I've decided to start a new feature for Fridays - Every other Friday, I'll showcase a snippet from either a work in progress or an old manuscript, a new short story, or random poem or scene from a never-finished book. If you like what you read, be sure to leave a comment below!
Today's #FridayReads is from a work-in-progress tentatively called Jenny Goonight. It's a western about a travel-worn missionary woman who goes to visit her uncle, famed Civil War reporter Matthew Goodnight, in the town of Evanston, only to find her uncle embroiled in a power struggle with Varina Evans, wife of the town's founder. But Matthew isn't the man Jenny thought she knew and things go from bad to worse when a body turns up and Jenny finds herself accused of the killing.
In this scene, Varina Evans hears some disturbing news and turns to her son, the quick tempered John Henry, for advice.
Varina Lee Evans stood in a warm glow of the light, watching as the buckboard disappeared into the gathering darkness. Elizabeth and Josie Walsh, the wife and daughter of the general store owner, had come to pay a social call. At least, that was the reason Josie understood for their coming and it was the excuse that both Varina and Elizabeth would use, should anyone ask.
Elizabeth had come for advice, advice that she could ask of neither the Pastor nor from her husband, Elliot, and she was not Catholic that she could confide in a priest. That left, very naturally to her mind, the Widow Evans.
Varina Evans and Elizabeth Walsh were not what people might refer to as bosom friends. In fact, there was no one in town that could claim that relationship with Varina, unless it was her daughter-in-law, Helen. It was not close-friendship that brought Elizabeth to Varina, then, but a sort of fealty. The Evans were the founders of Evanston, the owners of the largest spread, and, according to most, the de facto rulers of the town, a story that Varina and both of her sons vehemently denied. But distance themselves as they might, people still thought of them as the chief family in town and when there was a civic problem, the Evans were usually the first turned to.
Darkness closed around the buckboard and the rattling sound faded as the two women drove back to town. Varina thought, It wasn’t too long ago when such a short journey would have been too dangerous for two unarmed women. How fast things have changed.
Now the dangers were different.
From somewhere in the house, a door slammed heavily and she heard her son’s voice echoing through the rooms. John Henry had returned and from the sound of his voice, he’d seen the editorial, too.
She left the relative peace of the darkened porch and went inside.
The Evans mansion, as it was called by the locals, was an enormous, rambling structure that combined the practical needs of a ranch headquarters with the style of a Southern plantation house. The over-sized rooms were decorated with rich wall paper and plush carpeting, ornate candelabras, and heavy furniture. There was a piano in the parlor and a balcony outside her bedroom. Her deceased husband John had done his best, in a heavy-handed fashion, to provide her with a house that was like the one she’d grown up in. He'd succeeded only in reminding her how different life out west was from the one she’d known.
John Henry was in the living room, standing before the fire place, rubbing his chin. He was dusty and grimy from the road, and the full day and he looked as though he’d love to put his fist through the wall. Trigger Olsen, one of their senior hands, was present too, running his hat through his hands.
She stopped in the doorway and nodded to Trigger.
“Good evening, Trigger,” she said. “You two are working late tonight.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Trigger bobbed his head, glancing at John Henry as he did so. “We, uh, ran into some trouble in the north pasture.”
John Henry looked sharply at him.
“Well,” Varina said evenly, “no matter. We kept dinner warm for you. It’s waiting in the kitchen.”
Trigger waited for John Henry’s nod before scampering off. He was too well acquainted with the Evans to want to be in the middle of a family discussion.
When he was gone, Varina went and sat in the armchair, lowering herself carefully and smoothing her skirts as she did. John Henry kept his eyes on the fire place. The air chilled at night, so a small fire was always started at the end of the day. With Helen expecting in a few short weeks, the extra precaution was considered even more necessary.
When John Henry didn’t speak, Varina did.
“The north pasture?” she asked.
John Henry seized the poker and stabbed at the logs.
“Broken fence again,” he muttered. “We patched it. Thomas around?”
“He’s upstairs, with Helen.”
She waited another moment, then said, “I understand you paid a call on Matthew Goodnight this afternoon.”
With a growl, John Henry threw the poker back into the stand and began to stride about the floor impatiently.
“According to Josie Walsh, it didn’t go well,” Varina ventured.
“Josie Walsh!” he said, with disdain. “What does she know about anything?”
“She was under the impression that someone pulled a gun today, John Henry. That someone pulled a gun on you after you attacked Matthew Goodnight.”
He stopped in front of her.
“I couldn’t let him get away with printing that article,” he said. “Not when it’ll affect Thomas. You know it’ll hurt his chances in the election – it’ll hurt his chances with anything.”
She looked up at him levelly. It was moments like these that he looked most like his father – a big man. Too big, she sometimes thought.
“And do you think he’ll print a retraction now?” she asked, ice in her tone.
He hesitated, then turned away, only just refraining from swearing.
“We can’t just let him do this!” he muttered through gritted teeth and his fist came down on the mantelpiece, making the china dolls dance. “Something must be done!”
Varina Evans waited a few moments. In dealing with John Henry, she found that some of the techniques she employed on her husband were most effective. No one would have accused the late John Thomas Evans of being a whipped man, but then few knew Varina very well. And though the son was very much like the father, there was one difference: John Henry was much more bullheaded than John and try as she might, she could only influence, not control.
He is much more like me than his father in that respect, she thought. He’s his own man. I can only do so much with him. He is like his father – but he is not John.
She waited until she was ready, then said, “Elizabeth Walsh was here today.”
John Henry turned, frowning. She watched his hands flex.
“What did she want?” he asked.
Varina drew in a breath and looked up at him steadily. “She came to tell me what I already knew. You’re right, John Henry. We have got to do something about Matthew Goodnight.”
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A few week ago, I was able to show you all a sneak peek of Bushor Photography's Witches photo shoot featuring my sisters and myself. In honor of Halloween this weekend (sort of!), here are a few more to set the creepy mood!
Synopsis: The Enterprise is called to Sherman's Planet, where agricultural scientist Jean Czerny is adapting a new quadrotriticale seed (The Trouble with Tribbles, anyone?). However, by the time they arrive, Jean has been taken captive by Commander Kang, a ruthless Klingon who will do anything to get the new seed to his starving worlds, including using force on the scientist. But Jean is not all that she seems and the situation is not a simple case of kidnapping. Jean is forced to live among the Klingons, working to end the famine that threatens their empire. But even as she adapts to her brutal new surroundings, new dangers and intrigues threaten to overwhelm her and her newly adopted mission of mercy. Will she ever see the Federation again?
Pawns and Symbols is... frankly, a weird entry in the series. It reads more like a historical romance book than a Star Trek episode: an intelligent young woman is captured by a powerful, but still attractive half-savage and uses both her brains and her body to survive the encounter, learning, as she does, that the man and the culture are not quite as bad as she first thought. It reminded me a lot of the 1919 novel The Sheik, and that's no compliment. The Sheik, the story a man who captures and brutalizes a woman who eventually falls in love with him, was a sensation in it's time, spawning a popular movie and sequel. In Pawns, after his attempt to rape Jean is interrupted, Kang forces her into a sort of concubine role and she is used and abused throughout the rest of the book, beaten quite severely at times. I may be oversensitive, but I found this to be an uncomfortable read. Abusive characters like the Sheik and Kang are next to impossible to redeem and encouraging fantasies about them and excusing their behavior is a dangerous game to play.
Anyhoo, preaching aside, Kirk and crew are hardly in the book at all, though they are well written when they appear (there's an odd episode with them in the middle book that seems more like a short story than a necessary part of the novel). The author goes into great detail about the Klingon Empire, but while she spends a lot of time on Jean and Kang, she leaves her other new characters short on personality and backstory. In sum, the book feels more like better-than-most fan-fiction written by a woman who had a lot of fantasies about Klingons (in particular, the commander from Day of the Dove) and probably should talk to someone about that.
Not recommended: skip this and go see next week's theater showings of Wrath of Khan instead.
Get Michael Lawrence while it's free!
Dear Barbara Broccoli,
There have been some disturbing talk going on around the internet. Specifically, people have been saying that it's time for a female James Bond. 'Its time to show men that women can do what they do!' I think is the rallying cry. Women are cool. Women can fight. Women can shoot. Women are Dr. Who. It's time James became Jane!
Look, I know we're all supposed to jump on this bandwagon and wear the pussy hats and hold the Feminist Banner high in honor of our (reportedly) oppressed foremothers, but I can't. I just can't. In the name of all the bad feminists out like me, I beg of you: please, please, please, don't take my fantasy away.
I know, I know. You're going to say I have the narrative wrong. 'It's a guy's fantasy, not a woman's,' you'll chide me. 'James Bond is for boys.'
'If that's so,' I'd reply, 'then why did you hire Daniel Craig and put him in a tux? Because guys are the ones fantasizing about that?'
James Bond isn't supposed to be politically correct. He isn't supposed to get with the times. He isn't a form of social commentary. He doesn't have a backstory (or a consistent one, anyway), he doesn't age (unless he's Roger Moore, but if you're Roger Moore, age doesn't matter), he doesn't slow down, and he doesn't get tired. He's a fantasy figure in a fantasy world. He is what a lot of guys would like to be, true: handsome, debonair, irresistible to women, and always ready with a gun, a smart remark, and a cool car.
He's a guy's fantasy, yes, I get that. But he's ours too.
You see, for most women, life is... well, kinda dull. We go to work. We buy groceries. We work out and pick up the kids. We pay bills and talk to friends and occasionally go out on the town. And while life is generally good, it's also mundane. Regular. Boring. And sometimes, we just want a hunk in a tux with a gun and an Aston Martin to swoop in and take us away on an adventure.
I know, I know. You're going to say something like, 'That's horribly backwards, Killarney. Women are strong and self-assured. They don't need a man to save them.'
Of course we don't. We are strong. We are smart. We can save the day and frequently do. But, frankly, it gets tiring. Sometimes it's nice to have someone else do it. Especially if that someone looks like Pierce Brosnan or has an accent like Sean Connery or smiles like Timothy Dalton or can beat the tar out of seven or eight bad guys with his bare hands like Daniel Craig...
Sorry, got distracted there for a minute. Where was I?
Oh, right, so the point is that, yes, women can save the day. And, yes, its cool to have action women in movies. Charlize Theron, Michelle Yeoh, Michelle Rodriguez, Zeo Saldana are all talented, fierce, fun women to watch. Rogue One was awesome. Atomic Blond looks like a blast. Wonder Woman was, in my opinion, the best superhero movie since the second Captain America movie. And lest you forget, these films built on others that came before it: A New Hope, Alien, and Silence of the Lambs all feature strong women who, in one way or another, save the day.
We can do it. I get it. But sometimes we women just want someone else to do the dirty work. And sometimes we want that person to be Roger Moore on a remote island, saving a girl (who is really a stand-in for us) from a man with a golden gun.
Is that really too much to ask?
Way back in early days of 2016, Jon Davis sent me and my brother this theme, saying, "I think this might work for your mystery movie."
It was love at first listen for me - actually, I listened to the file so often while filming Michael Lawrence that I would wake up in the middle of the night with this theme running through my brain. And I still love it.
Have a listen and leave a comment with some love for the talented Jon Davis!
On this day, in 1775, someone fired a shot on Lexington Green and a nation was born.
Up until this point, a long ten years legal battle over the representative status of a colony left a country divided by more than just an ocean. King George's decision to crack down hard on the city of Boston only made matters worse, but it was General Gage's orders to seize the supplies in Concord's armory that proved the touch point.
It can't be considered a glorious battle: the militia gathered on the green were likely as surprised as the British regulars when the gun went off. After 18 minutemen went down and the rest scattered, the British high-tailed it for Concord and the armory. To say that they were in for a long, exhausting day would be an understatement. Fury torched the countryside and locals drove them out of Concord and back to where they came. The retreat was long and fraught with danger for both sides: the colonists followed and harassed the British from the sidelines, while the regulars looted and torched the homes that they passed. By the time the British were safely bottled up in the city, the tide had turned and a bridge had been crossed: our Rubicon was a wooden bridge in Concord, MA.
On April 19th, 1775, everything changed. From the awkward, furious deeds of the morning would come legends. From this day, when vastly outnumbered ordinary men and boys took up their arms to protest tyranny, the course of the world and our place in it, changed.
July 4th may be the official birth date of the United States. But the first sign of new life in the womb was April 19th.
In the days leading up to the release of the new Narrow Street Films movie, Michael Lawrence: the Season of Darkness, we'll be showcasing new character and behind the scenes info every week. Get to know the cast and try to guess whodunnit!
This post was written by Christie Devine.
Name: Samantha Harris (Pen name SJ Harris)
Position: Best selling author of thriller novels, guest lecturer at Noble College
Played by: Christie Devine
Samantha Harris is a successful, attractive, and accomplished 42-year-old mystery author who obtains her inspiration for writing from her past experiences and traumas. Traveling from her home state of California to be a guest lecturer at Noble College, she thought it would be nice to visit her alma mater... until the ghosts of her past return in full force.
Married to her second husband, who seldom plays a significant role of support, the light of Samantha's life is her 15 year old son, Matthew. As the situation grows dark and the body count rises, it will take everything Samantha has to protect him from the knowledge which could surface during their visit to New Hampshire.
All Samantha is now and was then have clashed... And when circumstance meet opportunity, the events of the past, for better or for worse, will be unveiled.
About Christie Devine: Christie is a New England based actor from Boston who accidentally discovered her love for acting in 2013. Since then, she has expanded her knowledge of acting, developed her respect for the craft, taken many informative classes and workshops and gratefully put a large number of miles on her car. Nothing makes Christie happier than being on set and having a group of amazing and professional people collaborate for a common love. She has been cast in a number of feature films, short films, web series and commercials... All of which have led her to an experience she needed to have or someone she needed to meet. Christie enjoyed the experience of playing author, S.J. Harris in "Michael Lawrence" and she looks forward to the bright future opportunities that await her in acting career.
BE THE FIRST TO KNOW ALL MICHAEL LAWRENCE NEWS: SIGN UP HERE AND YOU COULD WIN TICKETS TO THE JUNE 2017 FILM PREMiere!
In the days leading up to the release of the new Narrow Street Films movie, Michael Lawrence: the Season of Darkness, we'll be showcasing one new character every two weeks. Get to know the cast and try to guess whodunnit!
Name: Thomas Atkinson
Position: Bookstore owner and alumnus of Noble College
Played by: Chris Dubey
Thomas Atkinson could have been anything he wanted. Why he chose to end up a semi-reclusive owner of a bookstore in the middle of Portsmouth is anyone's guess. But while Thomas might seem inconsequential, he's connected to all the major players in the case: he was Emma Gagnon's friend, Sarah Hopper's employer, Prof. Stewart's former student, he helped produce Bridget Madden's concert, and his relationship with Samantha Harris might best be described as intense. Thomas Atkinson may not seem like a big player on the world's stage, but in this case he has made himself a person of interest.
Chris Dubey has been a member of NSF for the last few years. The creative mind behind Dubeyous Productions, he makes movies and web series all over New England. He runs an ambulance service, and has a marvelous wife and son, who are very understanding of the constant misadventures. He will not be cutting his hair anytime soon.
Be the first to know all Michael Lawrence news: sign up here and you could win tickets to the June 2017 film premier!
by Tony Daniel
The USS Enterprise is assigned to Vara Nebula to discover why science outpost Zeta Gibraltar is not answering Federation hailing signals. What they find is a deserted post, no life forms, and signs that indicate a violent firefight. Impossible as it seems, it appears that the members of the science team have been kidnapped by pirates who deal in the slave trade: pirates that are supposed to have been completely dispersed decades ago. The Enterprise immediately goes off in pursuit.. and find not only the pirates and their kidnapped scientists... but Mr. President George Washington as well. This is only the beginning of a strange, twisting adventure that brings Captain Kirk and his intrepid crew face-to-face with some of the heroes and villains from their past.
Savage Trade is one of the few Trek books to really surprise me: constantly moving, with plot twist after plot twist, it's one of the most fun of the books and definitely one of the closest to the feel of the original series. Daniel has done his research on the characters well and if the final act is a little less-than-original and if there are a few unnecessary scenes here and there, the book more than compensates in its cheer, pacing, and sheer reading enjoyment. Highly recommended.
Kirk, Sulu, and Chekov: A+
Spock, McCoy, and Scott: B+
Uhura: too little seen to judge
For some reason, this poem has been on autoplay in my head all week (that and Days in the Sun from Beauty and the Beast - excellent movie, you should really go see it). I memorized this as a teenager and can still recite most by heart. What I love most about this is its vigor and inherent optimism. Hopefully it'll resonate with you, too.
Psalm of Life
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
What The Heart Of The Young Man Said To The Psalmist.:
Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,— act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.
Book 3 in the Seasons of Love series, by Liwen Ho.
Librarian Chloe McAlister has almost gotten used to life with a cochlear implant, thanks to her best friend Dill Thomas, when life hands her another unforeseen twist: her longtime crush announces his engagement to someone else. On a whim, she signs up for a speed dating session and convinces Dill to go along with her, only to discover that Dill might actually be the man of her dreams after all. But he's met someone else. Is it too late for happily ever after?
Liwen Ho writes short, fun stories that are easily read during your lunch hour and she has the happy knack of writing characters that you like from line one. Chloe and Dill are a likeable pair who are so natural on page that you'd swear you know them in real life. Chloe's struggles with self-image after her cochlear implant feel realistic and it's refreshing to see a rom-com character deal with something so life-altering in a fun, positive way.
This is book three in the Seasons of Love series, and while each book is stand-alone, characters from previous books do crop up in in this one. Highly recommended.
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