The Mystery of the Rainbow Flowers

NPR Books Summer Poll 2020: Kids’ Books

Do you have favorite kids’ books? NPR is taking a poll of books you love for kids, whether they are picture books, a series, or even an adult book that changed a child’s life.

You can vote for up to 5 books, and I’d be so happy if you included The Mystery of the Rainbow Flowers!

It’s tough to get noticed as an Indie Author without the budget for promotion like the big publishing houses. This poll, along with a review from your place of purchase and Goodreads, goes a long way in helping me get my books into the eyes of the public. Spend a minute on the poll if you liked The Mystery of the Rainbow Flowers.

https://www.npr.org/2020/06/23/872079728/the-npr-summer-reader-poll-returns-tell-us-about-your-favorite-kids-books

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The Mystery of the Rainbow Flowers by Melissa Burovac

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Thank you for taking the time to read and help me promote my latest book.

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Need a book to read? Check these out:

Death, part 2

Read Death, part 1 here.

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Death was changing into her swim suit in the locker room. She used to swim a lot when she was Alive, but it had been many years since her job had taken her to a pool and she thought she’d get in a few laps while she was there. Not that she needed the exercise — she was a Skeleton, after all. She wouldn’t be able to feel the cool water on her skin or even smell the chlorine. But Death could remember those sensations and the physical act of jumping into a swimming pool was enough to conjure up the memories. 

Her next Name was scheduled to be at the lap swim in half an hour. Death took a final glance at the spreadsheet on her iPad before closing it into the locker with her Cloak and Scythe. Allison Marie Stevens. 72 years. 5’5” tall. Curly, medium-length blonde hair. Blue eyes. Retired. Widowed, 3 adult children. High School Pool. 

Death activated her Powers of Similarity and assumed a similar look to what she imagined Allison Marie Stevens looked like. She glanced in the mirror on her way to the pool and stopped to stare at her new, freshly-wrinkled skin. Vanity still had a strong pull in the Afterlife, and she had half an hour before her appointment, so she reverted to her Image of Self and became the leggy 24-year-old athlete she had been in her former Life. 

Death had lived through the phases of aging like a person of typical lifespan. She had been an athlete most of her life, slowing down as the decades added up until the day came when she could only take gentle walks with her cane. She counted herself lucky that her End arrived before she was totally bedridden, and because of that, didn’t feel guilt for her assignment at the pool.

But still, why not look like a 24 year old in a bathing suit when you have the chance?

Death did a half-turn to check out her butt in the mirror. Looking good, she thought, and gave herself a flirty little wink as she exited the locker room and walked onto the pool deck. She tucked her hair into her cap, adjusted her goggles over her eyes, and dove into an empty middle lane. 

Even though Death technically didn’t have skin and couldn’t feel the temperature of the water, one of her strongest memories was the shock of the cold when she first dove into a pool. She added some goose bumps to her Appearance for a more realistic experience. 

Swimming is a lonely activity for the most part. With her head underwater and staring down at the tiled black line of her lane, Death could only contemplate her Existence. She remembered when she was in high school, conjugating French verbs as she swam to stave off boredom; she didn’t need to do that anymore, having Infinite Knowledge as one of the job perks. Her work took her around the world occasionally and she needed to speak every language, but only when a war or natural disaster overwhelmed the local offices. 

Her mind turned to her next job as she counted off lengths of the pool with her steady freestyle stroke. Allison Marie Stevens was 72 years old. Had she accepted the idea she might die soon? Death recalled a businessman, 96 years old, who fought his End thinking he still had to control his children’s lives and his material empire; he couldn’t imagine how the world could still spin without him. But an End is an End, and everyone’s got one. Since he refused to Pass quietly and take the Leisurely Option of Afterlife, he was assigned to the Bureau of Timetables and Scheduling and now was one of Death’s most reliable subordinates. He never called in sick, and often opted for overtime when asked.

But Allison Marie Stevens? It was time to find out how she would accept her Fate. Death pulled off her goggles and cap and hopped out of the pool. Better for the lifeguard if she took care of work in the locker room. 

As she walked through the door, Death saw only one woman sitting on the bench in front of the lockers, and since it was Time, it had to be her. Normally, Death wouldn’t chat up her assignments but it was a slow day. She retrieved her towel and Scythe and sat down beside Allison Marie Stevens.

“Did you have a nice swim?” the older woman asked Death, who had so enjoyed being in her 24-year-old body that she forgot to resume Similarity. 

No matter. Most older women didn’t have a problem chatting with a younger woman. At a certain age, or with a certain satisfaction of life, jealousies become irrelevant. Allison Marie Stevens gave Death a quick once-over glance, taking in her long legs and youthful shape and perhaps thought momentarily about her own youth, and smiled into her eyes. 

“The water was cold,” Death replied, knowing no such thing. “Are you prepared?” she asked, although she wasn’t sure if she was talking about the swim or the Afterlife.

“I’m always prepared,” Allison Marie Stevens said, holding up a long-sleeved swim shirt. “At my age, dear, I’m ready for anything.”

That was all the answer Death needed, and touched the woman with her Scythe. 

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Again, just a draft, maybe it’ll be a real project soon. I hope you enjoyed reading.

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Need a book to read? Check these out:

Death, part 1

Death walked into a bar. She found an empty stool, leaned her Scythe up against the polished wood counter, and ordered a gin and tonic from the bored-looking bartender. She flung the black hood off her head and looked around as she waited for her drink. 

Is this where I’m supposed to be? she wondered, taking in the faces of the few patrons in the room. She had had a rough day; two of her employees had called in sick, although she was sure they were faking. Death had divided up their lists among the remaining employees but they had grumbled and moaned about the extra work and she had ended up taking most of the assignments herself. She had saved the man at the bar for last, knowing how badly she’d need a drink after such a long day.

It wasn’t like being a Grim Reaper was such a hard job — plenty of worse occupations in the Afterlife. Death picked up her drink and took a sip. Weak. 

She wouldn’t, for instance, want to be one of those called upon to do “parlor tricks,” as she thought of what the Dead summoned to Seances had to do; that was a job best suited for people who always had to be the center of attention in life and couldn’t let it go after they Passed On. If you’re with us now, rap on the table three times! Most people think the gypsy or witch or whoever is running the seance fakes the knocks on the table, but really only when that department is overbooked.

“Can I get you another?” The bartender startled Death as she sipped and the last of her drink came out the holes where her nose used to be. 

“Yes, please, and don’t be so shy with the booze.” 

He sauntered off with her empty glass and began chatting up the woman sitting solo at the end of the bar. Death might get a stronger drink but she’d pay for her remark in the amount of time spent waiting for it. 

She pulled an iPad out of her Cloak to check on her last assignment of the night. Infinite Pocket Space, one of the perks of the uniform. She could have stashed her Scythe in the pocket but no one seemed to notice it anyway. Let’s not forget it at a bar again, she reminded herself. Luckily, as an Unseeable Object, the Scythe was exactly where she had left it after a few too many drinks; she only had to break into the bar the next morning to retrieve it before work.

Still waiting on her drink, Death scrolled through her daily list. All but one name had a check mark next to it, and she read across the columns of the spreadsheet: Kenneth David Black. 51 years. 5’8” tall. Short brown hair. Brown eyes. Construction worker. Single. The Red Hammer. Vital statistics, occupation, and location of death were usually enough data, although occasionally she had to text the secretary at the Office of the Nearly Deceased for more information.

Death leaned over the bar to retrieve a napkin from the plastic container; The Red Hammer was written in block script with, of course, a red hammer below the words. When she first read the name that morning she imagined a sort of Soviet Era decor, but beside the downtrodden workers it seemed typically American. A place near the downtown construction sites for the workers to relax before heading home to their families. Kenneth David Black had remained after his coworkers left, having no family to hurry home to.

A fresh gin and tonic slid across the bar and bumped into the iPad, spraying droplets of drink onto the screen. Rude, she thought.

“What’s your name, honey?” Death asked the bartender in the sweet yet Compelling version of her voice.

“Nicholas Swift,” he answered.

“Middle?”

“Edward.” No one thought to question Death’s Compelling voice.

Death wiped the gin off the iPad with the napkin, sipped her new drink — marginally better — and sent a quick text to her secretary. Find out when Nicholas Edward Swift is scheduled, and put my name down. She didn’t tolerate rudeness.

Knowing she was at the right place, Death swiveled on her stool to analyze the customers. Only four men remained, and only one met the description of Kenneth David Black. An easy one to end her night; much easier than on a crowded subway or in a football stadium. She picked up her drink and walked to the back corner where he sat staring at his phone and sipping a beer. Calling on her Powers of Similarity, Death assumed the guise of an attractive woman with eyes and hair just a shade different from Kenneth David Black, according to the rulebook: When forced to interact with the Nearly Deceased, a similar-looking identity will foster familiarity.

She certainly didn’t need to interact with her target to get the job done but thought she may as well have a couple more drinks while she was at the bar, and company never hurt.

“Hi, I’m Morgan. Do you mind if I sit with you? My friends didn’t show up.”

Kenneth David Black took a last look at his phone, glanced at Death, and gestured to the chair opposite himself.

“Have a seat. I’m Ken.”

“Buy me a drink?” She shook the cubes at the bottom of her glass. He wouldn’t need his money after tonight anyway. “Gin and tonic,” she said. Sweet and Compelling.

Ken gestured to the waitress rolling silverware into napkins and shook his beer bottle at her. He said, “And one for the lady,” as she walked toward the bar.

Death was not one for chitchat, even before her End. Apparently Ken wasn’t either, and they stared at each other awkwardly waiting for the drinks. 

Maybe I should just get it over with, she thought, but she hadn’t yet given any consideration to what Manner of Death he would have. The rulebook stated: Choose a Manner of Death suitable to the location and situation of the Nearly Deceased. The rule was not specific and allowed the Giver a little creativity if he or she chose. The most obvious for Kenneth David Black were heart attack and choking on his drink. Perhaps a slip and fall on the newly washed floor on his way to the restroom. 

“Come here often?” he asked. 

Oh Lord, where’s my Scythe? Death thought. The conversation was obviously going nowhere interesting. 

“Excuse me a moment.” She walked to the bar and retrieved her Scythe as the waitress deposited new drinks on the table. 

“I only ask because you look familiar, maybe I’ve seen you in here before.” He looked Death up and down, his eyes lingering where her breasts would be if she still had them; Ken saw her Image Projection — a compact, athletic build with very little in the way of actual projections on her chest. He stared anyway.

“This is my first time,” she answered. “I just happen to be in the neighborhood for work.” She tried to get him to focus on something more in the area of her face. “Would you say you’re happy with your life, Ken? Did you have dreams and goals? Is this how you saw your life 20 years ago?”

“My dream right now is to get you back to my place. Watta ya say?” He lifted his beer for a sip, flexing his construction-worker arm muscle.

Death sighed, then leaned over and touched him with her Scythe. Kenneth David Black coughed and slumped in his seat, a trickle of beer leaking from the corner of his mouth. 

Sometimes no company was preferable. Death picked up her Scythe and reclaimed her seat at the bar. “One more, please,” she said to the bartender and checked off her final Name for the night.

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Just a rough draft of a new project. Not sure where it’s going yet.

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Stay safe and sane, and thanks for reading.

Need a book to read? Check these out:

One Lonely Wren

The following short story was written for Literary Cleveland; the idea was to gather stories from many different writers about some aspect of a particular day in Cleveland: May 12, 2020. The editors are stitching them all together for one story taking place all around the city. I’ll post the link to the final story when it is available; here is my contribution:

One Lonely Wren

May 12th, 2020 dawned bright and clear in Beachwood, Ohio. A late cold front brought snow and below-average temperatures to all of Northeast Ohio earlier in the month, but the 12th showed promise of being the real first day of spring. The last of the daffodils scattered throughout the yard turned their yellow faces to the sun while an array of bright red, pink, and yellow tulips bloomed, and the old Maples and Oaks began to unfurl their new leaves.

The first bird to greet the day with song was a solitary House Wren, warbling his cheerful tune atop a birdhouse in the garden behind the house. As the day grew brighter and the sun rose, hundreds of avian voices joined him while birds searched for food, mates, or just celebrated a new day. Between the earliness of the hour and the reduced traffic owing to a good proportion of folks still working from home, the varied songs of the birds rose clearly above any ambient city noise and the day promised a certain cheerfulness as the temperature crept up into the 50’s.

Bird migration was in full swing and pairs flew together in and out of the woods to find places to lay their eggs. Most of the birdhouses were occupied by various brown Sparrows and mesmerizingly blue Eastern Bluebirds, who were busily searching the ground for twigs and dead grass to line their nests. The lone Wren sang his long, happy song from several perches in the yard near his chosen house: he sat on the fence and called; he flew to the roof and called; he landed on the back of a pickup truck and called. In between songs, he picked up small twigs and disappeared into his house to build, sometimes carrying a stick so big he spent minutes finding the perfect angle to fit it into the hole. His mate had not arrived yet, but he didn’t give up, he kept up his bubbly song.

Red Northern Cardinals chased each other from feeder to feeder, the males and females easy to distinguish. Red House Finches and startlingly bright Yellow Finches flew in groups, as well as speckled black European Starlings and shimmery Common Grackles. Several orange Baltimore Orioles took turns at their feeder sucking the juice out of orange halves, and Gray Catbirds and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks took their place when the Orioles flew off to the trees. Call and response was heard from dozens of bird species as they prepared their nests in the woods around the house. The House Wren continued to sing alone.

This particular Wren, the only one of his kind in the yard, had been singing non-stop from his birdhouse for a couple of weeks. Would he ever find his mate to share the home he was so busy furnishing? He likely migrated from far south, as Wrens are known to winter as far away as South America and hatch their young anywhere from there to northern Canada. Was he such an efficient flyer that he arrived in the north far ahead of any others, or would he be the only House Wren to pick this part of Cleveland for his home? These worrisome questions didn’t seem to bother him as he went about his routine of building and calling.

As the day turned from a cool morning to a warm afternoon to a chilly evening, the frantic activity of the birds lessened as they flew off to their nesting sites for the night. In the twilight after sunset, one lonely wren still called, never losing hope for his future.

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I hope you enjoyed my story. Maybe it took your mind off the craziness of the world for just a couple moments; if so, that is success. I had a page-long list of things that happened on May 12 that I could have written about, but most were kinda depressing. Focusing on nature (and staying off social media) helps keep me sane.

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Although I still haven’t been recalled to work, I have not been writing much. In fact, almost not at all. My days have been spent working in the gardens (pulling weeds, mostly) and hiking in various parks with Lucy while taking pictures of anything interesting. You can see some of my wildlife photos on the Wildlife and Flower Photography FB page and my Etsy shop.

Stay safe and sane, and thanks for reading.

Need a book to read? Check these out:

  • Wandering – non-fiction travel/adventure/humor
The Mystery of the Rainbow Flowers by Melissa Burovac

Enter the book giveaway for The Mystery of the Rainbow Flowers

Enter the book giveaway for The Mystery of the Rainbow Flowers

The Mystery of the Rainbow Flowers by Melissa Burovac

In celebration of my newest book, I’m having a giveaway for The Mystery of the Rainbow Flowers! To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post – it’s that easy! For those readers in the United States, I’ll send you a paperback; for those in other countries I’ll send the electronic version of your choice.

In a few days I’ll randomly pick 10 winners. Leave a comment and enter!

The Mystery of the Rainbow Flowers is a Young Adult book, but I think people of any age will enjoy it. Here’s a summary for you:

Lucy and Matthew, along with their old black lab Harley, are reluctantly doing yard work on a beautiful spring morning when — whoosh! — all three are whisked away to a strange land filled with mysterious rainbow-colored flowers.

With no sign of civilization, they must fight for their survival amongst wild animals and discover the reason why they were transported.Growing up with video games and shopping malls, will the children be able to survive by finding food and building fires while stranded alone? Will the rainbow flowers lead them on a path to safety or harm? Why were they taken from their safe home to that strange place?

Find out the answers as you follow two kids and a frisky dog on a journey of discovery and wonder, hardship and environmental disaster. See how they help make their world a better place to live.

The Mystery of the Rainbow Flowers by Melissa Burovac

As always, I’d love a review on Amazon or Goodreads! With so many books out there, the ones with reviews are the ones that get noticed. Please take a moment to write a sentence or two, it means a lot.

Thank you, and happy reading!

Other books to check out:

Wandering – non-fiction travel/adventure/humor

Sylvie Writes a Romance – romantic comedy

Sylvie Falls in Love – romantic comedy part 2

Surfer, Sailor, Smuggler – adventure/ocean fiction based on true stories

Surfer, Sailor, Smuggler - Melissa Burovac

Kindle sale for Surfer, Sailor, Smuggler – get it this week!

It’s a happy 4th of July book sale!

From now until July 9th, pick up the Kindle version of Surfer, Sailor, Smuggler for only $1.99! For less than a cup of coffee, you can spend your day relaxing and reading an ocean adventure.

Surfer, Sailor, Smuggler - Melissa Burovac

Get it on Amazon!

Sail from California to Mexico to Hawaii, surfing and smuggling drugs.

Two boys growing up together in a small California town are the best of friends. One conforms to his parents’ wishes and follows a preset path to a career; the other creates his own path, sailing the world, surfing and smuggling drugs to Hawaii.

Watch their lives diverge and reconnect through the years with tales of action and adventure, brushes with the law, Mexican cartels, and lost families and friends. Do they regret their lifestyles and the consequences of their choices as they approach old age?

Based on the true stories of surfers, sailors and pirates on Kauai. 

Amazon reviews:

“This was written as a narrative of the sailors life and his philosophy of life. She also protrays his feelings about the life he has led. A good read.”

“Great character development. Terrific adventure. Fun read.”

“Loved this tale of two unlikely lifelong friends. Sailing, island living, and all of the adventures that go with kept me happily entertained until the end. Another win!”

See more reviews here or leave one after you’ve read the book.

Aloha and happy holidays!

Sylvie Falls in Love (Sylvie's Romance #2) - Melissa Burovac

Sylvie Falls in Love (Sylvie’s Romance #2) eBook release today!

I’m very happy to announce the ebook release of Sylvie Falls in Love (Sylvie’s Romance #2)!

 

 

Sylvie Falls in Love (Sylvie's Romance #2) - Melissa Burovac

 

Sylvie has finally finished writing her romance novel – can she find the same happy ending for her own life? 
Continue with Sylvie’s adventures as she explores the good and bad of love in the real world.

 

The paperback will be along in about a week, and at that time I’ll set up giveaways and parties and events. One book reading is already scheduled at Kona Stories Book Store for July 3rd, so if you’re coming to Big Island for the 4th of July just come a day early! Future dates on Kauai and the mainland will be announced shortly.

For now, though, you can find Sylvie Falls in Love on Amazon and Smashwords. Use the Amazon link for Kindle readers, and the Smashwords link for iBooks; more formats coming soon. If you haven’t read Sylvie Writes a Romance yet, read it first!

 

I hope you continue with Sylvie’s adventures, and love them as much as I’ve loved writing them.

Thank you for reading!

Melissa

 

 

 

 

About Melissa:
Books:
Sylvie Writes a Romance – Book 1 of Sylvie’s Romance
Sylvie Falls in Love – Book 2 of Sylvie’s Romance
Wandering
Leave a review on Amazon and I’ll love you forever!
Sylvie Writes a Romance on Smashwords – for Nook, Kobo, etc
Sylvie Falls in Love on Smashwords
Recent articles:
From Travel to Romcon and Beyond
BookDaily.com
Travel Writing on JenniferSAlderson.com
Recent reviews:
Indie Reader Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance
Kirkus Indie Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance
Follow me on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter
For fine art photography prints from the islands, check out the Hawaii Ocean Photography  website and Like the Facebook page

The Charm of Lost Chances

Introducing author Lucia Davis

Aloha Readers!

Today I’m happy to introduce author Lucia Davis – and just your luck, her book The Charm of Lost Chances is on sale this week. The sale is June 26 – July 1 for those discovering her after those dates, but her books are well worth the full price if you miss it.

Lucia lives in Michigan with her husband and three children. With a newborn recently added into the family mix, her life has certainly become quite busy. She tries to find time for writing in the (somewhat) quiet hours in between, but for major writing sessions she takes her laptop somewhere slightly more distraction-free. In her spare time she enjoys reading, hiking and doing yoga.

Lucia grew up in the Netherlands and has lived in several countries. She has traveled extensively throughout Europe, South East Asia, and North and South America. Fortunately, there are always more places to go to and discover!

Lucia Davis

So far, she has written two eBooks, available on Amazon. Both are (paranormal) mysteries, with a hint of romance, set in the Pacific Northwest.

The Baby on the Back Porch, a novelette, introduces the reader to Sara, and her new living arrangements in Dunnhill, a village in the Northern Cascades. This is where she meets David, and strange things are about to happen. The Charm of Lost Chances, a novella, continues Sara’s story, with a new mystery to solve, and can be read as a stand-alone.

In The Charm of Lost Chances, Sara returns to the cabin in Dunnhill to reconnect with David, its owner. But things don’t turn out quite the way she imagined. For one, there is Taylor, David’s beautiful new client, who is taking up a lot of his time. And Dunnhill, the old mountain village, has been holding onto more dark secrets from the past.

As Sara struggles to keep her wits—and her sanity—about her, she must decide which chances she’ll take, and which she’ll allow to be lost to time.

 

Some reviews:

“Sara is back in this intriguing sequel to The Baby on the Back Porch. I enjoyed this story even more than the first—it was longer and developed the characters more. I couldn’t put the book down and was on the edge of my seat reading it. The mysteries in Sara’s not so peaceful retreat continue to evolve…” 5 starsAmazon review

“Spooky reading, thoroughly enjoyed it!” 4 stars – Amazon review

 

For more information about Lucia:

Follow Lucia on Facebook

Follow Lucia on Goodreads

I hope you enjoy reading her books as much as I have! And thanks for checking them out.

Melissa

 

 

 

About Melissa:

Sylvie Writes a Romance

Wandering

Leave a review on Amazon and I’ll love you forever!

Sylvie Writes a Romance on Smashwords – for Nook, Kobo, etc

Recent articles:

From Travel to Romcon and Beyond

BookDaily.com

Travel Writing on JenniferSAlderson.com

Recent reviews:

Indie Reader Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance

Kirkus Indie Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance

Follow me on Facebook

Follow me on Twitter

For fine art photography prints from the islands, check out Hawaii Ocean Photography

Last Reflections – NYC Midnight round 2 submission

Last Reflections:

 

The glimpses of my past race slowly through my mind as the pills make me drowsy.

My mother’s voice sounds, condescending and condemning as always. You did this to yourself. I raised you as best I could, and you threw it all away because you couldn’t keep your legs together. Look what you have to show for your life — nothing but misery.

I inch toward the edge of the table, a centimeter at a time. It’s already hard to breathe. This is best for everyone.

I hear my estranged father next, even though he hasn’t spoken to me in close to 11 years. Just like your mother, you are. Have to drive the men right out of your life with your irresponsibility and unpleasantness. How many fathers do your kids have? I’m ashamed you’re my daughter.

Another inch, and my youngest daughter’s words from last week replay themselves. I’m pregnant, and I’m moving in with Jason and his family. We don’t want you in our baby’s life; don’t try to contact me.

My baby, I think, and a tear slips down my cheek. The youngest of my 10 children. I tried so hard for my kids, to have at least one of them turn out differently than me. I can’t teach what I don’t know, and they all followed in my footsteps. I’ve created and ruined 10 lives.

I reach for the flask in my pocket, this will be my last drink ever. I can’t help but smirk at that thought since I’ve thought that same sentence thousands of times in the past 30 years. This will truly be the last one.

The rope is tight, making it hard to swallow, but I force the vodka down my throat. It burns pleasantly; my old, familiar friend. My only friend now.

I close my eyes, hoping to just fade away, and my eldest son speaks to me from our last visit. My first-born child, the one who entered my life when everything was a game, so much fun. They’re treating me okay, I guess I can’t complain. I started a GED class and I’ve been going to AA meetings. Not like I’ll ever have any use for a GED but it helps me kill the time in here.

Another tear slides out and I empty the flask in my mouth, drop it to the floor with a startling crash of metal on cement that echoes through the nearly empty garage. I wait patiently for each of my children’s voices but so much time has passed since I’ve spoken to most of them that nothing is left. Ten children, and so many grandchildren I’ve never met, yet so alone. No pictures with Santa Claus, no family reunions with toddlers chasing soccer balls, no swimming lessons, no idyllic life for my family. I tried my best.

I hear my mother nagging for hopefully the last time as I wobble on the table top. A bad investment, that’s what your life is. Random men, booze, drugs — what good did any of that do for you? You should have invested in yourself, been a better person for your kids. Her last words to me, so many months ago.

The mix of pills and alcohol are finally making my vision dim. I hope the rope holds, I think, as blackness takes me and my legs buckle.

 

(PS  – my assignment was drama, mother of 10 children, a bad investment – just in case you were wondering…)

 

 

 

Just what you wanted today – my long-awaited second story for the NYC Midnight short story challenge. Cross fingers I get to the finals! A big THANK YOU you to my test readers for your input.

PS again – It’s my birthday, and the greatest present ever would be an Amazon review for one of my books, or recommend one to a friend. Links are below!

 

 

 

Check out my books on Amazon:

Sylvie Writes a Romance

Wandering

Leave a review on Amazon and I’ll love you forever!

Recent articles:

BookDaily.com

Travel Writing on JenniferSAlderson.com

Recent reviews:

Indie Reader Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance

Kirkus Indie Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance

NYC Midnight short story competition – Made it to round 2!

It’s official! My first short story made it through round one of NYC Midnight short story competition – I placed second in my heat with Ocean of Terror. The second round begins at midnight on March 23.

In case you missed it, here’s the first story! And check out the links at the bottom when you’re done.

M

 

 

 

Ocean of Terror

A beautiful morning swim becomes a race against death.

“What are you doing? We have to go in! Now!” he screamed as my head popped up above the surface.

I don’t like being yelled at, ever – especially not while treading water a quarter mile from shore at 7 a.m. Normally, this is my happy place: swimming with my group, watching the fish dart in and out of the corals, maybe spying a green sea turtle gliding by. But not today; not with this jackass grabbing onto my feet and legs, nearly pulling me under, and disrupting the seven other swimmers.

I floated at the surface and reached my ankle where his nails were biting into my flesh. I wrenched his fingers from my leg – not at all gently. Keeping a grip, I pulled him closer before planting my foot on his chest and pushing him away from me; perfect little ripples formed in the water before his struggles to stay in place turned them to chaos. One of the first rules in ocean swimming is to keep yourself safe, then deal with the person who is panicking; preventing him from drowning me was pretty important. Instead, he grabbed the yellow safety float trailing from a rope around my waist, thankfully, and held on tightly.

“Everything is fine,” I told him, gracefully floating on my back, demonstrating my calm. “I do this nearly every day. It’s your first time and I can understand how unnerving it can be so far out, but ripping off my foot won’t get us in any faster. And hey, why not scratch my leg so it bleeds and we really do attract a shark?”

A couple chuckles from the surrounding group made him look around and realize everyone had surfaced to see what the commotion was about; he looked embarrassed and let go of the float, treading water like the rest.

I continued. “I’ve been doing this for years, and I have never had an encounter with a shark. They don’t want anything to do with us, especially in a group this size.”

Someone started singing the Jaws theme, “Da-na, da-na, dana-da-na…”

“Stop.” I threw a look at the singer which was supposed to be harsh, but I had a hard time keeping the smile off my face. Everyone was giggling by now, except him, and trying to hide it, but blowing bubbles just under the surface made it pretty obvious.

It took a long time for me to get over my fear of sharks when I moved to Kauai and joined an open-ocean swim group, and I wasn’t going to let this newbie let those shadows back into my mind. On my first few swims I barely left the bay, imagining a shark was waiting just outside the surf break; every rock became a threat and each time I turned my head to breathe I thought I saw something moving toward me. Slowly, though, I relaxed enough to swim the entire coastline and allowed myself to enjoy the beauty of the underwater world. But in all that time, I never once freaked out and yelled at other swimmers; I swore to myself I’d never take this guy out again.

His breathing had started to lengthen from the short, gasping breaths of panic until he once again put his face in the water, scanning around him for danger. The water was clear and calm, and the visibility was at least 50 feet. Still, he was not convinced we were safe.

“Hey, relax,” the woman nearest him said calmly. She placed a hand on his back to reassure him, but instead, the unexpected touch caused him to spin wildly and suck a mouthful of salt water into his lungs. He started coughing and flailing his arms wildly. I glided over and attached my safety buoy around his waist, and again placed the floating plastic tube in his arms. Slowly, the water cleared from his throat and his breathing became normal once more.

“It’s pretty ironic, isn’t it?” one of the swimmers asked conversationally. “We invite the new coach of the high school swim team out and he drowns?”

“No one is going to drown.” This time I did manage the angry glare I had tried for earlier, and leveled it at the wise guy. “And no one is going to get eaten,” I said and returned my attention to the struggling coach. He had moved to the island only two weeks previously, from Indiana, and although he was a world-class swimmer in college he had never been on an ocean swim. I should have considered that before leading him out this far, but who would have thought the swim coach would freak out in water? The swimming community was small, and humiliation was now the best possible outcome.

“I don’t think you get it,” the coach spat out. “I saw something big and we need to go in now.” He put his face back in the water, scanning the depths obsessively.

“I’ve been swimming out here for over 50 years,” began the oldest swimmer, a woman who taught her children and grandchildren to swim in the Pacific Ocean. “I’ve seen monk seals and turtles and manta rays, and if you catch one out of the corner of your eye it can easily resemble a shark. Especially if that’s all you’re thinking of.” She looked at me. “I’ll go in with him if you like, and the rest of you can continue your swim.”

“I think we should all go in,” I replied, “let’s stick together like normal and get to the beach.” In truth, all the talk of sharks had begun to get to me, and when I put my goggles back on and looked underwater I was no longer positive we were alone, either. My skin began to prickle, and I tried to tell myself it was just an old phobia playing with my mind, brought on by the coach’s fears. I began reciting shark facts to reassure myself as we started to swim back to shore.

Less than 50 swimmers were attacked by sharks in the past 60 years in the islands, I thought. Only four of them were fatal. Four in 60 years – I did the simple math in my head – less than one percent. Chances are much greater that a surfer gets attacked. And it’s always by accident. Sharks don’t like humans, they’d rather eat turtles and baby humpback whales. I couldn’t remember any more facts and upped the pace of my stroke, hoping everyone could keep up. I don’t look like a turtle. I don’t look like a turtle. I don’t look like a turtle, I repeated in my head as a mantra, as I felt my throat constrict and my muscles tense in fear. I shivered in the warm water. My mind is playing tricks on me. The chances of the coach seeing a shark on his very first ocean swim are astronomically small. There’s no way.

But it was nagging at my mind now. I had to talk myself down or I would panic as well.

I was in the lead, and turned quickly to check on the group – no one was near me. I had to pick my head up from the water to locate the other swimmers; they had barely moved from our previous position, and were once again treading water, calling for me. I swam back, suddenly terrified to be even a few yards away from them.

“I think I saw something, too. It was behind us,” a younger woman sobbed as I approached. Everyone but her had their faces in the water, searching, while keeping their ears above in case someone called out. The coach was surprisingly calm, holding onto the buoy; maybe his instincts as a leader finally kicked in, I thought.

The young woman, one of my regular swim buddies, continued.

“I think it’s following us.”

It was my job to keep everyone calm, but I was far from it myself. “Come on, guys, we need to get back. I’m sure nothing is following us – statistically there’s almost no chance of that. You’re just freaking yourselves out. Let’s go.” Let’s go, let’s go, oh God, please get us in safe.

No one moved to follow me. Instead, they kept their faces in the water, slowly turning circles, vigilant.

Our route back to land had us swimming over a rocky shelf, normally teeming with life, and we were directly above it. Although the sea floor was 40 feet below us, the reef extended upward to within 10 feet of the surface. Ledges and holes in the reef provided shelter for thousands of small creatures, and larger caves often housed resting turtles. I had snorkeled this section of reef dozens of times, kicking to the bottom to explore, and learning which animals called it home. At any given moment hundreds of small fish could be observed in their daily activities.

Except today. I had never felt so alone in the water – yet so not alone. I searched the reef with my eyes; the fish were gone, probably hiding in their small, safe spaces. They knew what we was quickly becoming apparent to us.

Someone screamed, and we all turned in her direction to see her pointing underwater. A massive school of fish rushed toward us – a school made up of numerous different species, something I’ve rarely ever seen. Fish tend to keep to their own kind, and swim away from people. Get out of here! my mind screamed at me.

“People! Let’s go! Now!” I had their attention. “Stick close together and don’t leave anyone behind!”

We swam frantically toward the beach, still nearly a quarter mile out. People kicked and punched me as everyone swam on top of each other, thrashing, unwilling to be the last swimmer. I felt someone practically on my back and had to stop – I was being pushed underwater, the swimming equivalent to being trampled. I risked a quick peak backward, between my legs, and saw no big black shapes. I had to stop; I had to get this person off my back and breathe, or I would die in the ocean anyway.

I ducked underwater and allowed the person on top of me to swim away. It was the coach. So much for leadership, I thought, momentarily forgetting my own panic until the group left me behind without a care. They didn’t even notice. I looked back again before I continued and saw my yellow buoy floating out to sea, abandoned in haste. I didn’t think twice about leaving it, but hurried to catch up.

I was breathing on every other stroke now, barely able to fill my lungs. My goggles were quickly filling with water and I barely noticed I was crying. Just a few more minutes and we’d be in a populated area, in shallow water, and safe. I caught up to the group and tucked back into the flailing, gasping, choking mass of bodies, much less graceful than the fleeing school of fish. My lungs ached and my head spun – I couldn’t catch my breath.

Images of sharks formed in my head; nondescript, almost cartoon-like pictures featuring rows and rows of razor-sharp teeth. Scenes from the famous movie played in a loop – bloody, ripped off limbs, water turning from clear blue to red. I ducked my head down again to look behind and got a knee in the face; my goggles were knocked loose and lost in the panic. I was nearly blind and every rock now looked like a blurry menace.

I breathed in water and had to stop swimming when I started coughing. It was every man for himself, apparently, and although we were closing in on the beach there was still plenty of time for disaster. I heard someone else coughing, and when I rubbed the salt from my eyes I saw the older woman, the most confident swimmer of the group, barely holding her head above the surface.

She was choking.

I swam over and grasped her under her arms; kicking with the last of my strength, I held her up until she cleared the water and could breathe. She was hyperventilating.

“Deep breaths,” I told her, although I was having trouble with them myself. “You’re okay. Just breathe.”

Towing her on her back, we finally reached the shallows. The rest of the group was already standing in the sand, panting and gasping for air. Two women were sobbing uncontrollably.

My husband ran over and helped me tow the woman the final few yards; he is a runner, and ends most days by meeting me on the beach after my swims. He splashed into the water, soaking his expensive shoes. I laid back on the sand and tried to catch my breath after I counted heads and made certain medical attention was not needed for anyone.

My husband stood over me, uncertain of what was happening, but sensing the group’s panic. “Everyone seems okay,” he said. “I watched you at the reef, and saw a massive pod of dolphins swimming nearby. I know how much you love to swim with them so I don’t understand why you all bolted for shore. They were jumping and playing right behind you. I thought you’d be in heaven.”

Fucking coach, I thought as I closed my eyes to rest. Never again.

 

Check out my books on Amazon:

Sylvie Writes a Romance

Wandering

Leave a review on Amazon and I’ll love you forever!

Sylvie Writes a Romance on Smashwords – for Nook, Kobo, etc

Recent articles:

BookDaily.com

Travel Writing on JenniferSAlderson.com

 

Recent reviews:

Indie Reader Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance

Kirkus Indie Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance

How NOT to get Reviews or Sales for your Book – BookDaily.com

Good morning!

I’m pleased to share my guest blog with you. I wrote an article for BookDaily.com, and it appeared in today’s edition.

How NOT to Get Reviews or Sales for your Book

It’s not often I get anyone to listen to my opinion 🙂

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Find my books on Amazon:

Sylvie Writes a Romance

Wandering

Leave a review on Amazon and I’ll love you forever!

Sylvie Writes a Romance on Smashwords – for Nook, Kobo, etc

Recent articles:

From Travel to Romcon and Beyond

BookDaily.com

Travel Writing on JenniferSAlderson.com

Recent reviews:

Indie Reader Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance

Kirkus Indie Review for Sylvie Writes a Romance

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