Kindred Spirits Release Day: Monday Blog Post

Draft front cover: Kindred Spirits

Draft front cover: Kindred Spirits

Hoo! I’m releasing the third book in my Brown Rain series, Kindred Spirits, today. I mentioned last week that I’m doing something different this time. Usually I put the book up for sale, mention it once or twice and call it a day. This time I’m really get some excitement going. I’m actually promoting the release. I’ve made up little meme cards and posted every day. I’ve started a giveaway. More about that below. I’ve created a video of all of the meme cards and quotes I’ve made and put it on YouTube. Here’s the link. Please share it with all of your friends, family and significant others. Note that the cards have links on them. Not clickable, unfortunately an  issue with jpeg files, but I encourage you to check out the links. Every link discusses something in the book. I hope you find the information both informative and fun. The book is up on Amazon, paperback and Kindle, and Smashwords and GumRoad for the other ebook formats. Soon it will be out on the other ebook sites and up on chatebooks as well.

So what’s this about a giveaway? I’ve started a giveaway on Amazon that ends March 20th. I have 10 First Encounter ebooks to give away. You could win one! You’ll have to follow my Twitter account but that’s all it takes! Click on this link to enter. https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/402a5ef0fe1e0234

Last week was Author Interview week and Terra Luft (terraluft.com) was my guest. What do you think about the author interviews? Have you found a new-to-you author that you’re checking out?

A friend of mine just gave me some tomato transplants. She always starts way more than she needs. She gave me six plum tomatoes and six unspecified cherry tomato seedlings. About for more of each than I need. I’ll give those away. I will, however, still grow or obtain Sungold cherry tomato plants and some Early Girls. Both of those varieties grow really well for me here in central Arizona. And we LOVE the sungolds. There’s no way I’m going to have tomatoes and not sungolds.

Have you entered the Luck O’ The Authors giveaway? This is going to end at midnight St. Patrick’s Day, just 3 days away. That means a lot fewer contestants over some of the longer giveaways. Go to www.conniesrandomthoughts.com/giveaways to enter the Rafflecopter. Even if you’ve signed up for all of the authors, there are daily ways to win. Check it out!

Another fun thing I found a few weeks ago is called Cover Wars over on http://authorshout.com. I submitted my book cover for Mystery at the Fair even though I knew I was going to revise it. Anyway, here’s the fun part. You can go to the site, vote for my cover or someone else’s every day through Saturday. You get to see some new to you authors and I get a little free publicity for my book. It’s a big win all the way around. Stop by http://authorshout.com/cover-wars/ to vote and/or share this page so that all your friends can vote. You don’t even have to sign up for anything. Just scroll down the page past the covers and vote for me or someone else daily through Saturday.

Speaking of covers and Mystery at the Fair. I’ve been thinking about redoing the cover before Mystery in the Woods comes out. A friend of mine had some time and designed me the best cover ever, and one for Mystery in the Woods! It is so awesome! Can you tell I’m excited about it?  Here it is. What do you think?

Mystery at the Fair New Cover2

I’m continuing to work on Mystery in the Woods. There are only a few more scenes before I finish the first draft. To be honest, I still don’t know who did it. I’m also now writing non-fiction hiking stories for my local paper. Hubby does most of the photography. A friend of mine told me he ran into some hikers on a trail I wrote about a few weeks ago and they were there because of the story in the paper. How cool is that! April is Camp NaNo and I’m plotting out my next mystery book, Mystery at the Book Festival. It takes place the summer following Mystery in the Woods and poor Jean Hays is starting to look like the murder whisperer. In the mean time my novel Zoe Ohale is up for rewrites and edits, then after that, my still not really titled book, All about Bob. I’d like to get both of those out this year!

Where will I be? Here’s the scoop.

April 11th at 3pm Arizona time I’ll be on the January Jones Sharing Success Stories web talk radio show. Have you heard me there? Don’t miss out.

April 16th I’ll be at the Tempe Public Library book festival where I’m on a panel talking about Science Fiction and World Building. I’m looking forward to meeting you there.

June 2nd and 3rd I’m at the Scottsdale MysteryCon, Death and Deception in the Desert. I’m giving a presentation there as well on writing a mystery.  Tickets for both days are only $35. I do hope you can make it to that one.  Here’s a flyer telling all about it.

Mystery Con Flyer

July 23rd is the Payson Book Festival. I’ll be at my table all day, ready to talk to YOU! I hope you can make it as we will have over 70 authors attending as well as music, food, author presentations and workshops. It will be stupendous!

Want more details about these events? Click here for more information.

Click here to sign up for my newsletter. If you are a Brown Rain series fan, I’ve created a list just for you! If you join my regular newsletter, that’s all right too as I’ve put sign-up prizes on both. That’s right. If you sign up for my newsletter you get a free story from me. My next newsletter is being drafted so sign up today. The YouTube video I just made about Kindred Spirits will be in the newsletter. Just a note. I’m going to be sending out newsletters more frequently. Be prepared for fun and contests!

Kindred Spirits released today! I’m pretty excited about it. You can buy it and my other books at: Apple, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, Gumroads  or Chatebooks today! You can also see all of my books on www.ConniesRandomThoughts.com. If you’ve read any of my books, please drop a review on the site where you bought it or on Goodreads. It’s a big help to me in the book rankings each vendor uses to promote the books on their sites. Thanks in advance.

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Flash Fiction Friday Post: Extra Baggage

Farmer's Market by Alaniz25 via DeviantArt.com

Farmer’s Market by Alaniz25 via DeviantArt.com

Zoe Ohale squatted in the shade, her back against the brick wall of the pawn shop. In front of her was the market in the parking lot on Antares Road between the pawn shop and discount clothing store. She could feel the sweat running down her temple but it was too much bother to wipe it away.

She was here because there was food here, especially if she was quick. It had been four years since her mother had died and had to learn to live on the streets. Now sixteen, Zoe knew all too well what it was like to be hungry. Today she hoped a distracted stall-keeper would be her opportunity to pick up a loaf of bread or a piece of fruit. Both, if she had any luck at all.

Standing up, Zoe wandered along the stall fronts, casually looking over the goods in each stall. Her goal was the baker, halfway down the row. There was always a big crowd at his counter and the odds of him being distracted were high. She edged up to the counter behind a large bodied woman with a baby on her hip. With the baker at the other end of the counter and using the woman and baby as a shield, Zoe slipped her hand between the plastic tent wall and the counter to a table with a wicker basket of rolls. She’d slipped two out and into her pockets before the baker came to help the woman with the baby. It was easy to fade back and move on before the baker got to her.

Across from the baker, a woman had her produce stacked in bins. Zoe was reaching for a tomato when a girl, not much younger than her, came screaming past the stand, four teen boys in pursuit. She crashed into Zoe, nearly knocking her off her feet. The boys grabbed the girl and began shoving her between them.

Zoe yelled as she rubbed her arm where the girl had hit her. “Stop that.”

“Mind your own business,” the biggest boy said as he held the girl by the arm. “She ratted on us. Now she has to pay.”

The other shoppers melted away. “Not four on one.” Zoe stepped toward the group. “She’s half your size.”

“I didn’t rat on them.” The girl’s face was dirt streaked. Her brown hair was a tangled mess and her clothing hardly more than rags. “The owner caught them breaking into his store and they saw me hiding in the alley. So they blame me.” She tried to jerk her arm out of the biggest boy’s hand. “Not my fault they were noisy.”

Zoe stared at the biggest boy, apparently the leader. “That true?”

“She must have ratted. Why else was the owner there after hours?” The other boys were nodding. A couple reached out and smacked the girl in the back and the arms.

“Quit that,” Zoe took another step forward. “Ever hear of vid?” She asked the leader and pointed at the roof of the discount store across the parking lot. “Look up at the corner.”

All four boys turned to look. “Most places have vid installed. That’s how the owner knew. He must live near the store.”

The leader scowled and shook the girl again. His cohorts stared at him. “Maybe. But she ran. Why’d she run if she didn’t snitch?”

“Because four of you were chasing her.” Zoe rolled her eyes. “Turn her loose.”

The leader glared at Zoe then at the girl. He shoved her away from him. “Don’t hang in our turf again or you’ll get what’s comin’ to ya.” He motioned to the other boys and they hurried off.

“Oh, thank you.” The girl grabbed Zoe’s hand and shook it. “You saved my life. I’m Lindy.”

“I’m Zoe.” She shook Lindy’s hand. “No problem. Take care.” Zoe turned to leave. She wanted to try and snag some more food.

Lindy looked around. “Uh, you don’t mind if I hang with you for a minute, do you? In case those guys are waiting around the corner?”

Zoe shrugged. “Just stay out of my way.”

The crowd in front of the vegetables had returned. Zoe edged between an elderly woman with a string bag and big guy that looked like a workman on his lunch break. She snagged an apple and a tomato and slipped out of the crowd. Lindy caught up to her as Zoe walked along the stall fronts.

“That was pretty slick. I’m always too scared to try that.”

Zoe eyed the girl. It was obvious that Lindy wasn’t doing well. “How come you’re on the street?”

“Parents overdosed a year ago. I wasn’t eligible for foster care or the orphanage,” she said in a low voice. “They kicked me out of our apartment with whatever I could shove into my backpack.” Her voice quavered.

“Same here.” Zoe was still angry about it. “You have a gang?”

“No,” Lindy shook her head. “I’m afraid to ask.”

“That’s how to survive. Get in with a group.”

“Are you in a group?”

“Yeah. It’s not much but we look out for each other.”

Lindy sighed.

Zoe knew what was going through the girl’s head. Could she join the group? Lindy didn’t bring much to the table. She couldn’t shoplift, it looked as though she didn’t scavenge, and was skin and bone. She did run fast, though. That was something. “Look. You can come hang with my group. See if you fit in.”

A wide smile brightened Lindy’s face. “Thank you,” she grabbed Zoe’s hand and shook it until Zoe had to forcibly remove it.

“You’re welcome.” She already regretted making the offer. “It’s not up to me, but hang around the edges. Don’t be a problem. They’ll probably let you stay.”

Lindy danced up and down. “Great, thank you.”

Zoe introduced Lindy to the gang. She stayed a year, learned how to survive and left for another group where her boyfriend belonged.

 

 

The End

1000 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

 

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Flash Fiction Friday Story: After the Falling Stones

Camp, Fire, Randy Cockrell

Camp Fire by Randy Cockrell

Erig inched closer to the campfire.

“Get back.” Ma poked at him with the stick she used to stir the fire. “You don’t take mor’n yurs.”

He scrambled back but he was cold, so after a moment he inched back in. “Tell a story, Ma. Bout the old days.”

She eyed him, graying eyebrow raised.

Erig knew she saw what he was doing but forms were satisfied, so she let him stay.

“Yeah, Ma.” Erig’s sister, Kony, pushed her brushy hair out of her dirty face. “Tell us a story.”

Ma looked at her current mate, Harld.

“Go ahead.” He scratched the long scratch on his rib cage. Erig was with him when another man tried to steal the whitetail deer they’d just brought down. Harld had squared off against the man and after the scratch, hit the man with a rock and brought him down, then smashed his head to mush. Erig felt bad about the man’s family but he shouldn’t have tried to steal their food.

“Tell us about the falling rocks, Ma.” That was Erig’s favorite story.

The woman nodded. “Kay.” She poked the fire again and added another stick. “It was back in my mother’s, mother’s, mother’s day. The world was different then. People lived in big buildings and never went hungry.”

That was Erig’s favorite part. What kind of world had it been where people weren’t hungry all of the time?

“How big were the buildings?” Kony sat forward. The buildings were her favorite part. She hated being wet and cold.

“You’ve seen the ruins.” Ma spit in the fire. “Taller’n trees, they were. Taller’n ten trees, some of ’em. And people rode around in machines. And machines carried them up and down the tall buildings. People went to the moon and back, and to Mars.”

“Tell us about the clothes, Ma.” Erig was fascinated with the clothes part of the story.

“No one wore leathers. Everyone wore clothes that came from oil or chem – I –kals.”

“How’d they do that, Ma?”

She sniffed. “I think my Ma made that up. I don’t know no way to make clothes from oil. And who knows what them chem – I – kals were.” She waved her hand, shoo’ing away their questions. “Anyway. One day, in my great, great, Ma’s time, huge stones fell from the sky. They smashed the big buildings. They splashed into the lakes and oceans making the water boil. The rocks made big holes in the ground and animals and people were killed from the shock of it all. Dust rose in the air,” she raised her arms high above her head. “Water, too, that rose up from the oceans. The sky went black and the sun was hid for years.”

Erig nodded. “The cold time.”

“Yep, the cold time. The snow came and seemed like it would never leave. Anyone left alive,” she stopped, interrupted.

“Like the great, great!” Kony broke in, excited.

“Yep, like the great, great, anyone left alive didn’t know what to do or how to hunt. They’d never had to do it. But even if they did, the animals had been kilt, too.”

“How did she live?” Erig shuddered. He knew the answer.

“The way anyone lives.” She looked at her two living children, then her mate. “You eat what there is to eat and fight when you have to fight. Your great, great, was a hard woman, my ma told me. She ate the dead when she had to. She was twenty-three when the stones fell, never had wanted for a thing before that. She was lucky, she told my Ma and my great Ma. She had been outside of the city on a road trip. She said she cursed the day.”

“I’m named for her, ain’t I, Ma?” Kony sat up and tossed her hair back from her shoulders.

“You are. A girl needs to be tough. Mabey her name will bring you her toughness.”

“You’re lucky,” Harld spoke for the first time. “Most kids don’t know nothin’ bout the falling stones, or about their old family. Your Ma is tough too. Lookit her! Thirty-two winters she numbers and still strong.”

Erig studied his Ma. Her black hair was stringy and mostly white. Her arms were thin to the bone but stringy with muscle. Wrinkles covered her face and he knew that in the mornings, she stifled the groans that came when she rose from her pallet in the tent.

“What will we do now?” Erig was curious. “What about the rumors, people getting together and living together, planting food.”

Harld snorted. “What’s it been, seventy, eighty, winters since the stones fell? If gettin’ together in towns worked, I’d’a thought it would’a happened before now.” He picked up a flat stone and began to whet a piece of steel he’d found. He needed a new knife. “It’ll never work. It’s fine for family groups, like me and my uncles and brothers to band together to hunt and to overwinter, but strangers!” He spit into the fire.

His Ma poked the fire again and Kony wrapped her skinny arms around her knees. They all stared into the small fire. Erig wondered what it would be like to grow plants that didn’t run off or fight back. To have lots of food stored for the winter. To not kill other people for a deer.

Ma stood up. “I’m goin’ta bed.”

He watched as she staggered a bit while walking to the tent. This next winter was going to be hard on her. Erig sighed. He’d have to do more for his Ma. It was a tough life after the falling stones.

The End

941 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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Flash Fiction Friday Story: Betrayal Moon

Moon, Super Moon, Randy Cockrell

Moon Set by Randy Cockrell

Zoe Ohale cursed the day, seventeen years ago, her mother gave birth. She pulled her ratty sweater up over her mouth and nose to hide the breath that steamed in the night air and threatened to give her away. It also helped to block the reek of the garbage bin she hid behind. Not hearing any pursuit, she chanced a peek into the alley.

It couldn’t be this easy, could it? She lost the hunting party in the maze of backstreets and alleys of Baia Mare? The space-faring tourists who came only saw the nice parts of town and the sea shore the city used as a major marketing point. She spit into the alley, clearing the distaste from her mouth. Tourists. That’s what was wrong, everything for the tourists, nothing for the inhabitants.

Still hearing and seeing no chase, she pulled her frayed knit cap down over her ears and crept out from behind the dumpster. Staying close to the alley walls, she worked her way right, keeping to the shadows and opening her mouth to hear better.

A siren wailed in the distance. Some other poor jerk wasn’t as lucky as she was. She kept to the back streets. Someone turned her in; that much she knew. Her stomach growled; a reminder that her hoped for dinner money was lost when the cops swooped in on her sale. It was only luck that the taser point missed her by a hair. Her buyer, Andy Many Fingers, wasn’t as lucky. Last she saw him, he was jerking spastically on the cobblestones, his purse open and credits spilled on the street.

Damn, she could have used that money. In the street outside the building where she roomed, she hid in the doorway of the house two up from hers. No way she was going straight in. The place might be watched. She hunkered down, butt to heels, and wrapped her arms around her knees. Again, she pulled the sweater up over her face. Zoe looked up and down the street. Who knew I was meeting Andy?

Maybe it was Dallas. She traded for the roll of copper wire she had been selling with a broken watch made of titanium. The watch was useless and she had no buyers for titanium. Dallas was a hustler. She had to watch the dude every minute to make sure he wasn’t cheating her but Dallas didn’t seem like the sort to sell a girl out. He was in it for the long haul and betraying his buyers and sellers was poor business.

She quieted her breathing when a young couple passed by the house. They were arm in arm, heads together. Must be nice. Out walking in the cold instead of holed up inside where it was warm. Maybe they were too poor to worry about mugging. She focused on them until they were out of sight.

She rocked a little, to keep her blood moving. Who else knew I was trading? Nick Silento, perhaps? He was a shifty little runt. Always staring, always hovering on the edges. That was the kind of guy her father called a hyena, back before he was arrested. Always ready to run in and snatch the crumbs other people dropped.  But he was a nervous sort. Zoe didn’t think that Nick had the nerve for dealing with cops.

Kortni French, now, there was a fem who had the venom to do another person dirty. Kortni had it in for any girl who she thought was after her guy. Zoe didn’t know why. Sharif Savant was a joke. Sure he was a looker but aside from the fact his parents were still numbered in the middle-class, he had nothing going for him. He was dumb as a box of rocks and the clumsiest person Zoe had ever seen. She didn’t know why the guy hung around with the gutter rats but it was a cinch Kortni was after his money. Maybe it was Kortni. Zoe had made a joke in the group three days ago and Shariff laughed and laughed. Kortni wasn’t amused. Would the fem really turn her in because her boy toy laughed at a sad joke? Zoe clucked her tongue against her teeth. She might. She just might.

A patrol rolled silently down the street. The little electric cars held two cops and a host of surveillance equipment. She shut her eyes and wished for the car to keep going. Maybe they would ignore her heat signature in the doorway and keep moving.

Zoe waited another hour. Nothing moved on the street but the rats and the cats. Moonlight eased over her building and lit the damp street. She stood with care, letting the blood flow back into her legs. Pins and needles prickled but she ignored it until it went away. Still no movement. There were no tell-tale plumes of breath in the cold night air. She eased down the steps and into the street. Her head swiveled, left then right, no alarms, no sirens, it seemed safe.

She was halfway up the steps of her building when the floodlights pinned her mid-step. A voice blasted out of a speaker “Stop where you are!”

There was nothing to do but stop. She put her hands in the air. An entire SWAT team surrounded her, tasers humming. Zoe was grateful they didn’t all tase her at once. Someone grabbed her left arm, pulled it down behind her and did the same with the right. She could feel the zip tie pull her wrists together. Two cops grabbed an arm each and half-dragged her to the wagon. As she passed the cop in charge, she could see Nick twitching next to him, his hand out and credits being dropped into it.

She spit in his direction. He jumped and spilled the credits all over the street. She looked up, the second moon intersected with the main one. A betrayal moon, her dad called it. He was right.

The End

1000 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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Flash Fiction Friday Story: One Little Prayer

Stained-glass Rose Window by fmr0 via DeviantArt.com

Stained-glass Rose Window by fmr0 via DeviantArt.com

Seventy-eight year-old Karen Rogers sat hunched over on the steps of the Sharing Tomorrow building, the cold of the cracked and broken cement steps seeping up into her bones through the thin plas-cotton shift and coat she wore.

Plas-cotton, she thought with disgust. Everything made of plastic now. An image of herself as a six year-old dressed in a blue dress that matched her eyes, the light cotton material of the skirt floating around her as she twirled in a field of daisies, flashed through her mind. She snorted, drawing a rheumy stare from the old guy in line behind her. He’d sat down, too, on the step below her. Karen ignored him.

That was before the government mandated implants in everyone ten and older. She remembered her implant, on her tenth birthday. They put it behind her right ear. Those implants weren’t too bad. They could detect emotions more than thoughts. She forgot about it in the flurry of childhood school and summer vacations. It wasn’t until she hit high school, that she was made painfully aware of it.

The line moved and she had to change to the next step up.

April McGura, that was her name. Karen was in the cafeteria, looking for a place to sit when she tripped, her lunch and the tray it was on, flying down the aisle between the rows of tables. The table behind her erupted in laughter. Karen got up, knees skinned and red-faced and turned to see what she tripped on.

April, long, straight blonde hair pulled over one shoulder, brown-eyes laughing, still had her foot out in Karen’s path. “What a clutz,” the girl said. Her friends hooted. “What a clod.” “Grace in action.” “Loser.” “Been walking long?”

Karen could feel the rage building as her fists clenched. She was on the soccer team, she wasn’t a clutz. She took a step forward, that’s when the pain shot through her head, driving her to her knees. She could feel her stomach churn and without warning, vomited all over April McGura’s patent leather pumps. That’s when a teacher came and took her to the nurse’s office.

It was explained to her what happened and that she had to control herself better. What wasn’t explained was why April and her horde made the next three years of her life a living hell. They stole her clothing out of her locker while she was at soccer practice. They lay in wait behind hall corners to scare her or trip her or knock the books out of her hands. Over and over her rage at the attacks made the implant zap her. It was her last year in high school that she had some relief. April and her gang graduated the year before. Things went back to normal, or so Karen thought.

It turns out that bullies live in the adult world too. And the implants became more sensitive. Thoughts could be read, and punished. Soon it became so that any emotion other than love or lust, and sometimes those, too, would deliver the thinker a shock to the brain. Then thirty years ago, religion was declared forbidden. There would be no more Sunday services. The government turned all of the churches into government buildings or razed them to the ground.

Karen moved up to the landing. The line was moving along. She was glad, the late winter wind was cutting right through her. Like this building, she thought. It used to be the Methodist Church, not that there were many who would remember that now. She went here as a girl with her parents and grandparents. Now, it seemed, even if you let your mind go blank, you’d get a shock. She sighed. It didn’t matter.

She had been called, like the others in the line. There wasn’t enough food and housing to go around. It seemed that over the last sixty years productivity had been declining. Now, instead of taking care of the productivity, they just eliminated the elderly. It used to be people over ninety, then over eight-five, then eighty. Last year it dropped to seventy-eight. Her birthday had been in February. She was surprised she didn’t get a notice then.

She stepped into what had been the vestibule. A desk was there with a young woman and a scanner.

“Your name?”

“Karen Rogers.”

“Thank you, Miz Rogers.” The young woman held the scanner up behind Karen’s ear. It hummed gently and the woman pulled it down.

“I haven’t been buzzed in a week,” Karen said.

“Oh,” the young woman smiled. “They turned it off. There’s no point, really, is there?”

Karen shook her head. “I guess not.”

A nurse ushered Karen into where the sanctuary used to be. There was still the creamy white walls and the polished dark wood of the half paneling and the banisters and ceiling beams, but the pews had been replaced with gurneys.

The female nurse led her to the far right and up a row near the wall. The stained glass remained in the windows throwing patches of red, gold, blue and green on the people lying there. “Here you are, Miz Rogers. If you’ll put your purse, keys, phone and other valuables in this bag, then you can lie down and rest.”

Karen did as directed. What was she going to do, run?

A middle-aged technician came by with a light plas-cotton blanket and covered her up, then he prepped her arm as another tech wheeled a stand and a bag of fluid to her bedside. The first tech adjusted the bag and attached tubing. “Just a little pinch, Miz Rogers.” Then he inserted the needle in her right arm. “This won’t take long, Miz Rogers.”

She sighed. “That’s all right, son. I just have one little prayer.”

 

 

The End

967 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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Flash Fiction Friday: Chapter from The Downtrodden

Book, The Downtrodden, Brown Rain Series, Connie Cockrell

Front Cover for The Downtrodden

I thought, for something different, I’d share a partial chapter from The Downtrodden, the second book of the Brown Rain series. Links to purchase are at the end.

MOVING ON

As for food, the damaged gas station was a bust. They spent the first night in a house, cheering when they found a mylar packet of rice dinner in a cupboard, untouched by mice. The next day they began their hunt for food. On Main Street they found a hiking store where they acquired two sleeping bags in the back room, still in plastic-wrapped boxes. Kyra actually whooped.

The other bags in the store were full of mouse nests. They also managed to replace their knives which had been stolen by the Children of God. Kyra was happy about that. Since they’d escaped she’d been afraid of running into more wild dogs or even wolves. Memories of the fight with the last feral dogs they’d run into haunted her dreams. She wanted a knife for close fighting.

The shop didn’t have any bows or arrows. She felt that lack most of all. A knife was good but better to have some distance between her and any enemy. It was her best weapon and she felt naked without it. The store also had two cases of dehydrated food, one of chili and one of chicken stew. The mice had demolished the chicken but there were several packets of chili that were still in good shape. Those went into the packs. The grocery store in the center of town had been thoroughly looted. “Looks like the Children did get over here,” Kyra said as they left the empty store.

“Maybe there’s one on the outskirts,” Alyssa said as she bent over the sidewalk, clearing a way. They stopped by any store that looked as though it would have gear or supplies, but it was the same as the grocery. By noon they were resting in the park in the center of Fern Springs where the town had erected a pavilion, similar to the one at their school over their spring. Kyra had found packets of honey at the hiking store and shared them out, two for her and two for Alyssa.

“I wonder what happened to the bees.” Kyra had her back to a pavilion support as she squeezed crystallized honey into her mouth.

Alyssa licked her fingers. “They may be all gone. The brown rain covered everything. Without flowers the hives, even the biggest ones, wouldn’t have been able to survive more than a year or two. The rain lasted four years.”

Kyra gazed at the little park. She tried to imagine what it looked like all green grass and leafy trees, the little stream from the spring meandering through the park, flowers growing on its banks. It wasn’t possible. She was so used to seeing everything covered with the gray-brown oily sludge from a toxic rain that ended over a decade ago that she couldn’t imagine anything else. The color of the path that Alyssa had healed so they could get to this pavilion was a startling green against the depressing oily sludge. “How big do you think this park is?”

Alyssa looked around. “A quarter acre, maybe.” She turned to Kyra. “Why?”

“Just thinking how nice this park would be if it was green, the way it should be. Maybe animals could come and eat the grass, drink the clean water.” She waved her hand. “Never mind, it’s a silly thought.”

“No it’s not. This is exactly what I came out here to do.” She stood up. “You can watch from here.” Alyssa danced down the spongy wooden steps and began to work. She started close to the pavilion, around and around in bigger and bigger squares. Grass mostly, but there were a few oak and maple trees in the park that she healed too. She stopped at the sidewalks that surrounded the park and washed her hands in the stream as it dropped into a culvert and flowed out of the park.

“There,” she said, her face full of smiles as she reached the pavilion. “An oasis in a toxic desert.”

Kyra handed her a bottle of water. “I like it. Do you think your paths and these patches will help?”

“I know they will.” She wiped her mouth and handed the bottle back to Kyra. “The toxins are breaking down, I can feel it.”

Kyra’s face lit up. “They are?”

“Yeah, but it’s going to be a long time yet. In the meantime, my little paths are a break. A spot for wildlife to get a toe-hold. Bugs, then birds, then bigger prey and predators.” She looked thoughtful. “To be honest I was completely surprised that dogs had survived. They must be finding something to eat. Maybe something we can eat too. ”

Kyra refilled the bottle. “If it’s going to be a long time we’d better get going. You up for more paths? I want to check more stores and if that fails, houses.”

“Sure.” Alyssa turned and walked to Main Street and made a path to the store side of the street.

That night they stayed in a house near the edge of town. As expected, pickings had been slim in the stores but for some reason the Children had left most houses alone. The two raided closets for suitable hiking clothes, dry goods, or anything else they thought would be useful. Just outside of town they explored a farm house with a large but mouse-eaten pantry. Fortunately a bag of beans was found and cooked, mashed into a paste and dried into patties as road food. They had enough to eat for nine days so they moved on.

End of Chapter Section

You can buy The Downtrodden and my other books at: Apple, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, or Smashwords today!

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here: http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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Flash Fiction Friday: The Rain Fair

A friend of mine was generating book titles as writing prompts the other day and this one caught my eye. In real life Arizona is short of it’s annual rainfall for the year. This is never a good thing. And as happens quite often, my mind goes to a dystopian future. Below is what I came up with for The Rain Fair.

The Rain Fair

Fourteen-year-old Mackenzie lifted the last crock of goat cheese onto the homespun cloth draped over boards Pa had set across two sawhorses. Ma piled the skeins of wool they had spent the winter spinning at the other end. It looks nice, Mackenzie thought. “Can I go now?”

Her mother’s face was drawn with the exhaustion of getting here early. “Sure.” She pulled a straggling lock of hair back from her face and tucked it behind an ear. “Listen for news about the weather.” She peered up at the cloudless blue sky. “If we don’t get rain soon, the water holes will dry up and the goats will die. It’ll be the end of us.”

“OK, Ma.” Mackenzie dodged the ropes supporting the tarp over the table.

“Don’t lose yer coin,” her Ma yelled.

She waved. Ma and Dad were worried. But this was the Rain Fair. Everyone here hoped for the rains. She meandered along the midway where bright colored cloth decorated the front of tents promising wonder and adventure. Hucksters sold all sorts of things that she only saw here. She stopped at a sign, Madam Eunice, Fortunes Told. There were drawings of exotic places and pretty girls. The owner stood in the tent door. “Come, girl, I’ll tell your fortune.”

“A lie,” her father told her on the ride in. “They just want your money.” Mackenzie shook her head. The woman tried another inducement.

“I can see the future, girl. Just three coppers.”

Mackenzie fingered the coppers in her pocket, earned by selling knitted goods to the neighbors. Her hoard even had an ancient coin, from the Yousa, smooth and evenly round, not like the coins that the Arizona government stamped. “Sure.”

The woman held open the flap and Mackenzie went inside. It was stuffy in the tent and dark after the woman pulled the tent flap closed. Mackenzie sat at a cloth covered table where smoke from a bundle of sage curled up and gathered at the tent roof.

“What is your question?” The woman held out her hand.

Mackenzie pulled out three coppers. “When will the rain come?” She dropped the coins in Madam Eunice’s hand.

The woman tucked the coins in the band around her waist. She closed her eyes and drew a deep breath. Mackenzie watched the woman sway as she hummed a single long note. “I see a young man walking with you into a brilliant sunset. Three children are born and have families of their own. You, sitting with children and grandchildren.”  The woman coughed and opened her eyes. “That is all I see.”

“That’s not what I wanted to know!” The chair skidded back when she stood.

“That’s all I see,” Madam Eunice said again, her eyes steady on the girl.

Mackenzie was furious and embarrassed. Three coppers wasted. She barged through the tent flap into the bright sun. The fortune teller’s cheat colored everything. Every tent, every stand seemed cheap and tawdry. She stopped at a crowd listening to a woman who claimed to be a water witch. She held a slender bent stick in her hand. “I can find a well for you,” she told them. “How much is cold, clear water bubbling out of your ground worth to you?” As she paced, the stick began to twitch and when she stood over a bucket, it pointed straight down.

Mackenzie snorted as she left. She wasn’t going to be fooled again. The woman made the switch do that. At the end of the midway was the arena. Later there’d be a rodeo. Now though, the Rain Callers were dancing.

People believed in the Rain Callers. They came to the fair just to watch the dances and hope for rain. It cost money to sit in the stands so she threaded her way through the standing crowd and found a place at the front where she could see. Since it was early, only a single dancer was in the ring. He wore fringed buckskin trousers though his body was bare. Long black braids with feathers and beads swung around his head. He shook a turtle shell rattle in one hand and in the other, held a painted gourd bottle. As he chanted and danced his way around the ring, he sprinkled the crowd with it.

As he approached her, she could hear him sing in the ancient Navaho. He danced in front of her and holding her gaze, sprinkled her with water then spun and danced away. She stayed until the rest of the crowd left. The Rain Caller walked over to her.

“You have a question?” He wiped the sweat from his face with a homespun rag.

“Do you make it rain?” Mackenzie looked into his dark brown eyes.

He shook his head. “I focus the rain thoughts.”

She pointed at the midway.  “Just like the rest of the huckster’s. A cheat.”

“No.” He looked at her intently. “I am the focus for the thoughts and hopes of those who need the rain. You need the rain.”

“I do. Ma and Pa’s farm will fail without it.”

“Water follows you. Just like all of the others I sprinkled in the crowd.”

Her eyebrows drew together. “You don’t know me.”

“Look.” He pointed at the people chatting in groups around the arena. “See how some have a glow?”

Disbelieving, she looked. She saw Mr. Randolf, biggest rancher in central Arizona. He had a faint blue glow about him. Mrs. Powell was talking to some ranch wives. She had a glow. Mackenzie looked at the Rain Caller. “You sayin’ I glow, too?” She looked at her arm.

“You glow,” the Caller told her. “Go to your farm. Get a water witch to help you find water.”

She watched him walk away. It would be good if she could find water on the farm. They wouldn’t have to rely on Mrs. Powell to release water from her dam. Mackenzie walked slowly back to the water witch. She’d see about the price.

The End

999 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here:http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

If you enjoyed this story, you might be interested in my newest Science Fiction book, A New Start, the first book in my Gulliver Station series. You can find it here: https://authorcentral.amazon.com/gp/books/book-detail-page?ie=UTF8&bookASIN=149540708X

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Flash Fiction Friday: We’re Watching You

My daughter was in the bank the other day and heard an exchange between a man and the bank. He was withdrawing a large sum of money, the teller input the amount into her system. Moments later, the IRS was on the phone, asking him why he needed such a large sum withdrawn. Turns out he was buying a neighbor’s boat for cash. My reaction was, Wow! Here’s my story.

We’re Watching You

“Yes,” Scott did a fist pump; his football team had made a touchdown.  He sat the barrel of his .22 rifle down and reached for a beer. The doorbell rang. “Shit, right in the middle of the game.” He put the beer down and answered the door.

There were two men standing there, dressed in black suits and ties on a Sunday afternoon. “Yes?”

“Mr. Hersey, I’m Agent Winehouse, this is my partner, Agent Kavi, we’re from Homeland Security.”

Scott shrugged, “Yeah?”

“Mr. Hersey, we’re here because you’re drinking alcohol and cleaning a weapon. That behavior needs to cease right now.”

“Seriously?” Scott gripped the doorknob tighter. “I’m watching the game and cleaning my .22. What’s the problem?”

“Mr. Hersey, you understand that imbibing alcohol and working with firearms is dangerous. If you refuse to cease that activity, we’ll confiscate the weapon.”

“Oh for…,” he let go of the doorknob and took a breath. After all, these guys were just doing their jobs, keeping everyone safe. “Yes, I’ll put the .22 away and clean it some other time.”

Agent Winehouse stepped back, “Thank you sir, we appreciate the cooperation in keeping you safe.”

They turned and left. Scott watched them get into their car and drive away. He slammed the door shut. “Damn Homeland Security, always getting into everyone’s business.” He walked into the living room and picked up the rifle pieces in the towel and put them in the garage. “Always watching everything we do.”

When his wife Marie got home he complained to her about it.

“Scott, you know they expanded their scope after the murder, rape, assault and burglary rates dropped to just about nothing. You voted for it yourself.” She put her new blouse in the closet as he flopped on the bed.

“I know,” he lay back, hands under his head. “But I didn’t think they’d be spying on regular guys just having a quiet Sunday at home.”

She turned and looked at him. “You were drinking and messing with a gun, Scott. What did you expect?”

He sat up, “It was just a couple of beers while I watched the game. I wasn’t hurting anyone.”

“Maybe so, hon, but you know accidents happen.” She walked around to his side of the bed and took his head in her hands. “I’m glad you didn’t get hurt.” She kissed him on the forehead. “Now come on, I bought steaks for dinner; get the grill ready would you?”

#

The next Saturday, Scott was at his favorite watering hole with his best friends, Ramon, Ward and Jim. He told them about his visit from Homeland last Sunday.

“Jeesh, Scott. I know what you’re sayin’,” Ward replied. “I was getting’ ready to squirt some lighter fluid on my barbeque coals, they weren’t goin’, ya know? Anyway, I pick up the bottle and head for the grill when two guys come racin’ inta the yard, yelling ‘put the bottle down!’ I almost wet myself. Then I get a big lesson on how squirting lighter fluid on already live coals could cause burns, death and disfigurement.” He slugged down half of his beer. “Can’t do anything anymore without the damn government gettin’ all up in your face.”

The men all nodded. Ramon spoke up. “Two weeks ago me and the old lady were havin’ a fight in the kitchen. Next thing I know, Homeland is bustin’ in the kitchen door. Separated me and the wife. Took four hours for us to convince them we was just havin’ a discussion.”

Jim took a swig of his whiskey and soda. “I don’t know how much more I can take. They’re at the door, callin’ on the phone.” He looked around the table. “You guys thought I was being a jerk for sayin’ I wouldn’t vote for the increased scope. Now, here we are. I don’t know how much more I can take. Shit, I was called on my phone the other day for crossin’ the damn street in the middle of the block.”

Scott scratched his head. “What’ll we do? Lots of people want Homeland to keep us safe. They like that all the crime rates are down.”

Ramon shook his head, “Big difference between stoppin’ a rape and stoppin’ Jim from jay walkin’.”

They all nodded, Scott ordered another round.

Ramon broke the silence, “I’m thinkin’ of takin’ the family back to Mexico. We still have relatives there and the political situation isn’t like it was back in 2012. My company has offices down there and Mexico doesn’t have Homeland Security.”

Jim stared at Ramon for a minute, “Funny you should say that. I was thinkin’ of goin’ off grid.”

The whole table stared at him. Scott broke the ice, “No TV? Cell phones?”

Jim nodded. “My family has property in Virginia. An old farm; never was updated. We can move there, keep out of the government’s eye.”

“Damn, Jim. That’s pretty extreme,” Ward sat forward, leaning across the table. “What’s your wife say?”

“She says it’s OK by her. She’s sick of it too.”

They guys all nodded.

A month later Scott, Ward and Ramon met at their bar. Scott waited till they all had a beer, “Did you hear?”

They shook their heads.
“Marie told me. Jim and his wife were arrested, right in the middle of loading the moving van. Homeland took them, said they were anti-social. They’re in a psych ward until Homeland says they’re ready to re-integrate into society.”

The End

913 Words

Find more of the Forward Motion Flash Friday Group here:http://www.fmwriters.com/flash.html

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