Friday, June 3, 2016

This won first place in the "First Chapter Contest" for mystery/suspense at the LDS Storymakers Conference!



Chapter 1(Emily)

 Thirteen-year-old Emily’s backpack was stuffed full of her essential belongings. She also had forty dollars of babysitting money hidden in her shoe, the iPhone her mom gave her on her last birthday in her pocket, and the phone number of an aunt she’d never met at the top of her contact list. 

She turned out the light and watched Roger and her mom in the living room from the open slit of her bedroom door. A look of euphoria crossed her mom’s face after she inhaled the second time from the pipe Roger passed her.

 Stepping back from the door, Emily closed it quietly and punched in the lock, knowing what would happen next. When they were high on meth, they thought up ways to get more money to buy more drugs. She hoped they would forget she was there, but knew their plans usually involved her, and that’s what scared her. She got into bed, fully clothed, and slipped in one ear bud from her iPod. 

Roger had moved in with them two months ago, after hitting it off with her mom at Nancy’s Cafe in Portland, Oregon where she worked. He left her big tips for about a week, and then they started seeing each other whenever she was off work. Roger said he was an accountant, but Emily had never seen him go to work. 

The way Roger looked at her creeped her out. When he touched her arm or shoulder in passing, she felt her skin crawl. She couldn’t understand what her mom saw in him. If he tried anything, she had her backpack ready and she was prepared to run.

Emily’s hands balled into fists. She and her mom had been doing great, just the two of them, before he showed up and introduced her mom to meth. They had a solid Mom-and-Daughter relationship. Emily trusted her mom’s decisions—well, most of them anyway. But now, when they were high, she didn’t recognize her. 

She’d been able to avoid their small apartment when they were using by staying late at school or sometimes walking through the large department stores downtown—anywhere else but with them. She didn’t trust Roger.

Emily heard them in her mom’s bedroom down the hallway next to hers. When their bed started banging against the wall, she slipped the other ear bud in, letting the music soothe her to sleep. 

“Honey? Emily?” Her mom called, knocking on the door. “Get up, we’re going out.”

Emily came awake and looked at the glowing numbers on her clock radio. Eleven-thirty. She sighed and finally got out of bed. It was no use—her mom would keep knocking until she answered the door. Yesterday, Friday, had been the last day of school for the year. She hoped they wouldn’t stay out all night—her mom had to work in the morning.

Emily grabbed her backpack, walked through the living room stepping over empty fast-food containers and dirty socks, and followed them out the front door. “Can we get something to eat? I didn’t get dinner.” 

“Maybe later. We’re meeting a guy at Walmart.” Her mom pulled forward the front passenger seat of Roger’s red Toyota Camry so Emily could get into the back. Her mom’s brunette, shoulder-length hair looked as messy as her makeup. The pain in the back of Emily’s throat intensified as she stared at her usually perfect mom.

“Plus we’ve got some shopping to do,” Roger added, nodding his head. 

Emily watched his whole body vibrate with jerky movements as he tried to insert the key in the ignition. When he backed out of the parking lot without looking behind him, she grabbed a hold of her seatbelt strap, closed her eyes, and prayed they wouldn’t crash into anything.

They pulled into the Walmart parking lot. “There’s the car—the green one in the last row.” Roger parked next to it leaving the car running. He pulled out his wallet and handed her mom some cash. “That’s all I got. You have to cover the rest.” 

Emily watched her mom approach the driver’s side of the green car. The window slid open a few inches and fingers reached out for the money. After it was passed through, a small bag appeared.  Her mom stuffed it in her purse and got back into the car.

“Quick and easy,” Roger said. “Now give it to me.”

He drove to the farthest row in the back of parking lot next to a grouping of large shrubs and scrub trees. When they got out of the car, he grabbed Emily’s backpack. “You’ll keep this safe for us.”  He stuffed the small bag into one of the zippered pockets.

Emily’s jaw dropped and her eyes widened with shock. “I don’t want anything to do with this.” She swung away from him, grabbed her backpack, and opened the zipper where he’d put the baggie. 

 "Do as he says,” her mom said, dismissing her panic. “I’ll take it out when we get home. You keep it safe for me." 

Roger gripped her mom’s arm. “Follow me and when I hand you something, slip it into your purse. Emily, you stay close and try to block the view. We’ll make some easy money tonight.” 

“Lame, Mom. Shoplifting?” Anger coursed through her body causing her face to flush. “Just for more of that stupid drug?”

“Roger and I planned this one out.” Her bright red lipstick flashed, garish in the parking lot light. “Don’t worry, he knows what he’s doin’.”

Emily sighed. It was no use; her mom no longer listened to her. She knew there were cameras in Walmart’s entrance, so she pulled the black sweatshirt hood up over her shoulder-length red hair before walking through the door.

“I’ll grab a cart and we can load it up with stuff—make it look like we’re shopping. When we’re ready to go Emily’ll take it to a back aisle, leave it and meet us back at the car.” Roger’s forehead shone with sweat, his armpits were soaked, and he gave off an odor of ripe cat pee. 

Emily’s stomach churned as she followed them, her footsteps dragging. She didn’t know what else to do. She saw her mom slip a watch into her bag while Roger sorted through DVD’s on a sale table next to it. He tossed several in the cart and motioned them to move forward.

After half an hour, Roger nodded at Emily. “Take the cart over by the toys and leave it. Go out the other door. We’ll wait a minute and walk out the main entrance. Meet you at the car.”

Emily did as she was told, and a few minutes later hurried out of the store. She ran to the car and tugged at the door, but it was locked. She pulled on it again but it wouldn’t budge. Her eyes darted around the too-dark area of the parking lot, sucking in a quick breath when a car backfired in the distance. Seconds later, she heard the alarm go off at the main entrance, and saw Roger and her mom running toward the car with two security guards in close pursuit. 

Panic seized her. She dove behind the bushes in front of the car and crouched down. The security guards grabbed both of them and they argued briefly before Roger wrestled free and took off running. One guard gave chase, but soon gave up. Emily watched in shock as they handcuffed her mom and escorted her back into the store. 

Sinking down on weak knees, she tried to calm her racing heart. She stayed hidden in the bushes until two Portland police cars turned into the parking lot and stopped at the entrance, lights flashing. 

“I’m so outta here,” she said under her breath. She had no idea what would happen to her mom. After the policemen entered the store, Emily jogged to the street and started walk-running toward home. Surely they’d take her mom there. She didn’t know what Roger would do now; she hoped he’d stay away. She reached in to her pocket and pulled out her phone. Her heart sank when she saw that the battery was dead. She was on her own.

The two-mile walk home in the dark after Portland curfew wasn’t something she was looking forward to, but she kept to the side streets and hoped not to attract the attention of anyone else out at this hour. She shivered as the wind picked up and stopped in front of a house with open blinds to zip up her sweatshirt. Through the living room window she could see a young couple cuddled together on their recliner couch watching TV. Her stomach growled in protest when she saw the half-eaten pizza sitting on the dining room table.

An hour later, Emily turned down the street to her apartment, but stepped back into the shadows when she saw the police car parked outside her unit. She watched for a moment, wondering if the police might have brought her mom home. But the lights were out in the apartment and a female officer stood outside. Maybe they were looking for her—just like they did three years ago. She ended up in a foster home then. It had been the worst experience of her life. 

Emily’s eyes teared and her chin trembled. Her hands sought the key to their storage unit hanging with her apartment key on a chain around her neck. She always stored her bicycle in their unit behind the apartment. She crept along the side of the building, stopped at the corner, and glanced around for anyone else outside. Alone, tired, and hungry, she just wanted a safe place to hide for the night. 

Emily unlocked the padlock and opened the door quietly. Their storage unit was one of the smallest and cheapest available—eight feet square with an oversized man-door. She closed the door behind her and pulled on the string attached to the single, bare light bulb. It lit up the small space; between their stacked storage boxes and her bicycle, there wasn’t much room left. There was no way to lock it from the inside, but it would have to do for the night. 

Emily removed her backpack, leaned her bicycle up against the door, and re-stacked the boxes to make a place to lie down. She pulled an old comforter out of one of the boxes and wrapped herself in it. She buried her nose in its softness and breathed in deeply, smelling her mom’s signature scent. She grabbed the water bottle from the holder on her bicycle and shook it. It sloshed. Relieved she gulped the lukewarm, stale water left from her last ride. 

Tomorrow morning she’d make sure the police car was gone and hope that Roger wasn’t there so she could sneak in to get their address book. She wouldn’t call her Aunt Sarah. If she just showed up at her house she’d have to let her stay. She tried to ignore the emptiness in her stomach as she pulled the string, plunging the small space into darkness.  

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

My name is Luci

Hi, my name is Luci and I've been in my new forever home for three weeks now. Thought I'd let you know how its going.

I love my new home! I have a playroom upstairs and a cache of toys downstairs, too. My parents play with me a lot and say I'm really entertaining! My favorite toys are the feather on a string and a plastic coil. Mom ordered more coils in different colors so I wouldn't have to wait for her to get them out from underneath the stove or the dryer. I'm an excellent jumper and can catch the feather even when its three feet off the floor!



I sleep in various places around the house depending on my mood. My favorite place is on the very top shelf of mom and dad's closet. I have to jump on a chair, then to the dresser, then to the top shelf. Mom put a bed up there for me, so its real cozy.
But I also sleep on dad's lap, in front of the fire, and on mom's table by her computer. She needs my company (and sometimes my assistance) while she writes in her computer.


At night I sleep on the big bed with mom and dad. Dad says I take my half out of the middle and he isn't too happy when I sleep on  his legs or attack his toes sometimes. I claimed my place on the bed the very first night I moved in!

Mom sometimes plays videos for me. I can't understand why those birds are so hard to catch!

I like to watch the live birds outside my window too.


I went to the Vet today, which I wasn't excited about. But mom was happy because the Vet said I weighed 8 pounds and was very healthy! The helper lady said I was well behaved when they clipped my toenails. Now I don't stick to the carpet when I run!

All and all I'm a very happy girl! I thank the ladies at Car's Cradle Rescue for finding me and for taking such good care of me before I was adopted!
Love,
Luci

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Three bathroom remodels

 It only took three and a half months, but our bathroom remodels are done! Here are some before and after pictures:

Powder Bath before:
 Powder Bath after:


Cris put in this cool barn door that saves us a lot of room in the bathroom.
And I love the new vessel sink.


Guest Bath before:

 Guest Bath after:
 Master Bath before:



Master bath after:
 Another cool barn door for the master.

 A smaller tub and a great BIG shower!

Now it may be time to sell!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

My interview with WOW - Women on Writing 8/25/15

 

Meet Flash Fiction Runner Up, Linda McMann

Linda McMann is a 60-something retired pharmacist who spent most of her working life in pharmacy management at a large Portland hospital where she wrote many newsletters, evaluations, and memos. Her move to creative writing started with a retirement goal of writing a short story for each of her eight grandchildren. After multiple on-line writing courses, conferences, and seminars, she now posts short stories, poems, bits about daily living in Warren, Oregon, and chapters from her current work in progress on her writing blog http://Parrot-Writes.blogspot.com. Please stop by for a visit and leave a comment.

She is currently marketing her second novel, Counterfeit Chemistry, a contemporary romantic suspense story about a young divorced woman who uncovers a counterfeit drug operation in her small town, and when she tries to identify and expose the people involved, finds her life and her son’s life in danger. Her WOW entry winner is the prologue to this novel. She is three-quarters of the way through its sequel, When We’re High, about a family dealing with meth addiction and its connection to identity theft.

When she’s not writing she can be found working with her husband in their small vineyard, taking care of the gardens around their two-acre lot, traveling to Northwest car shows in her husband’s latest hot rod project, or enjoying the company of her eight grandchildren.

She thanks the organizers of the WOW contest and agent Stacy Testa for choosing her story as an award winner this quarter.

***

WOW: Congratulations on placing in the top ten in our Winter 2015 Flash Fiction competition! What inspired you to enter the contest?

Linda: I was introduced to the WOW blog and writing contests by another writer friend and have been a devoted follower ever since. I've submitted multiple contest entries over the past several years and I appreciate getting helpful feedback for a few dollars more. My entry for the Fall 2013 contest ("Hank's Reveal") made it to the honorable mention list, so I've kept submitting stories. I'm excited to have placed in the top ten this time. Next goal: in the top three!

WOW: Keep submitting! Can you tell us what encouraged the idea behind your story, “Counterfeit Chemistry,” which is also the prologue to your novel?

Linda: I combined two pieces of advice I've received about writing in this novel: write what you know and write what you like to read. I'm a retired pharmacist who enjoys reading romantic suspense novels (Nora Roberts, Linda Howard, Jude Deveraux.)

I'm concerned about the rise of counterfeit drugs being sold to the public. I was inspired to write this novel to show the dangers of purchasing drugs off unknown internet sites. The counterfeit drug industry is a $40 Billion international criminal enterprise and growing. I've found no other novel with this story line and am hoping the people who read this novel will wonder if this could happen to them and be more diligent about their medication purchases.

WOW: We’d love to know more about your writing routines. Could you tell us when and where you usually write? Do you have favorite tools or habits that get you going?

Linda: I share a home office with my husband and find mornings are my best time to write. I'm also learning to use Scrivener (writing software for novelists) which seems to help me stay organized. I enjoy participating in NaNoWriMo; it's the perfect motivator to get me back in the seat, writing daily, after a busy summertime of off-and-on writing. The goal of 50,000 words in a month requires me to set daily goals and this carries on after the month is over. I've started three novels and finished/revised two of them during NaNo, and will be at it again this November finishing the last quarter of my third novel.

WOW: You mention that you’ve taken multiple online courses as part of your writing education. What were the main benefits of the classes you took, and how did they help your writing?

Linda: I've taken nine online writing courses through our local community college. The content of the courses has been extremely helpful and the relationships built through the classes have provided a great network of like-minded writing friends who help with critique and commiseration. The first class, "Beginning Writers Workshop" was a perfect starting point and instilled the enthusiasm and excitement I still feel as I write today. Other courses have been specific to romance writing, mystery writing, children's writing, and descriptive writing, editing, and publishing.

Another person who has been extremely valuable to me is Larry Brooks, author of Story Engineering, Story Physics, and www.storyfix.com. I've attended several of his workshops and follow his principles of story structure, which help with the evolution of the story. He's shown me how to identify the concept, theme, premise and to find the core story which guides me as I write.

WOW: You've inspired us to keep up our writing education! Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Linda! Before you go, can you share your favorite writing tip or advice with our readers?

Linda: When I sit down to write, I read the last two chapters to get me back into the time and place of the story (and I try not to revise them.) If I'm having trouble with dialogue, I read it out loud. It's amazing what you can pick up by hearing it spoken. Probably the best advice is to find a teacher that resonates with you (via books or lectures), read and learn as much as you can from them, and then sit down and do it: write, write, write!




Counterfeit Chemistry
By Linda McMann

Prologue
Beverly clenched her teeth to keep from crying out and waking James, but a moan escaped her lips nonetheless. The pain was especially intense after her Epogen injection yesterday. Leg cramps and nausea wracked her body. The doctor said she needed the Epogen in addition to her chemotherapy, yet he brushed aside her complaints of pain.
She rolled over quietly and reached into the top drawer of the bedside table, fingers searching for the smooth, round bottle promising relief. She clenched the container and opened it slowly to diminish the rattle of the pills.
Sitting up carefully, she released the lid and eased two oblong tablets from the vial into her hand. Popping them into her mouth, she grasped the glass at the back of the table and washed the pills down with cool water.
After recapping the bottle, the anxiety set in. James would be furious if he found out she’d been buying these pills off the Internet from an unknown supplier. He owned Martin’s Pharmacy and did everything by the book. But since her doctor wouldn’t authorize enough Vicodin refills, she had no choice.
Beverly glanced over at James’ sleeping form and quietly returned the bottle to the back of the drawer. She dreaded the trips to the clinic for the weekly injections she received to boost her red blood cells and combat fatigue—the leg cramps and the nausea laid her low for the next three days. Nothing helped. Her legs felt like lead weights and each movement sent shooting pain to her back and waves of nausea to her gut. At least she was saving money by purchasing the drug through Martin’s Pharmacy, and taking it to her appointments.
The iridescent numbers on the bedside clock glowed mockingly in the dark. In a few hours she would drag herself out of bed, put on a smile, and try to be there for her staff and customers.
Sarah, her lead chef, suggested she call her daughter to come home and help with the restaurant. But Beverly wouldn’t bother Jessie, who had enough to deal with on her own. She’d handle it and try to maintain the façade of the strong capable woman she’d always been.
When the alarm brought her out of an uneasy sleep, Beverly stumbled into the bathroom and turned on the shower. Letting the warm water wash over her, she leaned a shoulder against the shower wall, struggling not to let her frustration bring her to tears. But her resolve crumbled, and she hiccupped back a sob as she watched the tears fuse with the water and flow down the drain.
Everything she did now took twice as long. She didn’t even have time to read the newspaper that morning as she rushed to her car, bleary-eyed and already half-an-hour late. If she had, she might have seen the story buried on page eight about a young man from New York who experienced intense pain and seizures from his weekly Epogen injections. The drug was found to be counterfeit and it nearly killed him.  

 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Pacific City Family Time

The Annual Beach Trip week included the fourth of July this year. We enjoyed copious displays of fireworks in all sizes, shapes and noise levels. The enjoyment was dulled, however, when we saw the obscene amount of spent fireworks left on the beach the next morning. We also saw a large number of people with the same characteristics who left just as much garbage behind. The city of Long Beach, Washington has the right idea. They declare the day after the fourth as Beach Clean Up Day and all visitors are asked to help.

We lucked out on the weather for our week! All three families were able to escape the 90 to100 degree temps at home for high 60's to low 70's at the coast. Morning clouds gave way to sun throughout the week with some days windier than others.




 Mornings started with our traditional 6:30AM walk to the coffee shop. We were joined every morning by most of the kids. They enjoyed hot chocolate, cookies, and the morning walk home on the beach. We watched the dory boats (and a kayak) take off and return, walked out to observe the tide pools (it was always low tide), climbed on the rocks, and collected shells. Bob the Bubble Man was a big hit!









 Beach time included the sand dune hill climb, playing in the water, digging in the sand, making sand castles, flying kites, tossing the ring for the dogs, and enjoying the day.

 




 



 













 Relaxing time for the adults - kicking back, chillin', and catching up.

 














A birthday party for four of the kids plus night time campfires with s'mores added more sugar to the super-charged bunch!


















Sunsets were gorgeous!

















A great time - we're already planning for next year!