Nocturnal Lives

Musings from the mind of Amanda S. Green – Mother, writer, and possessed by cats

Tag: Skeletons in the Closet (Page 1 of 2)

On writing and schedules and a bit of promo

One of the biggest questions authors, especially indie authors, have to answer is how often to publish. Some authors will tell you that you need to put out a new title every quarter. Some will tell you every two months and others think every six month. Then there are those who tell you not to rush it. That you need to take as long as needed to write a book.

None of the answers are right and yet all of them are. Yes, I know that is contradictory but it’s also true. Why? Because there is no right answer and it all depends on you, what you can do and what you write.

Trends I have seen in my own writing is that my science fiction and fantasy books tend to sale steadily and without major drop-off in numbers for three months after release. The urban fantasy/paranormal works sell well the first month and then drop off. However, they then go through a slow growth pattern. The romantic suspense is a mix of the two.

If I wrote in only one genre or even if I had only two series going on, that wouldn’t be a problem. However, I write in multiple genres and have four series ongoing right now. Yes, two are about to finish their current story arcs. But one is brand new and the other is halfway done. So I have to figure out the best way to keep the sales up on all of them.

To do that, I’m going to try something new. This month is the start. For the first time in, well, forever, I’ve published two new titles. They are related, sort of, and while one is a full-length novel, the other is a 30k word novella. I’ve included links and blurbs for both below.

My plan is to try to put something new out each month starting next month. Some months that will be a novel. For example, next month, Dagger of Elanna will go up for sale. With the holidays coming up and all the distractions they bring, I’m still hoping to bring Victory from Ashes out in December. However, in case that gets sidetracked, I will bring out another short story in that universe. I’ll also put some of my work on sale for the holidays.

I’ve challenged one other author — so far — to keep me honest with this plan. I’ll see how I do over the next six months, both with managing to get out a title a month and with regard to sales, and will update you then. It will be an interesting experiment.

Better yet, adding a short story or short novella to those months when I don’t have a novel coming out shouldn’t put my schedule behind. Why? Because they don’t take that long to plan or write. A short story is no more words than less than a week’s worth of blogging. I manage to put out a blog in half an hour or so a day. So, instead of staring into my coffee mug that extra half hour each morning, I’ll write on the extra title.

Hopefully, too, this will keep Myrtle the Evil Muse satisfied — or exhausted — enough that she won’t start gifting me with new series ideas.

Now, for the promo. Yesterday, I published Skeletons in the Closet (Eerie Side of the Tracks). It’s the first in a series of what will probably be three novellas. They are set in Mossy Creek, the same setting as Slay Bells Ring and Witchfire Burning.

Lexie Smithson’s family had never been what most folks would call “normal”. They had more than their fair share of oddballs and loners and even crazy cat ladies. Most families in Mossy Creek did, especially if they lived on the “wrong side of the tracks”. But things took a decidedly sharp turn to the left of weird the day Lexie’s sister came home from school, complaining about how Old Serena Duchamp had given her the evil eye. When her mother decided it would be a good thing to confront the town’s resident witch, Lexie knew life would never be the same. How could it when their loved ones began returning to the old homestead the day after their funerals. Lexie knew she should be happy none of her neighbors reported mutilated cattle or corpses with missing brains. But that can be hard to do when your loved ones have passed but not passed on.

As mentioned above, this is the first of a series featuring Lexie, her family – both living and dead, not to mention furry – and their friends.

Witchfire Burning (Eerie Side of the Tracks Book 1)

Long before the Others made their existence known to the world, Mossy Creek was their haven. Being from the wrong side of the tracks meant you weren’t what the rest of the world considered “normal”.

Normal was all Quinn O’Donnell wanted from life. Growing up on the “wrong side of the tracks”, she had been the only normal in the family. The moment she was old enough, she left and began life as far from her Texas hometown as possible. Now she has a job she enjoys and a daughter she loves more than life itself. Their life is normal, REALLY normal, until her daughter starts calling forth fire and wind.

Quinn knows they must go back so her mother can help five-year-old Ali learn how to control her new talents. But in Mossy Creek nothing is ever simple. Quinn’s mother has gone missing. Secrets from Quinn’s past start coming back to haunt her.

And the family home is more than a little sentient.

Can Quinn keep everyone — particularly Ali — safe? And will she ever get back her illusion of normalcy?

Slay Bells Ring

Fifteen years ago, Juliana Grissom left Mossy Creek in her rear view mirror. She swore then she would never return for more than a day or two at a time. But even the best laid plans can go awry, something she knew all too well, especially when her family was involved.

Now she’s back and her family expects her to find some way to clear her mother of murder charges. Complicating her life even further is Sam Caldwell, the man she never got over. Now it seems everyone in town is determined to find a way to keep her there, whether she wants to stay or not.

Bodies are dropping. Gossip is flying and Juliana knows time is running out. After all, holidays can be murder in Mossy Creek.

Slay Bells shares the same setting and some of the same characters as the other two and it hints at the magic in town but the magic isn’t as much of an integral part of the story as it is with the other two.

Skeletons in the Closet is live

Skeletons in the Closet (Eerie Side of the Tracks) is now live on Amazon.

Lexie Smithson’s family had never been what most folks would call “normal”. They had more than their fair share of oddballs and loners and even crazy cat ladies. Most families in Mossy Creek did, especially if they lived on the “wrong side of the tracks”. But things took a decidedly sharp turn to the left of weird the day Lexie’s sister came home from school, complaining about how Old Serena Duchamp had given her the evil eye. When her mother decided it would be a good thing to confront the town’s resident witch, Lexie knew life would never be the same. How could it when their loved ones began returning to the old homestead the day after their funerals. Lexie knew she should be happy none of her neighbors reported mutilated cattle or corpses with missing brains. But that can be hard to do when your loved ones have passed but not passed on.

Skeletons in the Closet is a novella set in the Eerie Side of the Tracks universe. It is the first of a series featuring Lexie, her family – both living and dead, not to mention furry – and their friends.

 

Life has been interesting

The blog has been silent for the last several weeks and I apologize for that. I won’t bore you with all the details but life has been interesting and there are just some times when it is best not to say anything. No, nothing is wrong with me or mine — well, nothing that dropping temps below triple digits won’t cure. The simple truth is that I had to pull back from social media for a bit or I was going to do or say something I would regret. This political season seems to have brought out the worst in everyone. Making matters even worse is that it doesn’t seem limited to just politics. It is as if some cosmic force hit most of humanity with a stupid bat. Or maybe a contrary bat. I’m not sure which but I swear almost every ounce of common sense seems to have gone down the drain. So has common courtesy.

So, instead of going ballistic here or on FB or elsewhere, I stepped back. Yes, I’ve been busy. I have to start out by giving kudos to everyone who helped with the Bedford (TX) Library Friends book sale this weekend. The sale was a roaring success and well worth all the hard work everyone put in on it. For those of you who live in the DFW area, if you haven’t discovered the Bedford Public Library, take a few minutes to do so. I think it is the best library around and the staff is the friendliest and most helpful there is.

I’ve also been busy on the writing front. The draft for Dagger of Elanna the sequel to Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1), is finished. I am working on the second draft — which is usually what goes out to beta readers. I hope to have it done by then end of next week. I have also finished the outline (something I rarely do to the detail it happened this time) for a novel that will sort of bridge Slay Bells Ring and Skeletons in the Closet. This novel uses characters from both and brings in some of the supernatural/paranormal elements from Skeletons. I know. I know. My muse is strange but this is the book it demanded I take time out to get the details down before I could go back to Dagger. I also have Victory from Ashes, the final book in the current story arc for Honor and Duty (3 Book Series), plotted out. So there has been writing going on — plus I have been editing a wonderful first novel by a friend of mine. More on that after I send back the edits (hopefully this weekend).

Oh, I have also done a lot of reading. I highly recommend the latest in the Monster Hunter International series. Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge. I had been looking forward to this for quite awhile, ever since John Ringo started posting snippets on FB. Yes, my friends, this is what we have all been looking forward to — and what a certain group of folks have dreaded. John Ringo and Larry Correia have joined forced to product Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge. It is a great read, lots of fun and, while it is definitely Ringo, it is also Correia. I cannot wait for the next book to come out. Fair warning. I am not responsible for any lost sleep you experience because you can’t put the book down, nor am I responsible for any ruined keyboards, etc., caused during the reading of this book. Ringo. Correia. ‘Nuff said.

I also read a series of books by a well-known, non-Baen author. While most were enjoyable, I noticed something that really bothered me as the series progressed. The women in the books, each book featured a different member of a close group of women as one of the two main characters, started out being competent, strong and still women. They weren’t “men with boobs”. Initially, they didn’t need a man to “save” them. But, as the series went on, even the strongest of the women turned into something I kept expecting to have the vapors and faint dead away in an oh-so-ladylike swoon. As this happened, their male counterparts became more alpha — to the point where they weren’t particularly likable.

In some ways, reading this series was like watching a train wreck. You know it isn’t going to get any better but you keep hoping. Then you get to the point where you don’t want to look away. You want to see just how bad it will get. Then, that part of your brain that reminds you that you can learn even from badly crafted writing, you keep reading and making notes so this doesn’t happen to your books.

What I did like was the way the author made the setting and the town itself something close to characters by the end of the series. But I found myself not cheering the leads in the last few books. That’s a hard thing for me to excuse, especially in books where you are supposed to identify with the characters, when you are supposed to hope everything works out for them in the end. Instead, I was really hoping for a precision missile strike.

Characters are supposed to grow. They are supposed to meet challenges and sometimes make mistakes. They have to stumble and even fall on occasion. But you don’t take strong characters and, without explanation or warning, turn them into wilting flowers who need someone to protect them and stand up for them. If, in book one, the main lead is a strong, capable woman — be she a cop or computer nerd or whatever — who doesn’t hesitate to do whatever is needed to protect herself or her family/friends, don’t have her waiting behind like a “good little girl” while the men go off to deal with the bad guy in later books. At least don’t do it without explaining why she suddenly not only lives with a bunch of macho chauvinists but accepts and likes being “put in her place”. If you have a character who is a medical professional and who is willing to risk her life for a stranger, don’t have her agreeing not to do everything she can to save her sister a few books later because it might put her in danger — at least not without a valid explanation of why.

In other words, this particular author set up a world and expectations for their characters and then broke the rules without foreshadowing or explanation. I hate that. But it did serve as a reminder that it is easy to do — especially if you are feeling deadline pressures and decide that taking the easy way out will be okay just this once.

And now I am back — back to writing, back to blogging and back to being a pain in the backside of my muse.

Blogging drought is over

It is somehow appropriate that on a morning when rain is falling — and threatening to continue to fall until several inches accumulate — I am finally able to sit down and blog again. It never fails that as soon as I promise myself and those who read this blog that it looks like life is cooperating and the blog will continue on a daily — or almost daily — basis, roadblocks suddenly appear. Well, I’ve cleared them, for the moment at least, and here I am. Back again.

So, what’s kept me so busy that the blog went silent for most of the last few weeks? Nothing earth-shattering. The simple truth is that I’ve simply been busy. The first was to get the final edits done and input for Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3). It was more challenging than usual because I was trying out a new editor and it took some time to get on the same page.

The second was the usual pre-April 15th idiocy we all have to go through. Income tax prep and filing. Ick. Bah. Poo. As any of you who have followed me here or on Mad Genius Club over the years know, numbers are not my friends. Fortunately, I have a great accountant. Unfortunately, I have to get organized before going to him. Which means, I tend to procrastinate until almost too late.

There were other issues as well, but they have been dealt with. So, blogging resumes.

Which brings up the question of what to blog about today. That’s easy. Buy my book(s)! Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) comes out this week. It is available for pre-order right now.

For those who have been waiting for Dagger of Elanna, the sequel to Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1), it is in the works. Once I was able to sit down and get started on it, the words started flowing. Well, to be honest, I had my usual “I hate first chapters” moment for a day or two. It wasn’t that the beginning chapter was bad. It wasn’t even that I realized I was starting the book in the wrong place — something a lot of us have done at least once. That’s what rough drafts are for. It was more the shifting of mental gears from one book to the next, one genre to another. Once my brain made that transition, it’s been more of a problem to stop the words than it is to sit down and write.

That can be a problem, that sense of not being able to stop the words. I found myself facing it yesterday and had to force the muse to sit back and let me have a day. I am very glad I did, even if I lost a day writing. Instead of sitting at my desk working, I went into Dallas — well, one of the suburbs — and saw the very excellent one-man play “Wiesenthal”. It was written and stars Tom Dugan and takes place on the last day Simon Wiesenthal, the famed Nazi hunter, spent in his office before retiring. Dugan is excellent in the role and is a master in drawing in the audience.

While the play does deal with Wiesenthal the Nazi hunter, it is more about Wiesenthal the man. He is full of humor but also recognizes that the drive that impelled him for much of his life to track down those responsible for the deaths of so many wasn’t always what was best for his family. It is also a play about not so much forgiveness but the understanding that we all have a choice to make, it might not always be an easy choice or a popular one but that choice, in the end, defines our humanity.

I came away from it with a lot to think about — and, yes, the writer part of my brain has been processing it to decide how I can use the play< and the thoughts it evoked, in some future work.

Afterwards, there was a great early dinner at Jasper’s, one of Kent Rathburn’s restaurants. Great food, prices that still blow me away — for their reasonableness — and awesome service. It was all topped off with “Jasper’s House Coffee” that has no coffee in it but lots of good other stuff: Bailey’s Irish Creme, Amaretto, Kahlua, Frangelico and whipped cream.

Then, to close out a wonderful day, I came home to find a proposed cover for Skeletons in the Closet. The very awesome Sarah A. Hoyt did the cover and it is almost exactly like what I had in mind. I’ll be honest, I’d come close to despairing finding anything to fit because the book is so different from anything else I’ve written. This cover, in my opinion, rocks. There might be a few minor tweaks between now and when Skeletons goes live but they will be minor.

skeletonsinthecloset

 

You can find snippet one here , snippet two here, snippet three here, snippet four here and snippet five here.

So, I’m back. I’m writing and I’m blogging.

For those who haven’t had a chance to read the first two books in the Honor and Duty (3 Book Series), click the link. Thanks!

When is a book a book?

That’s the question I’ve been asking myself lately. It’s not usually an issue. More often than not, it is more a question of “what do you mean this isn’t the only book with these characters? I didn’t start out to write yet another series!” That is often followed by crying — by me — and gleeful laughter — from Myrtle the Muse. Yes, Myrtle the Muse loves to torture me.

Unfortunately, this time the book itself is the one doing the torturing, both to myself and to Myrtle. Skeletons in the Closet is that book. Now, what you have to understand is that this book has been different from every other one I’ve written. It has teased me and given me hints and fits for a couple of years now. It has taken more twists and turns than all the others put together. That is one reason why it isn’t one that has been written in one “sitting”.

Now it is presenting me with another quandary. What I’ve written so far will, after edits, come in around the 50k word mark. That is short, very short, for me. Up until now, I think the shortest novel I have put out is approximately 80k words. That is part of the uncertainty.

The other part is that I know this is only one part of Lexie’s story. Yes, in and of itself, it is complete. The peaks and valleys of the plot are there but the story, itself, isn’t over.

I could put it out as it is — after edits, of course. But then I would feel the need to charge less for it than I do for my other work. Sort of look at it as a loss leader and I’m having problems with that. You see, if you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m a capitalist at heart.

I guess what this is all coming down to is this: I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it. I am going to follow my initial plan of letting it sit for a couple of weeks while I do the edits on Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3). Maybe by the time I’m ready to come back to Skeletons, I’ll have made a decision about whether to finish writing the entire story arc or simply put this first “book” out at a discounted price.

In the meantime, I am going to go back to blogging every day. Weekends will be snippets and promotional posts. The rest of the time will be what the last few weeks have been, a mixture of writing related posts and current events and whatever the hell might strike my interest. That also means there will be days when there are multiple posts when, as my grandmother used to say, something gets my dander up.

The sun, it burns

Like many this morning, I look out the window and groan as the sun peeks over the horizon. No, I didn’t party too hearty yesterday. I’m just not a morning person. Add to that the fact I finished the rough draft for Skeletons in the Closet Saturday and my brain is still a bit fried. So, with the exception of going to my critique group yesterday, I took the day off. I will probably take it a bit easy today, re-reading Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1) and Duty from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 2) in preparation for starting the final edit round on Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) , the third book in that series.

What surprised me with Skeletons is how the book wound up playing out.

When I first started writing it, and I will admit the first chapter hit paper a couple of years ago and then the project was shuffled to the back burner, I didn’t know where it was going. That’s the main reason I let other projects go ahead of is. I dusted it off when I needed something light and something I thought I could simply put aside again while I got my head into the right space to finish the edits for Duty. What I didn’t expect was that Lexie, Granny and company would demand I finish the book.

More surprising was where this book ended. My novels generally run in the 80k – 120k word range, depending on genre. Skeletons hit its natural ending around 40k words. That means, after final edits, it will come in somewhere around 50k words (there are those pesky little details and descriptions that need to be added in, as well as a couple of scenes that need to be fleshed out). However, that wasn’t the only surprise the book presented to me.

Oh no. Not at all. Whether my evil muse — Myrtle, in case you forgot her name — took inspiration from my posts last week about how books become series or what, the natural ending point for Skeletons isn’t the end of the story. Not by a long shot.

Sigh.

So, unless I want to fight the muse, I have just found myself with another series. At least this one has a very clear ending and will only be one more book (okay, maybe two. Myrtle the Must is evil, remember.) Now, what this means is that the title of this first book will change. Skeletons in the Closet will be the series title. What the new title will be, I’m not sure — yet. Unfortunately, Myrtle is saying I haven’t had enough coffee — even if it is Death Wish Whole Bean Coffee, The World’s Strongest Coffee, Fair Trade and USDA Certified Organic – 16 Ounce Bag — to wake her up.

With Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) coming out in April (and it is available for pre-order now), I’m not sure I will get Skeletons #1 out before then. I am going to try, but I don’t want to rush either book. So, I guess this is my way of saying I will keep everyone in the loop.

In the meantime, check out Nocturnal Challenge (Nocturnal Lives Book 4).

The one thing Lt. Mackenzie Santos had always been able to count on was the law. But that was before she started turning furry. Now she finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy to keep the truth from the public-at-large. She knows they aren’t ready to learn that monsters are real and they might be living next door.

If that isn’t enough, trouble is brewing among the shapeshifters. The power struggle has already resulted in the kidnapping and near fatal injury of several of Mac’s closest friends. She is now in the middle of what could quickly turn into a civil war, one that would be disastrous for all of them.

What she wouldn’t give to have a simple murder case to investigate and a life that didn’t include people who wanted nothing more than to add her death to the many they were already responsible for.

For a change of pace, if you enjoy a little bit of romance with your suspense, or a little bit of suspense with your romance, check it out Slay Bells Ring.

Fifteen years ago, Juliana Grissom left Mossy Creek in her rear view mirror. She swore then she would never return for more than a day or two at a time. But even the best laid plans can go awry, something she knew all too well, especially when her family was involved.

Now she’s back and her family expects her to find some way to clear her mother of murder charges. Complicating her life even further is Sam Caldwell, the man she never got over. Now it seems everyone in town is determined to find a way to keep her there, whether she wants to stay or not.

Bodies are dropping. Gossip is flying and Juliana knows time is running out. After all, holidays can be murder in Mossy Creek.

Snippets for Skeletons in the Closet will continue through this week and then I will start snippeting Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3).

Skeletons in the Closet – Snippet 5

This is a work in progress. Some of you may have read an earlier version. There may, and very probably will, be changes made before the final work is published. That includes the title. Skeletons in the Closet is a working title. Other than that, all the standard disclaimers apply. This work is © Amanda S. Green 2016.  All rights reserved.  Do not copy, distribute or otherwise disseminate without the author’s name, and a link to this page.  You do not have the right to alter it.  You do not have the right to claim it as yours. For permission to do anything other than quote it for review or recommendation purposes, leave a comment in the comments section with contact information. This is a work of fiction, all coincidence between it and real people place or events is assuredly imaginary.

You can find snippet one here , snippet two here, snippet three here and snippet four here.

*   *   *

It’s the End of the World as We Know It

 

“Amy, I’m all right. Really.”

When she didn’t do anything more than look at me doubtfully, I slid off the examining table, biting off a gasp of pain as I did. Okay, maybe I really wasn’t all right. I ached in more places than I cared to count and my right knee throbbed painfully. But there was no way I would tell Amy. Not when she still looked like she would drag me, by the hair if necessary, off to the nearest hospital.

That was the last thing I wanted or needed.

Well, maybe not the last thing. That would be her telling Mama what happened. Hopefully, Amy wasn’t that mad at me.

For a moment, I contemplated simply walking out of the small examining room. Then, a cold draft up there reminded me I wasn’t exactly dressed to be out in public. Not when the only thing I wore was one of those ill-fitting, let-your-butt (or something else)-hang-out disposable gowns every doctor’s office and emergency clinic insists you put on the moment you finish filling out the paperwork and your insurance is verified. As far as I’m concerned, these so-called pieces of clothing exist for one purpose only – to keep the patients form walking out without paying their bill. After all, what sane person would dare leave the privacy of the examining room to parade around with the back door open and their privates hanging out?

I might be many things, but insane I wasn’t, at least not yet.

Be that as it may, I was about to do just that. I had to get out of there before Mama found out I had finally fulfilled the first part of what, until now, had been her improbable plan for escaping the house. I’d finally had that close encounter with a bus she’d been hoping for. And, thanks to my now used-to-be best friend, I was stuck in the small confines of an examining room at a local doc-in-the-box. At least I’d managed to convince the paramedics who responded to Amy’s 911 call that I didn’t need to go to the emergency room. It wasn’t as if the bus had really hit me. I had been the one doing the hitting – of the car parked at the curb, the curb as I rolled off the car and then the sidewalk.

But the bus never touched me. That had to be a good thing. Right?

Unfortunately, Amy hadn’t been convinced I was all right. Which was why I now waited impatiently – no, irritably – for the doctor to finally give us her diagnosis.

“Lexie, don’t give me that,” she snapped as she slid her cellphone into her hip pocket.

My eyes went wide and my stomach lurched. Surely she hadn’t called my folks to tell them what happened. I opened my mouth to say something but nothing came out. How could it when coherent thought was no longer possible? Finally, after years of predicting I’d one day be struck dumb for my lack of respect and for how I had refused to appreciate all she had done for me, my mother was finally right. Only it hadn’t been at her hands that this calamity had occurred but at the hands of my used-to-be best friend.

“Oh quit looking like I just wrapped you up in a fancy wedding dress and handed you over to your mama with my blessing to marry you off to Bucky Vincent.” Exasperation and – damn her – amusement filled Amy’s voice. “I didn’t call your folks, if that’s what you’re worrying about.”

Relief washed over me. Then, realizing there was also an air of satisfaction about her that hadn’t been there earlier, I narrowed my eyes. She was up to something. But what?

And did I really want to know?

“So who did you call?”

“My grandmother.”

This time I did groan. If calling Mama would have been bad, calling Serena Duchamp was even worse. Oh, she wasn’t trying to marry me off just so she could move in with me when I left the family home. At least I didn’t think she was. But I had no doubt she would soon be telling Granny what happened and that would only add fuel to the fire that currently burned between her and Mama. It was a no-win situation for me. I hadn’t called either of them but Granny’s best friend knew and had let her know before Mama did. Damn, there wasn’t a hole deep enough to hide in now.

Maybe I ought to look on the bright side. It was possible I wasn’t sitting in an urgent care clinic just down the road from the university. Maybe I had hit my head hard enough that I was still unconscious and this was all some sort of really bad hallucination. Soon I’d wake up and find a nice paramedic, preferably one who was very happily married, leaning over me. Heck, at this point, a long stay in the hospital, preferably in isolation, looked pretty darned good.

Heck, even a stay – preferably a long one if it meant not having to deal with Mama – in Purgatory looked good right now.

Before I could ask Amy why she had called her grandmother – and what Miss Serena planned to do about what Amy had told her – a soft knock sounded at the door. It opened a moment later. Laughter bubbled up inside me as a small woman with gray hair and a stern expression entered the room. She most certainly was not marriage material. In fact, she reminded me of Miss Bateman, my fourth grade Sunday school teacher who had quickly proven that Catholic nuns had nothing on her when it came to the swift application of a ruler across the knuckles. There was not one bit of humor to the doctor’s expression as she paused just inside the door and looked at me. Without a word, she jabbed a finger at the examining table and waited until I slid onto it and lay back.

The next few minutes went by mostly in a silence occasionally punctuated by a moan of pain as the doctor probed a sore muscle or twisted a tender joint. By the time she finished, I was beginning to think maybe I should have gone to the hospital. Surely the doctors there would have had a better bedside manner. It didn’t help any to have Amy standing there, watching in growing concern with just a hint of “I told you so” reflected on her expression.

“All right, Miss Smithson,” the doctor said as she moved to the sink and washed her hands. “You got off pretty lucky. Next time, think before trying to do battle with a bus. The bus always wins.”

Only because her back was to me, I rolled my eyes. Even as I did, I expected her to tell me not to be impertinent. Instead, she turned and handed me several slips of paper.

“You need to see your primary care physician in the next few days. I don’t think you’ve done anything more than badly sprain your knee, but I recommend having a scan done. In the meantime, stay off of it. When you have to be up, I want you on crutches.”

Great. No way I’d be able to hide those from Mama – or Granny.

Damn it.

“You have care instructions for both the knee and the abrasions. The front desk will give you some samples of an ointment to use until you can get to the pharmacy. If you begin to feel dizzy or sick to your stomach or if you experience anything out of the ordinary, call your doctor. If it’s after hours, get to the nearest ER.”

Out of the ordinary?

I almost laughed. My entire life was out of the ordinary. Not that I could tell her. At least Amy no longer looked quite so amused by the situation. Of course, that could be because the doctor was now outlining what sort of care I needed over the next few days. It’s probably a good thing Amy was paying attention because I no longer was.

“Don’t worry, doctor. I’ll make sure she does as you say,” Amy promised as she took the care instructions and prescriptions from her.

Another laugh bubbled up. Sure Amy would. And my name was Scarlett O’Hara. No, what would happen was simple. As soon as I got home, Miss Serena would appear to take a look at me, and I do mean take a look. She would see everything the doctor with her tests had and more. Then, if she wasn’t satisfied with what the doctor had done, Miss Serena would do her own form of healing and that was most definitely something I didn’t want to think about any more than I wanted to think about what would happen when Mama found her doing it in the middle of our front room.

Half an hour later, I was finally allowed to make my escape, if you could call it that. My right knee was encased in a hinged brace. I’d tried refusing it but the doctor had been adamant once she heard – thanks to Amy –how I’d messed the knee up in high school on a ski trip. Of course, my used-to-be best friend hadn’t told her that Miss Serena had worked her magic on the knee and it had soon been as good as new. So, instead of getting away with a simple Ace bandage, I had what looked to be a state of the art knee brace, something I just knew my insurance wouldn’t pay for.

But at least I was getting out of there before Mama descended. That had to be good, right?

“I’ll stop by the pharmacy and get your prescriptions filled and then I’m taking you home,” Amy said as she helped me into her car. A moment later, she stowed my crutches in the back.

Home. Not exactly where I wanted to be just then.

“Think we could stop somewhere and get something to eat?” Maybe we could go to Austin or even Houston. There had to be good restaurants there. Anything to delay the inevitable explosion that would happen the moment I walked through the front door.

When Amy climbed in behind the steering wheel and looked at me, I knew she understood. How could she not after knowing my family as long as she had?

“Lexie, relax. I’m not about to take you to your place tonight.” She slid the keys into the ignition and started the engine. “The last thing you need right now is more drama and that is exactly what you’d get there.”

“Oh God, Amy. What now?”

I didn’t need to ask how she might know what was going on when I didn’t. Her grandmother and mine were best friends. That hadn’t changed with Granny’s death. I had no doubts Miss Serena had been given a blow-by-blow description of yesterday’s encounter with the priest. I just didn’t want to know what Miss Serena would do about it. That had to be worse than Mama simply insulting her, something that resulted in our dearly departed returning home. I swear, if I hadn’t been wearing my seat belt, I’d have pounded my head against the dashboard in frustration.

“Let’s just say the battle lines have been drawn and all that’s left is for someone to take a can of paint and split the house in two.”

Now that was an idea. Maybe if they had their own territories, Papa and I could have a little peace. But no, Mama would never agree. Not unless she found a way to get Gran and the others to accept either the basement or one of the closets as their territory, some place that Mama would never, ever go. The likelihood of that happening was about as high as me winning all the lotteries in the world on the same day. Gran wasn’t about to let Mama have the upper hand and the others would do whatever Gran said.

I wonder if I could still transfer to some university far, far away without losing too many credits.

“So where are we going?”

And did I really want to know?

“I’m taking you home with me.”

No big surprise, although it would piss Mama off once she found out. But that was too bad. I wasn’t up to dealing with her and Granny going after one another.

“I want my grandmother to have a look at you and, just so you know, she said she wanted to talk to you about something.”

My breath caught and I stared at Amy in surprise. Oh, it didn’t surprise me that she wanted Miss Serena to take a look at me. Heck, I wanted her to take a look at me. If she could help me heal even a little faster, I was all for it. As for the rest of it, a very large spark of concern flared in the pit of my stomach.

“Did she say why she wanted to talk to me?” I tried to keep the nerves out of my voice but I knew I failed. The slight lifting of the corner of Amy’s mouth was enough to tell me that.

“No. She just said it was important and it was a conversation she’d put off much too long.”

Oh dear sweet Lord. If the car hadn’t been going at least sixty miles an hour, I’d have opened the door and jumped out. When Miss Serena said she had something important to discuss, she did. The thing is, her definition of important is magnitudes beyond that of most other people, me included. We’re talking potentially earth shattering important. The fact that she said it was something she’d put off much too long only made me worry more.

The last time Miss Serena said there was something important she needed to discuss with anyone in our family, our dead started showing back up. What could be more important than that?

I so didn’t want to know.

Skeletons in the Closet – snippet 4

This is a work in progress. Some of you may have read an earlier version. There may, and very probably will, be changes made before the final work is published. That includes the title. Skeletons in the Closet is a working title. Other than that, all the standard disclaimers apply. This work is © Amanda S. Green 2016.  All rights reserved.  Do not copy, distribute or otherwise disseminate without the author’s name, and a link to this page.  You do not have the right to alter it.  You do not have the right to claim it as yours. For permission to do anything other than quote it for review or recommendation purposes, leave a comment in the comments section with contact information. This is a work of fiction, all coincidence between it and real people place or events is assuredly imaginary.

You can find snippet one here , snippet two here and snippet three here.

*   *   *

“Amy, I swear my mama’s finally lost her mind.” I slid onto the chair opposite my oldest and dearest friend, glad she had been able to join me for lunch.

“Lexie, you know I’ve always felt your mama’s been walking that tightrope between sanity and stark raving loony and that after your grandma and the others returned, her balance has been precarious at best. So what’s happened to finally push her over the edge?”

I didn’t answer right away. Instead, I studied my best friend, the only person I felt comfortable discussing my home life with. For one thing, Amy and I had known each other since the first day of kindergarten. We’d made common cause against my sister and hers. She had seen and condemned the way Mama favored both Perfect Patty and Bubba over me. And she had told me in no uncertain terms that the day would come when Mama would pay for it.

Well, when Amy’s right, she’s right. Although I don’t think this was quite what she had in mind.

“Would you believe me if I told you she brought in a Catholic priest to exorcise Granny and the others?”

If the table had been any taller, Amy’s jaw would have hit it. For a moment, she looked an awful lot like a wide-mouthed bass just dropped into the boat. Her eyes bulged, her mouth opened and closed but no sound escaped. Not that I could blame her. No siree. I probably looked pretty much the same last night when I realized what Mama had been up to.

I swear, Amy must have sat there a good minute or more, staring at me in disbelief. Then she reached up to close her mouth. Which was probably a good thing. We had enough folks already staring at us in unbridled curiosity. It’s not often any of us see Amy Duchamp speechless.

That’s right. Duchamp. As in Old Serena Duchamp. Now you see why Mama has done her best to keep us apart. That’s been especially true since that fateful encounter with Old Serena so long ago. Not that I paid Mama any mind. Amy and I had been best friends too long to let her come between us.

“Lexie!”

Well, Amy finally found her voice. Unfortunately, it was loud enough to have everyone staring at us again. She colored slightly and leaned forward, her expression intent. “Lexie, you’re not saying she managed to convince Father Timothy to do an exorcism, are you?”

I shook my head. Father Timothy Stinson led Mossy Creek’s only Catholic church. Mama had tried – more than once, truth be told – to convince him to perform an exorcism to rid the household of Granny and the others. She had begged and pleaded, screamed and yelled. She had even tried to bribe him with the offer of a large donation to the parish. In return, he had been far more patient than I would have, explaining that it was his opinion God had some plan for Granny and the others. Besides, he had been told by Brother Bill how Granny and the others still went to services at the Baptist church on a regular basis. As far as Father Timothy was concerned, they were simply a different kind of worshipper.

Mama had not been pleased.

“No, not Father Timothy. She found herself a priest from Arlington who promised to help her get ‘rid of those abominations’. I don’t need to tell you that Granny wasn’t one bit pleased.” And that was putting it mildly.

“Oh – my.” Amy covered her mouth with her right hand. Her green eyes danced with wicked glee. Sure, she could laugh. She hadn’t been caught in the cross-fire. “I take it your granny had something to say about it.”

“You think?” I snorted. “Let’s put it this way. She sent that poor excuse of a priest running for the hills. Not because she’s still holding court over the kitchen instead of being in her grave but because she gave him a lecture that had his ears burning. It included things like pointing out she was no ghost. Then she pointed out it was downright ridiculous to think she was possessed. After all, what self-respecting demon or evil spirit would want to possess the body of an old woman and then move back in with the daughter-in-law who detested her? I thought the priest was going to choke on that. Afterwards, she treated him to a lecture on the Bible I doubt any of his instructors at the seminary could have given. Then Aunt Pearl came in and if there’s anyone less threatening than that dear old lady, I don’t know who.” I paused, shaking my head.

“But it gets worse. About that time, Uncle Kenny arrived. He strolled into the kitchen were everything was going on, sized up the situation and started undressing right then and there. Mama screeched. Granny ordered him outside if he was going to shift. He just grinned and did his thing. One moment he was standing there in the clothes he was born in and a few moments later, he was his own furry self. That’s when he walked over to Mama and hiked his leg.

“Mama sputtered and then ranted and then demanded this Father Christoff do something. And he did. At least he did after he quit laughing because Papa and Uncle Kenny were acting like a man and his dog by then. Papa in his chair and Uncle Kenny on his back so Papa could rub his stomach. Once he had himself under control again, Father Christoff apologized to Granny. Then I swear he ran for the door. He did stop long enough to tell Papa to come see him if he ever needed to talk.”

That did it. Amy threw her head back and laughed. No, guffawed. Big, braying peals of laughter that had everyone looking at us. I groaned and buried my face in my hands. Wasn’t it bad enough that everyone in Mossy Creek knew my family was a bit odd? And that’s truly unsettling when you consider how odd every family in town is. But did Amy have to call attention to us here, just across the street from the TCU campus? Didn’t she realize what would happen if the administration ever began to suspect what went on at home? I’d lose my scholarship and be booted off campus so fast my head would spin – literally.

“Amy!” I hissed as I dropped my head into my hands.

It’s been years since the world-at-large learned that there were some folks who were different. I wasn’t born when it happened. In fact, Papa hadn’t been born yet. From what Granny told me, there was a lot of fear at first. Neighbors not trusting neighbors. Calls for the government to do something to protect the “real” humans. Fortunately, calmer heads prevailed and some of the more drastic solutions were quickly tossed aside. I’m not so naïve as to think it was out of the goodness of the hearts of the politicians of the time. Nope. Not at all. It was that a lot of them started looking at their own families and learned there was more than a witch or two, or a shifter or two, in their family tree. So, as long as the Others, as the government calls them, obey the laws and don’t become a danger to anyone, it’s sort of live and let live.

No, that’s not quite right. It’s one of those well-known secrets you just don’t talk about. You really don’t talk about it if you attend a conservative religious college.

“C’mon, Lexie. You have to admit it’s funny. Especially the part about your Uncle Kenny. I can just imagine the look on your mother’s face.” She grinned impishly. Then she sobered. “I imagine things went downhill fast once the priest left.”

“Oh yeah.” Downhill, into a pit and well on the way to the Earth’s core. “Mama demanded Granny and the others leave. She told Papa if he loved her, he’d take Uncle Kenny out and shoot him like the rabid dog he is. That’s when Granny countered that it had been their home much longer than it had been Mama’s and if anyone was to be shot for anything it would be Mama for being a damned fool. That’s when Mama told Papa that if he didn’t do something, she would just pack her bags and leave.” I leaned back, blew out a breath and looked around the coffeeshop. No one seemed to be paying us any attention, thankfully.

“Oh no. Your poor dad.”

“Yeah. Mama demanded he do his duty and make Granny and the others leave. I swear, Amy, I thought Mama was going to have a heart attack right there. Her face was fire engine red. She was panting and gasping for air. I think she was even frothing at the mouth just a little.” Or maybe a lot.

“Oh my.” Sympathy replaced humor. “What did your dad do?”

“He basically told Mama she had made this bed and she’d best accept it or move on. If he could learn to put up with her holier-than-thou attitude, she sure as hell could learn to cope with his family wanting to hang around the home they loved. If she couldn’t find it in herself to do so, he would gladly help her pack. He’d even book her a room somewhere far away.”

“Damn.”

Amy couldn’t quite hide her smile or her admiration for Papa. Not that I blamed her. I’d been waiting a long time for him to finally stand up to Mama. Unfortunately for Mama, she hadn’t stopped to consider the possibility that he wouldn’t do as she wanted. She had figured he would cave as he had in the past just to keep peace in the family. Well, Papa may have been forced to sleep on the sofa but, for one, was glad he’d finally put his foot down. As soon as I got home, I’d make up the guest room for him. He didn’t need to suffer just because Mama was having one of her fits.

“Lexie, your mama has had this coming for years.” Amy reached across the table to give my hand a squeeze. “And I recommend she does as your daddy said, not that I think she will.”

Neither did I, at least not yet.

“Why don’t you stay with me tonight? It will keep you out of the line of fire. Besides, my grandma wants to see you.”

“What?” My voice cracked.

Oh great. The last thing I needed or wanted was for word to get back to Mama that I’d seen Old Serena. Still, staying with Amy would get me out of the house. Even better, there was no way Mama would show up on the doorstep at the Duchamps’ place.

But why in world did Old Serena want to see me?

“Sure. Thanks.” I finished my coffee and stood, checking my watch. “I’ve got to get to class. Meet you here later?”

“Sounds good.” Amy stood and carefully shouldered her backpack. “I need to hit the library for a bit.”

Together, we left the coffeeshop. At least it had quit raining. All I had to do was get through the next few hours. Then I would follow Amy to her apartment over the garage at her grandmother’s. Who knew what would happen then. At least I wouldn’t be in the middle of whatever was brewing between Granny and Mama.

The light changed and I stepped off the curb. Like most of those who attended TCU, whenever I stepped onto University Drive, I expected traffic to yield. And it usually did. Usually being the operative word.

“Lexie!” Amy screamed

Ah hell. Unlike Mossy Creek, they have buses, lots of them in all sorts of shapes and sizes, in Fort Worth and I was about to have a close encounter of the painful kind with one of them.

At least I had on clean underwear.

Blogging, Writing and Maybe a Snippet

Let’s get the housekeeping out of the way first. As I noted in yesterday’s post, real life always seems to laugh and throw obstacles in my path when I come up with a new blogging schedule. Usually, it isn’t anything major — thankfully — but just those normal real life matters that have to be taken care of. Fortunately, this past week or two has been filled with just the normal little things that can get a day off on not necessarily the wrong foot but the unplanned one. So, the plan for the blog went by the wayside because it is the easiest thing to let slip.

However, I know I have to buckle down. Not only because I have this blog to take care of but because I have my weekly (Tuesday) posts for Mad Genius Club as well as Wednesday posts for According to Hoyt. That means I have to be more disciplined about blogging. So here’s how it is going to happen. This blog will become more active, partially because I will be echoing my posts at the other locations here and partially because I am going to use this blog as my writing prompt of sorts. I’ll be doing snippets for upcoming work as well as blogging about current events and what is happening in the writing world. My goal is to have something up every day. That is workable if, as I am doing now, I do the blog as I have my morning coffee. By doing it that way, I don’t impact my writing schedule and that, as I’m sure you understand, has to take priority over blogging.

Now, on to writing. Right now there is a split in the writing community. Oh hell, who am I kidding? There is a chasm that is widening to epic proportions. Between calls to only buy books written by people of color for a year to the battle over whether message should take precedence over story to name the issue, the battle lines have been drawn. Now, science fiction has always been a fractious community but it is getting to the point where it is almost funny in a sad sort of way.

The latest bit that leaves me scratching my head involves a character’s sexuality in literature. According to some, a writer should pretty much always include in the story their characters’ sexual preferences because it will tell the reader that that particular type of story can be about that sort of character. It doesn’t matter that the sexuality of the character has nothing to do with the story. It is all about making sure a section of the reading public can “identify” with the character.

Now, I’m all for letting readers identify with your characters. But I like the subtle approach unless actually telling the reader a character is of such and such political background or sexual preference or religious ilk. Why? Because it allows more readers to see themselves in the character than just a section of readers. You see, I trust my readers to have imaginations. I hope they like my characters enough to see the similarities between the character and themselves without me having to throw extraneous information at them that doesn’t advance the plot.

That said, if it moves the plot forward to say this character is gay or another is bi or yet another is celibate, then the author should — in fact, must — put it in. But if all the author is doing is ticking off another entry in the current checklist of how to be politically correct then don’t. Trust your readers to recognize the signals you give in your writing without beating them over the head with it.

A perfect example of this, in my mind, is J. K. Rowling’s Albus Dumbledore from the Harry Potter books. I can’t think of a single time in the books where she mentioned the headmaster’s sexual identity. Why did she not do it? It wasn’t pertinent to the books. However, I wasn’t surprised one bit when she came out not so long ago and said that Dumbledore was gay. I had assumed it from the context of the scenes he was in. Nor did it matter one way or the other because, again, his sexuality did not move the story forward.

As an author, that is what I always look at. Does something move the plot forward? Does it help explain why a character acts the way he or she does? If not, then it doesn’t have to be there. If, as an author, you feel it is important to let your readers know more about that character, then write something where their sexuality or religion or political leanings or whatever is important to the plot.

I guess it all comes down to trusting your readers, something I fear too many authors don’t do. They don’t trust their readers to be able to see a message that is subtly worked into the plot. Instead, they opt for the “hit them over the head” approach. They don’t trust their readers to have enough imagination to see themselves in a character unless they, the author, tells the reader “this character is like you because. . . “. Then these same authors bitch and moan when their work doesn’t sell as well as Author-X who writes a rollicking fun book with lots of action, lots of characters from different backgrounds and who look at life differently from one another. Sure, Author-X might not use the checklist to make sure they have all the politically correct items checked off, but that same author has subtly woven the gay character and the various political beliefs with different religious beliefs in such a way their readers not only see themselves but they see others they know in the book.

All this is a long about way of say we need to trust our readers and put away the bat.

Finally, here is a short(ish) snippet from Skeletons in the Closet. You can find snippet one here and snippet two here.

This is a work in progress. Some of you may have read an earlier version. There may, and very probably will, be changes made before the final work is published. That includes the title. Skeletons in the Closet is a working title. Other than that, all the standard disclaimers apply. This work is © Amanda S. Green 2016.  All rights reserved.  Do not copy, distribute or otherwise disseminate without the author’s name, and a link to this page.  You do not have the right to alter it.  You do not have the right to claim it as yours. For permission to do anything other than quote it for review or recommendation purposes, leave a comment in the comments section with contact information. This is a work of fiction, all coincidence between it and real people place or events is assuredly imaginary.

The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round

Despite all the weirdness in Mossy Creek, and most especially in our house – or maybe because of it – the sun does still rise in the east and there are still bills to pay. That means, no matter how badly I might want to stay in bed, pillows over my head to block out the world, I can’t. So, I had to get out of bed and out of the house. Not that I really minded. The last few days had been stranger than usual, so weird that just the thought of going to class and yet another boring lecture was more appealing than the prospect of staying home.

I didn’t need the sounds of a skillet banging on the stove downstairs in the kitchen, echoed almost immediately by drawers slamming in Mama’s room, to know the battle still raged. Believe me, raged is much too mild a word for what has been going on. And, not being a fool – at least not too much of one – I knew the best thing for me to do was to get out of there as quickly as possible. Otherwise, I’d be caught in the middle again and, when my mama and my granny are going after one another, that is a dangerous place indeed.

Hell’s bells, I’d forgo my shower if it meant avoiding the next barrage between Granny and Mama. I could always grab one at the university after my morning run.

Ten minutes later, dressed in running shorts, sports bra and a tank top, my running shoes dangling from my right hand, I carefully crept down the hall, past my parents’ bedroom. So far, so food. All those years of sneaking in after curfew – more like trying to sneak in. Mama almost always managed to catch me – finally seemed to be paying off. I knew exactly where to step, and where not to, in order to avoid that one board near their room that always creaked like a door hinge badly in need of an oiling.

Just a little bit further and I’d be at the stairs and safe – almost.

It’s not that I really expected Mama to burst out of her room and catch me. After all, where’s the fun in that? I wasn’t exactly breaking curfew and, yes, even though I’m an adult now, Mama still acts like I’m not. Nor was I sneaking out to meet some boy she didn’t approve of. For one thing, I lost interest in boys a long time ago. Men are so much more fun. For another, if Mama thought I was even remotely interested in someone – man or Martian – she would probably lock me out of the house in an attempt to throw us together.

As I said, Mama’s not one to let reality interfere with her desires and, believe you me, there is nothing she desires more than to get away from this house once and for all. In her mind, there’s only one way that is going to happen and that’s for Patty or me to get married. It still surprises me she hadn’t tried to move in with Bubba. Of course, the fact he lived in the smallest, single room apartment in town might have something to do with it. Bubba might be a coward but he wasn’t dumb. He knew Mama would be there in the blink of an eye were there room for her.

Being the ungrateful daughter that I am, I was merely going out for a run and then to class. I wasn’t going to meet a man who would sweep me off my feet and finally get Mama out of her version of Hell on Earth. Far from it, in fact. I was simply once more escaping the strangeness that had been home for the last ten years.

Besides, after what happened last night, Mama would have other things on her mind besides why I might be leaving without saying goodbye. Truth be told, it wouldn’t surprise me one little bit if we didn’t see Mama anytime soon. The last time she and Granny went at it like they had yesterday, we didn’t see Mama for a week. While Granny ruled over the downstairs, Mama stayed locked in her room, making poor Papa sleep on the sofa. The only one she would let in was Perfect Patty. For that week, Mama sulked and whined and told Patty who she was the only one who understood what she had to put up with. Which, if I’m to be honest – and Mama always told me I should be, no matter how painful. “Lexie,” she’d said more times than I could count, “the truth hurts sometimes. But it’s better to tell the truth and hurt someone’s feeling than to burn in the hellfire of damnation.” – is true. None of the rest of us understood why mama didn’t just accept Granny and the others and try to make the best of a very strange situation.

Far as I’m concerned, Mama crossed the line last night and there would be no going back. For ten years, Mama’s done her best to ignore, insult, bully and force Granny and the others out of the house. She doesn’t care that this is their home just as much as it is hers. Okay, so it is a bit strange having family you have seen buried sitting across from you at the breakfast table. But they aren’t causing any trouble. In fact, I have a feeling they would leave if they could. Well, all of them except Granny. After last night, there is no way she’s going to leave of her own accord, at least not unless Mama leaves the house first.

It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Granny didn’t tell Old Serena what happened. If Mama thought last night was bad, just wait until Serena Duchamp learned what she had done. Damnation, you’d think Mama would have learned by now that she needs to think before doing something so exceedingly stupid. The last time she angered Old Serena, our dearly departed started taking up residence in the homestead. I really didn’t want to think about what might happen next.

With my luck, I’d start turning furry on nights of the full moon – just like Uncle Kenny – or something equally off-putting to any sane guy who might, at some point, become interested in me. It was going to be hard enough trying to explain away the dearly departed who continued to hang around. Telling him he would need to play fetch with me every few weeks might just kill any romantic feelings that survived meeting the family.

Maybe it was time to move out and move away – far, far away. Of course, I wouldn’t be able to tell anyone where I was going. Nor could I leave a forwarding address. Otherwise, no doubt about it, Mama would track me down and I would find her waiting on my doorstep, bags in hand, one day. And, the way my luck runs, Granny and the others would be close behind.

“Lexie Marie Smithson, just where do you think you’re sneaking off to so early this morning?”

I paused at the foot of the stairs and blew out a breath. I’d been so close. Less than a dozen feet stood between me and freedom. The front door was so near. But not near enough. Not with Granny standing in the doorway to the kitchen, hands on her hips, eyeing me suspiciously.

Why hadn’t I climbed out my window and shimmied down the tree like I used to when I was a kid? It would have saved me so much trouble.

“I’m waiting.” Her hands remained fisted at her waist and I swear she tapped one foot impatiently. At least I think she did. I didn’t dare look down to check.

“I’m not sneaking off anywhere, Granny.” Well, not really. “I’m just going to grab a run before class.”

“And I’m fresh as a daisy.”

I couldn’t help it. The laugh was out before I could stop it. One thing about my granny, dead or alive, she did have a sense of humor. When she wanted to at least.

“Course, if I was you, I’d be sneaking out rather than risk getting caught up between me and your mama.” The humor was gone just as quickly as it had come. “But you ought to know better. Your mama’s not likely to show her face today. So get yourself into the kitchen and eat some of the eggs and bacon I’ve made.”

Knowing better than to argue – besides, Granny made the best eggs around – I nodded and followed her into the kitchen. Besides, she was right about one thing – unless Mama had taken complete leave of her senses, she would lay low until Granny had time to cool down. The only problem with that was we didn’t have any idea how long that would be. Alive, Granny held onto her grudges, savoring them until they fossilized. What would she do dead?


For those of you who enjoy a little bit of romance with your suspense, or a little bit of suspense with your romance, check out Slay Bells Ring.

Fifteen years ago, Juliana Grissom left Mossy Creek in her rear view mirror. She swore then she would never return for more than a day or two at a time. But even the best laid plans can go awry, something she knew all too well, especially when her family was involved.

Now she’s back and her family expects her to find some way to clear her mother of murder charges. Complicating her life even further is Sam Caldwell, the man she never got over. Now it seems everyone in town is determined to find a way to keep her there, whether she wants to stay or not.

Bodies are dropping. Gossip is flying and Juliana knows time is running out. After all, holidays can be murder in Mossy Creek.


For those who have been waiting for the next installment in the Honor and Duty series, Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) is available for pre-order.

War isn’t civilized and never will be, not when there are those willing to do whatever is necessary to win. That is a lesson Col. Ashlyn Shaw learned the hard way. Now she and those under her command fight an enemy determined to destroy their home world. Worse, an enemy lurks in the shadows, manipulating friend and foe alike.

Can Ashlyn hold true to herself and the values of her beloved Corps in the face of betrayal and loss? Will honor rise from the ashes of false promises and broken faith? Ashlyn and the Devil Dogs are determined to see that it does, no matter what the cost.

 

 

Skeletons in the Closet – snippet 2

This is a work in progress. Some of you may have read an earlier version. There may, and very probably will, be changes made before the final work is published. That includes the title. Skeletons in the Closet is a working title. Other than that, all the standard disclaimers apply. This work is © Amanda S. Green 2016.  All rights reserved.  Do not copy, distribute or otherwise disseminate without the author’s name, and a link to this page.  You do not have the right to alter it.  You do not have the right to claim it as yours. For permission to do anything other than quote it for review or recommendation purposes, leave a comment in the comments section with contact information. This is a work of fiction, all coincidence between it and real people place or events is assuredly imaginary.

For those looking for snippets from Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) , those will begin in two weeks.

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“Mama, I swear to you. I didn’t do anything,” Patty whined. Of course Patty always whined. Except when she tried to sound sultry for whoever was the boyfriend of the day. Then she kind of wheezed. “I was coming out of Paulson’s Drugstore and that old woman almost ran into me. All I said was ‘excuse me’ and she stared at me, Mama. I know she was putting a curse on me. You know how she is.”

That was all Mama needed to forget Patty was more than an hour late coming home from school. Nor did she notice the makeup Patty wore, makeup she had not been wearing when she left for school that morning. Makeup she wasn’t even supposed to own, let alone wear. I would have bet almost anything Patty was making it all up just so she wouldn’t get in trouble.

Without a word, Mama threw on her white sweater with its fake pearls running down the front, grabbed her handbag and marched out of the house, determined to find the town’s resident witch and have it out with her once and for all.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not completely sure Old Serena’s a real witch. At least not the sort you see on TV or in the movies. She doesn’t ride a broom, at least not that I know of, and she doesn’t have a big wart on the end of her nose. But that doesn’t mean she might not be a voodoo priestess or a well-disguised BEM (that’s a bug-eyed monster for those of you who didn’t grow up on the old sci-fi movies like I did). All I know for certain is that my mama made the mistake of getting in Serena Duchamp’s face that day and life hasn’t been the same since.

Of course, Mama hadn’t left Perfect Patty and me at home when she went on her quest to defend her eldest daughter. Oh no, she piled us in her old sedan and off we’d gone, driving the streets of Mossy Creek – not nearly as daunting as it sounds. It isn’t that big of a town – until we found Old Serena.

The moment Mama saw her coming out of the market, she’d slammed on the brakes and parked the car right there in the middle of the street. Before Patty or I knew what was happening, she had dragged us out after her, marching us down the street toward Old Serena as surely as she had marched us down the aisle at church at Easter in our Sunday finest.

“Serena Duchamp, I have a bone to pick with you!” Mama called. “What’s this I hear about you giving my Patty the evil eye? I’ll have the law on you if you don’t take it back.”

“Becca Smithson,” Old Serena began, her dark eyes narrowed to slits and a bony finger pointing at Mama’s nose. “You ought to know better than to go threatening Old Serena. Haven’t I been keeping your secrets safe all these many years?”

Mama sputtered and drew herself up to all of her five feet, two inches. Her thin body shook and her head stuck out forward on her neck and I suddenly realized just how much like a barnyard chicken she looked. Nervous, clucking and trying to bully everyone around her. . . .

Well, Old Serena was having none of it. Instead of cowering like most folks would, she turned to Patty, jabbing a finger in her direction. Patty might be many things, but brave she’s not. Her blue eyes went wide and she quickly hid behind our mother’s skirts, just like she was three years old, not fifteen.

“Mama, see! She’s trying to put the evil eye on me again!”

I’ll admit, the look in Old Serena’s eye was anything but kind. But I didn’t think she would try the evil eye here, in the middle of Main Street.

Or would she?

“Becca Smithson, you and that chit of a daughter of yours have done gone and insulted Old Serena. You’d best be apologizing before I decide to take offense.”

Most folks living in Mossy Creek know better than to upset Old Serena. Word around town was that she’d been there almost as long as the town itself. Now, even at eleven, I knew that probably wasn’t true. No one, no matter how mean they might be, lived to be nearly two hundred even if, like Serena, they looked that old to my young eyes. Still, it never hurt to be careful.

Unfortunately, my mama wasn’t “most folks”. No indeed. In fact, faced with Old Serena’s anger, Mama proceeded to act all high and mighty – which was more than a bit funny considering we most definitely did not life on the right side of the tracks. Never had and probably never would. Not that it had ever stopped Mama from putting on airs.

“Serena Duchamp, not only will my Patty Ann not apologize to you, but you will apologize to her or I swear I’ll talk to Sheriff Metzinger. You can’t be going around town, threatening our youngsters just because it suits you.”

I swear, in that moment, the world stood still. The birds stopped singing. Traffic, what little there was in Mossy Creek, came to a standstill. The few folks on the street seemed to magically disappear, only to reappear not only far down the street but on the opposite side as well. They knew, as my mama should have, that you just don’t threaten Old Serena. Not if you want to continue living a peaceful life.

Old Serena, her features granite hard, pointed the first two fingers of her right hand at my mama, almost as if each was aiming at one of Mama’s eyes. Her lips moved and soft words emerged. I couldn’t hear them, not really. But I swear I saw a black cloud settle over both Mama and Perfect Patty. Now, all these years later, I try to convince myself I imagined it. But then those skeletons in the closet started raising such a ruckus and I have to wonder.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Mama, pale as ice, her hands so cold you would have thought she must be suffering from frostbite, grabbed Patty and me by our arms and dragged us off. The moment we were in the car, the doors safely shut and locked behind us, she made the sign of the cross. This always struck me as strange since Mama is a dyed in the wool Southern Baptist. Just then, however, it seemed like a pretty good idea and both Patty and I did the same.

By the time we got home, Mama had gotten over her fear and was in a fine temper. She railed on at poor Papa, demanding he do something. After all, if he loved her and Patty, he would stand up for them and make that old witch pay. Nothing Papa said made any difference. The only way there would be peace in the house would be if he had it out with Old Serena and the sooner, the better.

So, promising Mama he would take care of it, Papa told me to get into the pickup. Why I had to go, I didn’t know. Frankly, I didn’t care. The last thing I wanted was to see Old Serena again so soon. But I could tell this wasn’t the time to say anything. Besides, with Mama in one of her moods, it was probably safer to face Old Serena than to stay home.

Papa surprised me that afternoon. Instead of going to confront Old Serena and demand not only an apology but a jar of her finest honey – she did have a way with the bees no one else in town could duplicate – he took me to the Custer farm. There he bought two of their finest hens. We made another stop at Crandall’s Smokehouse. Soon we were on our way to Old Serena’s, the hens and a large smoked ham in the bed of the pickup. We were, according to my papa, going to make amends.

Mind you, Old Serena never was and never will be that mad old woman you see in the movies. Unless you upset her, she looked like your favorite aunt or teacher – your very old favorite aunt or teacher. Nor did she live in some tumbled down shack at the back of a swamp. For one thing, there aren’t any swamps nears Mossy Creek. For another, Old Serena comes from even older money. Her house sat at the edge of town and consisted of several thousand acres of pasture land. As for those hens in the back of our truck, they weren’t going to be sacrificed in some black rite, at least not unless you call frying them up for dinner black magic.

Papa drove our battered truck down the tree-lined lane and parked. Before he switched off the engine, the double white doors of the plantation-style house opened and there stood Old Serena, a welcoming smile on her face.

“Welcome, Jacob, and you too, young Lexie.” She took Papa’s hands in hers and stood on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek.

“Thank you, ma’am.” My papa’s always been a man of few words. That’s especially true when dealing with trouble Mama’s caused. “Lexie and I brought you some nice hens and a real fine smoked ham, Miss Serena. We hope you’ll accept them and our apologies for the unpleasantness of this afternoon.”

“Why thank you, Jacob.” She peered into the bed of the truck and smiled even wider. “You and Lexie have always been so good to me, just like your dear mama. The two of you have nothing to apologize for.”

“My mama remembers all you and yours have done for us, ma’am, unlike some other members of my family. I truly am sorry for how they’ve behaved.”

“Your mama’s a good woman, Jacob, and she raised you right.” She looked at me, her head cocked to one side, her expression thoughtful. I fought the urge to fidget under that intense gaze. “And you, young miss, you remind me very much of your grandma.”

“Thank you, ma’am.” I beamed. As far as I was concerned, there was no higher praise than being like my granny, the woman whose name I bore.

“Lexie, you be sure to tell her not to worry. I know she’s been doing poorly. But she will be around for a long time, making sure certain members of your family don’t cause too much trouble.” Now Old Serena smiled and a cold shill ran through me. “In fact, I’d say certain members of your family will be hanging around much longer than expected just to be sure Becca and those two brats of hers –” Another smile and I knew she didn’t mean me – “don’t cause you and your papa here any trouble.”

Papa thanked Old Serena – what else could he do? – unloaded the chickens and ham and off we went. Mama’s anger was terrible that night as she called him all kinds of names for not being a man and doing as he was told. He’d simply sat there. I’d be tempted to say he ignored her except there had been a strange little smile on his lips. It was as if he knew something was going to happen and he couldn’t wait to see it.

Old Serena had been right about one thing. My granny was “doing poorly”. She had been for a long time and nothing the doctors did seemed to help. We all knew it was only a matter of time before Granny passed. I had hoped Old Serena was right when she said Granny would be around for a long time but I didn’t believe it. Young as I was, I knew Death would soon come for her.

Two weeks later, Granny passed. Mama didn’t even try to hide how glad she was that Granny was finally gone but I knew. She had never liked Granny. She was always saying how Granny never thought she was good enough for my papa and how Granny was always trying to run their lives. It wasn’t true, but it had been Mama’s mantra for so many years, she actually believed it.

My mama might not have liked my granny but the church ladies sure did and they came out in force to make sure everything was perfect for the funeral and the gathering afterwards. More food than I had ever seen filled the tables of the church’s meeting hall and practically the whole town turned out for the service. After we watched Granny’s coffin being lowered into the ground, Brother Billy invited everyone back to the church for lunch. For a few hours, at least, I was able to listen to those who had known my granny best talk about her and share their memories of their old friend.

That night, missing Granny more and more with each passing minute, I did my best to ignore Bubba’s teasing and Perfect Patty’s demands for more of the chocolate cake Mama had brought home from the church. My feet felt like they weighed a million pounds as I slowly climbed the narrow stairs to my bedroom. The house seemed so empty without Granny and I knew nothing would ever be the same. Gone was my protector and the one person besides Papa I knew I could always rely upon, no matter what.

With Barney Bear in my arms, I cried myself to sleep.

And woke early the next morning to the sounds of someone moving around in the kitchen below my bedroom. For a moment, it was as though the clock had been rolled back more than a year. Until Granny’s stroke, every morning started with her in the kitchen, busy cooking our breakfasts and getting bread ready to bake. Mama used to complain about it, saying how it was just another way Granny kept her from being the “woman of the house”. Of course, she really complained once Granny got sick and couldn’t do it any longer. Mama cooking breakfast lasted all of a week before she decided it was time of us kids to learn to feed ourselves.

A smile touched my lips as the good memories temporarily kept the sadness at bay. I lay there, listening to the clank of the iron skillet as it was placed on the stove. The sounds of a spoon striking the sides of a mixing bowl as eggs were beaten followed. Soon, the tantalizing smell of bacon frying made its way upstairs. A door opened. Impatient steps, the unmistakable clip-clop of my mother’s mules, on the staircase. A scream!

Mama’s scream!

The wooden floor was cold under my bare feet. Somehow, I’d gotten out of bed and stood in the hallway outside my room. Bubba and Patty stood in their doorways, looking like scared little mice. Papa raced downstairs, his old plaid robe flapping, his feet bare.

Mama screeched again and I rushed downstairs, just ahead of Bubba and Patty. Papa stood in the doorway, shaking his head, an expression on his face I couldn’t identify.

Mama stood a few feet away, hands over her face and shaking like a leaf. And there, at the stove just as she had been almost every day of my life, stood my granny. She wore her best dress, the one we’d buried her in. Her snow white hair was mussed a bit. For once, she was barefoot and I wondered if they’d buried her that way. That was just wrong. Why bury someone in their best Sunday-go-to-church outfit but not their shoes?

“Becca Smithson, you quit your caterwauling,” Granny scolded, waving her wooden spoon before her like a wand. “You’d think you’d never seen me in this kitchen before.”

Mama moved her fingers apart just a fraction. She opened her eyes an even smaller fraction. Then she let out another screech and hit the floor with a resounding thud.

Granny stood at the stove and shook her head. No doubt about it, she sure didn’t approve of Mama fainting. Dead or alive, Granny expected you to behave and dropping to the floor like a felled tree just wasn’t done in her books.

“Jacob, you’d best be picking her up,” Granny said as she turned back to the stove long enough to move the frying pan off the burner. “And you, Patty Ann.” A glance over her shoulder had Perfect Patty trying to hide behind Bubba, which was pretty funny considering how he was doing his best to disappear into the far wall. “You can quit that sniveling and set the table.”

“B-b-but you’re dead!” Patty stammered, ignoring Bubba as he tried to free himself from her death grip around his neck. I guess Patty figured if she couldn’t hide behind him, she would just try to be as close to a second skin on him as she could. Not a bad idea really, considering he would do just about anything to save his skin, especially from one of Granny’s thrashings.

“That doesn’t mean we can’t sit down to eat like civilized folk.” Granny flipped the crisp strips of bacon onto a paper towel on the countertop next to the stove. “And didn’t Miss Serena tell you all that I’d be around for a long time?” She pinned each of us with a look we knew meant we’d best be agreeing and nothing else.

That was just the beginning. No matter what Mama did, Granny was there. Now I’ll admit, we’ve used more than our fair share of candles and Granny didn’t quite keep her looks. Fortunately, Mr. Perez knew a few renewal tricks. Once a month or so he’d come out to the house to give Granny her treatments. After a while, we sort of got used to having her around. Although Mama never stayed for long in the same room with her, which meant Granny once more reigned supreme over the kitchen.

Now, don’t go thinking things got any easier for Mama. Since Granny’s return, four more family members have passed on – and come back home to stay. The first was Uncle Matt, my papa’s older brother. Uncle Matt had gone out hunting one day with his favorite hound and his favorite beer and, well, he’d enjoyed his beer a little too much. Mr. Perez did his best, but Uncle Matt will never look the same after taking that shotgun blast to his face. When he showed up in the kitchen the morning after his funeral, coffee sort of dribbling from what had been his lower lip, Mama had repeated her performance from the morning of Granny’s return and had hit the kitchen floor with a thud.

For a while, the town did look at us kind of strangely. After all, not everyone has their relatives rising from their graves and taking up residence back at the old homestead. Oh, there are the odd ghosts and other spirits here and there, not to mention a few other things you don’t discuss in polite society, but our family was different. However, no one had any cattle mutilated and no small children disappeared. There weren’t even any corpses found with their brains missing. So our friends and neighbors slowly started coming around again, especially once they realized Old Serena was a regular visitor.

This past year, Granny and Uncle Matt have been joined by Aunt Minnie, my second cousin Annabelle and my Great-Uncle Homer. When Annabelle, who before she died at the ripe old age of ninety two insisted on wearing pink dresses with lots of lace and bows and wearing enough lilac water you smelled her five minutes before she arrived, appeared at the breakfast table the morning after her funeral, Bubba simply walked out the door. He hasn’t been back home since. Not that it is any great loss, although Mama laments his going. She is convinced Patty will be next and that she will never see her babies again.

You notice she has no such concerns about me nor does she seem to remember when she starts crying about her sad lot in life that she sees Bubba almost daily in town and he still shows up at the edge of our property once a week where Mama meets him. He then hands over any laundry he has to be done. You see, I still take too much after Papa’s side of the family, all of whom seem to be taking up residence with us after they pass.

“You’re looking mighty thoughtful, Lexie,” Granny commented as she poured me a cup of coffee. “Is something eating at you?”

I smiled, doing my best to ignore the fact it was past time for Mr. Perez to come give her another treatment. Come to think of it, Uncle Matt’s nose was more crooked than usual and the lilac water wasn’t quite covering the aroma that was Cousin Annabelle. There were definite downsides to having walking corpses living – er, residing – with you. The smell is just one of them.

“Sorry, Granny, just thinking.”

And thinking hard. Old Serena was due in less than an hour for her weekly game of dominos with Granny. Great-Uncle Homer joined them sometimes, if they could convince Papa to sit and play. I think Papa did it just to get back at Mama. She’d never liked Homer and now that he lived in our front closet and refused Mr. Perez’s treatments unless Granny made him, Mama absolutely detested him. Of course, the fact his nose had fallen right off and into the gravy boat during Sunday dinner hadn’t helped. Now Mama mainly took her meals in her room, refusing to eat with the rest of the family except when absolutely necessary.

Not that Granny and the others really ate. Oh, they went through the motions, but it was more habit than anything else I think. They’re dead, after all, so they don’t need sustenance. Still, it is mighty disconcerting sitting at the kitchen table with folks who ought to be six feet under.

They had passed but not passed on.

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