Saturday, July 28, 2012

Free Read Friday

The Promise Tree  -   Chapter One 

            “I told you, I’m not interested in the job. I’m sorry, but you’ll have to find someone else.” Wynn Colton hung up the outdated beige wall-mounted phone and poured a cup of coffee. He opened the back door, stood on the porch of the old farmhouse and stared at the willow tree hanging low near the creek in the distance. Steam plumed from the coffee mug as he lifted it to his mouth, clouding his view.
            Inside, the phone jangled again. Wynn took a sip of the hot drink and set the mug on the warped windowsill. He strode down the steps and through the field. When he reached the willow tree, he split the veil of hanging branches with the back of his hand and stepped inside the blue green cave. It rained the previous night, and the swollen creek gurgled along its banks. Shards of sunshine cut through the leaves, dancing around Wynn’s feet.
            His eyes followed the trunk to the base of a low branch. A wooden box hung at an angle, one supporting nail loosened by time and the elements. Wynn reached up and flipped open the lid, remembering the day he had constructed the receptacle. He undid the plastic bag inside and removed a few strips of paper, discolored by time and wrinkled from moisture. The ink had faded, but he knew by heart the messages they bore.
            Opening the first one, he read: I wish I could go to Vermont with the ski club. I promise I’ll do my chores from now on. A smile tugged at his mouth. It seemed so simple once. Make a wish and make a promise—and your wish would come true. They didn’t all come true, and even then he knew they wouldn’t. Now he understood that wishes rarely came true, and promises could not always be kept.
            He unfolded another yellowed slip of paper. I wish my breasts would start to grow. I promise not to let a boy touch them, not even Wynn, until I’m married.
            A laugh rumbled deep inside him as he recalled the day Trudi McNeil wrote this and then flushed bright red when he jerked it from her hand to read it. Suddenly, he was twelve years old again and towering over a petite, barefoot Trudi. Her eyes flashed in anger, like dark blue storm clouds, as she jumped to retrieve the note from his fingers. From that day on, he would catch himself covertly staring at Trudi’s chest, measuring her progress.
            He stuffed the papers back into the plastic and secured the box lid. Trudi. The memory made him smile. He hadn’t seen her in, what, six or seven years now? Her daughters must be grown and on their own. His fingers examined the rough tree bark. The promise tree. He and Trudi had given the tree its name the day Trudi caught Wynn sitting beneath its branches and smoking a stolen cigarette. He was ten years old, she was nine. He made her promise not to tell. She laughed and teased, asking, “What will you give me if I don’t tell?”
            He pulled a smooth stone, speckled with glittering bits of coal like black diamonds, from his pocket and held it out to her. He considered the stone to be his lucky charm. Trudi lifted it from his open palm and smiled, tore a piece of paper from the diary she carried and scrawled a note, handing it to him: I wish Wynn wouldn’t smoke. I promise not to tell if he promises to quit. She took the paper, folded it into quarters, and stuffed it into a small niche in the tree trunk. And the promise tree was born.
            Wynn made the box later that week in his father’s workshop and, together, he and Trudi nailed it into place using long roofing nails. It had been Trudi’s idea to line it with a plastic bag to protect their promises. That was Trudi—protective.
            He let his fingers rest on the box for a moment before turning and heading back toward the house. A jeep sat in the drive, and Mayor Tom Gallagher occupied the cane rocker on the porch, his fingers playing on the brim of a felt Stetson hat.
            “Tom. What brings you out here with your hat in your hand?” Wynn stopped and closed his eyes. “Let me guess. You’ve been sent to convince me to run the hospital.”
            “You always were so damned smart, Wynn. That’s why you got out of this shithole town and the rest of us are still here.”
            Wynn sat on the top step and leaned back against a support post. “But I wasn’t smart enough to stay away, was I?”
            “Maybe you’re back here for a reason, some greater plan. Ever think of that?”
            Wynn grinned. “When did you become a philosopher? I’m only here to handle the sale of this house for my dad.”
            Tom leaned forward, resting his forearms on his thighs, his ample abdomen providing an obstacle to the move. “We need you, Wynn. The hospital’s hanging on by a thread. We’ve had four doctors in five years. They all get better offers, or find a greener pasture somewhere else. You’re one of us. This is your home.”
            Wynn rose and stepped up onto the porch, opening the screen door. “You want a beer or a glass of tea?”
            “No, thanks. I have a town council meeting in twenty minutes. What I need is for you to say you’ll give us at least a year at the hospital, see if you can turn things around.”
            “I’m a doctor, not a miracle worker.”
            The mayor nodded. “I’ve done my homework. The internet doesn’t keep secrets. You’re a well-respected surgeon in the medical community. With you in charge, we could attract other talent, maybe get some funding to keep the hospital running.”
            Shaking his head, Wynn laughed. “I’m not nearly as famous outside of this town as you and a lot of other people seem to think. I can’t help you, Tom. I’m not staying here long.”
            Tom took his time standing and descending the rickety wooden steps. He gazed across the field dotted by wildflowers to the brightly painted McNeil house. “You ever hear from Trudi?”
            “Nope. Why should I?”
            Tom shrugged. “Just wondered. There was a time you two were quite an item. Surprised everyone when you each married other people.”
            “Ancient history. We were kids.” Wynn’s glance swept to the white clapboard house, settling back on his old high school classmate. “Are we done here? I have a leaky sink to repair. Got to get this place ready to sell.”
            “You know where to find me if you change your mind.” Tom waddled more than walked to the jeep and hefted his body inside. He waved and backed the vehicle from the driveway.       
            Wynn’s gaze drifted back to the McNeil house once more. He should at least stop by and pay a courtesy visit to Mrs. McNeil. He’d heard she was in ill health since her husband died last year. He took in a deep breath and returned to the kitchen to face the dripping pipe beneath the timeworn aluminum sink.
            He was used to working with his hands, but in a much more delicate manner in which his movements dictated life or death. Tightening the pipe wrench, he gave a hard twist and the pipe gave way. Water splattered onto his face, leaving him sputtering. “Dammit.” He lifted his head and connected with the pipe. Pain shot across his forehead. “Shit!” He slid his body out of the narrow space and felt his wounded head, but his fingers came away clean. He hadn’t broken the skin. He would have a goose egg.
            When he was a teenager, he’d been too busy with football to learn basic household repair skills from his father. He felt so damned helpless as he peered back under the sink at the separated pipe. He had two choices—buy a ‘how to’ book and figure it out for himself, or call in a professional. How many times had he reminded his patients that he was the professional who could best determine their medical needs? And what was he trying to prove, anyway, by undertaking the repairs to get the old farmhouse ready for sale? Swallowing his pride and taking his own advice, he crossed the kitchen and picked up the phone book.
            He dialed the number for the first listing—A-1 Plumbing. Someone would be there the following morning, he was told. He was instructed not to run water in that sink in the meantime. Wynn looked at the phone with disgust. “I figured that much out myself.”
            He hung up, feeling badly about taking his frustration out on the plumber. He should save his frustrations at least until he got the bill.
            Wynn opened the back door and stepped out onto the stoop. He drew in a lungful of fresh air and relished in the quiet. In the weeks since he returned to his family home, he found it a challenge to adjust to the stillness. Not that he missed the sounds of traffic, honking horns, shouting motorists, and the smell of buses belching diesel. But the absolute stillness unsettled him. Perhaps because he had nothing to drown out his memories, or to give him the false perception that he was not alone.
            It was ludicrous for him to even consider returning to Paxton Corners permanently. He’d worked hard to get to where he was—Chief of Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. He was forty-eight years old and realized his life’s dream. That should count for something. It should. He waited, but the emptiness inside matched the stillness around him. The realization that he had nothing to look forward to sent a chill through his six-foot frame and he shuddered.
            He stepped into the afternoon sun and headed toward the creek. If he didn’t move, he might freeze on the spot like Lot’s wife turned to a pillar of salt. As he walked through the tall grass, he worked at convincing himself these feelings were nothing more than normal grief over preparing his family homestead for sale. He endured too much change, too many losses these past few years. Once the dust settled again and he was back in Pittsburgh, he would be fine. That’s what he told himself. But he had taken enough courses in psychology to recognize bullshit when it hit him in the face.

# # #

To read more about Wynn and to meet Trudi when they are reunited thirty years after they went their separate ways, get your copy of The Promise Tree at Wings ePress,, or B&

Friday, July 27, 2012

Coming Attractions

I've set up a blog schedule through December and I have some exciting authors and excerpts coming your way.

Beginning Friday, August 3 and running monthly will be the Character Interview where an author's favorite character will be featured in an in-depth interview. Characters engage us in their stories, so be sure to stop by and meet some engaging characters and the authors who brought them to life.

Friday, August 17, I will continue to feature other authors in my Author Spotlight blog, so check in monthly to meet some new authors and add to your favorite author and to-be-read list.

I'll also be offering Free Read Fridays beginning August 10 when I'll post the first chapter of one of my books as a free read. Enjoy the first chapter and get to meet one of my own (hopefully) engaging characters. (Then go and buy the book!)

Of course, that leaves at least one vacant Friday a month and you'll just have to visit to see what's happening that day. It could be a book review, a special announcement, a contest... Who knows?

You can join this blog (check column to right) and stay informed of what's happening. Be sure to tell your friends.

If you're an author and want to participate in the Author Spotlight or Character Interview in 2013, just shoot me an email.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

This month I'm pleased to feature a writing duo in the Spotlight. Please welcome the writing team of Cathy Coburn and Duaine Neill.

1. Please tell us a little about yourselves.

C: I came from the small town of Lakeside, on the outskirts of San Diego, CA. I now reside in Phoenix, AZ. Though I love the desert, I miss the ocean, I miss everything about it. I love just looking out to sea, mostly from the balcony of a cruise ship. I love scuba diving, or just sitting in the sand. So why do I live in Arizona? Now . . . I’m not sure, I’ll have to get back to you on that.

D: I too grew up in San Diego. My wife and I both grew up at the beach and our love for it almost always takes us on vacation to the beach. We live in Phoenix, AZ now along with our boy and another to come at the end of this year.

2. Every author I’ve met has their own unique story of how they found their way into writing. What path led you to become a writing team?

C: Somehow I think I was always meant to write, although I was detoured into the direction of wildlife artist, I was never really fulfilled. I was painting pictures I saw, not creating something from my own imagination. In writing fiction, you make up whopping big lies and try to convince others that it happened just that way. Then teaming with my son who is a gifted liar, well that just made since.

D: Not sure why my Mom keeps calling me a liar! I am just a really good story teller. I do like to make up stories and tell them to people as if they were real, (mostly her). My gift of story telling and my vivid dreams are why I started writing. We have always work together on projects in the past, and she has a crazy imagination like mine, so it only made sense to bring both of our creative minds together to write some great books.

C: At least I referred to you a gifted liar this time and not just a whopping big liar as before. But really Duaine, you answered your own question and I quote, “I do like to make up stories and tell them to people as if they were real, (mostly her)” I rest my case.

3. What are the advantages and the challenges of writing as a team?

C: The advantages are vast. First would be less of a chance for writers block. Another would be to feed off each others enthusiasm. Finding the time to get together to write in a world that doesn’t slow down, is the biggest challenge. We would both like to be able to someday do just our writing, as we both love it so much.

D: The advantage of writing together is that we both have our own view of every part of every story, sometime 2 totally different story line or sometime similar, so you pick the best one for that part of the story and run with it to make a better story. The challenge is just like she said finding time to write together.
4. What aspect of the writing process do you enjoy the most? What part of the process do you dread?

C: I love when I’m completely lost in a story, when my characters take on their own personalities and I start to look at them as invisible friends. I both dread and love the editing process. Although it’s tedious I love the development of making my writing flow. Maybe if I just did it right the first time it would be less tedious. But as the writer I tend to read what I think I wrote instead of what I’ve really written. So it takes a fresh pair of eyes to see the mistakes. Thank goodness for editors.

D: I am a big movie buff. So I enjoy writing the story and seeing where it is going to end up, it’s like a movie playing in my head. The most dreadful part is the long drawn out process of getting it published and on the market.

5. Are you a plotter or a pantser in terms of your writing style? Or, do you each have a different style (which would make things very interesting).

C: That’s a tough question. Are normal people usually one or the other? I find that I am equally both. I write by the seat of my pants, going in what ever direction my brain takes me in, then I plot to be sure it all makes sense.

D: We are both not really normal when it comes to story telling "or life lol." I think we both plot out a basic story line, but always if something better comes to mind make the changes needed to make for a better story.

C: To tell you a little about our book I’ll give you one of our five star reviews to say it all:

If you like suspense, mystery, intrigue, and genuine romance, AFTER THE MIST is the book for you. Add the legend of the Bermuda Triangle and you get an unforgettable literary roller coaster ride of well-plotted reading enjoyment. The characters are finely drawn, especially Maggie, with her fiery personality and Luke, the heinous villain. The tension is on-going, just when you think you're about to catch your breath, the authors throw another curve. We can't wait for another book from this new literary duo.

D: After the mist is a story that has a little bit of everything to appeal to almost all readers.

7. What can readers expect in the coming months? What are you working on now?

C: My latest book is called, When the Dam Breaks, a Philological Thriller, about a cold blooded killer, add more than a touch of insanity, and you’ll know it was meant to scare the crap out of you. I just signed contracts, it releases in March. Our next book together is book two in the Mist series we hope to be finished by the end of this month.

D: We are currently working on 2 more books in the Mist series and possible a forth on Luke the Beginning.

8. What interview question have you never been asked that you’re dying to answer? Answer it.

C: What is my favorite comfort food? Answer: Dried fruit. Finally . . . I got that off my chest, Thanks.

D: Funny. My answer to her question would be ice cream. We get asked a lot of off the wall questions that we love giving off the wall answers to.

9. Where can you be found on the web? (web site, blogs, social network links)


Thank you so much for having us here today Linda and for all the support you’ve given us and many like us. You’re the best.

Thanks so much to both of you for an interesting and entertaining interview!

You can get your copy of After the Mist at Champagne Books.