome.

thesaurus.com

For Synonyms and Antonyms. When your word has too many syllables, find one that works.

howmanysyllables.com

Find out how many syllables each word has. I use this site to compose my poems. Click on the “Workshop” tab, then cut and paste your poetry into the box. Click the Count Syllables button on the button. This site does the hard work for you.

I don't get it

THE RULES

Every Tuesday I’ll post the challenge early enough so everyone can see it. Remember, there will be no recap.

The rules are simple. Write your poetry on your blog.

Do a link-back by placing the HTTPS:// address of the challenge post into your post. Also, please copy your poem and add it to the comments. If you created a Haiga, let us know in the comments with a link to your post. Now, all the poetry ends up on the challenge post in one place.

Follow the schedule listed below:

Don't forget

I will visit your blog, comment, and TWEET your POETRY. 

If you add these hashtags to the post TITLE on your blog (depending on which poetry form you use) your poetry may be viewed more often on Twitter:

#Haiku, #Senryu, #Haiga, #Gogyohka, #Tanka, #TankaProse, #micropoetry, #poetry, #5lines, #Haibun, #Prose, #CinquainPoetry, #Etheree, #Nonet, #Shadorma

Are you missing my challenges? Search for me in the WordPress Reader or…

Now, have fun and write some poetry!


Weekly Poetry Challenge Stars | SynonymsOnly, Challenge #177

Kerfe, from Method Two Madness, picked an impressive pair of words this week for our #SynonymsOnly challenge: Transition & Harmony.

I always love your creativity! Here are a few poems I couldn’t pass by:

Jude: Calm in Chaos

Sally Cronin: Advancing Years

Donna Matthews: Petrichor Rising

Sue Vincent: Changes

This week, Linda from Charmed Chaos shared an amazing experience with a Great Horned Owl! Appropriately, she created a Butterfly Cinquain to go along with her experience. It’s all about the wings.

How many times have we heard the adage: write what you know? That’s because it is excellent advice.

When I read poetry, I want to connect with your words. When you share genuine life experiences, the reader sees through your eyes. We get to connect with your feelings. That precious connection—the aha moment, that’s what we all strive for!

Congratulations, Linda, it’s your turn to pick the words for next month’s Synonyms Only challenge. Please Email me your choice at tankatuesdaypoetry@gmail.com before next month’s challenge.

Image Credit: ©2020 Linda Lee Lyberg

Great Horned Owl

Shift in
The universe
Change flies in on the wings
Of a Great Horned Owl as he peers
Into
My eyes, a rush of emotion
Escapes into the air
As I honor
This peace

©2020 Linda Lee Lyberg

source: https://charmedchaos.com/2020/05/14/great-horned-owl/

OWL’ll see you tomorrow for the new poetry challenge!

Authors Supporting Authors: Frozen Stiff Drink, by James J. Cudney, $.99 Sale 5/18/2020 – 5/22/2020

Frozen Stiff Drink: Death at Danby Landing, the 6th book in the Braxton Campus Mysteries, will be available as a .99 Kindle download. Below you’ll find several highlights, and if you are interested in reading the book, you can purchase it as a physical book or a Kindle version via Amazon.

 

About Frozen Stiff Drink

Frozen Stiff Drink: A Kellan Ayrwick Cozy Mystery
(Braxton Campus Mysteries)

Cozy Mystery
6th in Series
Publisher: Gumshoe – A Next Chapter Imprint

(March 18, 2020)
Digital Edition – ~270 Pages
ASIN: B0849MJH6H

A winter blizzard barrels toward Wharton County with a vengeance. Madam Zenya predicted the raging storm would change the course of Kellan’s life, but the famed seer never could’ve prepared him for all the collateral damage. Nana D disappears after visiting a patient at Willow Trees, leaving behind a trail of confusion. When the patient turns up dead and a second body is discovered beneath the snowbanks, Kellan must face his worst fears. What tragedy has befallen his beloved grandmother?

Kellan’s brother Hampton learns essential life lessons the hard way after his father-in-law accuses him of embezzlement. While trying to prove his innocence, Hampton digs himself a deeper hole that might lead to prison. Sheriff Montague wants to save him, but she receives the shock of her life as the past hurtles forward and complicates her future.

Between locating Nana D and solving the scandalous murder of another prominent Braxton citizen, Kellan and April’s worlds explode with more turmoil than they can handle. Too bad neither one of them knows what to do about the psychic’s latest premonition. The suspicious deaths happening around town aren’t ending anytime soon.

5 out of 5 stars
This was a really great book! The suspense was just right and I had only a small inkling of who the villain MIGHT be.
~Valerie’s Musings

The story is well-written and James Cudney does a great job pulling all the storylines together to give us a wonderful conclusion.
~Carla Loves to Read

Frozen Stiff Drink by James J. Cudney is a complex plot with multiple crimes and intriguing characters.
~Baroness’ Book Trove

Mr. Cudney has written an intricate story that is multifaceted with subplots twisted together and Kellan in the middle of them all . . . Full of twists and misdirections, the pace is at a constant high. The ending was exciting and full of surprises.
~Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book

This was good clean cosy mystery that will keep you guessing, once again I thought I had the culprit down but a few red herrings made me rethink and once again I was off the mark! Now that makes a good mystery in my eyes,
~eBook addicts

Where to Buy It

Kindle: http://mybook.to/fsd

Paperback: http://mybook.to/frozenstiffpb

Large Print: http://mybook.to/frozenstifflp

Blog Tour

TOUR PARTICIPANTS

March 18 – The Pulp and Mystery Shelf – SPOTLIGHT

March 19 – Valerie’s Musings – REVIEW

March 19 – Diane Reviews Books – GUEST POST

March 20 – Carla Loves To Read – REVIEW

March 20 – FUONLYKNEW – SPOTLIGHT

March 21 – Christy’s Cozy Corners – SPOTLIGHT

March 21 – Literary Gold – SPOTLIGHT

March 22 – Gimme The Scoop Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

March 23 – I’m All About Books – SPOTLIGHT

March 23 – Baroness’ Book Trove – REVIEW

March 24 – Mysteries with Character – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

March 24 – Ruff Drafts – SPOTLIGHT

March 25 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT

March 25 – StoreyBook Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

March 26 – eBook addicts – REVIEW

March 26 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – REVIEW

March 27 – Rosepoint Publishing – REVIEW

March 27 – MJB Reviewers – SPOTLIGHT

 

Book Excerpt

“Grrr! Argh! Blech!” Circling the shopping district’s downtown lot for the third time, I begged the parking gods to graciously relinquish an open spot. Everyone and their mother roamed the streets in frenzied pursuit of supplies and their cowering sanity. A vicious blizzard barreled toward Wharton County, and all four towns had flipped their lids in fear of Doomsday’s imminent arrival. I insisted Madam Zenya’s premonition of the disaster was a hallucination despite worrying she often hit the proverbial bullseye.

“Was that gibberish? Are you speaking English, Kellan?” Lara, a late-forties former supermodel turned news reporter, bellowed through the staticky phone. We’d met the previous year when she moderated Nana D’s mayoral debates. After the charming Ms. Bouvier had co-investigated a suspicious death that summer, we’d become good friends and colleagues on our television show, Dark Reality.

I hurled the headset onto the passenger seat, switched my cell to speakerphone, and gripped the steering wheel with such ferocity it permanently imprinted my palms. “Sorry, the hands-free device cut out. It’s good you didn’t hear my mumbling. They weren’t the most flattering words.”

“For heaven’s sake, park in the loading zone outside Nutberry Pharmacy. Your grandmother is the mayor. You’re dating the sheriff. I doubt you’ll get a ticket.” Lara chortled with amusement regarding my current predicament. “Unless they’re conspiring to exact revenge on you… ummm… on second thought, you’re right. Drive around one more time. I suspect you’ll get lucky soon.”

“Yep, Nana D and April rarely get along, but torturing me is the one pastime they share in common.” Upon noticing an empty spot in the far corner, I swiftly cut the steering wheel and expediently navigated toward it. “You were right! I found one.”

It was my second trip in the last hour to the drugstore. My visits hadn’t exactly delighted the Nutberry family ever since I’d discovered the crimes one of them committed the previous spring. Murder wasn’t known to unite people in blissful harmony. Neither was the threat of inclement weather.

Fresh off a full day of teaching students who prayed for the cancellation of next week’s classes, due to the monster-sized winter storm whizzing our way, a dozen last-minute errands still plagued my to-do notes. After I’d ticked them off the list, my fifteen-year-old cousin informed me he’d run out of deodorant. Ulan had become my ward after Uncle Zach extended his African expedition to protect a rare elephant species. Under normal circumstances, notwithstanding the teenage hormones and noxious fumes emanating from his bedroom, I’d wait until tomorrow to buy it. Procrastination wasn’t possible this time. Ulan and my seven-year-old daughter, Emma, were leaving for Disney World in the morning.

“Excellent. We need to discuss Hiram’s Dark Reality segment. Although he’s improved since emerging from the coma last month, his recovery will take months. He’s agreed to step down and recommend a temporary replacement judge before the next election,” Lara exclaimed after her impromptu visit to Willow Trees Rehabilitation Center. Judge Grey, her former father-in-law, was recuperating from a haunted hayride accident that’d threatened his life four months ago.

“And Wharton County collectively breathes a sigh of relief. Nana D will dance an Irish jig when the crusty magistrate vacates the bench. Sayonara to the ancient red tape she’s trying to eliminate.” Truthfully, the man had no chance of re-election. When news leaked about his conspiracy with a psychiatrist to murder a healthy and sane patient years ago, citizens would revolt. The only reasons for a delayed uproar were his submersion into a coma and inability to perform judicial duties.

Lara raved about Nana D’s plans for ridding our county of corruption. “When I got there, some young girl with a pastel green streak in her hair yelled at him about destroying families. Good for her!”

“Judge Grey is a blight on Wharton County. Did he reveal his replacement nominee?”

“Nope, he refused. It honestly looked like the Grim Reaper was knocking at his door. My heart swells for Imogene. My daughter loves her grandfather in spite of all the shameless things he’s done.” Lara shared an update on Hiram’s condition: alive, more arrogant than usual, and begging for someone to sneak in a bottle of expensive bourbon. “Can you believe that man stashes a special crystal tumbler at the rehab center for his hourly cocktails? Even that persnickety red-haired nurse threatened to clobber him if he barked one more order at her.”

“Given my frustrations at this unbearable moment, Hiram’s demands don’t sound half bad.”

“You need to relax. Finish your errands, meander home, and drink something potent to squelch your attitude.” Lara suggested we meet for breakfast the following morning at the Pick-Me-Up Diner, my sister’s famed cozy eatery, to plot the episode we were filming on the Garibaldi and Grey families.

“Duly noted.” I slammed on the brakes, causing my neck to crash into the seat’s headrest and seesaw until I practically collided with the dashboard too. “I don’t believe it! Who does he think… of all the moronic things… what the—”

Lara interrupted before I could mutter another stream of obscenities that would prompt Nana D to wash out my mouth with soap. “What’s going on? You’re back to gibberish again, darling. For a literature and film professor at Braxton, words don’t come naturally to you, do they?”

“Some idiot stole my parking spot. He gunned ahead of me.” I rolled down my window, shivered at the frosty gusts pricking my cheeks, and waited for the sneaky louse to exit his tiny red sports car.

A tall, well-built man in his early thirties, the same age as me, stepped out of the convertible and strolled by without a care in the world. I swear he bobbed his head and hummed Michael Jackson’s “Bad.” I grunted and stink-eyed the jerk strutting around in dark jeans, a black V-neck tee, and a Nordic ski hat that covered most of his unshaven, structured face. The guy had zero body fat to speak of—how did he walk the streets dressed like we weren’t approaching an ice age again? It was the middle of February and colder than the Arctic. No matter how hard I tried—regardless of growing up in this snow globe—I couldn’t acclimate to the harsh Pennsylvania winters after living in LA for the last decade.

“Hey, sorry, man. Didn’t realize you wanted that spot,” he carelessly called out, shrugging as he sauntered away with a poorly concealed and immature chuckle. “Better luck next time.”

As he turned, a tattoo of a snake—with the longest tongue I’d ever seen—roamed the entire length of his beefy arm, both surprising and confusing me. Although I didn’t know everyone in our small town, I was certain he hailed from other parts. “Seriously? You’re gonna walk away like that?” While idling in the middle of the lot, I snarled and shifted the car into park, remembering Lara lingered on the phone. “Hold on. That was the last spot, and I’m in a rush.”

“Life’s short, dude. You gotta take what you want and never look back.” The obnoxious spot-stealer winked, sped into a jog, and waved at a shorter, dark-skinned man near the corner of Nutberry Pharmacy. He proffered the other man a small package, and in return, the spot-stealer collected a bank envelope he discreetly stuffed inside his back pocket. Had I witnessed a drug deal in progress?

Lara hollered my name. “Let it go. Find another space. See you tomorrow morning if we both survive the impending apocalypse. Ciao, babe.”

“Thanks for the advice!” I swallowed my rising anger and considered my options. It would take five minutes to run into the store, select a stick of deodorant that’d protect us from Ulan’s death sweat, and dash back to the car. With the decision unanimously agreed, I parked behind the red sports car, ensuring its delinquent driver couldn’t back out, and executed my errand. It was rare I fought fire with fire, but he deserved my wrath, and I would return before him—most likely.

As I approached the counter in our local family-run pharmacy, frowning at the five people in front of me, I held up the deodorant to Tiffany Nutberry. I gestured something that volunteered I was in a hurry or had gotten my tongue stuck to an icy pole, then begged her to add it to my tab. My brother’s former college gal pal nodded and focused on her next customer. Sometimes living in a small town where everyone knew your name was a beneficial curse.

I retreated to the front door, scanning the area for the creep who’d stolen the spot, but found no sign of my newest mortal enemy or the stranger he’d surreptitiously met. While I catapulted across the lot, a note on the windshield and an empty parking space garnered my attention. The spot-stealer had driven over the low curb rather than wait for me to return. I anxiously read the message:

Your plan backfired. Mine won’t. I know how to get even. I also don’t give up easily.

A petulant man would’ve kicked the tires in frustration. An intelligent guy would’ve shaken it off and escaped without a colossal tantrum. Judging by the throbbing in my foot when I pressed the gas pedal to dart away from the vacant space, my level of maturity sputtered in a non-ideal direction.

It had been a day. If I could’ve returned it for a refund or shoplifted a new one from a discount rack, I’d have been better off. While driving to Danby Landing, Nana D’s organic orchard and farm, I conjured ways to avenge the spot-stealer and heeded the tail end of a regional weather report—or desperate warning that we’d soon march to a painful death. I couldn’t decipher his bleak tone.

To recap for those who missed my detailed forecast, temperatures will drop like atom bombs overnight into the teens. By afternoon, snow flurries will descend on us poor, unfortunate souls. Although the weekend will sprinkle only a trifle of snow, be cognizant of fierce and major precipitation by Sunday evening when you will become unavoidably trapped—housebound for days like suffering prisoners. Some are nicknaming it the blizzard of the century, and one thing’s for sure, folks… don’t leave your pets and shoes outside this weekend. By Monday, we will greet three feet of snow with another six inches dropped on us by dinnertime. No one wants to lose a pinky toe to frostbite or visit the local taxidermist.”

I switched the channel and snorted at the static blasting through the speakers. “It’s a good thing my parents and the kids are leaving on vacation.” Though I spoke to myself, it was better than listening to the weather forecast. I’d wanted to escape with them on the trip, but Braxton’s Spring Break wasn’t until the following week. I couldn’t abandon my job. My parents were doing me a favor by watching the kids, which allowed me extra time to address the premier episode of Dark Reality with Lara. We needed to focus all our spare energy on preparing for the thrilling series revitalization.

I’d also spend quality time with April. Our lack of intimacy had descended into sore subject territory. Although we’d shared a romantic Valentine’s Day earlier that week, a burst pipe in the sheriff’s office had slashed our time shorter than a matchstick. The kids were always a priority. And ever since she’d revealed that a divorce from her husband had not formally taken place years ago, we’d been tracing the mysterious man’s whereabouts to resolve the itty-bitty complication.

During April’s and my first official date on my birthday last Halloween, Madam Zenya interrupted to warn us she foresaw danger imminently hurtling in our direction. Months had passed without Beelzebub’s fireballs singing us, but she’d also suggested it would prevail during a winter blizzard. Could the approaching storm be what she’d hinted about?

That night, April had also given me a birthday present—a fake certificate awarding me an honorary degree in meddling and nuisance studies. The gift came with a plastic badge she brazenly directed to affix to my lips whenever I yearned to solve murders. Irony prompted half the town to refer to me as The Unlikely Death Locator. I’d somehow innocently involved myself in five of her murder investigations in the last year, and despite the frequent trouble it caused, we’d still developed a fiery attraction to one another. Unfortunately, my separation from a not-so-dead mobster wife, Francesca Castigliano, had just begun, and April’s split from her globetrotting not-so-divorced husband, Fox Terrell, was an unexpected new obstacle. Quite a pair of hot messes, weren’t we?

As I drove past the Danby Landing cottage, my brother and his boyfriend zoomed down the path on his motorcycle. Of all the idiotic things to do given the threat of a snowstorm, Gabriel would be the one knucklehead to risk his and Sam’s lives on a bike. I hastily waved through the window, knowing we’d scheduled dinner for Sunday, unless the looming winter disaster rendered that impossible. I’d decided to introduce my girlfriend to my family in a non-official capacity by testing the waters with Gabriel. His sarcasm and humor were on par with mine. It would be easy to relax in a group setting while Sam was on a break from graduate school. They’d been dating for six months even though the long-distance had occasionally caused a few issues cum calamities. Gabriel could be quite an obnoxious handful.

Author, James J. Cudney

About The Author

Background

James is my given name, but most folks call me Jay. I live in New York City, grew up on Long Island, and graduated from Moravian College, an historic but small liberal arts school in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with a degree in English literature and minors in Education, Business and Spanish. After college, I accepted a technical writing position for a telecommunications company during Y2K and spent the last ~20 years building a career in technology & business operations in the retail, sports, media and entertainment industries. Throughout those years, I wrote some short stories, poems and various beginnings to the “Great American Novel,” but I was so focused on my career in technology and business that writing became a hobby. In 2016, I refocused some of my energies toward reinvigorating a second career in reading, writing and publishing.

Author

Writing has been a part of my life as much as my heart, my mind and my body. At some points, it was just a few poems or short stories; at others, it was full length novels and stories. My current focus is family drama fiction, cozy mystery novels and suspense thrillers. I think of characters and plots that I feel must be unwound. I think of situations people find themselves in and feel compelled to tell the story. It’s usually a convoluted plot with many surprise twists and turns. I feel it necessary to take that ride all over the course. My character is easily pictured in my head. I know what he is going to encounter or what she will feel. But I need to use the right words to make it clear.

Reader & Reviewer

Reading has also never left my side. Whether it was children’s books, young adult novels, college textbooks, biographies or my ultimate love, fiction, it’s ever present in my day. I read 2 books per week and I’m on a quest to update every book I’ve ever read on Goodreads, write up a review and post it on all my sites and platforms.

Blogger & Thinker

I have combined my passions into a single platform where I share reviews, write a blog and publish tons of content: TRUTH. I started my 365 Daily Challenge, where I post about a word that has some meaning to me and converse with everyone about life. There is humor, tears, love, friendship, advice and bloopers. Lots of bloopers where I poke fun at myself all the time. Even my dogs have had weekly segments called “Ryder’s Rants” or “Baxter’s Barks” where they complain about me. All these things make up who I am; none of them are very fancy or magnanimous, but they are real. And that’s why they are me.

Genealogist & Researcher

I love history and research, finding myself often reaching back into the past to understand why someone made the choice he or she did and what were the subsequent consequences. I enjoy studying the activities and culture from hundreds of years ago to trace the roots and find the puzzle of my own history. I wish I could watch my ancestors from a secret place to learn how they interacted with others; and maybe I’ll comprehend why I do things the way I do.

Websites & Blog

Website: https://jamesjcudney.com/

Blog: https://thisismytruthnow.com

Amazon: http://bit.ly/JJCIVBooks

Next Chapter Pub: https://www.nextchapter.pub/authors/james-j-cudney

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/james-j-cudney

Social Media

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jamescudney4

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JamesJCudneyIVAuthor/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BraxtonCampusMysteries/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ThisIsMyTruthNow/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jamescudney4/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jamescudney4/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/jamescudney4

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jamescudney4

Genres, Formats & Languages

I write in the family drama and mystery genres. My first two books are Watching Glass Shatter (2017) and Father Figure (2018). Both are contemporary fiction and focus on the dynamics between parents and children and between siblings. I’m currently writing the sequel to Watching Glass Shatter. I also have a light mystery series called the Braxton Campus Mysteries with six books available.

All my books come in multiple formats (Kindle, physical print, large print paperback, and audiobook) and some are also translated into foreign languages such as Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and German.

Goodreads Book Links

Watching Glass Shatter (October 2017)

Father Figure (April 2018)

Braxton Campus Mysteries

“Frozen Stiff Drink,” by James J. Cudney, $.99 Sale 5/18/2020 – 5/22/2020. Grab your copy now!