Well-behaved women rarely make history.
Tag Archives: Blog
Cover Reveal – Cleric by Gail Haris
AuThursday – Faye Hall
“If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” – Mary Engelbreit
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Happy Valentines Day!
I thought I would share the books my publisher has on sale for 99 cents at B&N, along with my short story “Snow by any other name”. Most of these are the second and third books in their series, so it’s an opportunity to buy for a bit less. You can find out more about these titles in the Books section (above). So snuggle up and enjoy a romantic read.
Also for Sale @ $1.99 is my Gaslamp (Steampunk’s cousin) The Alchemists of Archangel, the second in my Archangel Revolution Series.
Title: The Alchemists of Archangel
Series: Archangel Revolution
Author: Tina Holland
Genre: Steampunk, Gaslamp Fantasy, Alternate History, Romance
Release Date: December 30, 2020
Publisher: Book Boutiques
Cover Artist: Valerie Tibbs
When scientist Abigail Phelan is accused of murder, she must prove her innocence despite not remembering the crime.
Inspector Raven Clark knows Abbie didn’t kill the miner, but she is tied to the killer.
Abbie and Raven begin a search for both the killer and her memories bringing them closer to the truth and one another.
But when Archangel residents fall ill from a bizarre pandemic Raven must hunt for the killer while Abbie battles a ravaging disease.
Will they discover the identity of the murderer before losing everything they’ve found?
She shot him a brief glare before concentrating on her plate. “As I suspected, the Gunns have left you alone with me.”
“Did they? Whatever for?” Laurel and Ben could not have guessed his attraction to this vulnerable beauty. Could they?
“So you could begin your interrogation of me regarding Cornelius Turner’s death.” She tilted her head.
He scanned her evaluating her. “I doubt you had anything to do with Mr. Turner’s murder.”
She leaned forward, “So foul play is suspected.”
“I’m afraid so. What can you tell me about that night?” Raven couldn’t help but wonder how this tiny breath of a woman was wrapped up in Alchemia’s gruesome murder.
“I can’t recollect much from the night of Mr. Turner’s murder. I’ve tried but every time I search my memory, my throat locks up, and I feel my limbs numb and my brain becomes foggy. It sounds strange, I know. Doctor Gunn says my symptoms are similar to shell shock.”
“I’m aware of the disorder.” His mind burned with the memory of his own experience.
“I’m sorry I can’t be of more help. Cornelius was a wonderful man and very kind to me and my birds.”
“Tell me about him.” Her voice soothed him, despite the fact he found birds as exciting as watching a clock tick.
“Cornelius was my first canary courier. The couriers run the birds to and from the mines. They also have to sit with the fledglings so the birds become used to them. Cornelius even went so far as to watch the hatchlings. He was a surrogate to many of the colored canaries.”
“Was he collecting birds from you that night?”
“No. I went to town.”
“To meet him?” Raven wondered if more passed between Abigail and Cornelius.
“No to meet with…” Abigail began to rub her temples. “I’m sorry I don’t remember.”
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AuThursday – M.S. Ocampo
“Bird by Bird.”
AuThursday – Amber Thorne
“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” Jack Kerouac.
From, “The Search,” available in the anthology, “Seasons in the Dark.”
New Release – A Tortured Temptress
AuThursday – Emily Vieweg
here’s a short bio:
Do the best you can with what you have.
forthcoming in the next edition of North Dakota Quarterly –
Chapter Reveal – Cougar From Hell by Marika Ray
Daxon gently pulling my hand away from my face was what woke me up. I let out a soft groan that had absolutely nothing to do with the pain radiating from my forehead and everything to do with the beast of a man sitting right beside me, taking care of me like he was my personal nursemaid instead of the biggest irritant in my life at the moment. Sadly, he’d put a fresh shirt on at some point while I slept.
“Please tell me you haven’t been sitting there watching me sleep like some creep,” I croaked. Man, he hadn’t been kidding about the adrenaline crash.
Daxon snorted and let go of my hand, more’s the pity. “No, of course not. But you were snoring so loudly you interrupted my work. Figured I’d wake you up and make you lunch. Anything to stop that incessant racket.”
I shoved myself up to sitting, ignoring the way that made my head pulse painfully. “I don’t snore. Just admit you have a protective streak a mile wide.”
The side of Daxon’s mouth threatened to pull up into a smile. “I do not.”
While he was in such a good mood—normally he’d be crossing his arms over his massive chest and snapping at me by now—I wanted to address the thing that had been bothering me.
“Daxon, I have to clear up something.”
He stilled, his expression instantly guarded. “You hate that ridiculous G-wagon too?”
I slapped his arm, mostly just to have a reason to touch him. “No! I love that car.”
He looked on the verge of smiling again, which might have been a record for almost-smiles in a conversation with him. “I always thought you had much better taste.”
“My late husband and I had a business arrangement.”
Welp, that wasn’t how I meant to address things, just blurting it out like that.
Daxon blinked, his jaw hardening. Clearly he didn’t want to discuss this, but I had to get it all out. I couldn’t have him believing that I’d cheated on my husband. That Daxon was just a convenient male. Like I did that sort of thing all the time. Like what happened between us meant nothing to me.
“We were never in love. We married as a business deal, agreeing that it would be an open marriage. He was always discreet and respectful about it, which I appreciated, especially after Ruby was born. We became friends, building a life together, but also separately. The night I slept with you was the day after he went into hospice care and we knew it was just a matter of time before he was gone. My world was being flipped upside down and I just needed to feel something other than lost.”
Daxon sat there staring at me, his face devoid of any emotion. I could feel waves of tension pouring off his body. I wanted to explain more while also snatching back every word I’d already said. This didn’t appear to be helping things between us. By being truthful, I’d somehow made things worse.
“We didn’t sleep together.”
I…was not expecting that response. “No? I could have sworn we did.”
“We fucked, kitten. There’s a big difference,” Daxon growled.
He stood abruptly, the movement of the couch cushions jarring my head. I swung my legs off the couch and tried to stand too. The room got fuzzy around the edges and I sagged backward.
With a bit-back curse, Daxon grabbed my arms and guided me back to sitting. He followed, settling next to me on the couch with at least a foot of space between us.
“For fuck’s sake. Take it slow. You know what, let’s take you to urgent care. You probably have a concussion.”
I waited until the black dots faded from my vision. “I don’t have a concussion. Callan already ran me through some tests for that and said I was all clear.”
Daxon frowned harder. “He could be wrong.”
I huffed. This man was infuriating. One minute he’s sweet and protective. The next he’s growling at me, demeaning that night two years ago. The same one that had stayed with me through the hard months that followed.
“I just haven’t eaten anything yet. My bagel is back in the car at the base of my driveway.”
More curses flowed as he stood again. “Stay there.”
I rolled my eyes. He sure loved barking orders. But he still didn’t get what I was trying to say. Maybe I didn’t even know what I was trying to say.
“I’ve only slept with two people in my whole life, so I’m sorry if I use the wrong terms.” Apparently I’d become a blurter. The blurtiest of blurters.
Daxon froze. Every single muscle the man possessed—and good gravy did Mother Nature gift him with so much of it—locked tight. I lifted my hand to pull him back, but left it there hovering in the air between us. For half a second I had the fanciful thought that if I touched him, he’d surely break.
He spun around finally, ignoring my hand in the air. His eyes were snapping, devouring my face. “You what?”
Oh, so now he wanted to have this conversation.
I pulled my hand back in my lap so quickly it sounded like I clapped for his ridiculously short question. “I slept with Anthony once. It was not long after we got married. We both thought we’d try it out and see if there was any chemistry there.” I grimaced. “There was not. We went back to being friends immediately, putting that little experiment behind us. And then…then there was you.”
Daxon scrubbed both his hands over his face. I wanted to reach up and smooth the dark slashes of eyebrows back down. Why did he have to look like a male model posing as a lumberjack? It was an unfair advantage when a woman was trying to think around him.
“I don’t understand any of this. You’ve had two one-night stands in your whole life? You were married, but kind of not really?”
I wobbled my head back and forth. That was about right. Crazy and crazier. That had been my life, which was why I’d sought out a small town I could sink into with Ruby. A place I could be normal for once. “Will you sit down for a second and just let me explain?”
He sighed and moved to sit back down.
“And not bark one-word questions at me?”
“I don’t do that.”
“Yes, you do.”
“No, I— You know what? I’m just going to sit here and let you talk. How about that?” Daxon leaned sideways against the armrest, about as far away from me as he could get and still be on the same piece of furniture.
“Thank you,” I said with no small measure of sarcasm. “I know our marriage wasn’t conventional, but it worked for us. I was a small-town girl with absolutely no money but a stubborn insistence that I’d make it in a big city. Anthony needed someone to go to awards shows with and business dinners. Our pairing made more sense than most Hollywood marriages. He was my friend, and I grieved when he died.”
I hadn’t meant for my voice to shake when I got to that last part, but I hadn’t been able to talk about Anthony’s death. I’d tried to be there for Ruby, but no one had been there for me.
Daxon reached across the couch cushions and grabbed my hands where they’d been twisting the blanket. His hand was warm, fully enveloping both of mine. He gave me a squeeze and held on.
“I’m sorry,” he finally said, his voice scraping across the inches that separated us. “Thank you for explaining. I, uh, have a bit of a hang-up about married women.”
I tried not to smile too hard. “I could tell. You looked ready to find your nail gun and nail my toes to the foundation.”
“Definitely wanted to nail you…”
My gaze shot over to his. “Are you flirting with me, Daxon?”
“I’m hurt it was subtle enough you had to ask.” His lips were doing that thing again. What would it take to make the man smile fully?
“It’s not you, it’s me.”
Daxon winced. “Ouch. That’s even worse. The pity excuse.”
I talked around the giggle. “No, it’s true. I’ve slept with two men, had one orgasm, and somehow mother a preteen with more attitude than me. I wouldn’t recognize flirting if the dick pic slapped me in the face.”
Daxon huffed what could have been the start of a laugh. “First of all, a dick pic is not part of flirting. And secondly, one orgasm? I’ll be forever wounded if you say that one wasn’t from me.”
Was it getting hot in here? Or maybe it was the low blood sugar combined with the blow to the head making me woozy. “It was definitely you.”
“Of course it was,” he said smugly.
I tried to pull my hands out from under his. “Jeez, ego much, Daxon?”
He held on tighter, somehow inching closer to me on the couch. “Not ego. Confidence. Maybe you need a refresher?”
He was so close I could pick up on the soap he used and the smell of wood. That combination would forever make my stomach swoop. And not because I was hungry. “Daxon!”
He shrugged, his thumb sweeping out a rhythm against the back of my hand. I could feel that touch everywhere. I really was pathetic, finding a simple thumb touch a source of pleasure.
“Would it be so bad? At least you wouldn’t be married this time.”
I was shaking my head before I’d even catalogued all the ways that would be a very bad move to make. Without even putting sex on the table, I was overwhelmed by this man. I could barely be around him without tripping, or putting my foot in my mouth, or having to come home and seek out my trusty vibrator. One drunken encounter in a dirty bathroom had made me obsessed with him for months. Sober, intentional sex might break me.
“Absolutely not. No. Nuh-uh.”
Daxon smiled then, the kind of slow smile you feel across your skin. Like the sun rising over the mountains and heating up your whole body inch by inch. “So what you’re saying is you’ll think about it?”
“No!” I shook my head so hard it started being a heartbeat again along my cut. “That’s not at all what I’m saying!”
Good God, the man could smile. I could be ruined by that smile.
Daxon squeezed my hands one last time and let go, getting to his feet. “Let’s go make some lunch and then we need to get Ruby from school.”
I stood, taking slow deep breaths this time so I didn’t pass out. “I can get her on my own. I just need you to drop me off at my car.”
Daxon led the way to his tiny kitchen. “Can’t.”
I sighed, trying to keep myself from eyeing his backside. He had a really lovely backside. “There you go with the one-word answers again.”
He stopped at the refrigerator and pulled it open to peer inside. “Can’t take you to your car because it’s already been towed to the shop. I texted Clyde while you were sleeping, in case you were worried all I did was watch you sleep.”
Well, shit. There he went again, doing something nice. “I assume Clyde is a tow truck driver and not a car thief?”
Daxon shot me a deadpan glare.
“In that case, thank you. Maybe you could drop me off at a car rental place so I can get a loaner?”
I threw my hands out to the side. “For fuck’s sake, Daxon!”
And that’s when I heard it.
A real live laugh from Daxon Hellman.
And it was everything I’d hoped it would be and more.
AuThursday – Todd Ford
Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I’m in my early sixties, married with two grown daughters, you know, a classic empty-nester. We have a menagerie of cats, five as of this moment, although the one that’s pawing at me as I type is aged and on twice-a-day meds to keep her from withering away even more rapidly. We’ve had dogs as well. We’re happy to no longer have dogs. They’re a lot more work.
I grew up in Southern California, Santa Barbara, and thereabouts to be exact. I have a lot of lazy beach bum and listening to “Hotel California” on the radio 27 times a day in my DNA. I’m pretty liberal as well. I studied mechanical engineering and landed my first job in the Seattle area in 1984. I was there for ten years, long enough to learn I don’t much like the reality of engineering work, to discover an affection for cinema, and to meet my wife through a personal ad.
We’ve lived in Mandan since 1994. Why Mandan? Why North Dakota? My wife grew up in Williston and her parents had retired in Mandan. I got laid off from Boeing in Seattle. The dots become pretty easy to connect from there.
How do you make time to write?
Short answer: I don’t, not enough anyway. I always think I should establish a daily routine, but I’m too easily distracted. I read a lot. I watch movies constantly. I daydream.
Long answer: I write constantly when I’m inspired. I’m a writer who first needs something to say, I guess. When inspiration strikes, my wife starts to wonder what’s up because she hardly sees me for days—and our house isn’t large. (Maybe that’s why she’s constantly dreaming about tiny homes and campers. I would have zero opportunity for escape.) Part two of the long answer is I do write almost every day. I always have something burning a hole in me to share on Facebook. You know the sorts of posts. The ones that pop up on your feed X number of years later and make you wonder about your mental health on that day long ago.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
I believe frustration over sitting for hours and not being able to find words is a real thing. Happily, I don’t experience it often—if at all. I seldom sit down to write unless I already have words ready to go. I also tend to rehearse them during water-heater-draining showers, out loud (yes, I’m one of those talking-to-himself types). It usually takes me longer to make a cup of coffee than to move that blinking cursor halfway down my computer screen.
Also, the two types of writing I’ve specialized in are movie reviewing and memoir. I always have something to say about a movie by the time the end credits scroll. (That was a good thing. My first writing “job” was as a movie critic for the Bismarck Tribune. To earn my $8.00 a week (don’t get me started, and, yes, I’m daring to nest parenthesis within parenthesis (I’m also a computer programmer)), I would watch a movie on Sunday and have to have my review finished and emailed to the editor by Tuesday.) And I can always find stuff in my life to write about. For instance, I’ve never written about the time, I was maybe nine or ten, when I took off with a friend carrying only matches and candles into a culvert, you know, to see where it went. Exiting the other end into Narnia was our hope. Long after the light of day had vanished, wind was causing the candles to flicker, like two stupid kids our boxes full of matches were actually nearly empty, and hot wax was burning our hands, we tripped over something. We looked down in the flickering shadows to see the remains of a rattlesnake. (There. Now I have written about it.)
My story for the SEASONS IN THE DARK anthology titled “The Whites of My Eyes” is filled with true stories. My book-length memoir THS DATING THING: A MOVIE BUFF’s MEMOIR is, of course, also littered with remembrances of my sordid past.
Tell us a bit about the genre you write and why you love it.
Yes, I consider myself a memoirist. I fell in love with the genre while reading THIS BOY’S LIFE by Tobias Wolff, CHERRY by Mary Karr, and KING OF THE HILL by A.E. Hotchner. I’m also fond of FARGO ROCK CITY by Chuck Klosterman. I’ve since accumulated three shelves of memoirs and autobiographies. I’m pleased I wrote one of my own because it makes all of these favorite authors feel in a way like kin. What I love about the genre is how it allows you to sort through all the stuff that’s happened, make sense of it, and find meaning. You might say it’s like a form of therapy—for free. I keep starting to turn the corner toward writing fiction. I always just end up on a new sidewalk through my past.
How are you publishing your recent book and why?
I self-published my books on KDP. The aforementioned THIS DATING THING as well as a collection of my favorite movie reviews titled SEE YOU IN THE DARK: TWO DECADES OF MY CINEPHILIA IN NORTH DAKOTA. I didn’t make much effort to try to find a traditional publisher for either book. I knew the movie review book had less than zero commercial potential. My main goal was to rescue the reviews from oblivion and have a copy for my own bookshelf. I’m fairly confident that at least three or four copies exist on other bookshelves, somewhere. I know a copy resides in Mumbai because that young reader ecstatically emailed me half a dozen times to tell me how much he enjoyed all three times he read it. I also know that at least one copy has changed hands because a friend cautiously informed me she’d spotted a copy in a box at the Bismarck Public Library used book sale. I did, briefly, have a small publisher lined up for my memoir, but that publisher kinda went out of business, a fate that I imagine awaits many small publishers. At least I can rest easy knowing it wasn’t the publishing of my book that killed them.
Are you an Introvert or an Extrovert? How does this affect your work?
I’m an Introvert. That probably goes without saying. I read a lot, watch movies, talk to myself in the shower, and experienced 2 ½ years of COVID by seldom leaving my house—and not noticing anything being different. It helps my writing, for sure. It’s easy for me to sit alone at a computer for hours with nothing but Chopin and Liszt to keep me company while I type away. Introverts are also good at looking inward; so, I’m not sure if I found memoir or memoir found me.
What is your favorite motivational phrase?
“Mistakes are the portals of discovery.”—James Joyce
You know how when you go through a draft and find mistakes scattered everywhere? I enjoy making a game out of it. I trust that Freud was at least onto something when he wrote about slips of tongue revealing unconscious truths. I don’t always fix my mistakes at first. I look for ways to use them. Some of my favorite slips of phrase have started with typos—like typing “slips” when I meant “turns.” (Okay, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, I have to fix the damn thing and move on.)
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
If you enjoy it, do it. If you don’t enjoy it, stop doing it. If you have a change of heart, start doing it again. It’s best if it feels like play. And no matter what, try not to fret over past work. In fact, I find it best to not even read my stuff after it’s published.
Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?
Nowhere, really, other than looking my two books up on Amazon.
Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?
I sure do. I’ll end with this passage from my memoir describing my dad:
During the following two years after arriving back home, Dad became fanatical about new trends. After my lifetime of never seeing him exercise, he lingered in the master bedroom puffing and sweating through morning push-ups, squats, and sit-ups in his underwear—and not just any underwear, but bright red, teeny tiny briefs. I’d see him on the floor sweating before taking his shower, hair on his chest and back, his pot belly, his graying and receding hairline, and how his thing barely stayed out of sight. Cheryl could walk in at any moment! Mom could walk in! It horrified me his wife might see the outline of his… thing. His efforts paid off. The pot belly melted away.
But the effect was short-lived, and he soon found a way to re-pack on the pounds. We were the inaugural family in our cul-de-sac to purchase a microwave oven. After hauling the Amana monstrosity home, attempting to shimmy it from the box before losing patience, cutting it free with a steak knife, and plugging it in, Dad demonstrated how we could bake apples in record time—a mere minute and a half.
He removed a green apple already cored and filled to overflowing with brown sugar from the fridge, ready to go on a paper plate. He lowered the heavy, spring-loaded door and placed the apple in the oven. He released the door and it closed on its own. He pushed a few buttons and the machine whirred.
“HEEERE WE GO!” he said, resembling an infomercial.
(When I recall his words, now, they sound more like “HEEERE’S JOHNNY!”)
We’d never had baked apples before, so I’m not sure if the brown, bubbly messes he created were typical, but over the next few weeks, we—well, mostly he—ate a lot of them. He invited neighbors to experience the miracle of instant baked apples. He entertained the idea of going into the instant baked apple business, but soon the fashion wore off. Until we discovered quick popcorn, the fast cup of tea, and the art of bringing leftovers back from the dead, we simply became the house on the block with the least amount of usable kitchen counter space.
As if changing channels still again, Dad switched to color television. He didn’t buy one, not exactly. He mail-ordered one through a company called Heathkit. The ads declared, “Announcing the first solid-state color TV you assemble yourself!” as if it were a prize-worthy idea.
Our “television” arrived in several boxes. To Dad’s excitement and everyone else’s dismay, the boxes contained a jumble of wires, tubes, screws, and twisted scraps of metal and plastic. The objects giving me hope and promising future enjoyment were the picture tube and the cabinet.
“Do you guys have any idea how much a twenty-five-inch color set costs?” he asked, and continued without waiting for an answer, “I’m sure you don’t so I’ll tell you. A lot.”
Every Saturday morning for weeks, I stared at the corner of the living room—a makeshift workshop—and hoped to see something capable of playing cartoons. Each time, I turned away disappointed and returned to watching Bugs and Elmer in black and white. Making matters worse, the television once “finished” never fully worked. It always had strange bands of indistinct colors running through the picture. Dad didn’t—or couldn’t—see them, so captivated was he by his accomplishment. (He never truly completed it. A few parts left over didn’t fit anywhere. He considered them “extra” parts and tossed them into a drawer.)
He talked to us less and less the closer the “television” came to being a semi-television. One day, I walked into the living room to check his progress and saw him mounting the picture tube into the cabinet. From where I stood, I saw his two legs sticking out from beneath the set. He’d been consumed by the TV. It reminded me of the Wicked Witch of the East after Dorothy dropped the house on her. I swear his socked feet curled and disappeared.
I don’t remember the moment the project was “finished,” the black-and-white set was banished, and the intruder assumed its post in the center of the living room wall. I do remember our old set sitting on the floor of my parent’s closet facing the corner. It had been placed in a time-out. A few times, after trying to watch the interloper for a while, I snuck into their room, slid the closet door open a crack, and patted my old pal atop the head.
After Dad’s labors, I don’t recall him ever once sitting and watching his Heathkit. Always “at work,” he spent his days at IBM, but he never talked about what he did there, and I never thought or cared to ask. I knew it had to do with something futuristic and electrical called “computers,” assembling them, fixing them if they broke. My one experience of him working on electronics had been our television set. I pictured his desk at work cluttered with “extra” bits and pieces of computers he’d later stash in drawers. I imagined him as not a particularly competent computer whatever he was and, given his lack of shoptalk and general grumpiness at home in the evening, not in love with his job either.
Mom was terrified when he came home early from work one day and announced he had been “let go.” His income and future retirement prospects had gone poof, but he looked oddly relieved.
He increased the intensity of his bedroom floor, semi-naked workout sessions. He washed his cherished Oldsmobile Cutlass daily. He wore shiny silk shirts unbuttoned to his navel. He dangled a gold chain around his neck and experimented with hair dyes and comb-overs. He eventually bought the SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER soundtrack album and wore it out. He embodied a walking, talking, dancing cliché—the dad in the movie DAZED AND CONFUSED who thwarts his son’s attempt to throw a keg party. Richard Linklater set his marvelously researched movie in 1976 and Dad found polyester in 1977. Despite his efforts, Dad always lived a bit behind the times.
One detail did separate him from the father in DAZED AND CONFUSED. Dad never would have prevented a keg party. He would’ve joined in and smiled at all the girls. Cheryl told me, “When Dad helped me move in during my freshman year in college, he went away for a while, returned, and stocked the fridge with four cases of beer, one for me and each of my roommates.”
These behavior swings were all barely noticeable at the time, but they were accumulating in my mind. Eventually, in Dad’s increasing absence, I had to mow the lawn and it grew shaggier by the week. All the excitement about instantly hot food dissipated. The television’s picture worsened until it stopped working entirely and our small black-and-white set returned atop the otherwise useless Heathkit cabinet. We ate at the coffee table—and even in our bedrooms.