Thursday, October 27, 2016

Toad, Part 1 -- A Short Story by Betsy Ashton

Most of you know that I tend to write about serious, even dark, themes. In my Mad Max series I explore traumatic brain injuries, racism, pastoral abuse, murder, and others. Yes, I like to kill people, as I did with great abandon in my upcoming Eyes Without A Face, about a female serial killer.

So, to show a different side of me, in my next three posts I'll share a short story about a little boy named Toad.

Toad lay in his bed while the world woke up around him. He heard his dad drive his pickup through the gate to travel the twenty miles up the highway to his job selling appliances at Montgomery Ward. His mother wrestled his eight-year-old brother into her truck. Jimmy howled because he had to get up early, because he had to stay all day with his mother at the doctor’s office where she worked in town, and most of all because he had to walk next door to the dentist for his annual teeth cleaning. Toad lay still until his brother’s bellowing faded away with the sound of the truck engine. He hadn’t heard the clang of the chain link gate shut behind her, so he knew his mother had left the gate open. Again.

She harped on him to lock the gate, but at least twice a week she ran late and skipped the task, making her the worst offender in the family. Even if he didn’t know the rules, he would always lock the gate to keep his dog safe.

On his first day living in the trailer compound, even before he unpacked his boxes of clothes, books and writing tablets, his grandfather gathered the family together to talk about rattlesnakes.

“They like to sun themselves near our steps.” He pointed to several places where he’d seen rattlers. “There, there and there.”

Jimmy’s eyes grew round as a hubcap. “Gee!”

“Never get close to one, because they strike faster than you can imagine.”

“I can outrun anything.” At eight, Jimmy had infinite faith in his ability to get away from danger.

Their grandfather laughed and ruffled Jimmy’s hair. He showed the family how to use the forked sticks he’d hung on hooks beside each exit, where he kept the machetes nearby and how to pin the snake to the ground before chopping off its head.

“Now, don’t get near the mouth. The fangs are still full of poison even after the snake is dead.”

“I want a rattle.” Jimmy’s eyes glowed with love for his grandfather.

The old man reached up to a shelf near the steps and handed dried rattles to each of the boys.

“Wow!” Toad breathed.                                                                                                         

“Yippee!” Jimmy shouted.


I can’t believe my good luck. I have the whole day to myself.

For once, he wasn’t in charge of his younger brother. At ten, Toad’s parents said he was responsible enough to be left at the trailer compound, with or without his brother.

Jimmy’s okay, but he’s a scaredy cat and a tattletale.

Today, Toad had privacy. He wanted to explore, go out to a forbidden place. Something wondrous had entered his world, and he had, just had, to know what it was.

Today I’m going further west than ever, out where the spaceship landed.

For more than a week, new loud noises carried across the open desert from the higher plateau beyond the dry wash. White trails filled the sky. It had to be a spaceship.

“What else could it be?” Toad muttered. He wondered if the white trails were a sign that spacemen were building a landing spot or a city nearby. “I bet they’re bringing supplies from a huge ship hiding in the shadow of the moon.” Could a smaller ship have already landed? Was it burying itself under the sand? It could be a scouting ship with spacemen who wanted to see if we are friendly.


He had tried to tell his parents about this stupendous event.

“Hey, Dad. I think a spaceship landed out in the desert,” he said one night at dinner.

Jimmy squealed and leaped out of his chair. “Let’s go find it.”

His father’s long arm stopped him in mid leap. “Sit.” He took a long swallow from his beer can. 

“What’s this nonsense about a spaceship?”

Toad told him about the strange noises coming from the west. He hadn’t see it land, but the animals were behaving oddly. “I’m positive it’s a spaceship.”

His father laughed. “You have quite an imagination, young man.”

“Yeah,” said Jimmy. “You make stuff up all the time.” If he couldn’t search for the spaceship, he could try stealing Toad’s thunder. Toad made up his mind that Jimmy would never meet the spacemen.

“Maybe you should become a writer,” his mother said.

“But I want to learn to fly,” Toad said.

“Ha,” said his father

Let them eat their words. I’ll find the spaceship. They’ll be sorry when I become famous.


Toad bounded out to where his German Shepherd waited. He filled his dish with kibble and put down fresh water before he trotted across the barren ground between living area and gate. After just a few weeks, he no longer found it odd that he lived in a three-trailer compound in the middle of the desert instead of a suburb outside a mid-sized city.

He scampered across the platform between his trailer and his parents’ and pushed through the screen door into the kitchen where he found a bowl of cereal waiting for milk.

“Oh boy, Rice Krispies.”

“It’s a good day for you to find the spaceship,” said Snap, Crackle and Pop.

A quick swipe at this teeth, and he was ready for his big adventure. He stuffed a peanut butter sandwich his mom had left for his lunch in his pants pocket, fastened his canteen to his belt and left the trailer. He checked for snakes before stepping off the platform into the dirt surrounding his home.
He had already killed his first snake, much to Jimmy’s dismay. The younger boy wanted, no needed, to kill his own snake and keep the rattle in his pocket.

“That’s not fair. You should have let me kill the snake.” Jimmy whined.

“You went to town with Mom to swim. I couldn’t let the snake get away.” Used as he was to Jimmy’s always feeling like a younger brother and therefore inferior, Toad promised the next snake was his brother’s, if his brother was at home.

###To Be Continued on November 17.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

I'm still having fun at this --

I wasn't sure if I would or not, but I have a new book out and it feels as much fun as it did 10 years ago when I started on this crazy journey.

This is one of my Remembered Classics books, where I take a story we all know (in this case, The Hound of the Baskervilles) and I tweak it a bit to fit my plot.

A bit? How about a lot? I have A.C. Doyle, a female college professor and Ike Adler, her fellow professor (and romantic interest). I have Jay Watson, Acie's mother, I have a dog named Conan, a hound named Moriarty and a murder -- or two.

Anyway, it's all good fun and I forgot how much I enjoyed talking about writing and the writing process. It's good to have these releases now and then to remind me, I guess.

So here's Dogged, which combines academe, fashion models, and murder .... all in good fun.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016


Let's welcome Maureen L. Bonatch to the Roses!

Some days I just think about giving up on my writing dream. Now, don’t get me wrong, I could never stop writing. That’s just crazy talk. Most writers know that once stories are in your blood, you have to purge them or else risk going a little crazy. 

I’m talking about everything else that comes along with striving for that dream. You know, everything most authors don’t realize until they’ve already drank the Kool-Aid. Things like the giant promotion machine that you must transform into if you don’t want your book to fissile into oblivion except for a few devoted friends and family. Then the developing side effects of either having your laptop grow into a cyber-extension of yourself or risk drowning in emails.  

But I have another reason why I just can’t stop pursuing my dream no matter how tired I get of treading water. Two reasons, actually—my twin daughters. They both have always enjoyed writing stories, and one appears to have been bitten by the writing bug already. In the last year I’ve seen her devotion to the prose growing. You see, she has a dream of being an author. Sound familiar?  

Except when I was growing up all I heard was, “Get a job that pays the bills,” and “Writing isn’t a real job.” So I did just that. Until I returned to my true passion a handful of years ago. But what if I someone had shown me that writing could be a career? That this passion is worthy of the blood, sweat and tears devoted to it? Someone who understood the joy of getting the words on the page?

 In a craft that one continues to nurture over a lifetime I can only imagine that my writing would be even better if I’d started to hone it at the young age of fifteen. I hadn’t realized by pushing myself to follow my passion and dreams that I was acting as a role model.  

Psst…don’t tell my daughter, but I’ve snagged a snippet of the start of one of Yasmine’s stories to share. Hey, I’m a Mom—I have to brag a little.  


“So, there’s no way to lift this curse?” I ask, I wasn’t exactly keen on collecting souls or whatever I was supposed to do for the rest of my life.

The dark haired boy gives me a look of pity, and I know that there is no cure for the curse. This is my worst nightmare. All I wanted was a simple quiet life where I could just float through invisibly without attracting any attention, but now apparently I have to return to my job of reaping souls. Why is it fair that I have to continue the work of my past self?


It brings me such joy to see my daughter writing her own stories, and more so because I think even without my “mom-googles” she’s pretty good. So I won’t give up. In fact, I’ll continue to actively pursue my writing—while I toss out a life jacket to keep another dream afloat.  

About the Author: 

Maureen is published in paranormal romance and fantasy in the beautiful state of Pennsylvania. Her stories boast laughter, light suspense and magic. She loves sharing her love of uncovering the extraordinary in the ordinary world—and making people smile. Visit her website, or follow her on Facebook and Twitter. Maureen is also a Freelance Writer. View her writing portfolio on Contently.

Monday, October 24, 2016

A Roadtrip Saga by Brenda Whiteside

Riding in the car, on the way to Colorado, and realized the date...I should be checking comments for a post I didn't post. But I can explain. This has been one of those hell weeks.

On Wednesday, the 19th, my husband and I went to Prescott (2 1/2 hour drive) with the purpose of picking up my now fixed laptop from Best Buy then on to the storage facility to retrieve our yard sale items stored from the summer. We were bound for Phoenix to a four family yard sale. But when we tried to leave Best Buy, the truck wouldn't go into reverse. After pushing it out of the parking space, we headed to Aamco only to find out that yes, the transmission was broken, but that we had to have it fixed by the dealer in Phoenix where we had it fixed last time.

We finally got to the storage, spent the night in Prescott, and headed to the valley the next morning...making sure to not put ourselves in any position that required backing up. They were not sure we could get it fixed by Saturday. I did my panic act. We were supposed to leave for Colorado on Sunday to help son and family move to Arizona. And the days were time sensitive as my daughter in law has a must have medical treatment on the 28th.

Shortening this whole saga: the yard sale came off and we broke even on the hotel room, the truck got fixed but son and DIL decided we should not put all those miles on our truck and they rented us a car. We couldn't get the car until Monday morning so we lost a day. Now, we're on our way.

In the hubbub, I forgot about the blog. How about a short travel log? After leaving picturesque Flagstaff, Arizona, we are now close to the New Mexico border. The land is fairly flat with a few scrub brush and ugly billboards. There are a few mesas ahead, streaked with red and tan. Gallup, New Mexico is the next largest town.

Seven more hours of driving, a sleep, a day of packing and loading, and we'll be turning around to head back to Arizona. Tired? Yes. Looking forward to my own bed next week? Yes. But I am sooo glad they are moving back!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Tradition Continues by Margo Hoornstra

It’s been quite a month here at the Roses of Prose. A few Roses enjoyed new releases, or gave back list titles new life. Some of us ventured out to present at conferences, sell and sign our books. One even ditched her publisher in favor of rediscovering her joy in writing. We are an active group, us Roses of Prose. In keeping with that tradition, I’m pleased to announce the acceptance, by The Wild Rose Press, of the newly titled On the Surface from the Brothers in Blue series, four heroes who met at the police academy and became life-long friends. The dropout, the straight arrow, the movie star and the maverick, all share a passion to serve and protect each in their own unique way.

Here’s an introduction to the drop out. Once a cop, now a bounty hunter, he starts out seeking vengeance only to discover love.

Brad Collins rolled the old half-ton Bridges for Hire pickup to a stop in front of the sorry looking bed and breakfast then immediately questioned the wisdom of using small town handyman as his cover. He had so hoped to keep this fugitive recovery operation simple. Not take on what looked to be the biggest remodel job in northern Michigan history. Those buddies of his from the department would have a field day with what he’d gotten himself into this time.

White, two-story with a wrap-around porch was how the lady on the phone described the colonial. As the engine rumbled, he shook his head. She failed to mention the place was as run down as its owner had to be. Judging from the sound of her voice, the old girl was battle weary and bone tired.
Make it that much easier to gain her confidence.

Palm raised to rub the back of his neck, he sloughed off an unproductive pang of guilt. Couldn’t be helped, there was no turning back now. He had his own job to do here at the Rest Easy Bed and Breakfast. Letting out a breath, he jammed his left foot down to set the parking brake. Even if knowing he was about to con a defenseless old woman left a bad taste in his mouth. Good thing he’d be out of here once he got a line on the whereabouts of Jenny Reynolds’ scum of the earth boyfriend.

Close a chapter in my life that’s been open for far too long.

So there he is, finally home in more ways than one…with deepest appreciation to fellow Rose and my new editor Alicia Dean.
My days to blog here are the 11th and 23rd. For more about me and my stories, please visit my WEBSITE

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Road "Tripping" by Leah St. James

Last week, my hubby and I took a long-weekend road trip from our home in Southeastern Virginia. Early last Thursday morning, we headed due west, then up Interstate 81 through Virginia’s Blue Ridge mountains to Northeastern Pennsylvania, then turned southeast to Central Jersey. From there we headed due south down the Atlantic Coast and along the Eastern Shore back home. The purpose of the trip was twofold:  To visit his family’s grave site (he’s one of those “grave” guys who feels closest to his loved ones who have passed at their graves), and to get some good food.

Fall Foliage, Elmhurst, PA - October

Now, let me qualify that last statement. We’re blessed in the food department, and we know it. Not only do we live in America, where there’s a grocery store or “super” market nearly on every corner, shelves stuffed and stocked to the brim (at least in most populated areas), but we are gainfully employed so can afford to buy some of that food. (We don’t eat fancy, but we don’t go hungry either. We are truly blessed.)

But there’s quantity, and then there’s quality.

The South is known for many things – hospitality, for one, and in the food department, great ham and biscuits. But for native Northeasterners, raised on mouth-watering breads and cheeses, the Southern versions of those staples just don’t cut it on our food-o-meters.

So we were really looking forward to stuffing our stomachs with our favorite pizza (pepperoni from Vince the Pizza Prince in Scranton, Pa.), good real diner food (New Monmouth Diner in Middletown, NJ) and bagels (Hole Lot of Bagels, Middletown, NJ). We even took a big cooler and filled it with pizza and bagels to take home. (Oh, yum.)


But while we’ve been all nostalgic about the food, there was one biggie we forgot about living in the northeast—TRAFFIC and NORTHERN DRIVERS.

When we first left for warmer climes about nine years ago, we knew ourselves to be “Jersey Drivers.” It's driving for survival in the areas of dense population. Gaps in the traffic flow? Fill them...quickly! See an open parking space? Grab it; you may never find another. Be quick. Be decisive. And for God’s sake, don’t stop at a yellow light or you’ll find yourself up close and personal with the driver behind you, and it won’t be pleasant.

We weren't sure we'd ever get used to the slowness of the south. Then somehow, their ways crept into our everyday driving behavior. We found ourselves slowing down...a bit. (Let’s not get crazy here.) We don’t like long lines of traffic, but at least we know our fellow drivers will, for the most part, be polite and considerate. We won’t find people waving middle digits at us or honking horns if we need to merge. They’ll actually make room for us! (It’s amazing.)

The bad part about that is when you have to head back north and drive among the natives again...holy shhhh—I mean, Sugar-Honey-Iced-Tea!

Within 10 miles of crossing the Jersey line, a pickup with a trailer raced up the left lane that was ending, running us onto the shoulder of the freaking highway going 70 MPH. The next day, as we were driving down the main drag in town (a four-lane state highway), a car flashed us as it cut across from our left to get to the far right to exit--crossing four lanes! (We weren’t dragging either. We were right up to traffic!) I hit my imaginary break so hard, I almost sprained my ankle! The next morning going to breakfast, we were cut off by no less than three cars within a space of half a mile.

We wondered if our fellow drivers saw our Virginia plates and thought we were easy pickings. Ha! What they don’t know is that my hubby is a wanna-be NASCAR driver! He’s got nerves of steel when he’s driving, and it took him no time at all to get back into the swing of things. (Picture me clutching the car's “oh-crap” bar with one hand, covering my eyes with the other, and him saying, “What’s wrong with you?”)

An 18-wheeler that was a bit too close for comfort.

All I know is I don’t remember the traffic being this bad when we lived there. I don’t know if it has become worse, or we’ve just acclimated to the South. Or maybe it’s just that we have aged over these nine years. Whatever, as much as I hate to say it, I was not sad to leave that part of Jersey life behind when we pulled out of the hotel at 0-dark-thirty to head home!

Next time I get a hankering for some of that food, I’ll see if they ship. Or better yet, maybe Amazon will carry it by then. :-)


Leah writes stories of mystery and romance, good and evil and the power of love. Usually some anecdote about Jersey life makes it into her stories. Once a Jersey girl, always a Jersey girl. Learn more at

Friday, October 21, 2016

What happened to Indian Summer? by Barbara Edwards

From my porch
The last few days have been a wonderful break in the Fall weather. I enjoyed the chance to catch up on yard work and cleaning my garden.

To my surprise, none of the weather channels mentioned that we were enjoying Indian Summer. You remember. It always followed a killing frost. The warm days and nights lasted from a day or two to weeks. The weathermen spent hours asking why we’re having such nice days instead of saying enjoy. There seemed to be some effort to connect Indian Summer with global warming although this phenomenon has been around for as long as there have been people to notice.

It got the name Indian Summer from the tribes taking advantage of the weather to continue gathering and hunting to fill their stores of food.

I guess this is another high-jacking of words to twist them into something that needs redefining, like a burglary of a residence is now a home invasion. 
What other changes have your noticed? Besides the uni-version of him and her?

Since we’re fast approaching the holidays, I wanted to share one of my short holiday romances.

Journey of the Magi by Barbara Edwards

Blurb: Widow Noel Martin never breaks promises, and she promised her kids they'd have Christmas at her childhood home in Connecticut. But driving across country takes money. Noel is broke when a snowstorm blows them into a tiny Minnesota cafe owned by a man who can change her mind. She accepts his offer of a job. Despite her attraction to him, she makes it clear she is only temporary help.
Dan Longstreet isn't adopting any more strays, but he needs a waitress. Dan works so hard to make his cafe a success, he doesn't have time for love. Though Noel's slender blonde beauty stuns him and her two adorable children tug at his heart, he denies how they threaten to change his life.
When tragedy strikes, their new-found love is the first victim. Noel can't stay and Dan can't leave. Will their journey be the gift that reunites them? 

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