The Back Forty #FlashFiction

Dark Alley

(Flash Fiction – week twelve of the 52-Week Writing Challenge. Word prompt: alley)

Camryn hated this part of her walk home.

She equally divided her attention between watching the shadowy alleyways and her footsteps. Used needles and condoms, broken liquor bottles, and random pieces of clothing carpeted the dangerous two-block section of 36th Street known as the Back Forty. Grown men avoided the area in mid-day. A woman walking alone just after six in the morning was asking for trouble.

But Camryn had to get home. She didn’t own a car and public transportation in this part of town started an hour later Sunday mornings.

Montgomery Clemens, spiteful, forty-six-year-old married father of five, knew this. Camryn had declined his offer of dinner and cocktails after work a month ago. Monty sought to punish her. As a human resource supervisor at Patterson Banking Systems, weekend scheduling fell into his lap every two weeks. It was a task he despised at first. Now, Monty saw it as a valuable tool he wielded to punish female employees who rejected him. Women like Camryn Evers.

Determined to beat Monty at his own game, Camryn said nothing and worked the bimonthly schedule changes in silence.

She didn’t have too. Camryn could have requested a hearing with the department manager and reported Clemens. However, Camryn was number three on the promotions list. It wouldn’t be long before Camryn was a member of management. When that happened, payback would be a bitch named Camryn Evers for Monty Clemens.

She could have bought a car. Camryn had more than enough money in either of her savings accounts for a car… and a home. But one of those accounts had been started long ago… when she was a different person. When her life revolved around the words of a man. Camryn trusted him. She loved him. And he’d lied and manipulated her. That would never happen again.

Camryn would buy a car when she was ready. Not because some horny, old fool at work didn’t like the word no.

Fortunately, except for the dreaded two-block section of 36th Street, the seven-block walk home wasn’t that bad. The route was well-lit most of the way, crossing through metropolitan and residential areas. Traveling the edge of the Back Forty, however, filled Camryn with dread. Law enforcement made infrequent passes through the area. The one alternate route would add six blocks and forty-five minutes to her journey home. Camryn pushed on.

As she neared the middle of the second block, Camryn’s steps quickened-the bright street lights of Perry Avenue in view.

“Cammie?”

She froze. No one had ever called her by that nickname except family… and her girlfriends from high school. Despite her better judgment telling her to go home, Camryn turned towards the voice in the shadows. A tall figure leaned against the edge of a dilapidated building.

Even though Camryn couldn’t see the face, she knew the owner of the voice. In all her thirty-four years, Camryn had only known one woman who stood well over six feet.

Belinda Glass.

“Lindy? Is that you?”

“Yeah, girl. What are you doing here?”

The former best friends each took two steps forward. Belinda was now under a street light, and Camryn was stunned at the woman’s appearance. Once a mocha beauty, member of the homecoming court, and a standout player and captain of the girls’ basketball team, the years had not been kind to Belinda.

In a stain-covered dress far too short to be considered decent, Belinda leaned against the street light pole. A matted faux-fur waist coat and cheap, spiky shoes completed her outfit. Camryn couldn’t tell if it was a wig or weave, but the long chestnut curls framing Belinda’s face were matted. Camryn could also see traces of lint through the hair even from where she stood. But it was the tall woman’s face which took her voice away.

A mixture of wrinkles, acne, and bruises covered Belinda’s face. Camryn didn’t see an inch that wasn’t marred. Camryn’s gut churned when she reached Belinda’s eyes. While glassed over, her eyes were also empty, flat… dead.

Camryn watched her friend grip the light pole for balance. She didn’t know if Belinda was high, drunk, or both, but she was on something.

“Cammie? Did you hear me? Why are you here… in the Back Forty?”

“I-I… I’m on my way home… from work.”

“Thought so.”

“What are you doing here, Lindy?”

The altered woman glanced upwards as though she was expecting… and dreading the question.

“This is where I… work.”

Camryn’s hand clutched at her abdomen, trying to calm the rising bile. Sadness washed over her when she realized what the stains on Belinda’s dress were.

“Lindy… why?”

“Life is just a bowl of shit, Cammie, and shit happens. But get that look off ‘a ya’ face now. I don’t need or want anybody’s pity.”

“But Lindy, tell me something! What happened? You left the country with Lawrence after we graduated. You both signed to play ball in-”

“Men lie, Cammie. They do it on purpose. Always needing to control women. They say whatever it takes.”

Belinda’s words hit home deep in Camryn’s soul.

“What about you and Raymond, Cammie? I knew you two would get the happily-ever-after.” Belinda didn’t miss the stricken look on Camryn’s face. “But if you were with him, you wouldn’t be out now walking alone, would you?”

Camryn smirked. “Like you said, Lindy, men lie.”

“I’m so sorry, Cammie. You deserved better. You always were the best of us.”

Camryn waved her off.

“I was no better or worse, Lindy. We were kids, trying to grow up. Raymond covered up his true nature for a long time. But once I found out, I walked away.”

“See? Strength of character. You always had it, Cammie. Even with all the lies Lawrence told, the choices were still mine. I knew he was a liar. I chose to believe him. I chose to stay with him.” Belinda glanced away. “Until he didn’t want me anymore.”

“But Lindy, why didn’t you let me know? Or Cyn or Tammie? We could have-”

“Pride, Cammie… pride. I may not have much left, but I have enough to not want my girls from back-in-the-day to know how far I’ve fallen.”

“Bullshit! That’s no ex-”

“Listen! Do not come this way again. Back Forty’s no place for someone like you.”

“Oh, Lindy, stop- “

“Bitch, we are not having a discussion!”

Camryn flinched at the woman’s tone.

Belinda stood to her full height and let go of the light pole. Though an imposing figure, her eyes softened.

“This is the third time I’ve seen you out here, Cammie. And, if I have… other people have too. People with black hearts and no souls who will do what it takes to get what they want.”

She motioned at Camryn with one hand.

“Look at you. Almost thirty-five but still with a school girl’s good looks. Thick, shoulder-length hair, perfect makeup, manicured nails. Morris is always giving me shit because I have no ass. Yours would have him salivating.”

“Lindy, let me hel-”

“Dammit! You always were stubborn! Go home, Camryn Nicole Evers… now! Never walk this way again… ever!”

“Belinda-”

“I said go! Damn!”

The large woman turned and walked unsteadily back to the alley. She paused after a few steps and looked back over her shoulder.

“Cammie… please. Nothing good happens in the Back Forty and I want nothing bad to happen to you. If you keep walking this way… it will.” With that, Belinda Glass disappeared down the darkened alley.

Camryn stood frozen where Belinda left her. Her heart ached for her childhood friend. They had shopped for prom dresses together, prank called boys, and stolen cigarettes from their parents. Camryn knew she could help her friend. It wasn’t too late.

The sound of trash cans overturning and someone crying out startled Camryn. She knew Belinda had fallen. Camryn wanted to go to her and get Belinda out of this nasty, rancid place.

But instead, she backed away shaking her head. Tears were pooling in her eyes when she turned and ran towards Perry Avenue, not stopping until she reached the corner traffic light. The pedestrian crossing sign lit up, and Camryn made her way across the large thoroughfare, thankful for providence.

Camryn leaned against the post to catch her breath. Only then did she look back across Perry Avenue… and down 36th Street. Despite the rising sun, the outskirts of the Back Forty remained blanketed in darkness, untouched by the light of day.

“Never walk this way again.” Belinda’s warning played on repeat in Camryn’s mind.

They were once close as sisters.

Their lives had taken two very different paths… both lain by the lies of men.

Belinda accepted her empty life fueled by drugs and alcohol. Yet she wanted better for a woman she once called friend.

Camryn wanted it too.

She took a few steps from the traffic light and turned right onto Perry Place. Not for the first time, Camryn marveled at the difference in her tiny tree-lined street and the desolate wasteland only a quarter of a mile away.

By the time she reached the door of her street-level cottage apartment, Camryn had made two decisions. First, when the HR office opened at nine, she was calling off work for the next two or three days. Hell, maybe even the whole week. It would serve them right. Camryn had not had an unscheduled day off in almost three years.

There were only six senior account analysts, and while two had more seniority, Camryn was the one with the knowledge and skill. A week of scrambling without her would make them appreciate her more and receptive to her complaint about Monty Clemens. Because she would demand a hearing.

So caught up in her own head to not be manipulated by Monty… or any man, Camryn had played herself. Instead of reporting Monty, she fretted over a job promotion. She had put her life at risk… for a job promotion.

Belinda’s eyes continued to haunt Camryn as she entered her apartment.

She bypassed the living room, tossed her bag and jacket into a corner chair, and turned on the shower. She had enough time to squeeze in a quick nap before calling her job. Then, she would see if any of the numbers she had for Cynthia Kelly and Tamara Alsworth were still good. Camryn wouldn’t tell them about Lindy, but she wanted to touch base with them. The years had passed too fast, making the distance of a few miles seem even greater.

The rest of her day would be spent binge watching the programs stored in her DVR while she scoured the Internet for deals. Tomorrow morning, she’d take on the second decision she’d made.

It was time to buy a car.

Edits Done! YES!

MS

Meltdown avoided. Barely.

When I decided to publish the online read Free, a Novella, I thought compile, edit, publish, right?

Obviously I’d hit my head… or watched far too many episodes of Chuggington with my two-year-old grand-nephew, Jordan.

Who knew a tiny 20K novella could be as daunting to edit as a 100K novel?

I did not.

Fortunately, the worst is over. *Looking for a piece of wood to knock on.* Now I just need to clean it up and ship it off to my editor. *And pray.*

This read will be published! Maybe not as soon as sooner, but definitely not any later than later. See what I did there?

As promised, there will also be another installment posted here-and yes, it will be before the book is published! *I heard you mumbling over there.*

Gotta love Mondays!

 

 

 

 

Breathe – and Write Your Book #MondayBlog

Writing Paper

All you wanted to do was write a book.

You had a great start–six-thousand five hundred and seventeen words. But now you’re stuck. You haven’t written a word… in three years.

You venture online for a bit of help and inspiration and in no time at all you’re sorry you ever heard of the Internet.

Sifting through a thin layer of the gazillion returns on ‘how to write a book’, you become confused.

Tropes? Outlines? MS? Taglines?

What?

All you want to do is write a book. That story has been stuck in your head since the week before high school graduation decades ago, and it won’t go away.

You just want to get it down on paper.

But all the search returns–where do you start?

You find THE link that says, “Join a group” and things are starting to make sense. You can join a group. You’re a born joiner!

Discouragement sets in a few days later when you still haven’t found a group to join, and it’s not that you didn’t look.

The first group was for published authors only. LA-DE-DA!

The second group didn’t require members to be published, but a completed manuscript WAS required.

How are these groups even in the “how to write a book” search returns if you must already have written something to join???

The next group wasn’t so bad… they were just weird.

They kept calling themselves plotters and pantsers, and talking about conflict resolution, and a satisfactory HEA to satisfy Betas.

What’s a beta?

The last group… wow. That was some next-level-new-age-bullshit!

Moments after joining the group chat, introducing yourself, and sharing your dream of writing a book the interrogation begins.

How big is your mailing list? What’s the link to your author website? Have you installed Google Analytics? How often do you blog? What’s your target audience? Do you have a professional editor lined up? What program are you typing your book in? What’s your plan for marketing and promotion? Have you written proposal letters for publishers and agents? How do you expect to get noticed and sell books?

You break out in a cold sweat! What the hell is SEO and ROI??? And there’s that ‘Beta’ word again!

How are you supposed to HAVE these things when you JUST DECIDED TO WRITE THE FREAKIN’ BOOK???

The Group has been throwing out links which you’ve clicked on and you now have thirteen browsers open. You’ve also kept a running total of costs in your head – $4500.

And you haven’t even hit ten-thousand words in your story.

The group moves on to new topics and you sit quietly… even though you want to scream and vent like you invented the term “going postal”.

The meeting ends… thankfully… and you toss your thanks and goodbyes into the chorus. You leave the chat, unjoin the group, and close the browser.

In hindsight, you should have followed your spouse to Art and Wine Night, or surprised your parents by showing up at St. Paul’s for bingo night.

Sighing heavily, you head for the coffeemaker, suddenly veering off towards the wine… minus the art.

Returning to your desk, your mind is crammed full of things you know nothing about, but just about everyone is the free world is willing to teach you… for a price.

All you wanted to do was write a book. When did writing become so complicated? The Internet did not invent books. Millions were written before ‘https://www.’ became a thing.

Collecting your thoughts… with a nod to the wine… you make a short list of the things you saw and heard repeatedly. Website, mailing list, social networks. Those will do to start… eventually.

You push the list aside, close the remaining thirteen browsers… and work on your book.

And breathe.

CampNaNoWriMo! #MondayBlog


Writing Paper


It’s NaNoWriMo time!

No, you haven’t pulled a Rip Van Winkle and slept through most of 2017! It’s CAMPNaNoWriMo, held during the month of April.

What? You’re not ready to tackle another fifty thousand word project? Good! Because that’s not what CampNaNoWriMo is for…unless you want it to be.

At Camp, you can:

  • Tackle any writing project, novel or not. Are you revising your next draft? Preparing to write the next great musical, a la Lin-Manuel Miranda? Penning a collection of poems? Camp is fertile ground.
  • Set your own writing goal. Warm up for 50K by setting a word-count goal of 25,000. Or track hours, lines, or pages… whatever works for you.
  • Find your own, personal writing group. At Camp NaNoWriMo, you can be sorted into a public cabin with writers according to your preferences, or create a private cabin for you and your already-established writing buddies.

I won’t say it’s necessarily ‘easy’, but it is that simple.

I’ve signed up and will be working on my November 2016 project, For Worse. My protagonist, Quinn Landon, seems to have developed a personality disorder. I need her to quit with the Sybil-theatrics, pick an identity and stick to it. Geeze…

For Worse generic cover

Calm down! This is NOT the cover! I repeat this is NOT the cover!

Since this is camp, there are CABINS! You can choose to be assigned to one, start your own, or just fly free.

I have yet to choose a cabin. I elected to be assigned to a cabin last year, clearly specifying my preferences.

That didn’t work out so well. The only thing I had in common with my cabin-mates was the fact most of us were breathing. I say most because a few never uttered a word during the entire month.

Not going there again.

While we do stress out at times, battle muses and deal with writers’ block, I believe writers sometimes forget that writing is supposed to be something we love to do; something we’re driven to do; something we enjoy!

If you’re not having fun with it, and don’t find yourself smiling your way through scenes and situations – why are you doing it?

If you want to have some fun writing during April, look me up. I’ll be the one arguing with myself and trolling cabins!

 

A Helping Hand #ReadWithMe


I Heart Books

Image from Google


In my late teens and early twenties, I volunteered with a community literacy program that paired increasing literacy and diversity.  As such, I was partnered with a young Caucasian man I’ll call Mark.

A year younger than me and just a year out of high school, Mark was one of those unfortunate students ignored by the education system and pushed through school with passing grades. Coming from a home where reading wasn’t a priority, no one realized Mark could read, but only enough to get by, much like my own father. There were nearly seventy years between my father’s school days and Mark’s. My father had to quit school at age nine. Mark was handed a high school diploma. Both were functionally illiterate.

While members of the literacy program would meet together to brainstorm and strategize on how best to help the program’s students, we were not teachers or educators. We were students, retirees, stay-at-home moms, moms employed outside the home, and professionals in other areas. Sometimes, teachers would join the program and write outlines for us and give us benchmarks to aim for, but most of the time we were just a group of ordinary folks who wanted to help others.

After determining Mark’s reading level, I gave him two books, a writing pad, and a dictionary. He was one read one chapter, look up and write down the definition of any word he didn’t understand, and write one paragraph in his own words what the chapter was about.

With an eight or twelve-week learning plan, most students completed the course with increased reading skills. Mark signed up for the twelve-week session and was determined to finish…because he wanted to join the military. Our program worked for people like Mark because we didn’t work on fixed times and locations like the larger better-funded organizations. Working nights with a restaurant clean-up crew and picking up odd jobs in construction meant Mark’s schedule could change daily. There were times he did miss one or both of our twice weekly sessions. But I have to confess I was near tears when he did show up…he always had his words and his paragraph.

Circumstances led to my having to relocate before completing the sessions with Mark. I wish I could say I knew what happened with him, but life isn’t that easy.

However, through friends connected with the literacy program I do know 1) Mark completed the program; 2) he never made it to the military; 3) He DID enroll in college.

That’s enough for me.

 

GIVEAWAY!
During the month of March, four random commenters – one each week – will win ebooks copies of some of my favorite books from authors like Toni Morrison, Terry Dean, and Walter Mosley!


March is National Reading Month and I invite you to #ReadwithMe by sharing a story about your love of reading.

Click on the Linky Tools link below to share a post from your blog/website about reading! (New browser opens) The join links are open until March 31st. Beginning April 1st, no more links can be added, but the Linky Tool and the links posted to it will remain active indefinitely!

Powered by Linky Tools

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

Updates – “Best Interest, Book 2”, “For Worse”, “Free”


Writing Banner


Free, A Novella

Begun last spring, this was ONLY supposed to be a three-part short story. Of course, that seems like a lifetime ago as I stare at chapter TEN!

Feedback has been very generous. I’ve received requests to publish it and/or extend it into a longer story.

While I considered publishing Free, I said ‘no’ to extending it into a longer read. I’m a character-driven writer and do not possess the super powers needed to script the usual suspects into the required scenarios.

Of course, that was before Lenore Porter and her cast of characters got wind of possibly getting their own book – and they haven’t shut up since. To avoid a free-for-all with Free, yes…there will be a full-length novel.

I will tie up the posted installments in 1-3 more posts, but not everything posted here will make it into the book. I’m in negotiations with Lenore. She’s tough. We’ll see.


For Worse

The first re-write of my 2016  NaNoWriMo project is complete. Quinn Landon and I are not getting along. In an effort to allow Quinn to tell her story in her words, she’s gone from a fierce, no-nonsense, taking-my-life-back woman to a whiny, needy, typical romance novel heroine.

That is not going to work for me.

I’m going to give her a little time – not much though. She’s holding up progress. But, enough to reform and redeem herself. It would be a real shame if a lesser character stepped up to tell Quinn’s story…because Quinn met her end in a tragic library accident. Books are heavy.

Stay tuned.


As a member of the Writing Cooperative, I’m taking part in the 52-Week Writing Challenge. Character profiles and plot developments are my focus for a YEAR.  Fifty-two times. What was I thinking?

As we roll into week eight of the challenge, you can find my weekly submissions also posted right here on my author page. Look in the pages.


In the Best Interest of the Child, Book 2 – Family Matters

I’m looking forward to getting book 2 out because the second half of Olivia Chandler’s story is one wild ride! Look for the cover reveal in early March!

In book 1, Olivia faced down her emotional demons, kept a family together, and opened her heart.

Now Olivia’s heart…and soul will be challenged…to repair her own family.

Of course, anything that includes Bruce Bellamy doesn’t travel a perfect path. Here is a small teaser to show…some things never change!

Excerpt from In the Best Interest of the Child, Book 2 – Family Matters

Unedited and subject to change.

She’d lost her mind.

That was the only answer. Why else would she allow Bruce Bellamy to choose their Halloween costumes? She should have gone with her ‘usual’ – Raggedy Anne or a nun.

Giving the white blond wig one last twist, Olivia ran her brush through the ends, then stood back for a good look at herself in the full-length mirror.

The black leather hugged her generous breasts and ample hips. Olivia’s matching spiked-heel boots were surprisingly comfortable and looked great on her legs.

The costume fit perfectly.

How did Bruce know her size? He’d never asked her – he just knew. Olivia smiled at her reflection. What was she going to do with that man?

Her makeup was flawless, considering the extra hour Olivia had taken to create the perfect smoky eye effect.

But the wig…

For a brief second, Olivia considered removing the wig, and just wearing her hair down. The idea vanished as quickly as it formed. She didn’t want to disappoint Bellamy.

He’d been so excited and pleased when she invited him to attend Marty’s Halloween party with her. Even though his cousins, Courtney and Marissa were having a family party the same evening, Bruce had quickly accepted. He talked Olivia into attending both parties and spending a couple of hours at each. A quick glance at the clock showed Bruce should be arriving any minute.

Taking in the wig one last time, Olivia smirked, grabbed her phone and keys, and headed for the living room.

Stopping at the hall closet to retrieve her coat, Olivia heard the chimes of her doorbell and smiled. She could set her watch by Bruce Bellamy. Heels clicking against the marble-tile floors, Olivia schooled her features before opening the front door.

Her inspection began at his feet, observing all the details of his costume. Heavy black leather boots under black leather pants. Black t-shirt stretched across his broad chest, under a waist-cut, black leather jacket.

Returning to his eyes, Olivia saw that Bruce had given her the once-over too. She smirked.

“Wolverine.”

Bruce clenched his hands into tight fists and flexible, aluminum claws sprang from the backside of his fingerless gloves. He nodded as his smirk matched Olivia’s.

“Storm.”

Logo