Category Archives: Mixed Genre

Cheese and Whisky

Joe leaned his cane against the counter and put the kettle on for tea. He put some biscuits on a plate and sliced some cheese to go with it. After a moment’s thought, he put a jar of jam out as well. Cups and plates completed the setting. The door bell rang; he took a final glance at the little kitchen. It would do.

He picked up the cane on the way to the front door. A young women stood on the other side of the door. Everyone looked young to Joe now, but she couldn’t be thirty yet. Youth glowed in her red hair and blue eyes. She smiled when she saw him. Joe liked that, even better were the faint smile lines around those blue eyes. He revised his estimate of her age upwards a decade.

“Hello, Mr. Baldur,” she said, “My name is Gina, I talked to you on the phone yesterday.”

“I remember,” Joe said and opened the door, “Come on in. I’ve put water on.” He led the way back to the kitchen. She put her purse under her chair and laid a pad and pencil on the table.

“Do you mind if I tape the interview?” Gina asked, “It’s helpful to make sure that I don’t misquote you.”

“Fine by me,” Joe said, “What do you take?”

“Just milk thanks,” Gina said as she fished a tiny recorder out of her purse and placed it at the top of the pad. “Gina Stapopolous, interviewing Joe Baldur, January 28, 2010 at his home. Anything you don’t want recorded just let me know and I will stop the recorder.”

“Thanks for coming by Gina,” Joe said, “It’s nice to have a new audience for my old stories.”

“I should start off with a few questions then. How old are you?”

“According to my birth certificate I am one hundred and fifty one this year.”

“That’s an extraordinary age Mr. Baldur.”

“Please, call me Joe.”

“OK then, Joe,” she said, “Do you have any other way of proving your age? It isn’t that I doubt you, but the oldest person on record is one hundred and seventeen and they live in a nursing home.”

“I’m afraid that anyone that might remember the day of my birth is long gone.” Joe smiled her. “I have no interest in trying to claim any record. I’m not interested in going through the media circus that would entail.”

“Yet you took my call and invited me here…”

“I wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity to have a pretty young woman give me her undivided attention.”

Gina laughed and marked a point in the air with her finger.

“So tell me what it’s like being your age?”

“Boring.”

“Boring?”

“Not many people are interested in the elderly anymore. Getting other people to take care of your parents or grandparents is big business. Put them in a safe place and get on with the important work of living. No one gives much thought to what it’s like for the old people who’re pushed to the edges. The last decent conversation I had was with the paper boy. He was collecting his money and told me all about the hockey tournament he’d played in on the weekend. That was five years ago. Now the paper is delivered by a girl in a car and I pay online for the paper.”

“Sounds lonely.”

“That too,” Joe admitted. He pushed the plate of biscuits toward his guest. “Help yourself.”

Gina took a biscuit and put a slice of cheese on it.

“So if you are bored and lonely, why live by yourself and not talk about your age.”

“All the fuss about my age would just add annoyed to bored and lonely. I don’t want to be Methuselah.”

“Methuselah?”

“The only thing anyone knows about him is that he lived to 969 years and was Lamech’s dad. That would be me. I would just be ‘the old guy’.”

“So, what do you want to be known for?”

“That’s a good question.” Joe took a long sip of his tea and looked up at the ceiling. Gina picked up the biscuit on her plate and took a bite.

“O my, this is good,” Gina said, “Where did you buy them?”

“I make them myself,” Joe said, “I can teach you how.”

“Really?” Gina gave herself a shake and looked at Joe. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to distract you from your answer. What do you want to be known for?”

“A baker of really good biscuits wouldn’t be a bad start,” Joe said, “Try the jam, it’s from the strawberries I grow out back.”

Gina dutifully spread some of the ruby red jam on her biscuit and bit into it. She closed her eyes and sighed.

“Heaven,” she said, “So what else can you do?”

“I make most of my own food from scratch,” Joe said, “It isn’t like I don’t have time to give what I’m doing my full attention.” He bit into his own biscuit and sighed.

“That sounds like good advice. My dad used to tell me something similar.”

“Sounds like he’s a smart fellow.”

“He is, but he lives on the other side of the country now and I don’t see him much.”

“Don’t have time?”

“He’s pretty busy too,” Gina said, “He’s always off golfing with his buddies.”

Joe just looked at her.

“All my friends are my age. They are just happy not to have their parents telling them how to live their lives anymore.”

“Yes, that is a weakness of the elderly.”

“Not just the old,” Gina said, “You wouldn’t believe how many times my girlfriend tries to tell me what to do with my life.”

“Is her advice good?”

Gina laughed, “Heck no, she’s into relationships like an alcoholic is into beer.”

“Right, so it’s about the effect not the taste.” Joe took another bite of his biscuit. “So you put up with bad advice from your friend, but not good advice from your father?”

“Just because he’s older doesn’t mean the advice is better.”

“True.” Joe got up and opened the fridge, pulled out a tiny block of cheese and brought it back to the table. He carefully cut a slice. “Try this.”

Gina took the tiny sliver of cheese from him and popped into her mouth. Joe watched as something close to ecstasy passed across her face.

“What is that?” Gina whispered.

“That is a ten year old cheddar,” Joe said and passed her another sliver. “Some things, like cheese and whisky improve with age. If you have the patience and the knowledge to enjoy the difference.”

“And you’re saying that people are one of those things.”

“Some people, in the right conditions,” Joe said and cut himself a sliver of cheese. “I guess what I want is to keep improving with age.”

Gina looked at him and smiled.

“I think I could say the same thing.”

“It’s no easier at my age.” Joe cut her another slice of the cheese.

“But you manage.”

“I hope so.”

Gina pushed the stop button on the recorder. She looked at the blank pad that sat in front of her and picked up the pencil.

“You offered to teach me how to make these biscuits, how about you give me the recipe, then you can teach me how to make it work.”

“Only if you promise to make some for your dad and….”

“And?”

“Come back to visit me.” Joe looked at her, his heart thumping with nerves. He didn’t want to be disappointed again.

“I think I can promise you that,” Gina said.

Joe grinned, “I’m feeling a hundred years younger now.” He went to the cupboards and began pulling out bowls and ingredients. “The trick to good biscuits is in how you mix them…”

Finding Pooky

Trains are full of stories, some of them on the noir side.


Five hundred dark miles until we arrived at our next stop. People were already settling in with blankets and cushions. Some of them even planned on sleeping.

I walked the cars checking tickets before they got too involved. The sleeper cars were next. I tapped on the door and a hand would show me the appropriate number of tickets, except for Cabin 31. It was flung open by an old man who made a move toward where his pockets would have been had he been wearing pants.

“Where are my pants?” he asked. An old woman paused in her undressing to reach under a pile of clothes on the floor and hand him the tickets. I checked them and closed the door.

There are certain things that are not meant for mortal eyes to see.

That was one of them.

I finished my walk and sat at my desk in the closet they call the “Conductor’s Office” I hadn’t been there five minutes when a woman flung the door open.

“You the conductor?”

“Yes’m”

“I’ve lost Pooky”

“Pooky?”

“Yes, she’s about eight pounds and wearing the cutest pink sweater.”

I looked at the woman again, taking in the once carefully coiffed hair, the expensive suit. the even more expensive implants. I made a bet with myself.

“She’s a toy poodle,” I said.

“Of course.”

I owed myself about a million dollars. This was the biggest part of my job. Passengers were always losing things on the train; purses, wallets, their virginity. Most things I could find, some not.

“Where did you last see her?”

“I left her with a man and his daughter in coach. He was wearing a black leather vest. I needed to get off at the last stop.” She sniffled a little. “I broke a nail, and I just couldn’t find my manicure kit.”

“I see.” I send her back to her seat and headed for the dining car. A bit of cheese goes a long way to befriending vicious little dogs. Then I was off to coach.

I found the big man in the leather vest making serious inroads on a bottle of something cheap and alcoholic. When I interrupted him he came off the seat at me. I pushed him back into it. He lunged again. I put my finger on his forehead and pushed him back. As he gathered himself for a third try I asked him a question.

“Do you know how fast this train is going?”

“Why should I care?”

“Because it has a lot to do with how painful it will be when I throw you off the train.”

“What do you want?”

“A woman left her poodle with you, she would like it back.”

“That vicious little critter chewed my vest. I sent my daughter to take it back.”

“When was that?”

“How should I know? It was before we left the station.”

“Where is she now?” He just shrugged.

“She is your daughter.”

“Only until I get her to her mother’s. She’s fourteen and can take care of herself.”

I took away the bottle and deposited in the garbage before I looked for the kid.

She sat in the dining car holding a torn shirt with one hand and a coke with the other. I sat down across from her.

“Everyone else was doing it,” she said, “He didn’t like it when I changed my mind.”

“What does he look like?”

“I left him in a fetal position, moaning.”

“Good girl,” She burst into tears, so I offered my handkerchief and waited.

“Aren’t you going to lecture me or something?”

“No.”

“Then why are you here?”

“I am looking for the poodle.”

“Pooky? Didn’t they get her back to her owner?”

“Who’s they?”

“An old couple. They acted like kids in love. You know, holding hands, bumping against each other. It was kind of cute. They were in cabin….” She paused in thought.

“Thirty-one,” I said and she nodded.

“Thanks,” I stood up, “You stay here as long as you need.”

“The waiter told me I had to order something to sit here.”

“Usually you do, but tonight is different. If you do want something, just ask. It’s on the house.”

I waved a signal at Frankie and he came over. I left her ordering enough to feed an army.

Back at cabin thirty-one I could hear high pitched barking mixed with other sounds. I knocked on the door and a moment later the old timer flung the door open.

“You’ve come for Pooky,” he said as he deftly caught the small dog that was leaping and snapping at him. “She’s a nice dog, but I’m too old for a threesome.” He handed me the dog and I let Pooky smell the cheese in my hand. She quieted.

“We are running away from our kids,” he said, “They are going to be so angry.” He winked and closed the door. The kid was right. It was kind of cute.

Pooky’s mistress was delighted to see her so I took myself back to my closet.

“Another victory,” I said to the picture of my wife. Twenty years ago she had vanished from this very train. I never found her. I’m still looking, but some things can’t be found.

I turned and watched the darkness pass outside.

Against the Oaks of Bashan – Guest post by Julia Starling

Against the Oaks of Bashan cover

The best way to rule a populace is from behind the scenes. Let people think they control their opinions and actions, and you can lead them anywhere.

So believes Professor Litvac, who dreams of engineering the “perfect consumer”, creating a populace living a life of mediocrity, anxiety, and malleable opinions. And in the turbulent political climate of 1970s Buenos Aires, he’s got plenty of opportunity to experiment. Any young adults who disappear are assumed to be the victims of ongoing political unrest.

Trapped in one of Litvac’s torture camps are Lucas and Vera Freund. Brilliant scientists, the Freunds hold the key to Litvac’s success, but they’re not talking. With the backing of a powerful Catholic sect, Litvac puts a plan in motion that will transcend generations. He’ll have what he wants–no matter the cost.


 

Who are you and how did you start writing?

I am a medical doctor and psychotherapist, born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

I started my career as a med student in Buenos Aires, and then moved to England to complete my studies. After acing the US Medical Licensing Exams (99th percentile in all of them), I interviewed for Psychiatry programs in the US and decided that the field was not for me—not here in the US. So I went back to school, after moving to California, and completed another degree to become a licensed psychotherapist in the States.

After a forced sabbatical (for health reasons), I began to write more intensely. ‘Against the Oaks of Bashan’ came after a year of soul searching.

How did you come up with the concept of your story? 

People are living a fast-paced life nowadays, a life that does not let them stop to think what they truly want to do with their lives, to ponder over existential issues, to chose their own path rather than following what everybody else is doing.

It looks like the norm is to go for as much distraction as possible, blindly following collective opinions, with no time to think for our selves—until one day we just die.

How did you come up with the title?

It is an Old Testament allusion about the idea of God severely punishing all that is extraordinary and “lifted up”. The Oaks of Bashan, mentioned in the sermon in the first chapter of the book, were the most beautiful oaks of the ancient world of the Old Testament. The Christian church and all Abrahamic traditions routinely emphasize the need to be cautious of anything extraordinary and keep our heads low, promoting mediocrity and punishing independence, freedom of thought and those who are brave enough to stand up and shine, be their own person.

A mediocre herd that is suspicious of intelligence and anything extraordinary is a perfect malleable group, ready to absorb the values and ideas that the elites in power want them to profess and live by.

Please provide some insight into or a secret or two about your story.

Why is it that the door of a secret vault in a New Mexico scientific institute can only be opened by Frances Fons, a young Argentine scientist born 9 months after the vault was last opened?

If you reflect on this question while you read the novel, you’ll be ahead in understanding the clues that lead to the shocking and juicy end.

What was the most surprising part of writing this book?

My natural literary style drifted seamlessly toward a psychological thriller that has elements of science fiction. I always assumed that my first novel would be a heady soliloquy of memoirs and reflections—but, instead, I created an exciting, thrilling, rather dark story packed with action scenes and suspense. I surprised myself along the way.

What was the hardest part of writing your book, and how did you overcome it?

The editing process: chopping the manuscript from almost 80,000 words to the current 68,000. I just spent seven consecutive days, from morning to night, focused and slashing. It was sad to see some great literary elements and poetical excerpts go…but very necessary to keep the plot focused, smooth and moving along.

 

Given unlimited resources, what would be your ideal writing environment? 

Exactly where I am right now: a north-facing studio with huge windows and direct views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, with only a typewriter and my painting materials around. I paint as a way of inspiration. The cover art in my book is my artwork.

When I am done with the first draft, I move to an office with a computer and do the rest. It’s a great balance.

Name one entity that you feel supported your writing, outside of family members. 

Nobody. But then again, I did not look for help outside family and friends. My husband, an artist, has been an incredible source of support. And many friends have provided me with feedback and encouragement.

What is your advice to writers?

Base your stories and character development on what you know. And don’t get too distracted with what others are doing. This is your voice and your creation—don’t let anyone bully you into conforming to their norms. Protect your uniqueness.

If you met Stephen King on an elevator, how would pitch your book to him?

In all honesty, in that situation I would keep quiet and not approach him. I am not good at soliciting contacts because of my personality. I don’t like depending on favors to achieve my goals. I like my work to speak for itself. It’s a harder, lonelier, and sometimes gruesome path. But I’d rather walk it alone than grovel over any famous person that I meet in order to get something out of it.

 

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Julia Starling is a medical doctor and psychotherapist. Born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, she spent five years in the UK finishing her clinical studies and then moved to California to complete her psychotherapy training. She currently lives in northern New Mexico with her husband Alex.

Guest Blog by Simone Salmon author of Camille and the Bears of Beisa-Drafnel

One of the things that I’m working on in the next while is to bring more authors and unique stories to my author page. There is a world full of very talented and fascinating people out there. My goal is to introduce you to a few. The first is Simone Salmon with a book that looks like a very good read. I have it on my list and it will be reviewed in the not too distant future on Celticfrogreviews.com

Drafnel-1

Drafnel-2

 

Years of deception and suppressed trauma do not prevent secrets from unraveling when
parallel worlds clash, intertwining families and exposing hidden agendas.  An unwanted romance mirrored in an alternate universe has devastating consequences for an unsuspecting young woman and a mysterious stranger.

“There is a vast literary intellect behind Camille and The Bears of Beisa – Drafnel, and it belongs to author Simone Salmon. The language is transfixing, bewitching, erupting into that realm between an epic poem of breakneck pace, and the clarity and rigor of an after-action report meant only for a general’s eyes. 

This story operates in many rich dimensions. It reads like a graphic novel, but without need of illustrations, as the events explode like fireworks in the mind’s eye. What an amazing piece of writing!”

Robert Blake Whitehill, Screenwriter, Author
The Ben Blackshaw Series,
www.RobertBlakeWhitehill.com

Here’s what the critics are saying about Drafnel:

“The structure and some of the themes of the book reminded me of the movie The Fountain, which I adored. This idea of the same person persisting in different forms across time and space, mostly through the power of deep emotional connection to other people, really connected the two pieces in my mind.”

“Salmon’s use of folktales and specific stories to build out the structure of this unfamiliar world, and to link it back to Camille’s story, was a brilliant narrative device.”

“Drafnel is Dune-like in the grandiose sweep of its worldbuilding. The sci-fi universe Salmon creates, Narvina, with its eight ruling clans and ornate power structures was intriguing. It was also refreshing to read a great space opera like this where the people in charge are people of color, and where the universe is a matriarchy.”

BR Sanders, Clatter and Clank

“The scene’s describing Catherine’s sojourn in Jamaica are the strongest section(s) of the book…”

“The writing in this section is very contemporary and accurately reflects the self-confidence of young urban women who feel they’re on the cusp of great things and fully in control of their personal destinies.”

“…a bit of writing that stays with you a long time.”

Merrill Chapman, Rule-Set

Excerpt 1

Narvina, Nu-century 2055 

Aknanka clamps down with all her might. Her teeth tear into Sephia’s wrinkled skin, digging for chunks of flesh. They only grind against bone. A fist smashes into her cheek, jerking her head sideways. Sephia yanks her hand away right before Aknanka chomps down again. Blood gushes everywhere.

“I’m not going anywhere with you!” Aknanka’s scream rages through the interior, punching a small dent into the door. It slams shut.

Any experimenting she needs to conduct today will be done right here. And without blindfolds. The metal restraints chafe Aknanka’s wrists as she wriggles around for freedom.

“Stop fighting, Dreamer. You make this harder than it has to be.”

“Bet you’ll think before trying that again, oh Wise One!” Aknanka’s aim is accurate. Bloody sputum soils the middle of Sephia’s tunic.

A med-bot enters the room and stitches the bandages over Sephia’s wound. The pale Elder clenches her fists. Her eyes blaze to match the blood staining the floor. The med-bot’s front panel flashes, absorbing the charge from Sephia’s quelled anger. Sparks bounce across the overloaded circuits. The bot spins over to the sealed porthole and then powers down.

“These gene markers will soon confirm our suspicions, Dreamer.” Sephia’s shoulders stiffen, tugging at the hood to expose her protruding frontal lobe. Her white skull magnifies in the dimness. Her lips never move.

Na-mum Camille warned Aknanka that the Elders would spare no sympathy once they discover her true kinsatah. She followed every painstaking instruction: the implants are undetectable, even from their host.

Book Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Of3lw5XxmKM

Author Bio:

Drafnel-3Simone Salmon, a Jamaican born New Yorker, is the mother of two sons and a jack Russell terrier.

Simone is still working on her exit strategy from Corporate America, but in the meantime she writes novels, poetry and expands her multisensory perceptions.

She is a spiritual truth seeker who appreciates psychic phenomena and timelessness.

Music of all kinds, warm weather, lounging on the beach, and experiencing the unknown are just a few of her most favorite things.

Excerpt 2

Jamaica, 20th Century

The food on display and the brilliant dyes of the hand-loomed textiles hanging at the market made me homesick. The marketplace crowded with vendors selling varied crafts and wares. The frenzied pitch of the hagglers echoed under the tin roofs. Voluptuous women wearing multi-colored wraps balanced huge straw baskets on cornbraided heads, while children darted through stalls with jaws stuffed of toffee candy or juggled melting snow cones with syrup-stained hands. Fruits ripening in the heat sweetened the layer of jerk pork and chicken charring over coals inside huge metal drums.

At first Miss Mattie kept me close, but as the market became more crowded her clenched fingers slackened. I searched the aisles, worried about returning home empty-handed. Failing to find any spices, I started making my way back to Miss Mattie and then noticed a young woman with a basket tucked between her knees. Loose braids stuck out from under her head scarf. Kind hazel eyes invited me forward. Curious, I bent over to check out the samples. The woman pulled me closer and stuffed a piece of cloth into my waistband.

“A gift from the Goling family, Miss. Put it in safe-keeping. This has been my honor.”

Miss Mattie swooped in at my heels in a matter of seconds. She sniffed the air several times and shoved me away from the vendor’s stall. We left thirty minutes later, my impatience to unwrap the cloth’s contents shielded.

Unpacking the supplies, I started dinner. Then, while the meal simmered, I sneaked to my room and pulled out the puffed packet. Wrapped inside were five cinnamon sticks. My smile must have been a mile wide. I decided to add them to my hideaway after Miss Mattie left for church that Sunday.

As my guardian angel instructed, I wrapped a small piece under the ribbon tied around my braid. I noticed Miss Mattie’s immediate reaction. Her harsh tone gentled and she even allowed me to eat with her at the dining table. A welcomed change, my nerves were still on guard, unsure of how long Miss Mattie’s tolerance would last. Against my better judgment, I decided to ask about Caleb and Cassandra.

“Miss Mattie, do you think I can visit with my sister and brother sometime soon?”

Growling, Miss Mattie cocked her head and then swung around to face the door. Her eyes rolled back into their sockets. Her head snapped back as she sniffed the air.

“Why are you sitting at this table?”

I warned you, Grandmother. Leave the table now!

Miss Mattie’s neck protruded as her limbs extended. Fingers mutated into claws and hind legs ripped through her lower extremities. Wiry tufts of hair sprouted all over her body. Her face contorted and elongated as saliva slimed down enlarged jowls. My hand stifled the scream roaring through my head.

Get up and walk away slowly. Do not turn your back on it. Now!

Social Media Links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/drafnel

Twitter: @miraclemindcoac

Blog: Origisims

Website: www.ssalmonauthor.com

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/simsalmon/

Preorder Links:

Amazon: http://getbook.at/ssalmon-drafnel
Bookgoodies: http://bookgoodies.com/a/B013TAU6AG