Spring Giveaway Winners, An Excerpt for You: Monday Blog Post

Mushroom Season in Rim Country. No idea what this mushroom is, do you? Picture by Randy Cockrell

Newest News:

The Spring Author/Blogger Giveaway has officially ended and I have two winners for my part of the event. My prize number one, an ebook copy of Slave Elf, was won by Jory. My prize number two, a $5 Amazon gift card was won by Richard. The overall event Grand Prize winner was Emy. I want to thank all of the hundreds of people who participated and I hope that you enjoy your prizes. Our Summer Giveaway has started, check out the info below to enter.

Writing has been slow for me. I have been involved in several other things in my life and the writing, unfortunately, has fallen off. I haven’t forgotten it though. I’m still mulling over Mystery at the Reunion. How can I make it better? I may just have to throw myself on the mercy of my editor and get some advice. How about a short excerpt? This is Dwight, Jean’s ex-husband.

 

He circled the glass on the bar in the moisture under it, idly watching the spiral circles it made on the glossy top. Dwight sipped again. How had he gotten here? Dawn had left him. That was the start. Too much time at the local bar. Crown Royal wasn’t exactly cheap. Then the gambling at the Off-Track Betting shop. That didn’t help matters. Especially since he was losing. OTB didn’t give credit, so he found himself in a little neighborhood still mostly Irish. There was a helpful young man there that would take his bets on the cuff. Dwight sighed and rubbed the spot just above the bridge of his nose.

What the hell had he been thinking? Now he was ten grand in the hole and the bookie wanted his money. Dwight sipped again, his stomach in a knot. He didn’t have ten grand. Hell, he had all he could do to pay the rent on the low-end apartment he was living in. Damn! He drank the last of the Crown Royal and signaled for another. He really couldn’t afford to come to the reunion despite the fact he wanted to see all of his old friends from Afghanistan. While the place had been a living hell, he’d made good friends with the people in Combined Joint Force Command squadron AG2017. They were good people sharing a hard, miserable assignment. His arrival in Las Vegas reminded him a lot of Afghanistan. Hot sun scorching everything it touched, even in April, dust, blinding light, it was not a pleasant reminder.

The bartender brought the drink. Dwight nodded his thanks. He was about to pick it up when a hand fell heavy on his shoulder. His heart nearly stopped.

“Dwight! Old buddy. What brings you to Vegas?”

Dwight turned to see who belonged to the deep voice. “Duncan?” His heart skipped a beat. “A long way from Boston.”

Duncan sat on the stool next to Dwight and waved over the bartender. “Irish Whisky.”

The bartender nodded and moved off.

“I’m here ‘cause Jimmy noticed you leavin’ town.” Duncan shook his head. “And you owin’ all that money. It made Jimmy think you were skippin’ out on your debt.”

“No, no, Duncan. I’m here to attend a reunion. Old military buddies from Afghanistan. I’m just here for the weekend. You know, catch up with old friends.”

Duncan nodded. “I hear ya. My brother, Mike, joined the Army. He got sent to that pit. Died when his hummer hit an IED.” Duncan said all of that while staring into the bottles on the bar back.

“I’m so sorry for your loss, Duncan. Too many young men and women died there.”

Duncan nodded as the bartender brought him his drink. Duncan peeled a twenty from a roll he’d taken from his pocket and dropped it on the bar. The bartender grinned. “Any change?”

Duncan shook his head.

“Thanks, buddy.”

Duncan nodded and the bartender moved off. “I’m sorry you had to serve there.”

“Two tours, with my wife.”

Duncan’s eyebrows rose. “No shit?”

“Yeah. We left our son with the grandparents and spent a year there. Then two years later, another tour.” Dwight shook his head Why the hell didn’t they go separately instead of leaving Jim all alone twice. It must have made sense at the time.

“That’s a shame. The little man must have missed you.”

“Yeah. He did.” Dwight sipped his drink.

“Despite that, Dwight, you gotta pay up. By the end of the month.” Duncan drank his whisky down in one gulp and slapped the glass down on the bar with a thump that made the bartender turn to look.

“I’m trying to get the money together, Duncan. Tell Jimmy that. I’m good for my debts.”

Duncan nodded. “Good to know, Dwight. But if we don’t get the money by the end of the month,” he cracked his knuckles. “Well, I’ll have to have a more…personal discussion.”

Dwight could feel his blood pressure rise. “Understood. I’ll get it to Jimmy as soon as I can.”

Duncan swung off of the barstool and with a heavy hand, smacked Dwight on the shoulder. “Remember what I said.” He moved off as Dwight nodded.

Dwight realized he was holding his breath after Duncan moved out of sight. He took a deep breath and swallowed his drink in one gulp. He signaled for another. The bartender brought the bottle over and poured. He eyed Duncan’s empty glass.

“He’s gone. Won’t need another.”

The bartender nodded and went back to the other end of the bar where he was chatting up two young women.

Dwight drummed his fingers on the bar. He needed to make some contacts this weekend. He needed a new job, one that paid more. That didn’t answer his immediate problem, though. Where was he going to get ten grand in two weeks?

That’s our introduction to Dwight. What do you think? Good guy? Bad guy? Glad Jean divorced him? Leave you comments in the comment box below.

Hoping everyone is able to access a covid shot, or two if needed. The delta variant of the virus is racing through my county. Hospitalizations have jumped three-fold and the majority of the people hitting the ERs are unvaccinated. We’ll only beat this disease if we all work together. Please schedule your vaccination as soon as you can. The shots are still free!

Giveaways:

The Summer event, called the Summer Breeze Books Giveaway, is now live! There are 24 prizes and $66 as the Grand Prize in Paypal dollars. Hop on over to the page with the following link and get in on the prizes. https://conniesrandomthoughts.com/giveaways-and-prizes/ to enter.

 

Where will I Be?

I have no plans at present for any other in person events. Any I was thinking about joining I’m now reconsidering due to the uptick in the Covid 19 Delta variant illnesses spreading across Arizona. See you in 2022!

 

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Four Doomsdays – Doom Three: Flash Fiction Friday Post

Mushrooms, Otherwise known as Fungus by Randy Cockrell

“And in other news…”

I half-listened as I changed my three-month-old daughter, Becca. It was always bad news on the TV and I was too engaged with my first-born to care about whatever was troubling the rest of the world. My world was perfect.

Still on maternity leave, I took Becca down to the kitchen and poured my husband, Ron, his coffee and put it on the table at his place. This was his first day back to work from paternity leave. We’d had such a nice time this last three weeks. I was sorry that he had to go back to work already.

He came into the kitchen, adjusting his tie. “I’m sorry I have to put this thing on again.” He sat down at his place as I put a bowl of cereal in front of him.

“Then don’t. You don’t have to wear it.”

He shook his head. “No. If you want to get ahead, dress for two levels above where you are. That’s the CEO. He wears a tie, I wear a tie.” He scooped cereal into his mouth.
I shrugged. Ron was ambitious and I couldn’t blame him, so was I. But my system was still swimming in maternal hormones. At the moment, I couldn’t generate any sympathy. “Your call.”

I pulled Becca to me and pulled up my shirt. One of the best parts of the day was nursing time. I could feel her little mouth clamp onto my breast and begin to suck. I still couldn’t believe that I had a baby and I was feeding her. Me. Out of my own body. The wonder of it was still overwhelming. When I looked up, Ron was smiling at me. “I’m going to miss this.”

“I’m going to miss you.”

He took a deep breath. “Yeah. Oh. Did you see the news? Some sort of infection is sweeping through India. Killing babies.” He studied Becca, still going strong on my breast. “That sucks.”

I nodded but didn’t answer. What must those parents be feeling? I’d be frantic.

Ron scooped up the rest of his cereal and gulped down his coffee. “Home by six.” He got up, grabbed his brief case and kissed each of us on the head.

“Drive safe.” I was talking to his back as he headed out the door to the garage. He waved and was gone.

After Becca ate, she had a bath, clean clothes, and was down for a nap. Time for me to shower and dress. Then it was into the kitchen, the baby monitor on the counter, as I washed up the dishes and cleaned the kitchen. The TV cycled through to another news cast. I listened this time as the story about India came back on. “Just in,” the newscaster looked into the camera, face concerned. “It seems China has had a similar outbreak as India. The government there has been keeping it quiet but refugees coming over the border of Nepal have reported children dying by the thousands.
I shook my head as I dried my hands. Poor parents. How awful.

“The Indian government has called on the United Nations for medical support.” The newscaster went on to the next story and I turned off the TV. I was glad I didn’t live over there.

That afternoon, I met some other mothers at the park. Of course, Becca was too young to run and play but it was good to get her out into the fresh air. “Did you hear about India and China?” I asked as I sat down.

“Yes. What a nightmare.” Carol’s baby was the same age as mine. We were in the same room at the hospital. “I cannot even imagine.”

“It’s the conditions,” Margery said with a sniff. “The sanitation over there is non-existent. No wonder there’s disease running rampant.

“What if it get’s here?” Joan stopped talking to wipe her three-year-old’s nose. “I mean, with air travel, disease can spread around the world in no time.”

Margery shook her head as she watched her four-year-old son go down the slide. “The people with the illness are not rich enough to travel. We’re safe enough.”

We all nodded but I wondered. I took pre-med in college before transferring into computer science. Disease was no respecter of socio-economic classes. Look at the plague back in medieval Europe or the flu back in the 1900’s. Millions of dead. Europe lost so many people modern historians marvel that the continent recovered.

I mentioned it at dinner that night.

Ron nodded. “It’s all everyone was talking about at work. Apparently, there is something going around in the bigger cities.”

It felt like my heart was in my throat. “What kind of something?”

He shrugged. “Don’t know. Lot’s of kids sick. But it’s all a rumor. There’s nothing on TV about it.”

After dinner was cleaned up and Ron was watching a recorded game, I got on the internet and did a search. Pictures put up by private individuals showed grieving parents. YouTube videos showed anguished parents pleading with everyone to stay home and not go out in public. A fungus they said. Some kind of deadly fungus.
I told Ron.

“Can’t be. It would be public by now if there were that many cases.” He went back to the game.

I could hear Becca begin to cry over the baby monitor.

I went upstairs. The poor thing was screaming as I went into the bedroom. “That’s okay, sweetheart. Momma’s here.” I picked her up. Out of the spot where her skull met her neck, something white sprang out.

I screamed, holding Becca out from me face down in the crook of my arm, something long and white. Blood seeped from around the base of it.

Ron came racing in.

“Call 911. Something’s wrong!” I sobbed as Becca kept screaming.

Cordyceps, the doctor said. A new, virulent strain of fungus. By the end of two years, every child under the age of five was dead.

Words: 1000

Chicken Scallopini with Mushrooms and Brandy Sauce: Chicklets in the Kitchen Post

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Here’s the thing. Aren’t we overwhelmed with food right now? I know, but chicken scallopini is an easy to make, impressive dinner that can be used for any holiday meal and wow your guests. Turkey could most certainly be substituted if you want to use a more traditional holiday protein.

Hardware

2 bowls or pie tins for breading process

Cutting Board

Knife

Cookie sheet with cooling rack

Large frying pan

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

 

Ingredients

1/2 pound sliced mushrooms, washed and patted dry

¼ cup diced onion

2 med garlic cloves, minced

Two full chicken breasts, butterflied and cut in half

2 T Olive oil and 2 T butter

2 eggs, whisked and put in one pie plate.

Cup flour, seasoned with salt and pepper.

1 cup chicken broth

1 cup half and half or heavy cream

Salt and pepper to taste

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In the large frying pan, add the olive oil and butter, melt. Add the mushrooms. Saute until browned, remove from heat.

Dice the onion and garlic.

Read more here.

Thanks for stopping by Chicklets in the Kitchen. Do you have a favorite holiday meal? Please tell us about it in the comments box below if you feel so inclined.

My name is Connie Cockrell and I write SciFi, Fantasy, Mysteries, and a lot of other things and you can find links to all of my books at www.ConniesRandomThoughts.com.