Aladdin on Broadway: What a Trip!

I still couldn’t believe, I was here. “Mattie Burch . . . yes, me—sitting here on a train, all by myself, going to New York.

The morning sun was shining through the window and felt so good on my face, and the rhythmic sound of the train running along rails made my eyes feel so heavy.  I started to nod off a bit.  The warmth and the repeated clickity-clack teased me into a twilight sleep. Visions of my freckled-faced children pulling on my new cotton-print dress, tugging my hands, tears streaming down their faces played in my thoughts. A tall man with bright green eyes and black hair stood beside me on the platform.  I was looking down at my babies when a finger under my chin pulled my head up, and for an instant, I saw that handsome face. He kissed me hard, picked me up, and swung me ‘round and ‘round in a long embrace.

The train hissed, the porter cried, “All aboard!” and my new shoes landed on the steps to the train car as the man I loved lowered me gently down.

“Happy birthday, sweetheart! Remember, you call us, now. Call a lot. I love you!”

The children cried, “I love you, Mama! Bye! I love you!”

The train car swayed as it left Selma, North Carolina. My mind drifted in and out of sleep. As always, the last words I remembered were . . . (Read More Here)


Aladdin – A Broadway Dream Come True

Mattie’s eyes grew heavy from the rhythmic sound of the train running the rails. The warm morning sun shone through the window, and her head started to nod, just a bit, from the exhaustion and wonder of it all. She still couldn’t get over it. Her mind wandered with the clack—clack, clack—clack, sound of the train tracks. Mattie Burch . . . yes, me—Mattie Burch—sitting here on a train all by myself, going to New York.

Visions of freckled-faced children crowding around her, pulling on the hem of her new cotton-print dress, holding her hands, all of them with tears streaming down their faces, flashed through her mind.  A tall man with radiant-green eyes and black hair stood beside her on the platform. Her head bowed to get one last look at the pleading eyes begging her to stay. Before she could answer, a finger under her chin raised her head up; her blue eyes gazed at his handsome face for an instant before he kissed her, picked her up off the ground, and started swinging her ‘round and ‘round in a passionate embrace.

The train hissed, the porter cried, “All aboard!” and her new shoes landed on the steps to the train car as the man she loved lowered her gently down.

“Happy birthday, sweetheart! Remember, you call us, now. Call a lot. I love you!”

The children cried, “I love you, Mama! Bye! I love you!”

The swaying motion of the car as it left Selma, North Carolina, soothed her tired body. Her thoughts, again, played the words from her favorite childhood book: There once lived a poor tailor, who had a son . . . who would do nothing but play all day long in the streets with little idle boys like himself, and her eyes finally closed.

“Next stop, Richmond, Virginia,”came the announcement over the loudspeaker.

Mattie jerked awake. People were shuffling to leave. She glanced out the window and saw the James River—the longest in Virginia. Passing through Ashland, on lush tree-lined streets decorated with flowering dogwoods, were stately Dutch Colonial homes. She noticed there were five rivers they went over: the Quantico Creek, Neabsco Creek, Potomac River, Gunpowder River, and Susquehanna River. Further along, Washington D.C. had many skyscrapers of glass reflecting other skyscrapers. Wilmington had a building with a large mural: one side, a giant whale breaching and the other, clouds. Much of the rest of the trip was filled with industrial yards and older buildings worn from age.

Finally, arriving at Penn Station, her excitement mixed with fear, Mattie stood up to gather her things. Tentatively, she moved toward the exit and down the steps to the massive terminal. Before her foot hit the ground, a man in uniform offered his hand.

“Mrs. Burch? I’m Stan, your limo driver. I will be escorting you to the Chatwal Hotel and then will pick you up tomorrow for the show.”

“Oh! Oh, my! I hadn’t expected anything like this. This is . . . it’s . . . well, it’s just amazing. Thank you.”

As they drove, the looming buildings with their gigantic flashing digital and neon signs turned her head on a continual swivel, trying to take it all in.

“Did you know this was my birthday present?”

“No, Ma’am. I didn’t.”

“My sweet, wonderful husband entered the New York contest for all twelve years that we’ve been married. Well, I thought he’d be sick to death already of my talking about coming to New York to see a show. Can you believe it? This year he won. He won! On my thirtieth birthday. And, on top of that, my most favorite story in the whole world is playing at the New Amsterdam Theatre.”

“Yes. Ma’am. That is a wonderful story.”

The limo pulled up to the Chatwal Hotel’s front entrance where another man in a uniform met the car and escorted Mattie up to the lobby’s front desk.

“Hi! I’m Mattie Burch. My husband won that Contestee, New York Contest, on the Internet. I’m so happy to be here.”

“Yes. We know. We’re happy to have you, Mrs. Burch. You’re in the Signature Garden Suite on the seventh floor.  Our bellman will take you to your room.”

Mattie followed the bellman down the rich, shiny gold and brown, red-accented art-deco corridors in a giddy high. He opened the door to her room. She stood there, mouth agape—the suite and terrace were bigger than her whole house in Selma. Rich colors in gold-honey suede and dark-brown tones covered the rooms. The white marble terrace, complete with a fountain and pots of herbs made her feel like she was in another country. Soon she fell into a luxurious sleep, dreaming of her big day.

She awoke to a wonderful breakfast. Although she could have taken the morning to go sightseeing, the peace and quiet, away from the hustle and bustle of motherhood, teased her to stay and relax in the beautiful suite. Finally, it was time to go.

The limo driver was at the lobby door waiting. The drive to the theater was over in a blink it seemed. Mattie got out and walked into the most beautiful art nouveau theatre in New York City. Disney renovated the New Amsterdam in 1994, taking a full four years. The golden colors sparkled in the lights. Everywhere she looked, there were complex plaster casts of grape clusters, peacocks, apples, and all sorts of pieces, painted in soft tones that melted with the color gold. In her whole life, she had never seen anything as regal as this.

Strolling down the aisle, she found her seat, center orchestra, and settled into her dream-come-true birthday when the production of Aladdin carried her off on her own magic-carpet ride. Colors danced and pranced around the stage in blindingly bright hues from the three hundred different costumes the performers wore. The genie performed his magic in bold expression reminiscent of Cab Calloway with a bouncy jazz beat. The dancers, the music, the splendor of it all, took Mattie away to all she had ever dreamed of. However, it was the love story between Princess Jasmine and Aladdin that filled her heart with such love for her husband that she had trouble holding back the tears. The two lovers floated by, across the sky on their magic carpet, so in love that Mattie could not wait a minute longer. She ran to the lobby and called.

“Honey, are you okay? Mattie? What’s wrong?”

“I love you more than ice cream, Jason Burch. No! I love you more than this wonderful trip. I even love you more than Aladdin. This is the best show in the whole world. I can’t wait to get home to tell you about all of it. You will always be the genie of my dreams.”

Caucasia by Danzy Senna

A private language spoken between two sisters binds their hearts forever, creating a world only they can enter and explore. Birdie adores her older sister, wants to be like her in every way. There is one thing stopping her—her color. She is lighter in color than her sister, Chloe, who looks like her father: tall in stature and a mid-shade of black; he’s an intellectual focused on little else than writing his book on the meaning of race in America.  Birdie Lee’s color leans towards the middle but more on her mother’s side: a white woman with fair skin and blonde hair who tended to be a bit heavy, back when the family was together.

It was Boston, the turbulent 70’s, and all that was together was now in pieces. Her mother was involved in some dangerous business and had the feds after her.  They had to run.  The only thing to do was to split up the family: Chloe and her father off to Brazil; Birdie and her mother, to New Hampshire.  A divide leading Birdie into a white world—ever lost; yet, the memory of her secret language drives her to find her sister, to find herself.

“Pieces” by Donald Stidham

Final Pieces Cover 3

(Note: This book is the first editing project I took on. The reviews on Amazon reflect the first time the book was posted on Kindle.  I’ve since gone over the manuscript again.  Aside from a few missing hyphens, I believe this copy falls inline with a good reading copy.)

   A breeze moved along the interstate.  Trees and grass bowed in respect while cars and trucks of every size ignored its existence.  The wind flew around and over boulders as animals and critters scurried about.  It found a pond and glided across the glassy surface, disturbing a cluster of dragonflies.

   She kneeled in the grass with her hands on her legs.  She bent forward and tried to catch her breath.  A single flower lay by her knees.  Its yellow brightness stood out against a small, white cross that stood beside it.  She ran her fingers down the wooden memorial and dropped her head.

   The breeze wafted from the woods and nudged at the yellow flower, rolling it over.  The flower yawned at the touch.  The breeze blew harder until the flower touched the girl’s knee.  She picked up the kingcup and stood it against the cross.

   Tears streamed down her cheeks with memories of excitement and love.  She wanted to scream and release all the agony held inside, but could only muster whimpers.  She fell forward and kissed the ground.  She welcomed the loneliness that had become a part of her soul.



Chapter One

“Mr. Aames?  Hayden, are you with us?”  Mrs. Prescott, the twelfth-grade honors English teacher asked.

“I’m sorry.  Yes.  What was the question?”

The class laughed.  Eric, Hayden’s best friend, nudged him on the shoulder.  Hayden’s face began to glow red, but then he realized he didn’t care what the others thought.  He sat up straight at his desk and folded his hands together.

“Nothing specific—I just wanted to make sure you were paying attention.  You’ve been drifting off lately into a world the rest of us might be interested in.  Is there anything wrong?”

“No, ma’am.  You can continue with your ever so interesting lecture.”

Sarcasm rang in his words.  The class laughed again, which brought a visit to the principal’s office.  Hayden shoved his English book into his backpack and left the room.  He stopped by the bathroom on the long walk.  The boy’s room smelled of urine and bleach.  The camera facing the bathroom entrance was meant to scare off any students who wished to smoke or hide out during classes, but the small device had little effect.  A clean white sink hung below a small, water-spotted mirror.  The reflection disgusted Hayden on several levels.

“What’s the point,” he said to himself while shaking his head.

He pulled out a small knife that he kept under his belt.  Bullies in junior high had influenced Hayden to carry a weapon even though he never found the courage to use it.  He opened the three-inch blade and put it to his wrist.

Before sliding the blade, he looked back in the mirror.  His black hair, which wasn’t black enough, hung past his eyes.  His blue eyes were barely seen, but didn’t have enough life in them.  His slender frame was complimented by a button-down white shirt and black slacks, but the hidden muscles would never be grand enough.  All imperfections screamed for him to create a river of blood from his palm all the way up his forearm.

A toilet flushed, which startled Hayden.  He frantically closed the knife and shoved it in his pocket.  He turned on the water and silently scolded himself for being so dramatic, just to stir his own emotions.  Hayden would never slice open his own skin.  Principal Kroger stepped from the stall.  He adjusted his belt before seeing the present student.

“Hayden, how are you doing today?”  His deep and friendly voice offered trust.

“Fine, I guess.  I was just on my way to see you, sir.”


“I wasn’t paying attention in English.  I made a derisive comment about Mrs. Prescott’s lecturing methods.  I don’t see why the adults can’t joust in conversation without immediately taking offense and sending the kids to you.  Don’t you get tired of seeing us for such mediocre complaints?”

“Yes, sometimes, but order has to be kept,” he sighed.  “Some teachers are just like kids themselves, and then some students are more mature than teachers.  Take Coach Adams for instance…that goofball would be out of here if he didn’t know how to coach a three-point shot so well.”

They both laughed.  Kroger thought his joke was authentically funny, but Hayden was laughing to keep the focus off his earlier mistake.  He played psychologist with the principal, hoping it would work in his favor.

“Hayden, your grades seem to be slipping slightly.  Up until this semester, you’ve had straight A’s, but you received B’s in two classes.  Don’t be alarmed, but I like to keep a close eye on students that I believe have great potential.  Is something going on at home that you want to talk about?”

Kroger finally started washing his hands.  Hayden made a point to notice and did the same.  He hoped Kroger would see that he followed by example and would assume the good trait outweighed any bad ones.

“My seemingly melancholy demeanor does not start at home.  Nothing starts at home.  Dad is always away on business, and Mom is doing the usual juggling of responsibilities.  Xbox online keeps me company most of the time when I’m not studying the arts of life.  Most of the time, I feel like I’m stuck in neutral.  The world is certainly not pushing me into drive like you guys promised it would.”

“Well, I can see why Prescott sent you to me.  You have an underlying sarcastic tone, but nothing too rude.  One might even consider it humorous.  Just promise me, you will try to bring those B’s up to A’s.  You have potential.  When you get out of this sheltered world of public education, you’ll need all the options you can get your hands on.  As far as the world is concerned, it pushes us all.  You have to find the right current and dive in.”

He patted Hayden on the shoulder and left the restroom.  Hayden heard the words that were spoken, but only a few hit their intended mark.  The metaphor of a surging river stuck with him.  He splashed water in his hair and slicked it back—glancing in the mirror.  Hayden brought his hair back down to cover his eyes.

“Suck it up, coward.  You’re acting like a girl.”

In his mind, his reflection made an obscene gesture as he sauntered back to the classroom.  He opened the door and rejoined the class by taking his seat.  The other students wanted to know if he had gotten in trouble.  Eric nudged at him, but he kept his focus on the teacher until the end of class.

The dismissal bell rang.  Hayden and Eric started their usual walk home.  They watched different students gear up on their methods of transportation.  Skateboards flipped through the air, Rollerblades slid across the concrete, trick bikes rode on one wheel, and sneakers danced around bouncing basketballs.  Hayden classified each group in his mind and placed himself outside of them all.  He was one of those who liked solitude while choosing not to own a vehicle.

Eric’s two-story brick house came first.  His mom moved in a stooping position by the flowerbed and waved at Hayden when she noticed them walking up.  She greeted him, but all Hayden saw were the tops of her large breasts peeking out of her tight pink shirt.  He mumbled to himself and walked off.  After fifteen seconds, sure that Eric was inside the house and his mom was gardening again, he glanced back to see if she was bending over.  She was, which brought a smile to his face.  He felt the ridiculous grin and immediately stopped.


“The Timkers” by WR Vaughn

51qrUS5D5BL._AA160_The Timkers Chapter One — A Rocky Start

Sam Harkins’ breath punctuated his steps with misty clouds as he power-walked past boarded storefronts in downtown Seattle. The bank sign nagged “Jan. 15, 2016, 7:36 a.m.

Late and still ten blocks to go. His pace quickened to a jog as he jammed his hands into his Vietnam-era flight jacket. He knew he shouldn’t have stayed up to watch The Sting again for the twentieth time—but he loved it so: the music, the thirties and the great actors—Redford and Newman and his favorite, Robert Shaw. Dodging a bike messenger, Sam crossed against the light, his mind occupied with grandiose plans that would all fall into place like the orchestrated steps of an elaborate sting if he got the job. Right now, that was a capital “IF.”

A cold chill ran down Sam’s spine when he spotted, Penalso, a wiry Tex-Mex boldly selling shit through car windows like a drive-up espresso stand. Sam ducked behind a Metro bus and waited, but just for a moment. He didn’t have time to deal with that asshole, not this morning. How the fuck did he find me? He must have followed me from Austin. But why?

Sam felt like an idiot believing he could catch a break, but he was not all that surprised at Penalso’s pit-bull tenacity. When Sam lost his job as a computer tech, he understood it wouldn’t be long before he would be pulled back to rejoin the gang’s sullen ranks—like a hungry dog follows along behind a pack of strays. His job interview in California might be his last chance to keep from getting entangled. Sam kept his head down and headed for the diner at the end of the block.

“Sammie boy!” Penalso shouted.

Shit. Sam didn’t turn to look or change his pace. He jaywalked across 6th Avenue, breaking into a full run once he was out of sight. Dealing with someone like Penalso was like stumbling upon a rabid Doberman. Unless you were packing a 9 mm with a full clip and one in the chamber, you walked away slowly until you had a chance to run like hell. While Penalso himself was not that dangerous, he had a tendency to cut his way out of tough situations with a hooked carpet knife. Sam had only his wits to defend himself. Sure, he had a few moves, learned the hard way—behind bars back in Texas, but he usually tried to avoid the rough stuff. As for his wits, he had twice as many as Penalso: most folks did.

When Sam reached the diner, he looked through the window at the clock—his breath fogging the glass. 7:40. He wasn’t sure if he had time to go in. At least I’ve got to say good-bye.

Inside, he was greeted by the usual breakfast smells of coffee, bacon and burnt toast. He took one of the red-topped seats, and only Doris, his mom, looked up. Wiping wet hands on her apron, she looked like she’d had a tough morning.

“Morning, Sam. You’re a bit late. You’d better watch the time.” She poured him a cup of coffee.

“Hey, Mom.” He put his pack down at his feet. “I know. The concierge didn’t wake me and draw my bath.” She doesn’t need to know about Penalso.

“Don’t be smart with me, Samuel,” Doris chided with a thin smile and a raised eyebrow.

“I just came to say good-bye. I don’t have time—”

“Sit. You have time for a hot meal…the bus station’s just around the corner.”

He rechecked the clock. For a moment, it looked like the hands were moving in double-time. Nearly 7:42.

“Your usual, Sam? I can ask José to rush it.”

Sam glanced up again. 7:43 “Yeah. I guess . . . if it’s fast—make it to go.”

“Sure, hon,” she said, turning to the order window and placing the order in gringo Spanish.

An unintelligible reply came from the kitchen.

“I’ll make sure your eggs are done this time,” she said with a wink.

Sam was impressed with her Spanish. Ironically, it was getting better since they had come up from Texas, thanks to the undocumented cook.

“Gracias.” Sam dug in his jacket pocket and pulled out a month-old breath mint (he ate it), a red USB memory stick, his bus ticket and a crumpled schedule. Asking casually, “Have you seen Francine this morning?” he pushed the stick deep into his pocket and scanned the booths in the mirrored wall.

“It’s a bit early for her.”

Sam returned his attention to the schedule. For motives Sam didn’t understand, his absentee dad had arranged an interview with his new company in California. He suspected it was just another attempt to screw with his mom. Yes, it was a long way, but Sam looked forward to getting out of this cold, damp city that seemed to be dragging him down into the sewers, along with the brown leaves and endless rain. And now that Penalso had found him, he had another reason to skip.

“Today’s the big day.” Doris refreshed his coffee.

Sam heard the worry in her voice. She had been supportive ever since he was laid off—but he knew she was afraid he would never find another job and end up with the likes of Penalso. She might be right on both counts.

He looked up. 7:45. “Yeah, if I make the eight o’clock bus.” Is that clock right?

“Then we need to get you fed. ¿José, los huveos?”

All Sam could do was wait, and worry, and watch out the window for Penalso—and Francine. And now, the erratic hands on the old clock made it seem like time was moving at half-normal speed. He swallowed another slug of Doris’s simply awful coffee, the cup rattling against the saucer.

Watching people come and go in the mirror, Sam admired a young redhead taking one of the stools. Cute. Have I seen her before? She ignored him, like most of the women his age. A couple of strangers came in and went to the back table where Mr. Zeitnehmer had set up his office. The couple quickly exchanged cash for something handed back in an envelope and settled into a booth. Whatever he’s selling seems to be popular. Some kind of stock deal? Discount tour tickets? Exotic drugs? Mom sure didn’t care. Mr. Zeitnehmer brought in a lot of hungry breakfast customers, and Sam knew the diner sure needed the money.

The cop sitting further down the counter didn’t seem to notice or care. Sam turned briefly toward the windows to see if Penalso was hanging around outside. There was no sign of him, but he noticed that the cop was studying him—he probably knew about Sam’s run-in with the for-profit judicial system back in Texas. Maybe everyone did, as if he were wearing a “Convicted Felon” tattoo on his forehead.

Doris refilled his cup. “You weren’t up all night again watching TCM, were you?”

“No choice. I had stuff to finish.” Like “The Sting” and “The Untouchables.”

“Did you finally get Mrs. Carpintero’s computer fixed?”

“Yeah…yes, ma’am. She had a blown memory stick. I told her she needed a UPS.”

“A UPS package?”

“An uninterruptible power supply, Mom—UPS, a power line conditioner.” He slowly shook his head.

“Oh. What about the other stuff?”

“You mean the malware? That’s her own fault. She and her son wade through the Internet as if it were an elementary schoolyard. The websites she browses are more like gator swamps in Cambodian minefields.”

Sam heard the clock hands snap forward as cold air pushed up his pants legs. 7:44. Geez.

Glancing up, Sam saw a striking brunette come in wearing a short wrap dress over black tights. Francine. Finally. Sam swiveled around and tried to catch her eye. As usual, she didn’t look up. Eyes down with thumbs tapping away at her fancy phone, she found her way toward the booths near the window. Sam’s stomach tightened. Lately, his nocturnal fantasies had featured her in long moonlight walks followed by intimate snuggling and slow, passionate sex. But he hadn’t mustered enough courage to ask her out. And now he was leaving. It was too late. Say something!

“Hiya, Fanny.” The smartass in the back had beat Sam to the punch. “Care to join me?” He offered his table with a flourishing gesture and a leer.

The look she gave him would freeze a Hawaiian volcano in full eruption. “It’s Miss Dancing, to the likes of you.” She took her seat with her back to the boor—but facing Sam.

“You’ll succumb eventually to my charms, darlin’” The interloper slumped back into hiding.

“He must have learned a new word,” Sam mused under his breath. This sleazeball reminded him of the owner of the down-and-out bar in Flashdance, who constantly hit on the pretty, topless dancers. Sam dreaded Francine having to settle for the likes of that creep, and he regretted the way his life was playing out. Perhaps when I get back. If I come back.

Sam knew he wasn’t leaving much behind—just his mom and a tiny two-room apartment. They both really needed and wanted each other to succeed on their own—even though they had been living on their combined incomes for some time—not to mention the symbiotic moral support. Of course, there was the remote prospect of Francine, but he knew no girl would even consider going out with a boy still living with his mom. He caught Francine giving him a passing glance over her menu.

“Here ya go, hon. Eat it while it’s hot.” Doris handed Sam a brown paper bag with spots of grease bleeding through the sides.

“Thanks, Mom.” He checked the clock. 7:52 Shit.

“Good luck. Do you have everything? Clean underwea—”

“Mom! I’ve got it covered.” His cheeks turned pink as he tucked the sack under his arm like a football. Sam wished she would stop treating him as if he were five and off to his first day of kindergarten.

“You know, I love you.” She smiled—her eyes, brimming with tears, said she would miss him.

“I love you too.” He reached over the counter and gave her a one-armed hug, kissing her on the cheek. “It’s only for a week or so. I’ll call you.” He lied on both counts.

Sam turned to steal one last longing glance at Francine. She looked up, as he made a break for the door. Her lips said nothing, but her eyes told him everything his imagination wanted to believe.

“Bye,” Sam said as he bolted out into the cold. He scouted up and down the block, but didn’t see Penalso. He hadn’t gone five steps before he heard Francine’s voice calling after him.

“Sam, you forgot your pack.”

Sam ran back and took the rucksack, gazing into her big, melting chocolate eyes. “Thanks. I would be lost without…” You.

“Have a safe trip, and good luck with the interview. That job has your name on it.” For the briefest instant, their hands touched; hers were strangely cold, but her smile seemed warm.

“I…sure. Thanks again. I…need to run,” he said, walking backwards. As the distance increased, he smiled again and turned, only to run into someone. Penalso.

“Didn’t hear me back there, Sammieboy?”

“Fuck off, Penalso; I have a bus to catch.” Sam pushed the tough away.

“That ain’t no way to treat an old amigo from home.”

“You’re no pal. Now get out of the way.”

“Trying to vamoose again? I’ll bet you figured I wouldn’t find you up—”

“What do you want?” Sam edged toward the street, but Penalso blocked his path again.

“Folks ‘round here tell me you’re flush—carrying a couple of C-notes, at least.” Penalso twirled his knife on a leather lanyard. “Is that all you have left from the heist?”

Sam turned to Francine. “Get back inside.” He didn’t want her to see him gutted or what he was going to do to Penalso. Fewer witnesses.

Francine just stood there, perhaps too frightened to move—but she didn’t look frightened—she looked angry.

“Let’s have it. Yo creo, you owe me.” Penalso pulled in his knife and wrapped his bony fingers around the handle.

Judging by the look in his jaundiced eyes, Sam figured Penalso was probably high on his own dope. Stupid and high—a bad combination. “How do you figure?” Sam kept his distance, but Penalso soon had him cornered, and he didn’t have time to go around the block.

“Start with my fare to follow you up here. Y compadre, you still owe la mordida por Waco,” Penalso swept his blade in a wide arc to cut off Sam’s attempt to dart past him.

“You’re full of shit as usual, you jackass. I was nowhere near Waco; I was still in Austin—entiendes?” Sam had seen Penalso fight before—he usually won, so Sam made it a point to keep the pack between his body and Penalso’s blade.

“Sí, entiendo, but I heard it was you, Sammie. You owe me.” Penalso charged again, but Sam danced out of the way.

Sam knew he was out of time. “Then come and get it,” Sam wrapped the pack’s strap around his fist.

Penalso charged again, but he slipped, leaving the back of his head open for a roundhouse blow from Sam’s pack. Penalso ended up facedown on the pavement, but unhurt. As he scrambled to his feet, his blade slashed out, slicing through Sam’s jeans at the knee.

Sam managed to parry with a soccer penalty-kick to Penalso’s jaw. Sam heard a sickening crack, and Penalso fell like a rag doll. Fixing sick computers was not the only thing he had learned in juvie.

Inexplicably, Francine ran to Penalso and knelt beside him, cradling his head—it didn’t seem to be connected to his neck.

“You bastard—you killed him!” She started to scream and wail as if she had lost her first true love.

Sam couldn’t believe his eyes; his mind swirled with what had just happened. He had never killed anyone before. With a single impulsive blow, he had slid headlong into the morass he had been trying so hard to escape. Francine’s accusing screams tore through his soul like Penalso’s knife was going to. Why did she care about this creep? Nothing made sense.

A heartbeat later, it was almost as if Sam could hear the bus’ brakes squeal “Run! Run!” Sam broke into a limping jog and didn’t look back.


More about WR Vaughn 




The Penmen Profile: Young Adult and New Adult Author William Vaughn

William Vaughn is a writer of Young Adult, New Adult and technical manuals, living in the Pacific Northwest with his wife, Marilyn.  A lifelong adventurer, Vaughn has travelled all over the world, starting at a young age with his military family. He went to school in Germany, Thailand, and in Virginia.  After graduation, he enlisted and continued his explorations through the U.K., Europe, Asia and Australia.

These travels sparked his imagination, resulting in colorful stories in “The Seldith Chronicles” series, including: “The Owl Wrangler,” “Guardians of the Sacred Seven” and “The Truth.” He is now venturing into a new genre: New Adult, which focuses on storylines that readers just beyond the Young Adult stage can relate to and generally include characters aged 18-25.

Vaughn started his writing career creating technical manuals for computer geeks. These included The HitMRG_8410T small.1 Bill Vaughnchhiker’s Guide series: “Hitchhiker’s Guide to VBSQL” (3 editions) and “Hitchhiker’s Guide to Visual Studio and SQL Server” (4 editions), “Hitchhiker’s Guide to SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services”, as well as “ADO Examples and Best Practices”, “ADO and ADO.NET Examples and Best Practices and ADO.NET Examples and Best Practices for C# Developers.” He was a contributing author to several other similar technical books and dozens of technical articles

Have you always written?
Yes, and no. I wrote a number of short stories after returning from Vietnam in the early 1970s, but I began writing technical articles in the late 1970s, contributing to a jointly authored book on operating systems in 1980. By the time I retired from the technical world in 2010, I had written (and had published) over a dozen books and many dozens of magazine articles. As to fiction, many would say my technical works also fall into the “fantasy”. . . (For full article


Sneak Peak at Deborah Heal’s New Book

My latest book is on a sad topic–the Cherokee Trail of Tears–but that’s not to say there aren’t moments of levity. Here Merri and our old friends Abby and John are preparing for an all-night “time-surfing” session in an empty apartment they may have sneaked into without permission:

Faint noises came from the hall. Merri and Abby started then looked at each other, wide-eyed. Someone knocked softly on the door, and a smile bloomed on Abby’s face. “It’s our secret knock,” she explained as she race-walked to the door.

“Of course you and John have a secret knock,” Merri said, rolling her eyes. “Doesn’t everyone?”

John came in loaded down with plastic shopping bags. How he managed to lug it all up without being seen was a mystery they didn’t take time to discuss.

“Wow, it’s dark in here,” he said, setting the bags on the kitchen counter. “I forgot to warn you about not turning on lights until I got something to cover the window.”

“And yet the little women managed to think of it themselves,” Merri said. “Amazing.”

John grinned and tugged at her hair. “Oh, stop, Merri Christmas. You know I respect your ginormous brain.”

“What’s all this?” Abby ignored them and began snooping through the bags. “You must have bought out the store.”

“It’s amazing what you can find at a Dollar Store. Did you know they have blankets there?” Out of the largest bag on the counter he removed a green blanket in a zippered vinyl case and held it for them to see. “It’s thin and wimpy, but it should work to cover said window.”

“What else?” Merri said, unable to tamp down her curiosity.

“These,” John said, handing Abby three flashlights. “Even with the windows covered we should keep the light to a minimum.” He handed a writing tablet and pen to Merri. “Because I couldn’t remember if you still have yours in your backpack. Toothpaste and brushes, as requested, and soap and paper towels as an added bonus.”

“I’m all in favor of good hygiene,” Abby said.

“One thing I’ve always admired about you, my dear,” John said. “Here are mixed nuts and cheese crackers in case we get hungry later. Bottled water because…well, you just never know, do you? And coffee—with sugar, my love—so we can stay awake.”

Grinning, Abby took the coffee from him. “My hero.”

“Instant?” Merri said without bothering to keep the disgust from her voice.

“What was I thinking? I’ll go back and buy a coffee maker. Maybe a waffle maker would be nice.”

“Don’t get your knickers in a twist,” Merri said. “But what about cups?”

“Oh, ye of little faith,” he said and pulled three ceramic mugs out. “And last, but certainly not least, breakfast.” He opened the last bag, a white paper one in which Merri glimpsed three jelly donuts. “Unless you think we should eat them now before they get any staler.”

Abby took the bag from him, closed it firmly, and put it on the counter.

“Now,” John said. “Tell me what I missed while I was out foraging.”

Exciting News from Author Tanyo Ravicz

Hello Everybody,

I wanted to let you know that my books Alaskans: Stories and A Man of His Village are out in their new Denali Press print and eBook editions. Details at or

KOBO ( is having a 30% off summer sale on all their eBooks until Monday, July 28, 2014. This includes my eBooks, which are available at Kobo (as well as Amazon, etc.).

Readers who use Apple e-readers and are interested in posting a review of either of my books at iTunes can have a promo code for a free copy of either eBook — Please contact me at

Also, a recent TR author interview will be posted starting next week on July 28, 2014 at and

Thank you for your interest, and feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Best wishes,




Alaskans by Tanyo Ravicz

Alaskans–Stories from the “Great Land”

My favorite line from “Cossacks” is, “Happiness is grace, it’s bounty.  It’s free of charge, it’s given to you.  You don’t win it.  You don’t earn it.  You don’t deserve it.  You say yes.  You just say yes” (page 139).

There is a flavor of art in the author’s writing.  Not art you would see in a museum or in a painting, and not in a sense of painting with words (although Ravicz does a fine job of this as well), but more as “art with a sense of feeling.”  Each story is different. Each story is told in another voice from the author from a different period in his life.  Had I not known that I was reading from the same book, I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to tell who had written the various tales.  They are unique.  The prose is strong, thought-provoking, and colorful.

A Fox in May” is about a young boy who is thirteen and is stuck betalaskans_150x220ween childhood and being a young adult.  He takes on the responsibility of raising chickens, from building the coop to feeding and caring for them.  Throughout these lessons, he learns to love those chickens and does a great job of raising them.  There are so many questions unanswered at this age for a young boy–so many trials to pass to get to the other side of young adulthood without losing the respect from elders.  Through nature, he learns about death, and living, and loving, and being a part of the cycle–what it takes to endure–no matter how difficult that can be.

            “The Ballad of Robbie Fox” is a story told from someone struggling at the bottom of the pile and trying to claw his way up and out.  It is raw, edgy, strong prose that feels like it just came off the streets and into your living room, or like talking to your new best friend at the local bar after tossing a few back.  There is a feel to this Robbie Fox, like someone you know, or have known, or maybe it’s even you.  There’s a truth from someone’s heart in this . . . it’s the hard kind of truth about life.

All total, there are ten stories told in this book, “Alaskans.”  Jimmy Biggs works in a cannery at the age of nineteen in “Fishes and Wine.”  Old college buddies get together again after years of being apart in “Cossacks.”  You can hike the Alaskan wilderness in “Caribou, Paxson Lake.”  And, if you do a Google search you can see how be
autiful the Paxson Lake area is.

I really enjoyed all these stories (well, except for one–I’m squeamish about dressing a kill).  Tanyo Ravicz is a talented author, and I’m pleased for the opportunity to review this well-written anthology of Alaskan tales.  Also, my thanks goes to Review the for allowing me to review this book.

Tremora’s Young Michael Interviews Author Bill Westwood—Fiction

Regarding: Tales of Tremora: The Shimmering by William Westwood Jr.

A young boy who has lost his father is a terrible thing.  Now, a young boy who goes searching for said father and wanders off into a leaky, shimmering veil, deep in the forest of the Cascade Mountains, and finds himself in another world altogether can be a very, very terrible thing.  And, this is how Michael found himself in the middle of a terrific adventure in the land of Tremora.

Just fourteen years of age, Michael is sent off with well-wishes from his worried mother who is on the other side of the shimmering.  She watches him hike down the trodden trail with a little green man named Tracker–Michael’s guide and protector in this curious world.  What Michael doesn’t hear are her final words, said to herself as a whispered afterthought, “Oh, Michael. . . . Now you’re both gone.  I knew you’d choose to stay, of course–it’s in your blood.  And, Megan assures me Tremora needs you. . . . But, please be careful and come back to me safely.  And please, please, Michael, don’t kill your father.”

Michael follows Tracker over hill and dale.  They meet up with wood elves, fairy folk, ogres, a camelop, and a wazalop on their way to the wizard’s gathering where the greatest wizard and magician of them all, Megan, will be presiding.  It is here, Michael finds out the real reason why he is in Tremora—he is to save Prince Cedric from the dragon.  And “finally” he learns where his father is.

I met up with Michael after he spent a couple of weeks training with the wizards.  I had far too much curiosity to know how Bill Westwood could come up with such a unique world for Michael to complete his quest.  Michael had a little time to kill before he was ready to head out again on this next leg of his adventure.  After a brief introduction to Nova, his animal guide, and a few pats on her fuzzy nose from me, we sat down to chat about this amusing, imaginative man who was Michael’s inner guide and overall good-guy creator.

After a little thought about my musings, Michael said that Bill had spent five years in England—the mystical land of elves, fairies, wizards, and the like.  Not only did he spend time with the little folk, but he met his wife there as well.  It was a very important period in his life and set him on a new course to follow his dreams.  Then, he added, “Well . . . it might have something to do with his background as a Russian linguist, and his time spent in the National Security Agency.  I think he probably had some interesting adventures of his own.”

Those years in England provided plenty of time to conjure up a wonderful land for a young boy to travel and have adventures in.  I know how it has changed Michael’s life, but another curiosity I have is about how the book an author is writing changes his own life.  Does writing a book that is so involved and wildly different have any effect on him when he’s writing it or when he’s done?

Michael arched an eyebrow and squirmed a little as he thought about this.  After a bit more fidgeting, he said he wasn’t sure, but he thought it had changed Bill a great deal.  “He spends a lot of time in Tremora, you know.  It took over seven years of Bill’s life to get this far.  Did you know that he is an artist as well?  He has made sculptures of just about all of us.  That’s why I’m stuck here now, waiting. . . . There’s such a backlog for his artwork that he hasn’t had time to get back to “me,” and it is frustrating—I need to go and find my dad, alread!”

We talked some more about the different stories and various authors we knew. That brought me to wonder about another question.  So, I asked if he had any fears that Bill would “kill off” any of the main Tremora characters during these perils.  There are a lot of authors who “do in” their characters to promote more suspense into their storyline.  “Bill loves us all too much, Diane, and he would never do that.”

With that, Michael jumped up, threw his backpack on, and said as he turned and walked away. . . . “Besides, I have to go and save Prince Cedric and my dad.”

If you want to have a little fun, check out Bill’s sculptures here.