2012, where art thou?

December 27th, 2011 by Heather Marie Adkins

What a crazy year.

First and foremost, let’s not forget that this year was my first year as a published author.  A wild, unruly ride that has been!  What did I accomplish?

  • June 2011 – Published “Underneath” and “The Temple”
  • July 2011 – Published “The House” and “Abigail”
  • August 2011 -  Unpublished “The House” (currently still in rewrites).  Flash fiction piece “It Finally Happens…” published in the “Pink Snowbunnies in Hell” anthology by Deborah Geary.
  • September 2011 – Published “Cause & Effect” and “Constant State of Disaster”
  • October 2011 – Short story “Magickal Vendetta” published in the Eclective’s first anthology, “The Halloween Collection”.
  • November 2011 – Short story “The Darkest Night” published in the Eclective’s second anthology, “The Holiday Collection”.  Autobiographical piece published in the Indie Chicks anthology by Cheryl Shireman.  I also broke 100 sales in a single month on my novels for the very first time.
  • December 2011 – First YA novel, “Heaven Below”, was finished and sent to editor.  Tentative publishing was set for this month, but is now extended to January.  Also hoping to approve my print copies of Temple/Abigail/CSOD and have them on sale by the end of the month.

So, I published 6 books (though I took one down), and I was featured in 4 anthologies.  10 books.  Not half-bad for a Newbie :)

I also spent much of the fall brushing up on my grammar and perfecting my formatting techniques.  I’m very proud of my abilities in both areas.

I’ve made some pretty kick-ass friends in the writing world.  Of course, the top ones are my Eclective peeps!  Julia, Talia, Lizzy, Shea, PJ, Alan, Ed, and Jack. I also have become pretty close to the indie author whose blog convinced me to self-publish — Cheryl Shireman.  Other than that, I’ve built some pretty solid relationships with many of my formatting clients (such as the talented and kind Sheila Horgan), as well as people I’ve worked closely with on various things such as Athanasios Galanis and Christine DeMaio-Rice.

On the home front, it was a rough second-half of the year, starting with Keegan’s death this summer.  It set off a bout of bad luck and depression that seemed to mimic the waning of the sun.

I’m just ready for the new year to begin so I can go in with fresh eyes and a fresh heart.  Andrew and I are in the beginning stages of saving for a new house, which is a big change we’ve both needed for a long time.

I’m beginning to work out a plan for 2012, writing-wise.  There will be much more promotional efforts to get my name out there, as well as more books released.  I’m excited to see what the new year will bring :)

Ahem.  I will also try to get back on schedule with having real blog posts and about interesting things…

Happy New Year, Yo.

 

 

Posted in Lifely Updates | 3 Comments »

The Darkest Night Pt. 4

December 21st, 2011 by Heather Marie Adkins

part one is here

part two is here

part three is here

(of course, the whole story is in the Eclective’s Holiday Collection, featuring authors Shea MacLeod, Julia Crane, Lizzy Ford, Alan Nayes, Talia Jager, PJ Jones, M. Edward McNally, and Jack Wallen.  And me.  for 99 cents!)

This is the last section of the story.  Let me know what you think!

***

“I have no idea,” Sarah told me, flipping through the pages of the album. “I mean, this guy—” she paused, planting a finger to a handsome man with wavy blonde hair— “He kinda looks familiar. But I don’t know these people.”

“Hmm.” I leaned forward to get a better look at the man. He must have been a son of the couple, because he looked like his daddy.

Sarah shrugged, closing the album gently. “No one has lived in that cottage for like twenty years. Since the fire.”

“Is there a way to find out who did live there?”

Sarah tapped a finger to her chin, thoughtful. “The library?”

* * *

The roads were still bad, but I pushed on anyway, taking my time as I navigated down the cliffside asphalt and back into Waterford. Sarah was certainly organized—her driving directions, in neat block letters on notebook paper in my passenger seat, got me from her front door to the library in less than twenty minutes.

The library was housed in an old, converted chapel on Main Street. It was white and small, with a tall steeple. As I pulled into a parking space on the street, the bells housed beneath the shutters of the steeple were ringing three o’clock.

I was met at the door by a smiling teen with the wildest head of red curls I had ever seen. She chirped, “Good afternoon! How may I help you?”

“I was interested in property records. Does the library keep any such thing?”

“Sure,” she answered, popping her chewing gum. She pointed to my left. “Go visit the help desk back in the corner. Nolia can help you.”

I thanked the girl and squeaked in my wet boots in the direction she pointed.

Like most good libraries, this one was silent as a tomb. And very empty. I passed a couple of teen girls hunched over books at a table in the corner, and an older gentleman in a business suit perusing the “Law” aisle. Other than that, no one else until I reached the help desk.

Nolia was an older woman with a long gray braid tossed over one shoulder and thick Harry Potter-type glasses. She was waif-like and tall with pale skin and a vaguely British accent. “Hello, dear. How may I help?”

“Property records. I’m trying to find out who lived in my house before me.”

“Ah.” She stood, gesturing for me to follow with her long fingers. “Just moved to town, did you? I’ve not seen you before.”

“Yes, I’m new here.” I sincerely hoped she wasn’t about to try and draw my life story from me. I’d had plenty of that lately, thank you.

“Wonderful. I hope you enjoy Waterford. It’s a great little town.” She led me to a computer at the end of a dim tunnel of books, where she sat and clicked the mouse. A search screen appeared.

“What is the address?”

Shit. “I have no idea, I’m sorry. I didn’t even think to ask.”

One of her thin eyebrows arched. “You don’t know your own address?”

I laughed, wrapping my hands around the ends of my scarf. “That does sound weird. I’ve just moved into the old caretaker’s cottage on the grounds of Mayor Koenig’s home.”

“I didn’t know there was a cottage near their home,” Nolia said, her fingers moving swiftly over the keyboard. “I’ll run a search for their physical address and see what we come up with.”

In the ensuing silence, I figured I should try for polite. “I’m Mena, by the way.”

She glanced up with a brief smile before going back to the computer. The screen reflected on her glasses. “It’s nice to meet you, Mena. I’m Nolia, if you hadn’t already seen.” She chuckled, tapping her nametag.

More silence. I should really learn how to do small talk.

“Oh! Look, I found it,” Nolia said, sounding surprised. “It was built in 1852 by an Edward Koenig. It says it was leased to a Melvin Coomer.”

“Who was the most recent inhabitant?”

Nolia scanned the computer screen, the mouse clicking as she scrolled down. Her eyes widened. “Well, I’ll be darned. Margaret Hopper.”

I wrinkled my nose. “Who?”

She turned in her seat, chuckling. “She opened the Diner about thirty years ago. That place has withstood the test of time.”

I thought of the photo album, sitting innocuously on my backseat, and the night I stopped at that very same Diner—and met Sarah. Who gave me my home…and Margaret’s photo album.

“Thank you, Nolia. Where does Margaret live now, do you know?”

“Oh, dear.” Nolia frowned, touching my hand where it rested on the back of her seat. “Margaret has been living in Waterford Plums for several years now.”

“Waterford Plums?”

“It’s a nursing home. Margaret has Alzheimer’s.”

* * *

On the drive over, I couldn’t help but marvel at the serendipity.

As a witch, I worship balance in the universe. For every light, there is dark; for every opposite, there is a reaction. There is no such thing as a coincidence in my world, and I was certain that Margaret Hopper and I had been joined for a reason.

Waterford Plums was much nicer than the nursing home where my Granny had lived out the last of her years—before Alzheimer’s took her. I was buzzed into a bright, clean lobby where patrons of all shapes and sizes were crowded on soft, poofy couches watching Oprah reruns with wide eyes.

I walked to the reception desk and gave the nurse my best smile. “Hi. I’m here to see Margaret Hopper?”

“Name?” Her bored tone bothered me. She didn’t even look up from the book she was reading—something with a suspiciously Fabio-looking character and a blonde with her ta-tas half hanging out on the cover.

“Mena McGinty. I’m not actually family. I think I may have something of hers.” I lifted the top of my satchel and extracted the bulky album, dropping it to the gray counter. Dust arose from it, and the nurse raised an eyebrow.

“Sign in,” she said, sliding a clipboard over to me. The pen was connected with a piece of yarn and duct tape.

Really? Brand new furniture and crystal chandeliers, and they use duct tape?

I signed my name as the nurse wrote me up a nametag. I took off my coat, and obediently slapped the sticker on my red-plaid flannel shirt.

“Just so you know, Margaret may not comprehend anything you say, Miss McGinty.”

I nodded, hefting the album into my arms and tucking it against my chest. “I understand.”

“Room 215. Take the elevator around the corner.” And she went back to her steamy romance novel.

I found Margaret snoozing in front of her television. An incredibly loud and obnoxious episode of Friends was playing. It was one of those cult sitcoms that I never could get into. The only TV I ever watched was because of my husband, so I didn’t have that great of a relationship with it to begin with.

I hit the volume control and turned the show down, then sat in a chair beside Margaret’s snazzy pink wheelchair, wondering what the Hades I was supposed to do. I would feel like a total ass if I woke her up.

Margaret was much older than I expected. She was small and round, with pure white hair and a wrinkled face reminiscent of a bulldog. I couldn’t tell if she was the woman in the pictures or not. It’s funny how age can change a person.

Her head dipped continually down, her chin coming to rest on her chest. She would snore once, and jerk her head up. The cycle continued a good five minutes. I had finally leaned down to shove the album in my bag and leave, when she opened her eyes.

We caught each other’s gaze. She looked vacant… Nobody home. But then, something happened. Like a completely different person took over. Her face smoothed and her eyes lit up. “Hello! Should I know you?”

I shook my head, putting the album back on my knees. “No ma’am, you shouldn’t. But I think I have something of yours.”

Her eyes flicked to the album and back to my face. “Yes?”

“Mrs. Hopper, did you ever live in a small cottage on the Koenig family’s land?” I kept eye contact with her, willing her mind to focus. To remember.

“Well, of course! My Walter and I moved into that quaint little house after our youngest married. We rented.”

I smiled. I was looking at the woman in the pictures. It was kind of neat. “I’m living there now. I found this album in an old trunk and tracked you down.”

She lifted her hands from her lap as I passed the book over to her. I hoped it wasn’t too heavy for her knees.

Her gnarled hands brushed across the black leather, then opened the cover. When the tears began to roll down the crevices of her face, I felt a little choked myself.

“It’s been so long,” she murmured, touching the wedding photo. “That’s my Walter. He died in ‘85, not too long after the Koenig’s property burnt and we had to move.”

“I’m so sorry, Mrs. Hopper.”

The old lady laughed as she turned another page. “My Jason. He’s a soldier, stationed in Germany right now. Him and his wife have given me five grandkids. He’s my youngest.”

“You have a beautiful family,” I said softly, touching the back of her hand. Her skin felt so thin and soft.

“Thank you, dear. What was your name again?”

“Mena.”

“Mena. So pretty.” She closed the album and lifted her teary eyes to mine. “Tell me, Mena, why you have that bruise on your face.”

My heart pounded. What was it with these people? I was in the north. I left the south to get away from the busybodies.

“Was it a man, Mena?”

I looked away, pretending fascination with the fake palm plant in the corner. “Yes.”

Margaret leaned forward in her chair, one hand resting on a lifetime’s worth of memories and the other landing on my knee. “Mena, life is sometimes truly, truly unfair. Good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people.”

Her fingers moved from my hand to my cheek, touching the bruise gently. “There is no rhyme or reason to why things happen, but always remember—She loves you. She only wants the best for you. And if she brought you to Waterford from whatever southern state that cute accent hails from…” She paused, patting my cheek. “Then, darling girl, it was for a reason. And she brought you to me for a reason.”

I wiped the tears from my face, the tension so tight in my chest I wanted to throw something. Instead, I clutched my satchel and tried not to sob.

“You’ve made this old woman happy, girl,” she went on. She spread her hands over the album. “I may not have much time left in this world, Mena, but now, well, that’s alright. You’ve given me something to hold on to.”

Then I was really crying. Messy, loud crying that was probably scaring the other patients of the home. Margaret was rubbing my back soothingly, whispering nonsensical words. She let me sob… and sob. I kept it up until there just wasn’t anything left.

Silence stretched in the room.

“Mena, you are home,” Margaret said, her eyes faraway as I sat up, wiping my face on my sleeves. “She told me so.”

“Margaret, when you say She …”

The old lady winked at me. “Blessed be, Sister.”

* * *

As I parked the car in the Koenig’s driveway, Sarah appeared at the front door and waved at me.

I opened the door, waving back as I stepped from the car. “Hey!’

“Mena! You have a phone call.”

The only person who knew where I was staying was my mother, so I assumed it was her. I followed Sarah into the house.

“Did you find the album’s owner?” she asked me, leading me into the den.

I smiled. “Yeah. I’ll tell you about it after I talk to my mom.”

“I don’t think it’s your mom,” Sarah said, surprised. “She sounds really young.”

Frowning, I lifted the receiver. “Hello?”

“Mena? This is Officer Melissa Thomas.”

My heart dropped. It was my husband’s parole officer.

“Mena? I got this number from your mother, I hope that’s alright.”

I took a shaky breath and braced myself for the worst. My voice came out stronger than I felt. “Am I in trouble?”

Her laugh tinkled across the line. “No, Mena, you’re not in trouble. You hit him pretty good though, huh?”

I couldn’t help the smile. “Yeah. I did.”

“He spent a couple days in the hospital being observed. A concussion.” She chuckled. “A cast-iron skillet?”

“He’s lucky I didn’t kill him.”

“I know.” All laughter was gone as the officer sobered. “That is a great segue into why I’m calling, Mena.”

I didn’t respond.

“Tyler was recently arrested on murder charges.”

“Oh.” My skin broke out in goosebumps. “Anyone I know?”

“I don’t think so. It looks like a drug deal gone bad. There was a busload of witnesses—literally. Broad daylight. And of course, he can’t afford a lawyer so the state is providing him one that isn’t quite so great. The chances don’t look good for him.”

“Good for me?”

“Yes, Mena. Good for you. Not to jump the gun, but he is probably going away for a long, long time.”

The weight that had rested on my shoulders for the last month—no, the last three years—was magically gone. No transition. Just…gone.

Officer Thomas went on. “I would suggest you hire yourself a lawyer and get those divorce papers drawn up.”

It took me a couple seconds to realize she had spoken again, but when I did, I nodded. “Yes. Yes, I’ll do that. Thank you for calling.”

“Believe me, Mena, it was my pleasure.” She paused. “You take care now, you hear?”

“I will.”

Sarah was still standing in the doorway, her hands clasped in front of her. “Was that about your husband?”

I nodded, replacing the receiver. “He’s been arrested for murder.”

“Oh my God, Mena!” Sarah rushed to me and wrapped her long arms around me. “Are you okay? So, he’s going away?”

I nodded, pressing my face into her hair. “He’s going away.”

For the second time that day, I burst into tears.

I was making up for lost time.

* * *

There was a cat waiting at my back door when I got home.

He was a mess. His long fur was matted to his skinny body; I was positive he was supposed to be white but he was so covered in dirt it was impossible to tell. As I walked up the pathway in the dim evening light, he meowed pitifully.

“Well, hello,” I said softly, pausing several feet from the door as our eyes met. I didn’t want to scare him away.

He meowed again, sauntering down the path as if he owned the place, and started rubbing his little body on my boots.

I laughed, walking forward, and ignored him. If he wanted me, he’d follow me.

And he did. He let me shave him after I walked to the main house and borrowed an electric razor from Larson. We then had a very ugly bath in the kitchen sink, accompanied by yowling so horrendous you’d think I was killing him.

But the end product was…well, sad but, for the moment, clean.

As I had this thought, sitting on my couch with the oil lamp lit and a cat I had named Solstice purring on my lap, I realized that was me, too.

Sad. But clean. The negativity that had rested on me for so long had been scrubbed away—first, by my encounter with Margaret Hopper, fellow Goddess-worshipping witch, and then by the phone call from Officer Thomas.

Solstice turned sleepy yellow eyes to me, his purr reverberating through my body.

The old grandfather clock in the corner chimed 7:30 p.m. It was sundown on December 21st… the Winter Solstice had begun.

I ran my hand over my new pet’s shaved body. The longest night of the year stretched before us…

But the darkest night of my life was behind me.

***

Mena McGinty is the protagonist of my upcoming Hedgewitch mystery series.

The first book, “Mother of All”, is set for a late January release!

The second book, “The Energy Within”, is tentatively set for release in March.

Blessed be, reader.  Have a merry Solstice, and I hope the light returns swiftly for you and yours.

Posted in Lifely Updates | 2 Comments »

The Darkest Night Pt. 3

December 19th, 2011 by Heather Marie Adkins

part one here

part two here

***

“I was going to take a walk in about an hour,” Sarah told me as we were cleaning up.

I rinsed my mug and placed it on the top rack of the dishwasher. “Oh?”

“Would you care to join me? I wanted to run out and check on Barbary, my horse.”

“I’m not big on horses,” I answered truthfully. When I was eight, I was thrown from a horse at my cousin Mickey’s 14th birthday party. It was one of those milestones that managed to scar me for life.

“You sure you don’t want some fresh air? You can stay outside the barn while I just run in and out…”

Her pout convinced me that a walk was essential to my very existence. The woman could pull a mean pout.

* * *

 

“How did I let you talk me into this?” I asked, shivering under my long wool coat. My snow boots were sinking into two feet of snow. It felt like I was wading through water, especially since we were moving steadily uphill.

Sarah giggled. Her nose and cheeks had turned pink in the frigid breeze. She looked like a tiny Nordic elf. I had to be a good 6 inches taller than her. “A walk is good for you.”

“Until it gives you pneumonia.” I chuckled.

There was supposedly a path beneath our feet, but if it was there, it was cleverly disguised as an expanse of unbroken snow beneath a canopy of trees. We had only been walking for about five minutes after leaving the barn—where Barbary was snorting peacefully—and I was already cold enough to wish myself back into the guest bedroom.

I was trying not to think of what I was going to do when the roads were cleared and I had to leave.

Sarah chatted about how nice it was to have someone to talk to as we took a sharp corner through the trees. I hummed noncommittally, and drew short as we found ourselves in a small clearing.

Rising from the center was a small stone cottage.

I couldn’t stop the sudden intake of breath, and my heart skipped a few beats.

The structure was perfectly symmetrical: a small blue door, flanked by two windows with matching, closed shutters. The roof was metal and rose in an A-shape above the house. The only thing it was missing was a garden.

“Are you okay?” Sarah asked, putting a gloved hand on my shoulder. “Mena?”

I shook my head. “I’m sorry. It’s just…”

“What?”

I grinned. “It looks like it fell straight from my dreams.”

“The cottage?” She smiled, dropping her hand to grasp mine. “Come on, I’ll show you the inside.”

The door opened right up—not locked. She led me inside a small, dark foyer. The hall walls pressed close on both sides, marking a straight line to a door at the end. I could vaguely make out an open archway in either wall, presumably leading into rooms of the cottage.

“This is the old caretaker’s cottage from the previous house,” Sarah told me, gesturing for me to follow. “The Koenig family has owned this land for eons, but the house we live in now isn’t the original, obviously. It was built about twenty years ago when the first house burned down.”

“What a terrible loss for your family.”

“Oh no,” Sarah said, shaking her head. She pushed through the door at the end of the hallway; it swung on squeaky hinges. “No one was living there at the time. Larson’s dad had passed away and his mom just couldn’t stand the thought of staying in their home alone. She bought a condo down in town. That’s where Larson and his brother grew up. His uncle built the current house in hopes Larson would move in when he was old enough. The two lived together for a long time.”

We entered a small kitchen that was just as dim as the hallway. Sarah walked to the sink and reached above it, shoving at the window.

“Where is he now? Larson’s uncle?”

The window finally gave beneath her hands and slid up. She pushed a palm against the shutters and they flew open, illuminating the kitchen. Sarah shot me a sad smile. “He died the year Larson and I met. I only got to know him for a short time. A wonderful man. He really loved Larson and Aaron.”

“Aaron?”

“Larson’s brother.”

The kitchen was quaint and perfect. The floors were stone and the cabinets made of pale ash wood. The basin sink had an old-fashioned pump handle, and the stove was an old wood-burner.

The silence dragged on as Sarah leaned against the counter and stared at me. She finally spoke. “What are you running from, Mena?”

I had to think about it. What was I running from? And did I really want to tell her?

I liked her. I liked Sarah. She was kind and good and she deserved to know what kind of person she had taken into her home.

“A past,” I murmured, pulling one of the saggy-bottomed chairs away from the table. I sank into it, clasping my hands on the tabletop and staring at them as if my life depended on how hard I could hold on.

“We all have pasts. Not everyone runs.” She eyed me. “Mena, this cabin is sitting here empty. I usually forget it’s even here, most of the time. I will let you stay here, live here, for as long as you need to get back on your feet. On one condition.”

I nodded for her to go on, my heart dancing.

“Tell me your story, Mena. You have bruises on your face. Plural. And you limp. I can already take a wild guess, but I’d rather you share.”

I rested my chin in my hand, my elbow planted on the dirty tabletop. Outside the kitchen window, small, delicate flakes were beginning to fall, nearly invisible against a backdrop of white, wintry sky.

“I met Tyler three years ago,” I told her, my voice barely loud enough to be heard over the howling of the wind as it picked up. “He was a regular in the coffee shop where I worked. He was the perfect gentleman—yes ma’am, no ma’am. He held doors, took out my trash…” I trailed off, remembering that Tyler—the Tyler with whom I had fallen in love. “It started verbally. Yelling at me for taking too long to get home from work. Screaming when I wanted to go out with my girlfriends. He even stopped telling me when my mom would call.”

Sarah nodded, finally taking the seat beside me. When her soft, warm palm fell over mine, I let it remain there.

“He didn’t start hitting me until he started drinking. He’d go out after work and drink until supper. If things weren’t just right—supper on the table, a willing wife waiting—he’d…get mad.”

I averted my eyes from her, touching my face with the tips of my fingers. “This isn’t even the worse he’s ever done.”

“The limp?”

I nodded. “He was on top of me, hitting me. When he stood, he stomped on my knee with his boot. It tore some tendons. Cracked my kneecap.”

Sarah cringed, her fingers tightening around mine. “Sounds like a real butthole.”

“Yeah.”

“So, what made you finally get up the courage to leave?”

I laughed bitterly. “I don’t know that it was courage, Sarah.”

“Of course it was.”

Her sharp tone took me aback. I continued talking without even thinking about it. “He hit me. And I don’t know why,” I said, pulling my ski cap from my head and running a hand back through my curls. “But it just made me so angry. Instead of being scared, like usual, I just got…pissed.

“I was making dinner. Frying bacon. It was almost done. I hate bacon—I don’t eat meat. But I always had to make it for his stupid ass. And when he hit me, it threw me into the counter next to the stove. Next to where my cast-iron skillet was sizzling.”

Sarah’s eyes were wide, prodding me to go on.

I took a shaky breath. “So, I grabbed the skillet. And I swung.”

She made a little eep sound and one tiny hand fluttered to cover her mouth. “Oh my God, you didn’t, Mena.”

I turned my eyes to the open window. The cold breeze was beginning to overpower the room. What I wouldn’t give for this to be my home; for that wood-burning stove to be mine. I’d pile it full and light it up. The kitchen would be warm in no time. I could use that gorgeous stove in ritual, tossing handfuls of dried herbs into the flames until the entire kitchen smelled divine… It would be my safe-haven.

“So, did it knock him out?” she asked after a minute. Her hand was still on mine. Her fingers were gripping so tight I was losing feeling in my own.

“It did.” I cleared my throat, shifting uncomfortably in the seat. “He was bleeding. While I packed my things.”

“Oh, God. Mena.”

Sliding my hand away from hers, I sat back in my seat. “I know.”

“Do you think…?”

“I don’t know. If he’s…” I couldn’t bring myself to say it. “If he’s alive, he doesn’t have any way of knowing where I am. If he’s…”

Sarah took a deep breath and drummed her fingers on the table. Dust arose from around her hands.

My heart pounded. I was waiting for her to tell me off. To yell at me to get off her property, to get out of her life.

I had maybe killed my husband.

Sarah smiled wanly. “Well. You’re here now. And I don’t care about him, I care about you. You’ll be safe here; Larson and I will take care of you. So, let’s take a walk around this old cottage and open some windows. Air it out. It’s got a new inhabitant.”

I burst into tears.

* * *

Sarah helped me clean the cottage over the course of a couple days. A bit of scrubbing here, sweeping there… For a house that had sat empty for who-knows-how-long, it sure shaped up nicely.

“Do you need anything right now?” Sarah stood beside the back door, buttoning her jacket. The crackle of the fire in the woodstove filled the room, dancing light across her face.

“You’ve already given me enough,” I told her, thinking of my closet full of clothes. I didn’t even want to think about how long it would take me to pay her back. My kitchen was filled with all the extra implements the Koenig’s didn’t need at the big house; my bathroom was stocked from the same. I couldn’t possibly imagine taking anything else from them.

“Alright.” She paused, eyeing me. “Are you going to be okay here by yourself?”

I laughed, giving her a gentle shove towards the door. “I’m going to have to get used to being by myself here, Sarah. Go home. There’s more snow coming, remember?”

She sighed, planting her heels in to the floor. She gazed longingly into the open door of the stove. The fire crackled merrily, as if it sensed her watching. “I’m already sick of snow.”

“It’s only the 20th of December.”

“Don’t remind me!” She swatted my hand away and leaned forward, wrapping me in a hug.

“Thank you. So much,” I said, a lump in my throat so big I could barely speak as I squeezed her tightly.

“I don’t like you being up here without some way to call me,” Sarah murmured into my hair.

“I’ll be fine. Go.”

I watched her disappear into the growing darkness, heading down the bare, back path towards the woods, and the tunnel through the forest that would lead her home.

There were still a couple hours until my usual bedtime, and I was full of energy, despite the long day of manual labor. Blame it on the fact that I was suddenly living in my dream house. I grabbed a book of matches from the silverware drawer and lit my oil lantern. It worked beautifully, lighting up the kitchen like an electric lamp.

I grasped the handle and drug it from the table, carrying it through the swinging door and into the den.

Not a lot had made the drive with me from Kentucky. Then again, I hadn’t really owned much to begin with. Anything that was my husband’s—or bought with my husband’s money—I wanted none of it.

What I did have were important things. A couple duffel bags of clothes now hanging in my closet. A few knick-knacks and stuffed animals from my mom. And a big box of ritual tools.

For three years, I had hidden my faith from Tyler. Why? Fear, maybe, of his reaction if he had ever known. Worry that he would destroy my magickal tools, yes. So my box of ritual items had sat beneath a stack of musty, dirty old blankets in our coat closet until I had packed it in my car and left.

I opened the box in the middle of my living room and breathed a deep sigh of relief when the oil lamp splashed light over items that were dusty but intact. I pulled out my small, black iron cauldron and set it gently on the coffee table. Then came my clay censer, still full of sand and with a holey lid that needed a good cleaning. My athame—a black-handled knife used to cast the circle and call the quarters. A box of wooden matches, a paper bag of small votive candles, and an assortment of glass and clay holders for said candles.

The last thing I pulled from the box was a small baggie that held the last sage bundle I’d made before moving in with my husband.

The herbs were old, but when I opened the bag the scent of sage assailed me. It reminded me of better times; of life before Tyler. I knew now why I never used that last bundle of sage.

It was meant for my cottage.

I struck a match and put it to the tip of the bundle. The leaves crackled to life and heady smoke filled the air. I grabbed the oil lamp—a great stand-in for a candle—and headed for the front door.

Holding the sage between my fingers, I traced the shape of pentacle before the heavy Dutch door. Into the silence of my new home, I murmured, “Goddess bless and protect this home from all negativity.”

Short, sweet, and to the point.

I slowly made my way through the house, using the sage to draw pentacles over every window and doorway, repeating my chant.

The atmosphere had shifted by the time I finished. The heavy emptiness that had suffused the house had been replaced by the smell of sage and an immense feeling of home.

I returned to the living room and smiled at my tools spread across the table. I felt accomplished.

A large window looked out over my snow-covered front yard. I set the lamp down and went to close the curtains: a set of lavender satin panels that Sarah had pulled from a dusty linen closet. That done, I turned and eyed the trunk.

It was the one item of furniture in the house that still held stuff. I didn’t know yet what all stuff was in there, but now was a great time to find out.

Larson’s wire cutters were waiting for me on the small coffee table. I snatched them up and went to kneel before the trunk. It reminded me of a pirate’s treasure chest: wooden sides and golden, metal hinges. Running my hands over the rough surface, I wondered who it had belonged to and what I was going to find inside.

The lock cracked beneath the cutters a lot easier than I was expecting. It only took most of my body weight and a little bit of grunting.

Sliding the padlock from the clasp, I tossed it aside. I moved the lamp closer and opened the lid.

I don’t know what I had been expecting. Maybe a trunk full of clothes or old magazines…

It was a book.

I frowned, reaching in with both hands to pull it out. It wasn’t a book; it was a photo album. And it was heavy.

I sat it beneath the fall of the lamp’s light. The cover cracked beneath my fingers as I opened it, revealing an album full-to-bursting. It was the kind I grew up with—single, stiff pages with a sticky layer for the pictures, covered by a sheet of plastic.

I flipped through slowly. The pictures were old—small, black and white or sepia. As I progressed, they became Polaroids, and then larger color photos.

What I was seeing was a family history from start to finish. The very first photo was a blurry, sepia image of a bride and her groom. She was young and beautiful; he was in military dress with his eyes firmly on her. From there, their life stretched before me. Pregnancy, babies, kids, parties, portraits, everything that the average American family documents over time.

At the end of the album was my cottage. The same bride and groom, though much, much older, stood before a younger, livelier version of my new home.

But after that… Nothing.

Posted in Lifely Updates | 4 Comments »

“The Darkest Night” Part 2

December 17th, 2011 by Heather Marie Adkins

My short story from the Holiday Collection, Part 2.

Read Part 1 HERE

The Darkest Night

I followed the Mayor’s wife out of town. The icy road curved steeply upwards for what felt like miles as I slowly tailed her little sports car.

It wasn’t snowing again—yet. But in between the Christmas songs on the radio, the deejay was giving up to the minute reports on the storm that was blowing in. From the way he was going on, Sarah was a hero for making me get off the road.

The clouds opened to my right, and a full moon peeked through. My heart stuttered as I realized the road we were on hugged a cliff—there was nothing between my car and a sudden drop except a flimsy metal fence.

I slowed, awed by the sight beyond that fence.

The ocean spread into a murky horizon, lit by the light of the moon. The water was choppy and black—a frothing sea of white-caps. How easy would it be to jerk the wheel and let the ocean swallow me? My next life had to be better than this one.

In an instant, the moon was swallowed by the sky and the ocean was gone, taking with it my feeling of helplessness.

Sarah turned down a nearly hidden driveway. A few yards into the trees, she pulled up to a small metal box and her gloved hand extended from her car window. She tapped on the box a few times, her brake lights bright on my windshield, then the lights dimmed and she moved forward.

The trees formed a tunnel over the small driveway. We crept forward, and I punched the radio off so I could listen to the blanket of snow crunch beneath the tires. It was the sound I made when I ate ice cubes. It made me smile.

Sarah’s house appeared at the end of the tunnel, the trees giving way to a vast, open space nestled firmly against the edge of the cliff. Strategic spotlights illuminated the three-story brick home, highlighting the golden shutters and the foot-long icicles hanging from the gabled eves.

I parked behind Sarah’s car and shut off the engine, focusing on a couple of deep breaths in the silence. Grounding and centering during ritual is not nearly as important as doing so when one is on the verge of fainting from overload.

Only when my hostess and her three-inch heeled boots were standing in the snowy driveway did I grab my satchel and step from the car.

She led me up the snow-covered steps, my boots sinking in over my ankles. We were met at the door by a ridiculously handsome, smiling man.

“Who’d you bring home this time, Sare?” he chuckled, stepping back to allow us into the foyer. He winked at me, patting me on the shoulder as he ushered me inside and shut the door. “My wife is good at bringing home not only stray pets, but stray people too.” His chuckle, and the affectionate peck he placed on Sarah’s cheek, showed it was in good humor.

“Larson, this is Mena,” Sarah said, handing over the food bag. She unbuttoned her puffy coat as she told him, “I found her finishing up dinner at the Diner.”

Larson was a big guy—nearly a foot taller than my 5’6” with broad shoulders and a wide smile. He hooked the bag over one flannel-covered arm and shook my hand. “Pleasure to meet you, Mena. Welcome to our home.”

“Mena has just driven in. From Kentucky,” Sarah said, bending down to greet a small white terrier that came streaking into the hallway.

Larson was better than his wife at ignoring the giant blemish on my face. “Oh, yeah? Long drive, that. We were going to sit and eat dinner in front of some bad reality TV, but I bet you’d like a shower and a bed, huh Mena?”

It was only at the thought of a hot bath and a warm bed that exhaustion finally settled over my bones. I was weary. I let my shoulders sag. “That would actually be wonderful.”

Sarah’s eyes were concerned as she placed a small hand on my arm. “Follow me, Mena. I’ll show you to your room.”

* * *

Nothing awoke me. Not the heavy, wailing wind that nearly shook the place from its foundation, nor the banging of the loose shutter from the back of the house—both things were my lullaby as I drifted to sleep. I sank into the cocoon of the featherbed in the Mayor’s guest bedroom and I slept the best sleep I’d had in years.

I awoke to a world of white outside the window. The snow had stopped, but what was left behind was a wonderland. What should have been bushes were mounds of gleaming white; what was a lamp post by the front door was a snowy arm reaching from the depths of the ground. It was beautiful.

I shed Sarah’s soft cotton nightgown and dressed in a clean pair of cargo khakis and a dark blue thermal shirt. I didn’t bother with shoes—where was I going to go? My car had been eaten by the weather.

Sarah and Larson were both seated at the kitchen table with identical mugs of steaming coffee. The latter had one hand on his coffee and the other holding the drooping edge of what must have been yesterday’s newspaper up to the light. Sarah was nestled on the cushions of the bay window surrounding the table, one knee tucked under her chin as she read from a hardback book. She looked like an angel, haloed by the brilliant white that only snow can create.

Both of them glanced up with broad smiles as I walked in. Sarah hopped to her feet, but I waved her off.

“Sit,” I told her. “Just point me in the direction of the mugs and the coffee.”

She chuckled, curling back into her seat. “Over on the island. I’ve already set out a mug for you. There’s cream and sweetener in the two ceramic containers.”

“Did you sleep well, Mena?” Larson asked, returning to his paper.

I pulled the pot from the coffee maker and poured a generous cup. “Yes, I did. Thank you very much.”

They were silent behind me as I stirred in a spoonful of sugar—the real stuff, not the induces-cancer-in-lab-rats stuff—and added a dollop of cream. I carried my mug to the table, taking the end seat across from Larson.

Sarah gestured to the basket in the center of the table. All manner of sweet morning pastries were piled inside. “Help yourself. There are so many flavors in there, you’re bound to like something.”

“Thank you,” I said, encompassing everything in general as I swiped a jellyroll from the top. I gave Sarah a wry grin. “For making me stay here.”

She laughed. “Of course. I couldn’t let you keep going.”

“Where are you headed?” Larson asked, a disembodied voice behind the newspaper.

I stared into the flat surface of my coffee where a tiny, dark Mena stared back. Her eyes looked haunted, her cheeks too thin… Gods, I could even see the bruise in my coffee reflection. That miniature Mena dared me to spill my guts, tell the world—but I just wasn’t sure I was that strong.

“Canada,” I finally answered. When I looked up, Larson had appeared, his face concerned, and Sarah was eyeing me.

“Where in Canada?” she asked. The corner of Larson’s lip quirked.

I crossed my arms over my chest. I hadn’t thought beyond crossing the border. When I was in middle school, I had loved the name of one of the provinces. It was pretty much the only one I knew, so I pulled it out and said, “Saskatchewan.”

Sarah and Larson exchanged amused looks. “That’s on the other side of the continent.”

My shrug was insolent. “Yeah.”

They didn’t dig any farther, thankfully.

 

Posted in Stuff I Write | 3 Comments »

The Darkest Night – From The Eclective’s “Holiday Collection”

December 16th, 2011 by Heather Marie Adkins

It’s December.  For me (this year), it means STRESS.  On top of the full-time job, I’m inundated with formatting jobs.  I just finished a book that will be published (hopefully) before the end of the year.  I’ve not done ANY xmas shopping, and I’m wondering when I’ll find the time…

But, December also means something else.  The Winter Solstice.  It’s obvious the days are getting shorter and the nights are getting longer; it’s darker, later every morning.  While the temps have been banjo-ing like crazy, it still FEELS like the holiday season.  And on December 21st, we’ll descend into our longest night of the year, with the actual time of the Solstice hitting at around 12 am on the 22nd.

The Solstice is an important part of my life.  Why?  Well, if you’re here around the cottage every once in a while, it must be obvious I’m a Witch.  The Winter Solstice is one of the 8 pagan holidays I celebrate; we call it “Yule”.  You know, “Yuletide carols being sung by a choir”?

Yeah, Yule’s pagan, people.

At Yule, we recognize the longest night of the year, but we remind ourselves that the light WILL return and with it, the promise of NEW.  A new year, new opportunities, fresh start.

My short story for the Eclective’s Holiday Collection is about Yule and second chances.  We were hoping that Amazon would put the collection for free for the holidays, but we’ve been unlucky so far.  So, for the next couple of days, I’m going to share my short story here at the Cottage.  It’s rather long (for a short), so I’ll post a section each day until Yule.

The cool part?  The protagonist of this short story is the protagonist of my upcoming Hedgewitch mystery series.  The first novel, “Mother of All”, is due out in January.

Without further ado…

The Darkest Night

by Heather Marie Adkins

A core belief of my spirituality is that what we put out into the world comes back to us threefold—good or bad. One random act of kindness could return a hailstorm of good juju; mugging a person at gunpoint could make you a toad in the next life.

I don’t know what I did to earn the past three years, but it must have been bad. Stabbing-someone-with-a-knife bad. Ripping-fingers-off-to-feed-to-small-animals bad. Something so naughty that I was running full tilt from the negative energy I must have earned because of it.

So there I was, urging my tiny Ford hatchback through the driving snow and trying to see beyond the blanket of white that obscured the street. It wasn’t even the Solstice yet and already winter was brutal. I gripped the steering wheel with both hands and wondered what in the name of Freya had brought me to Maine in December.

Besides the obvious.

Being a tree-hugging, dirt-worshipping, nature-loving Witch doesn’t necessarily keep one from making bad decisions. On the contrary, we’re prone to error as much as the next guy. Maybe even more so, because unlike most of the “Muggles”, we worry about our actions.

That train of thought was not helpful. A shiver snaked up my spine despite the overwhelming heat inside the car. I fiddled with the heater, turning it down a bit, and then glanced in the rearview mirror. Nothing here but us snowflakes. I silently berated myself for being stupid.

I hadn’t been followed.

I needed to get my mind in a better place before I veered down the wrong path. With my eyes glued to the invisible road before me, I searched for the radio controls with one hand. I pressed what I thought felt like the “on” button and was startled by a loud blast of punk rock. My gloved fingers fumbled to turn it down to a trickle. I laughed at myself; at the way my heart was pounding.

I had no idea where I was headed. Just…away. Somewhere northern. I was worried about where I would sleep—where I would live—but I wasn’t worried about money.

There’s something to be said for being frugal while your life is falling down around you.

The warm glow of an establishment was approaching on my right, creeping towards me at a snail’s pace. A large, pulsing red arrow advertised “Diner.” The front of the small building spilled light into the night and the lack of cars in the lot promised obscurity. I drummed my fingers on the steering wheel, pausing in the icy street while I considered my options. Shrugging, I turned in.

The car slid smoothly into a parking spot near the door. I cut the engine and let the keys fall to my lap, before resting my head wearily on the headrest. The wind howled outside, shaking my little car like a toddler with a Tonka. I shivered, reaching for my long, emerald scarf and wrapping it around my neck.

I popped on the dim overhead light and adjusted the rearview mirror so I could see my face. The bruise had only gotten worse in a day’s time. I probed the dark purple spot, wincing as pain shot through my jaw. No amount of concealer could cover up that bad boy.

There was still a yellow tint to the skin under my other eye. It would probably be gone in a day or two, but beneath the dark blue of my eyes it looked green and dirty. I sighed, pushing the mirror back into position a little too forcefully.

Here’s hoping no one’s nosy, I thought, turning the light off. I pulled my funky, sage-colored ski cap with the ear flaps over my wild, dark curls and braced myself.

The walk to the door took an inordinately long time. My knee was killing me: A side-effect of the bone-chilling cold. The doc had told me it would probably never feel right again. Lovely. I pushed against the wind, limping and cursing under my breath as my thick ankle-length skirt wrapped itself in knots around my legs.

When I stepped through the glass door, I breathed a sigh of relief. It was warm and cozy inside. The tinkle of a bell over the door alerted the staff to my presence. The door slamming behind me effectively cut off the moan of the wind.

“Welcome!” A woman with too much make-up and just enough smile bustled around the counter. Her eyes found the bruise but flitted away just as fast. “Are you by yourself, dear?”

“Yes, ma’am.” Thank Goddess.

“Just have a seat anywhere, hon. You want some coffee? You look like you’ve traveled a long way.” She started pouring a mug before she had finished her sentence.

A long way, I thought, briefly closing my eyes as I settled into the seat. I wasn’t sure if her statement meant I simply looked tired…or I looked like I felt.

“Here we go!” she said brightly, setting the steaming mug on the table. She had the most platinum blonde hair I’d ever seen, plastered by enough hairspray and spit to withstand nuclear holocaust. Her name tag said Rita. “There’s cream and sweetener back there against the wall. Are you hungry, hon?”

“Famished,” I answered, realizing it was true. I started peeling off my gloves. “May I have a menu?”

“Of course!”

By the time she came back with one, I’d managed to rid myself of hat, scarf, gloves, and coat. I tucked my fingers into the sleeves of my black sweater, waiting for feeling to return.

“I recommend the meatloaf,” Rita announced, sidling back to the counter. She picked up a rag and started wiping it down; I wasn’t sure if she was just bored or crazy, because the formica was already glistening.

I opened the large tri-fold menu and scanned it. The usual diner offerings: Chicken tenders, BLT, garden salad, and various brunch items. I had a hankering for waffles.

“You ready to order?” Rita was back at my side. I hadn’t even heard her come up. For a woman of her size, she was stealthy.

“Waffles, please. And a side of eggs, over-medium.” I ripped open a pack of cane sugar and tipped it over my coffee.

“You want cheese in the eggs?”

“No, ma’am.”

Rita cocked her head and grinned. “Aren’t you polite? You don’t sound like you’re from around town.”

I recognized a prod when it came. I shrugged. “A little further south.”

She just nodded, shoving her pad and pen in the pocket of her dirty apron. “Alright, dear. I’ll get your food in. It should be out shortly.”

“Thanks, Rita.”

I was rewarded with another big—if baffled—grin and she headed for the kitchen.

Outside the window, it seemed like the snow was letting up. I reached into the pocket of my coat, extracting my old, brassy pocket watch. Just past seven p.m. I didn’t feel like I’d driven for twenty hours.

That feeling did come, though, after I inhaled my food. Even the three cups of coffee couldn’t wake me up. By the time I was full, lethargic and resting my head on the back of the booth, someone else had arrived at the diner.

She was the kind of beauty you rarely see in real life—the kind that requires a daily stylist and make-up artist to achieve the right effect. Her ash-blonde hair peeked from beneath her pale pink taboggan—corkscrew curls that hugged a heart-shaped face. Her blue eyes were much paler than mine; like the deepest part of an iceberg. The red of her lipstick was vivid against her pale skin. Her puffy ski coat made me think of those gargantuan, pastel marshmallows you can buy in bulk at the grocery.

I looked away, pretending the fall of baby flakes outside the window was wondrous, as her eyes settled on me. I didn’t want to talk to anybody. I didn’t want to see anybody… I just wanted to make it to Canada.

What we want isn’t always what we get.

“Are you here alone?” Her voice was as sweet as her child-like face. It sounded like bells ringing.

I looked up, unable to stop the rise of one eyebrow as I nodded.

“Sorry to intrude. I just don’t recognize you and thought I’d introduce myself.” She slid into the seat across from me.

I barely stopped myself from gaping at her. It’s not that I don’t like company, I was just…not in the mood.

“I’m Sarah Koenig.” Her small hand reached across my empty plate, and I reluctantly took it. Her skin was cold. My bitten nails looked like a train wreck next to her perfect, red tips. “My husband is Larson Koenig the Third. Mayor of Waterford.”

“Waterford,” I murmured, pulling my hand back inside the sleeve of my long-sleeved t-shirt where it belonged.

She eyed me quizzically. “Yes, Waterford. The town in which we are currently seated in the only diner…”

“Sorry,” I said. I pushed my plate away, sighing. “It’s been a long day. I couldn’t tell you the last time I actually looked at the highway signs.”

Sarah’s eyes widened. “How could you drive and not pay attention to where you’re going?”

Because I don’t know where I’m going, I thought, averting my eyes. “I was headed in the right general direction.”

“What brings you to Waterford?”

When her icy-blue eyes rested on the monster covering my cheek, I cleared my throat and sat up a little straighter. “I’m headed for Canada.”

“Oh?” She leaned her elbows on the table. “Where are you from?”

Dear Goddess, she was planning on staying in that seat until she sucked every last bit of information out of me.

“Kentucky.”

“Huh. Long way to go, isn’t it?”

Rita came to the table, setting a bag of food in front of Sarah. “Mrs. Koenig, I’ve made sure to put in some of the Mayor’s favorite sauce for the meatloaf. He didn’t ask for it when he called, but I know he loves it. Is there anything else you need?”

“No, Rita, thank you so much.” Sarah’s smile was dazzling; the poor waitress looked star-struck. “Just charge it to Larson’s card, as usual.”

“Absolutely, Mrs. Koenig, thanks so much for coming in.”

Sarah’s eyes flicked back to my face… and the bruise.

“Oh, Rita? Will you put…” She turned to me, eyes wide. “I’m so sorry! I don’t think I caught your name.”

“Mena.”

Sarah nodded. “Rita, will you put Mena’s meal on our account, please?”

“Of course, Mrs. Koenig.” Rita made for the cash register.

“No, no, Rita, don’t do that!” I called, maybe a little too sharply. Turning my eyes to Sarah, I shook my head. “It’s not necessary.”

“Consider it my welcome gift,” Sarah responded, pulling her take-out bag closer so she could dig through it. “So, Mena, please tell me you didn’t drive all the way here from Kentucky without stopping. That’s some drive.”

I shrugged, grabbing my ski cap and mashing it down over my long hair. I didn’t know how to answer her. Telling a complete stranger I was on the run wasn’t on my must-do list.

I had managed to finagle into my jacket and scarf, and was working on the gloves, when Sarah finished checking the contents of her to-go order. She looked at me, pursing her lips. “You aren’t planning on continuing to the border tonight.”

I wasn’t sure if it was a question or not, so I just answered simply: “Yes.”

Sarah sighed, shaking her head and tsking at me. “Well, the town motel is an absolute dump, so why don’t you stay at my house for the night?”

She caught me in the act of sliding from the booth, with the intention of escaping into the cold night. I paused, one hand still pressed to the table. There were crumbs under my palm. “Excuse me?”

Standing gracefully from the booth, she picked up her food. “You can’t keep driving tonight. It may look like that snow is letting up, but unfortunately, we have more coming. So, why don’t you follow me home and I’ll put you up for the night?”

“You don’t even know me,” I murmured, my heart beating fast. When was the last time someone had truly exhibited kindness to me? The last time I saw my mom, probably. Before she ran off to Ireland.

Sarah reached across the empty space between us and touched my bruised cheek. Her fingers were so soft and fleeting, I barely felt them.

“I don’t need to know you, Mena. All I need to know is that you need somewhere to go.”

Trusting one’s intuition is not only a witchy thing—it’s a woman thing. And where Sarah Koenig was concerned, my radar gave me two thumbs-up.

***

Look for more tomorrow!

Or, find the rest of this story (and 8 other stories!)

in the Eclective’s Holiday Collection

Available here:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Smashwords

iTunes Bookstore

Posted in Lifely Updates, Stuff I Write | 6 Comments »

Linda Welch – Never Too Late

December 4th, 2011 by Heather Marie Adkins

Never Too Late

Linda Welch

When I published the first two Whisperings paranormal mystery novels, I created an icon to use on Facebook and Twitter. The picture is of Whisperings lead character, Tiff Banks. It seemed a good way to advertise my product at the time. But no matter how often I say she is not me, I am not a tall, slim, blond young woman, many obviously don’t believe me. Response to the avatar has amused me over the years. You wouldn’t believe the comments, compliments, and odd comments I think were meant as compliments. Many of them were a hoot. I knew I’d eventually have to come out of the identity closet and say, hey, look here, this is me, not the long-haired cutie.

Then Cheryl Shireman asked me to contribute to the Indie Chicks anthology and also asked for a photo. This is the perfect opportunity to set the record straight. If you want to know who Linda Welch really is, read on. . . .

I’m going to tell you something I don’t think you know.

I haven’t been a “chick” for many a year. I’m a couple of months shy of 61. I have been married to the same man for 39 years. We have two sons and four grandchildren. And you thought I was a tall, slim young thing, didn’t you. I am what is called a late bloomer and I’m writing this for other old biddies who had a dream and let it pass them by, or think they are too busy, or it’s too late to fulfill their dream. I don’t mean just writing, but any dreamed-of achievement you hide in your heart.

I was born in a country cottage in England. My father was a restless man, so we often moved and never had much money. I remember days when only Dad had meat on his plate at dinner, but we never went hungry. We had vegetables and fruit from the garden, eggs from the chickens. Times were hard, but we children never knew that. We were loved. When Mum and Dad met during World War II, Mum was a privately educated “well-bred” lady. I doubt I will ever meet anyone as smart as my mother. At 88 years, she is still as sharp as a tack. Dad was a countryman to the bone. He had many artistic talents he didn’t pursue until later in life. When he did, he excelled at them. I like to think some of their intelligence and talent rubbed off on me.

So much has changed, in my life, in the world. I hold memories of my childhood close. I won’t let them fade. One day, I will write about them.

I had a good basic education, first at a village school, then an all-girls school, but I left at 15 (at that time the legal age in England) and worked first as a telephone operator before I went into office occupations. I did not see authorship in my future.

But I have always daydreamed. Often, I recreated the same daydream multiple times, constantly elaborating.  I did not realize I wrote books in my head.

I began writing words on paper in my mid-forties, but it was a hobby. Somewhere along the way, I thought, Could I publish this? and then I’d like to publish. But I talked myself out of it. Authors were young men and women who decided they wanted to write at a young age and worked to improve their skill their entire life. They went to college and university, they had degrees in writing, creative writing or journalism. I was inexperienced; I didn’t have their dedication or education. Anyway, I had a husband to support, children to raise and part-time jobs to supplement the family income. I didn’t have time to write and send queries, synopsis or sample chapters to agents.

In 2008 I discovered the Lulu publishing platform and took the plunge. I published the space opera Mindbender and science fiction Galen’s Gate. I subsequently unpublished them, with every intention of revising and republishing. Some copies are still floating around out there somewhere. However, Tiff Banks, who had been swimming around in this murky thing I call a brain for several years, chose to come out and play. She took over my life. She became my second skin.

When I think back to why I did not publish until in my fifties, I realize it had nothing to do with inexperience or lack of education. I was not ready. I had to marry a dashing young American airman, leave my homeland, raise two sons, spoil four grandchildren, live and work with Americans and become entrenched in the way of life. I was not ready to write Along Came a Demon until I came to the mountains of Utah, stood looking over my mountain valley, and knew, “this is it. This is where Tiff lives. She knows the bitter cold and snow of winter, the harsh heat of summer. She knows her city and the people inside-out. This is Tiff’s world, and now, I know who she is.”

Then the hard work began. My education was strictly “King’s English.” I wrote formal letters, contracts and legal documents at work. I had to take the starch out of my writing. Research didn’t help. It seemed that each time I read an article or blog about word usage, in particular overuse and what to avoid, the next book I read was a best-selling novel by a best-selling author who broke those rules. And having decided to barge into my life, Tiff was very positive about how she talks. She’s a born and bred American, a slightly snarky, slang-wielding gal who speaks to the reader on a personal level, individual to individual. I had to use a style that practically screamed “you can’t do that!” in my ear every other sentence.

I published the first Whisperings novel for another reason: Nobody seemed to believe in my writing. Not friends, relatives, friendly acquaintances. I think they supposed a 58-year-old with no education in the literary field, who suddenly came out of the woodwork and decided to publish, must be a “vanity publisher” who wanted to force poorly-written books on readers. When I said I wrote fiction, I got blank looks, followed by, “that’s nice. Now, as I was saying. . .”  Nobody wanted to read my work, not even my sweet husband. But he enjoyed urban fantasy and I thought he’d like Tiff Banks. So in a way, I also published for him.

I published Along Came a Demon in November 2008. It was supposed to be a stand-alone novella, but readers wanted more and Tiff obliged. Along Came a Demon became book one of the Whisperings series of paranormal mysteries. I published the sequel, The Demon Hunters, in November 2009. In 2010 I added material to Along Came a Demon to make it a full-length book and at the same time made small changes to The Demon Hunters to reflect those in Along Came a Demon. I published book three, Dead Demon Walking, in March 2011. Being a wordsmith, I should be able to express my joy each time a reader tells me they love my books, but it truly is beyond my powers of description. Now, when someone asks me what I do for a living, instead of telling them I am a part-time administrative assistant and adding (hesitantly) “I also write fiction,” I say I am an author. When I fill out a form that asks for my occupation, I proudly write “author” in the little box.

Mary Wesley published Jumping the Queue at age 70 and went on to write ten best sellers until she died twenty years later.

Harriett Doerr was 74 when she published The Stones of Ibarra.

Laura Ingalls Wilder published her Little House on the Prairie series when she was in her 50s.

Mary Lawson was 55 when Crow Lake was published.

Flora Thompson is famous for her semi-autobiography Lark Rise to Candleford, published when she was 63.

Age is irrelevant. You are never too old. For anything.

***

This is one story from Indie Chicks: 25 Women 25 Personal Stories available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. To read all of the stories, buy your copy today.
Also included are sneak peeks into 25 novels!
My novel, Along Came a Demon, book one of the Whisperings paranormal mystery series, is one of the novels featured.
All proceeds go to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

***

Find Linda online!

Linda on Amazon USA for Kindle and paperback.

Linda on Amazon UK

Linda on Barnes and Noble

Linda’s Website

Linda on Smashwords

Whisperings on Facebook

Whispering books are also available in e-book formats from Apple, Diesel, Kobo and Sony.

Posted in Indie Authors | 9 Comments »

 
I am ALWAYS willing to give away ebook copies of my novels to anyone willing to read and review, so please don't hesitate to email me and request a book(s) at heather@heathermarieadkins.com

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