We have duties which are perilous.
and scarce any man hath enough of it.
the threatening presence of the insidious Black Guard
two of his trusted men to secure it for me. They will take it to
the cottage of the nursemaid Elnora and secret it there. We only
hope they can avoid discovery.”
upon it. If noticed at all, a covered table will arouse less suspicion
than a royal trunk.” The Queen of the Eastern Islands paused and
lowered her head for a moment. Then glancing up at the servant
girl, she said, “If evil befalls both Lady Elnora and me, reveal the
trunk’s whereabouts only to a trusted friend. Perhaps my son
Loren still has breath somewhere in this dim world and will come
thither to claim it one day.”
hurt you!” The girl began weeping. Queen Maybella took her by
the shoulders, fighting back her own tears.
kingdom. Weep not for us. If we perish, we shall go to the
White City. Weep for those who remain here in this place.” The
lady’s voice became intense. “You must flee the palace if we
are . . .removed. This wicked Usurper will come to his undoing
some day. Yet as for you, without my protection, you will be. . . .
Please, you must flee. Trust no strangers, Dianna. Aryel the
White Knight will return. Be strong until then.”
his Black Guard had rendered the king and his advisors only
figureheads. The royal family were little more than prisoners in
their own palace. Fear of the attacks of a horrible dragon had
spread like an epidemic over the citizens of the Eastern Island
Kingdom of Ajar. In as much as it seemed only the Lord Regent
had power over the fearsome beast, they had capitulated. Kneel
or perish was his mantra. They were a free people no more. The
few citizens who rebelled were killed, and so the underground
resistance was born.)
When the soldiers came to take the trunk, it appeared to be a
bench or table adorned for a summer tea. Several hours later,
there came shouts and then screams from the royal family’s
quarters. King Elmern’s voice was commanding, but to no avail.
“Do not harm my sons! Take me only!”
destroy you, why then would I leave an heir!” Following a tortuous
silence, the Black Guards’ boots stomped through the
halls. Then they paused behind the chapel door. The door shook
from their pounding blows. The maidservant yet stayed by her
Judy Carlson is from St. Paul, MN. She and husband Tim have six children and 20 grandchildren and reside in Missouri. Judy has a BA in English from Trinity International University. Her lifetime passion for literature and writing and the works of C.S. Lewis and Tolkien has permeated this novel with their characteristic sense of wonder. She wrote her first story at age nine, and has been the grand storyteller to her children and grandchildren.
Title: Vows to the Fallen
Author: Larry Laswell
Publisher: Marshell Publishing
Publication Date: August 14, 2015
Format: Paperback – 277 pages / eBook / PDF
Genre: Historical Fiction / Military / Sea Story
Buy The Book:
August 8, 1942, 2346 Hours
USS Green; 45 nautical miles northwest of Red Beach, Guadalcanal
Lieutenant Patrick O’Toole considered himself a career naval officer, and someday he hoped to be promoted to admiral. At Annapolis, his teachers had taught him the horrors of war, but he had never experienced combat. That was about to change and it would change him forever.
The steel ladder rattled as he clambered to the wheelhouse deck to assume the midwatch. On the wheelhouse deck, the port fifty-caliber gunner slouched with his back to the sea and chatted with the lookout on the flying bridge one level above. The helmsman faced the starboard bridge wing and had but one hand on the wheel. Dim red lights above the chart table and the polished brass compass binnacle added little illumination to the wheelhouse, and the men, gray smudges in the dark, seemed unconcerned. O’Toole’s concern bordered on anger, but he remained silent.
Find out what’s going on then fix it.
A man on the flying bridge lit a cigarette. This was way out of bounds. “Snuff your butt. The enemy can see that for miles,” O’Toole said, hoping his voice had a bark to it.
O’Toole had seen this before. Captain Levitte ran a relaxed ship, but this wasn’t peacetime. They were at war in enemy waters. O’Toole read the message dispatches, the captain’s night orders, and the chart. None of it good news, especially the report of a Japanese battlegroup headed south.
He located Lieutenant Karl, the officer of the deck on the port bridge wing. Karl’s life jacket vest was open, revealing a sweat-soaked khaki shirt, and sweat beaded on his brow.
Karl slouched on the bridge railing as O’Toole approached “What’s your status?” O’Toole asked.
Karl rubbed his day-old stubble. “At Condition III. Fire in all four boilers. Superheat lit, and the plant is cross-connected. Starboard steering motor, port steering engine” Karl droned as he went through the standard litany of the watch change. “On course zero-seven-zero at ten knots. Straight line patrol between points Able and Baker on the chart as per the captain. You have about ten minutes before you turn around and head back to point Baker. Received a report of Japanese ships headed south five hours ago. Told the captain, and he said Intel couldn’t tell the difference between a cruiser and a sampan. Besides, nothing will happen before dawn. Aircraft overhead, told the captain, he says they’re from our carriers. That, and the captain said to cut the crew some slack; they’re tired. I just ordered the cooks to make a fresh batch of coffee; you’re gonna need it. That’s about it.”
“Why aren’t we zigzagging?”
“Captain’s orders. Straight line patrol between points Able and Baker is what he wanted.”
“With an enemy force headed south we should be at Condition II at least.”
“I don’t know about that, but the captain wants to give the crew some rest.”
“Do we have star shells loaded or at the ready?”
“Which gun mounts are manned?”
“Mounts 51 and 55.”
“Yes, and before you ask, one-third of the anti-aircraft batteries are manned, and I told those gun crews they could sleep at their stations.”
“Are the crews in Mounts 51 and 55 asleep?”
Out of professional courtesy, O’Toole didn’t challenge Karl, even though he would have been justified in refusing to relieve Karl of the watch until Karl corrected the battle readiness of the ship.
O’Toole saluted Lieutenant Karl and said, “I relieve you, sir.”
Karl nodded. “This is Mister Karl, Mister O’Toole has the deck and the conn,” Karl said to the bridge crew.
“This is Mister O’Toole, I have the deck and the conn,” O’Toole replied.
Karl handed O’Toole his life jacket, helmet, and gun belt and walked to the small chart table in the forward port section of the wheelhouse to complete his log entries. O’Toole brushed back his flaming red hair and put on the helmet, life jacket, and gun making sure all straps were cinched tight.
“Boats, over here,” O’Toole said to the boatswain mate of the watch as he headed to the starboard bridge wing. It was a lazy night: clear sky, high overhead clouds, calm sea, a slight breeze, and the ship plodding forward at ten knots. A night like this could dull the senses of the best of men. He couldn’t let that happen.
“Boats, square your watch away. We are in enemy waters, and there are reports of a column of Jap cruisers headed our way. I want everyone on their toes.”
“Aye, aye, sir.”
“Messenger, over here,” O’Toole said, beckoning the watch messenger.
“Go below and wake up the chiefs and tell them there are enemy ships in the area. I want them to make sure their watches are alert and ready. Tell the gunnery chief I want him on the bridge.”
“Yes, sir,” the messenger said and headed for the ladder.
A few minutes later, the gunnery chief appeared barefooted and in a white T-shirt. “Yes, sir, you wanted to see me?”
“Jap ships are headed our way. Check your gun crews; I want them alert with their eyes to the sea. Bring six star shells to the ready with one round in the mount. If we come under fire, I want Mount 51 to fire three star shells in a 180-degree spread without orders from the bridge.”
“What’s up, sir?”
“Not sure, chief, except we are in dangerous waters and the crew is asleep.”
“Will do, sir. Should I stay with the gun crews?”
“Wouldn’t be a bad idea, chief. Do what you think is best, but be aware things might get worse at dawn.”
“Yes, sir.” The chief trotted to the ladder and disappeared.
Lieutenant Karl finished his log entries and left the bridge. O’Toole stood next to the quartermaster at the chart table in the forward port section of the wheelhouse. He retrieved the sighting report. Five Japanese cruisers and four destroyers headed south at thirty knots. O’Toole plotted the ten-hour-old sighting location on the chart and walked the dividers across the chart to estimate the current location of Japanese forces. They would have passed the Green an hour ago and would now be on top of the northern defense line around Red Beach.
The receding drone of an aircraft off the port bow caught his ear. They were too far from the Japanese airbase at Rabaul for them to have planes this far south at night. It didn’t make sense: he didn’t think the carrier aircraft could operate at night, but spotter planes from a cruiser could.
Nothing had happened. Maybe the Japanese column had slowed or diverted. Naval doctrine taught officers to avoid night attacks since it complicated the battle, and everyone knew you couldn’t shoot at an enemy hiding in the darkness. Still, everything added up to a night counterattack against the Guadalcanal invasion force.
“Get the captain up here on the double. I’ll be on the flying bridge,” O’Toole said the watch messenger.
He felt better on the flying bridge where he had an unobstructed view of the sea and sky. He swept the horizon with his binoculars: nothing but a black night.
The crew was exhausted from the invasion of Guadalcanal the prior morning. The shirtless bodies of a hundred sleeping men escaping the oppressive heat and humidity of their berthing spaces lay on the dark main deck. Not regular navy, O’Toole thought, but he couldn’t object because the crew needed the sleep.
“What’s up, Pat?” Captain Levitte asked as soon as his head popped above the flying bridge deck level.
“I think we have trouble, Captain. The Japanese column sighted in the intelligence report should be on top of the northern defense line right about now. We should be at general quarters or at least Condition II and be zigzagging. There could be subs in the area.”
Levitte rubbed the back of his neck, then put his hands in his pockets, and walked in a tight circle with his eyes on the deck. “Look, the Japs aren’t that smart, and you should know not even the Japs are dumb enough to attack at night. Nothing will happen until the sun comes up. In the meantime, cut the crew some slack; they’re tired and need their sleep.”
“I’m sorry, Captain, but that doesn’t make sense. The sighting said the Japs were at thirty knots. They wouldn’t do that and then slow down to wait for the sun to come up.”
“No matter what happens we’ll kick their ass,” Levitte began. “We kicked their ass in the Coral Sea and Midway. Now we’re kicking their ass off Guadalcanal. The marines ran the Jap garrison into the jungle before lunch. They can’t stand up to us no matter what, so there’s no reason to get worked up about it.”
“To be safe, let me take the ship to Condition II and zigzag. It won’t hurt anything.”
“No, lieutenant. My night orders said to cut the crew some slack, and there is no need to waste fuel zigzagging. You read my night orders, didn’t you?”
“Good. Follow them, and let me get some sleep.”
The shirtless lookout stiffened. “Sir, light flashes, port beam.”
Both men turned. Staccato bursts of light above the southern horizon illuminated the sky.
Another voice called out, “Flares off the port beam.”
The night erupted. White-golden flashes close to port blinded O’Toole. Captain Levitte’s chest exploded into a mist of blood. Shells exploded against the mast, and men dove to the deck.
On his stomach, O’Toole fought his life jacket as he rolled to the starboard edge of the deck. Crawling under the railing, he let himself over the side. He was about to let himself drop the last three feet when a jolt catapulted him to the deck below. His head hit the deck, and despite his cinched helmet, the blow stunned him to the precipice of unconsciousness. O’Toole fought to bring himself back to the present as he wobbled to a crouched position.
Concussions from explosions aft the wheelhouse punched at his chest and abdomen. He had to go through the wheelhouse to the port side to see the enemy ship. In the wheelhouse, only the quartermaster was up, crouching in the corner by the chart table. Sparks and flashes of incoming fire covered the aft bulkhead and enveloped the wheelhouse in smoke, shrapnel, and debris. Broken, screaming bodies littered the deck.
He fought his way through the wheelhouse across shattered glass that slid like ice across the blood-drenched deck. The Green’s guns hadn’t returned fire.
He turned to find the phone talker. A flash memory of the phone talker’s body falling next to the captain made him stop. The phone talker was dead along with most of the bridge crew. He was alone; he had no bridge crew, and there was no one left to command. To anyone who could hear, he yelled, “Tell the gun crews to return fire.”
On the port bridge wing, he peered over the railing. A thousand yards away, two searchlights blinded him, and a torrent of tracer fire arched toward the Green. Muzzle flashes from the enemy ship’s heavy guns ripped at the darkness, and spasmodic explosions on the Green followed each flash.
On his stomach looking aft, he tried to understand the hell erupting around him. Black smoke spewed from golden fires, and smoke boiled across the fantail near the depth charge racks. Antiaircraft rounds raked the Green’s main deck, tearing men apart; the lucky ones leapt overboard.
In the forward boiler room, the port bulkhead ruptured three feet below the waterline in a flash of light, wrenching the keel. Shrapnel pierced the two Babcock & Wilcox boilers, which exploded upward, shredding the main deck overhead. A half-second later, a second explosion severed the keel, and a third tore the shattered hull of the Green in two.
Sheets of water vaulted into the air, and the explosions pushed the Green hard to starboard and lifted it upward in a death spasm.
Torpedoes. The word lingered in O’Toole’s mind until he understood, then it vanished. He pulled himself to his feet. Ruptured boilers roared beneath clouds of steam.
The Green hinged aft the deckhouse. The stern rose and began its slide beneath the surface. When the cool seawater reached the aft boilers they blew a ten-foot mound of white water to the surface. The mound collapsed into a steam haze low above the water. As the first wisps of steam dissipated, they dragged O’Toole from his stupor.
The gunfire stopped. The searchlights were gone. Screams, moans, and the sound of rushing water welled up to fill the silence. He strained his eyes for an enemy invisible in the night. They had vanished. The battle was over.
There was no time for thinking or words; the conclusions flashed through his mind fully formed.
When the armed depth charges on the sinking fantail detonated, anyone in the water would suffer intestinal hemorrhaging and a slow, excruciating death.
To the men below he yelled, “Stay with the ship! Don’t go in the water; depth charges! Get everyone in the water back aboard!”
O’Toole took inventory. The forward part of the ship, though sinking, seemed stable. The wheelhouse was a confusing mass of shadows cut against golden fires, and the smell of blood and noxious nitrate gasses filled his head.
He entered the wheelhouse and stumbled. His knee landed on something soft. He looked down at the chest of a headless body. O’Toole’s stomach wrenched.
A figure appeared. “Sir, we took three torpedoes. No water pressure to fight the fires, no power, and we are flooding forward.”
One by one the sinking depth charges designed to sink submarines began to detonate, sending tremors from each concussive blow through the ship. When the explosions stopped, O’Toole took a deep breath, and the acid-laced air burned his lungs. “Get below. Pass the word to abandon ship.”
O’Toole turned his attention to the main deck, and released the one remaining life raft stored just below the bridge railing. Not waiting for orders, shirtless survivors leapt overboard. It seemed to take hours, but soon the decks were empty and the survivors were off the ship. With nothing left to do, he wondered if radio managed to send a message. He doubted it. He turned to the quartermaster and said, “Let’s go.”
The quartermaster collected the ship’s logs and joined O’Toole.
As he prepared to jump the last ten feet into the ocean, the quartermaster yelled, “Stop! Your helmet, sir.”
O’Toole had forgotten he was wearing it. Going overboard with a cinched helmet would break your neck. He tore it off, and they jumped together.
There was no past and no future, only the immediate need to survive. O’Toole swam from the sinking bow section, demanding his muscles move faster before her sinking hulk sucked him under. His muscles grew tired from the frenzied effort until a voice yelled, “She’s going down.”
He stopped and turned to what remained of the Green. Out of breath, he bobbed in the one-foot swells and coughed to clear the salt water from his lungs. The Green’s prow swung skyward while the hulk of the remaining bow section backed into the depths. The sea extinguished the fires as she slid under.
She died a silent death. After the tip of the bow disappeared, his eyes lost focus and he stared at the empty sea for several seconds, unable to grasp the meaning of this moment.
He linked up with a small group of survivors, and they linked up with other groups. They located two floater nets, lashed them together, and placed the injured in them. They found several of the watertight powder canisters used to protect the five-inch brass powder casings while in the magazines. The crew used empty canisters to stow stable dry food and water with the floater nets. He ordered several men to attract scattered survivors by yelling into the night.
At first, groups of four would swim toward them. Now an occasional lone survivor would show up. O’Toole gathered the surviving officers and chief petty officers. The group of seven rolled with the lazy sea, clutching the floater net to stay together. Three wore life jackets; the other four relied on the floater net.
“Someone said there is another group with a floater net south of us.” Pointing to Ensigns Carter and Fitch, O’Toole said, “Swim to the south floater net, if there is one, take a count, and tell them to swim their way to us and lash-in. While you’re at it, round up volunteers to scavenge for debris we can use. The men should also collect all the powder canisters and bring them here.”
Turning to Chief Brandon, he said, “Make sure the injured are wearing life jackets, and get those with serious wounds in the floater nets.” Brandon swam off.
To Ensigns Parker and Adbury, he said, “You two make the rounds and get a head count of the healthy, injured, and critically wounded. After you report back, take charge of the injured. Collect the morphine ampules from the crew.” O’Toole reached into his trouser pocket and handed over two morphine ampules. “Bring the wounded together, especially those with bleeding wounds. Get them in the floater nets and get the bleeding stopped; the sharks will show up soon enough.”
To Chief Zies, O’Toole said, “Chief, make the rounds, talk to everyone, and make sure their heads are on straight. Find anyone who might lose it and buddy them up with someone. We don’t want panic or men going nuts.”
Chief Zies swam off, and O’Toole reached underwater to remove his shoes. He tied the laces together and draped them over his neck.
Chief Zies made his rounds and returned to O’Toole’s position.
“You get a head count yet?” O’Toole asked.
“My count is fifty-seven, including you.”
“Lieutenant, the aft two-thirds of the ship sank like a rock. From the time the Japs attacked to the time the stern sank wasn’t more than a minute. I’m surprised we have this many left.”
O’Toole’s chest went hollow, and his mind went blank. Visions of shattered bodies and blood-soaked decks, the sound of dying men flashed through his mind. His gut radiated the hollowness of failure.
The dark corners of his mind whispered, “You’ll never be the same.”
“Three-fourths of the crew is missing,” O’Toole said.
“There has to be more out there,” Zies said.
“Yeah, there has to more out there,” O’Toole said.
As the deck officer, he was responsible for the safety of the ship and crew.
He had scanned the horizon, and he had jacked up the lookouts and the bridge crew. It hadn’t been enough. Either way it was his responsibility. It takes three minutes to get a torpedo firing solution, and one zigzag might have destroyed their firing solution and saved the ship. He hadn’t seen his options; the wall had blocked him again. His grandfather’s words stabbed at him.
You’re not adequate.
It was the story of his life; he always fell short of adequacy. There was always one more thing he might have done, but he could never see it until it was too late. The wall was always there to stop him and hide the solution. His wall had damned him to failure again. The wall was always there blocking his way a single step short of success.
Ensign Parker swam over to him. “Got the head count. Fifty-seven men. Twenty-one wounded. Six critical. That includes the south floater net we got lashed-in.”
“We’ll wait till dawn to find the others,” Zies said. “What the heck happened, sir?”
“Wish I knew,” O’Toole began. “A column of Jap ships were headed to Guadalcanal to counterattack. I suspect they left a destroyer behind to ambush us once the fight off Guadalcanal started.”
“That means they spotted us, but how did that happen without us seeing them?” Zies asked.
“That part is easy. We weren’t looking, but I still can’t figure out how we missed them once we did start looking. I should have zigzagged despite the captain’s orders.”
Zies looked at O’Toole for a long minute. “You’re not blaming yourself for this, are you?”
O’Toole didn’t answer.
The question tore at O’Toole, but he had to look forward, and swore the wall would not stop him. “For now, we’re not losing any more men, Chief. Keep the men together. They’ll start looking for survivors tomorrow; they’ll find us.” O’Toole said.
Voices shouted. Zies turned. A searchlight from an approaching ship probed the surrounding sea. When it reached the far end of the floater nets, gunfire erupted. Spikes of water shot up around the Green’s survivors.
Both O’Toole and Zies screamed, “Everyone down!”
O’Toole shed his life jacket, took a deep breath, and dove. He figured five feet would be enough. He pivoted his feet beneath him and tried to maintain his depth. When the burning in his lungs became unbearable, he kicked hard to reach the surface. When his head cleared the water, he sucked in a chest of air, preparing to dive again, but the gunfire stopped.
The searchlight now centered itself on his small group, and a Japanese heavy cruiser loomed over them. With his hand, he blocked the searchlight so he could see the bridge. He studied the bridge and a man with a patch over his left eye. By his position on the bridge wing, his carriage, and the separation between him and the other officers, O’Toole guessed he was the captain.
They locked eyes. Neither man flinched. After several seconds, the Japanese captain walked away. The cruiser picked up speed and disappeared into the night.
Zies asked O’Toole, “What was going on between you and the guy with the eye patch?”
“I wanted the bastard to know we weren’t defeated,” O’Toole began. “The Japs won this battle not with equipment but with smarter officers and sharper training. How they pulled it off was brilliant: at night, torpedoes first, guns second, no star shells. They mauled us with their guns, but knew that wouldn’t sink us. Once the Jap ship saw the torpedoes hit, there was no need to continue a gun battle and endanger their ship; they knew they had sunk us, so they vanished into the night.”
O’Toole shook his head; he would have to figure out what happened later; he put it out of his mind.
“Okay, Chief, have the men with life jackets chain up. Make sure they lash in each chain to a floater net. As you make the rounds, make sure everyone is secure for the night. By God, we’re not losing any more men.”
“Aye, sir.” Zies swam away, yelling, “Everyone chain up and lash in!”
Men formed spiral chains. One man would loop his arm through the hole below the high collar of the next man’s life jacket, burying the arm to the shoulder. The chains provided security, extra buoyancy, and a way to sleep without drifting away.
Win a dinner for two, a night on the town, or whatever you want to do with $250!
Enter Larry Laswell’s Vows to the Fallen Poetry Contest!
Pre-release sales of Vows to the Fallen will begin on July 1, 2015 for release on August 14th. One of the characters in the book has a habit of reciting excerpts from classic poems. If you are the first to correctly name all of the poems you win! $150 for second place and $100 for third place.
Here are the rules:
1. Order Vows to the Fallen in Amazon’s Kindle store.
2. At midnight (EST) download Vows to the Fallen and read it to find the poetry excerpts.
3. Leave a review on Amazon (How you rate the book has no bearing on your eligibility to win.)
3. Go to http://larrylaswell.com and click on “Contest.” In the form tell Larry under what name you left the review, and then list the poems by name and author. (Watch your spelling – it must be exact!)
4. The first correct entrant who left a review wins a dinner for two, a night on the town, or whatever they want to do with $250!
5. If Larry cannot identify the entrant’s review they will be disqualified (don’t use an anonymous name!)
6. If Larry receives more than one entry at the same time stamp, Larry will hold a drawing to determine the winners.
7. Any organization, or individual who received an advance review copy, their employees or family are ineligible.
8. Larry is the contest judge, and his judgement is final.
9. Larry is not responsible for delivery delays in the Amazon Kindle system.
10. Larry will post the winners on his website at 8AM EST on September 1, 2015.
Pre-order Vows to the Fallen today!
Title: The Demons of Plainville: A Survivor’s Story of Storms and Reconstruction
Author: Daniel R. Mathews
Publisher: Lost Legacy Press
Publication Date: May 26, 2015
Format: Paperback – 292 pages / eBook / PDF
Genre: Autobiography / Memoir / LGBT / Non Fiction
Buy The Book:
Some true stories read like fiction, but for those who have to personally live through the experiences, the nightmare is vividly real. Daniel R. Mathews digs into the darkness of his past with his haunting memoir, The Demons of Plainville.
As a child, Daniel struggles to find his footing in an upside-down world. His mother is mentally ill and addicted to drugs; she performs black masses to summon demons, is physically abusive, and plays brutal mind games that make him doubt his sanity and despair of ever making sense of life or himself. Even his father beats Daniel after “rescuing” him from his mother. Thanks to a few unexpected friends, Daniel survives his devastating youth and emerges stronger for it.
But Daniel’s battles aren’t over. Finally free of his abusive parents, he now must face himself and wrestle with his sexual identity in a community that sees nothing wrong with homophobia.
Candid and compelling, this is a triumphant tale of a young man who walked through the darkness, bravely faced his demons, and against all odds carried the faint light of hope with him every step of the way.
Chapter 1: Telling The Truth
Accusations. This is how it always begins. S Screaming follows when my answers prove inadequate. Then come the threats, and finally the misery of surrender.
I was about eight at the time, living in a small red brick apartment building
in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Our apartment was on the basement floor, so
there was not a good view outside, only a few small quarter windows allowing
in some daylight. The building stood on a grassy hill that overlooked Myles
Standish State Forest. Some days I would just curl up on the sun-warmed
grass, staring down into the forest below me and imagining that I was a bird
darting between the trees.
My anger grew as we went through the same cycle day after day. I stood
in our tiny living room facing the yellow sofa with my mother giving me that
disdainful stare that made me feel ashamed. I’d look towards the light tan
carpet, afraid to make eye contact with her. The details of the accusation did
not matter, as I seldom had any idea what she was talking about. Whether
there was a quarter missing from her bureau or the bathroom light being left
on at night, there was no end to the possibilities of accusations. Each day the
school bus dropped me off at the bottom of the hill, I paused at the bus-stop
to gather whatever courage I could muster. I knew that a new accusation
would be awaiting me, starting the cycle anew.
“Stand up straight when I’m talking to you!” She barks at me. “And stop looking
down at your feet. Where is it, what did you do with it?” she screams, finger
pointed towards me.
“I don’t know,” I say defensively, shrugging my shoulders.
“You little fucking liar,” she says, standing up from the couch and slapping my
face. “Now get in your room!”
I would rush into my small room in our apartment, slamming the white door
shut before ripping clumps of my own short blond hair out. I hid the hair
under my giant stuffed bear, which stood up to my waist in height. The bear
was a gift from my maternal grandparents, ever standing ready to accept my
love. I clung to the bear; its soft white and gray fur brought me comfort during
times of sadness or anger.
My mother grew suspicious of the growing bald spot on the top of my
head and one afternoon decided to tear the room apart. Eventually, she found
the tangled lump of blond hair hidden under the bear and challenged me for
answers, answers I did not have. I could not explain the anger inside me, at
least not an explanation I dared speak in front of her. I had begun craving
independence and the seeds of rebellion sprouted forth. She pushed me at
every opportunity, accused and cursed me for anything ranging from theft to
family misfortune. I just did not understand.
My only outlet was to punish myself through self-inflicted pain, just to
release the frustration. My mother took an attitude of open hostility against
me, one that persisted throughout my childhood.
“I’m going to send you to a mental institution!” she screamed at me, her long
dirty blond hair swinging between her shoulder blades as she frantically shook
her head. She wiped the sweat from her flushed brow then paused for a moment
and looked down at me with great disgust waving the fist full of my hair
she found at me. I clung to my stuffed bear, looking up at her.
“If you do not learn to behave, I’m going to send you to a reform school
for boys.” She had hesitated for just a moment longer before her voice shifted
into a menacing tone. “They just love cute little white boys at the reform
school. They will take care of you real good.” Turning her back on me, she
stormed out of the room, leaving me weeping into my bear’s fur while I continued
to hug it with all my strength.
I’d heard of reform school before I was in second grade. However, I was
left pondering the nature of how they would take care of me. Strange feelings
overtook me. At first, heat surged through my body, then excitement.
My heart began to beat faster, and for the first time that day I smiled. The
words take care of you echoed in my mind over and over. Other boys at this reform
school were going to take care of me. My mind reinterpreted her hidden
threat; other boys were going to be touching me. I did not understand what
this might mean, but I wanted desperately to find out. These strange longings
would grow and expand in time. The seed long within me had sprouted. Yet,
it did not grow for a while.
We eventually moved from the basement apartment to my grandparents’
house in the same town. The small ranch style house was nestled in small
groves of pine and oak trees. There were numerous cranberry bogs in the
area and a large waterfront district a few miles east of the house. Small single
engine airplanes frequently flew overhead, taking off and landing at the local
airport just to the north.
The yard was ideal for play, with a large back yard that sloped down into
a small grove of pines and blueberry bushes. The neighbors behind the house
owned a pair of horses that I visited every day. The house had three small
bedrooms. My room was adjacent to the living room, just wide enough to fit
my bed and a small dresser. When in the house I spent most of my time looking
out the large living room bay window watching the cars and trucks drive
by. Otherwise, I sat on the back deck with my grandmother. We would try
to identify the particular birds visiting the feeder using a small field guide to
birds. I went down the stairs and tossed a ball around with my grandfather on
the lawn or helped him weed his small garden.
Because of the influence and presence of my grandparents (my mother’s
parents), my problems decreased. More often than not, my mother would
go off with her cousin Alice, leaving me behind. Alice’s arrival frequently
corresponded with noticeable changes in my mother’s behavior. Alice was
stern yet generally pleasant towards me. However, when they left together,
they would return in a giggly or light-hearted mood, which would come
crashing down a few hours later. I found the sudden mood shifts to be the
most troubling occurrence because it added uncertainty and fear to my already
besieged mind. One afternoon, though, while my grandparents were
out for the day, my mother and her cousin called me into the small bedroom
my mother was staying in at the end of the house.
Mother closes the curtains and shades, leaving just a shaft of sunlight entering the
room. She held a large red case, almost like a toolbox of some sort. She opened
the case and took out some items, including candles, a bell, incense, goblet,
matches, and a book. The book was entitled The Satanic Bible. She placed the
black and red candles around in a pattern that she refers to as a pentagram
with a circle around it. She ordered me into the imaginary circle and told me
to remain silent and not leave the center of the circle for any reason,” or else.”
She and Alice joined me in the circle while they lit a burner and then some
incense. The snaking trail of smoke climbed towards the ceiling. The ritual
was both exciting and frightening. She picked up the book and looked over at
me, smiling. She told me that she would pray to Satan and summon demons,
but the demons were not allowed to enter the circle. As long as I remained
calm, I would be protected.
She began the mass by ringing the bells; she used the book to speak words
I’d never heard before. The ringing echoed faintly in the room, combining
with the sweet smell of the incense. I felt almost dizzy, overcome by a giddy
feeling of excitement.
She proceeded to cut herself with a silver knife with an ornate looking
pearl handle, just enough to draw a steady trickle of blood from her finger, allowing
it to flow into a tarnished bronze colored chalice. Alice took the knife
and sliced her own finger, allowing drops of blood to fall into the chalice. My
mother held the chalice upwards as an offering and mumbled a few words.
After placing it back on the ground, she took a long slender writing instrument
and dipped it into the blood. The blood served as the ink, allowing her
to write on a small blank piece of white paper. I couldn’t see the writing, but
she told me it was an offering for our luck and fortune. She ripped the paper
into small pieces and set it ablaze. The mass finished with a final ringing of
the bells, driving away the demons.
I couldn’t see these creatures, but the air was laden with smoke and darkness.
I was sure the demons were there.
That afternoon was my first introduction to the “Lucifer,” originally the chosen
angel. The year was 1976 but on this otherwise bright summer afternoon,
it might have been 1692. Witchcraft was alive and well in the suburbs of
Mother and Alice repeated this scene several times during the summer,
always when my grandparents were out of the house. Since these rituals were
never performed in their presence, I always wondered what the ramifications
would be if they found out. As strange as it sounds, these were the few times I
felt emotionally close and accepted by my mother, so I was grateful for them.
As October approached, we were on the road once again. My mother,
Alice and I settled down one town over into a small cottage in the woods
of Carver. The cottage was just a ten minutes’ drive from my grandparents’
home, nestled amid lush green pines and small evergreen trees. Alice worked
for the state in Boston and money my mother received from welfare covered
the cottage’s rent. The commute from Carver to Boston was long, so Alice left
early in the morning before I got the bus and did not return home until the
sun had set. My mother spent a great deal of time sleeping during these times,
taking various prescriptions that generally left her tired and moody.
Loving the outdoors and the woods, I approved of our new home’s location.
Surrounded by miles of forest and a large lake that reflected the sunlight
in shimmering ripples of yellow, it was almost a boy’s dream come true. The
dream didn’t last long though.
I started the third grade at age nine that autumn. School became an issue
for me almost immediately. The first day I climbed into the bus, the driver
assumed I was a girl, as did the kids on the bus.
“Who are you?” the bus driver inquired, searching his list.
Before I could answer, he said, “Oh, there must be a mistake. Your name
is Danielle, right?”
I looked at him in surprise, “No, it’s Daniel!” I snapped back. The kids
in the front seat immediately giggled and pointed at me. I looked down and
The bus driver cleared his throat. “Well, Danielle is French for Daniel. So
climb on in, let’s go.”
This led to the unavoidable teasing and taunting one would naturally
expect from such a mistake. I could barely contain the tears of shame though
I did a reasonable job of keeping some composure for the trip to school. My
natural femininity provided a constant source of irritation throughout the
first semester, though eventually the kids forgot about it. Perhaps subconsciously,
I began to isolate myself.
Yet school was only a passing nuisance because my mother’s attitude towards
me changed quickly. She resented my growing desire for privacy and
independence. Away from the influence of my grandparents, my mother’s disposition
soured. The cycle of accusations and threats began to accelerate, taking
on a more menacing tone.
An avid reader of science fiction, horror, and fantasy, Daniel R. Mathews is a novelist and nonfiction writer whose books feature LGBT youth braving danger with honor and dignity, including his personal memoir, The Demons of Plainville, and debut horror novel, The Unseen Kingdom.
For the past two decades, Mathews has worked as a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certified ground instructor, meteorologist, and a member of the web development and Internet technical support community. He currently lives in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Connect with Daniel R. Mathews:
Title: Profit In Plain Sight
Author: Anne C. Graham
Publisher: Morgan James
Publication Date: July 7, 2015
Format: eBook / Hardcover / Paperback / PDF
Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads by clicking HERE
Buy The Book:
- 84% of business owners and CEOs surveyed score a C, D or F on the Return on People Benchmark – they can’t even give every employee a decent raise, let alone hire, invest in facilities, equipment or technology, or expand into new markets!
- 40% companies who increase their revenues in a given year will actually decrease their profits… and there’s a better way to increase both.
- 96% of companies will put their greater goals on hold this year with one simple phrase: We don’t have the budget for that.
Imagine if leaders were able to break free of their profit constraints, stop being victims of exchange rates and oil prices, and be in control of earning all the profit they need to fund the growth they want.
Savvy entrepreneurs would never start a new business without a Business Plan. Experienced executives would never try to lead their business without a Strategic Plan. But almost every manager confesses that they don’t have a Profit Plan beyond their P&L, and that means that profit becomes the leftovers between disappointing revenues and higher-than-expected costs.
Profit in Plain Sight offers the Profit Plan that’s missing, with a step-by-step roadmap that enables these busy leaders to grasp the big picture, and to implement solutions in less time per week than they are spending on email per day.
Unlike many business books, Profit in Plain Sight gives readers access to the “hows”, not just the “shoulds”, with downloadable training resources and action plans at the end of every chapter, plus regular opportunities for the reader to reflect on how their thinking is changing and growing.
This book finally helps leaders who are passionate about their business have all the profit they need to fund the growth they want, with tough questions to start changing the conversations in everyday management meetings, with practical, actionable techniques that are quite different from conventional cost-cutting approaches or the all-too-dangerous “increase revenues at all costs” techniques. Instead, Profit In Plain Sight offers take-it-to-the-bank results.
Challenges into Profit, Passion, and Growth
- How much easier would igniting profit, passion, and growth be if everyone in your
business embraced change and became part of it?
- What would be possible
if transforming your business felt more like play than like work?
- How quickly could you
turn good intentions into tangible results if you
simply could take small steps that require less time than you are devoting
to e-mail in a given day?
enduring success for over 100 years in the fast-changing world of technology,
but because it leads its category by a factor of
four in terms of
generate growth opportunities. Customers are incredibly loyal, the company has
a stellar reputation for quality, and, as the holder of more patents than any
other high-technology company, its strengths in innovation are readily
apparent. It seems that IBM has found ways to conquer some stubborn challenges,
to the 1880s and at one time its products consisted of employee time-keeping
systems, weigh scales, automatic meat slicers, coffee grinders, and punched
card equipment. Hardly the glamorous “Creating a Smarter Planet” organization we know today.
resource who was named President in 1915: Thomas J. Watson, the second in
command at National Cash Register. With just a few practical
for IBM’s success — a focus on the customer and on customer service, a sales
culture that built trust and respect, and an environment that instilled pride
and loyalty into every worker. The result? Profit, passion, and growth, with
integrity. In the 1990s, IBM had to reinvent itself or risk becoming irrelevant
in the marketplace, which it did by reemphasizing its customer focus and
creating clarity in its positioning.
the competitive landscape shifted once more, which it did by emphasizing its
role in providing integrated solutions, not merely products.
legendary leaders have proven, those enduring, practical tenets can serve every
Grinding You Down?
of the Top 10 CEO Challenges based on polling business owners and leaders. And
inevitably, five stubborn market-related issues keep coming up again and again
on these lists, although the order may shift from year to year:
Customer Loyalty and Retention
Sustained and Steady Top-Line Growth
Bottom-Line Growth in Profit
Corporate Reputation for Quality Products and Services
Innovation and Creativity and Enabling Entrepreneurship
Challenges behind us? Because 70 years of thought leadership in the business
press, from universities and in executive programs, has left us with more shoulds than hows and a lot of flavor-of-the-month distractions that
sound promising but are hard to translate into bottom-line impact.
on your shelf and have not had any impact on your business;
you but you struggled when you tried to put them into practice because the
author shared the shoulds but left you to figure out the hows; and
as an army of one only to run out of steam, run out of time, or run out of
focus when you find yourself spending more time trying to get people to change
and get on board than actually implementing anything.
busy. None of us have spare time. Or do we? Over 90% of executives polled admit
that they spend between 1 and 2 hours a day on e-mail … often more. So here’s
your wake-up call: unless you work in the order entry department, e-mail does not move the needle
in your business because it does not create cash flow, profit, or growth. In fact, it
leaves you working everyone else’s
agenda when, as a leader, it is up to you to set the direction and lead by
doing. E-mail is a nice, easy, reactive way to start the day and waste most of
the morning. And it’s killing your company.
to responding instantaneously to our phones, our e-mail, and other
interruptions, and there are times when that’s appropriate, but more often it’s
simply busy work. I’m not saying that you have to abandon e-mail — it’s a part
of our lives in the 21st century, just as the telephone and voice mail became a
reality in the 20th. But what is currently in your in-box or on your priority
list that is more important than securing the future of your business for your
employees, your family, and your community? What’s more important than building
a profitable, growing business
change can throw at it?
getting louder now that texting and social media elements are also in the mix
of e-mail, voice mail, and more. Yet one simple shift is all that’s required to
Appendix 1 with your entire organization to help them make that shift. In the
meantime, here’s my bold promise.
time for e-mail, you have time
all overcome the stubborn
challenges holding you back.
outlined in this book and access the Rapid Results Resources that ensure you
never have to waste precious time reinventing the wheel, you will transform your
business in less time than you’re currently spending on e-mail.
and tactics that will shift your thinking forever
levels is simply to overcome the thinking that’s kept us stuck with those
Challenges. Many of us were taught old-world thinking, long before today’s realities
of the Internet, globalization, recurring corporate scandals, all-too-frequent
recessions, and a rate of change that’s difficult to keep up with. It’s time to
hold our beliefs, myths, and common practices up to a very harsh light of
uncommon sense and retool for the future. It’s time to replace them with a road
map that delivers results. This first section, Possibilities, is going to give
you two powerful tools to do just that.
They’ll remain mired in the “we’ve always done it this way” paradigm, because
they simply won’t invest the time and energy to be open
build a road map that takes them to their Possibilities, step by step. They’ll continue
to default back to “business as usual,” because they think it’s easier, even
though they know it’s not working, and they need a new approach. Unfortunately,
they’re unknowingly making their lives and the lives of everyone in the
organization more difficult, and more uncertain.
of transportation can you spot? Look carefully, as the shapes hold the key to
your transformation. How many did you see? What were they? (Go to Appendix 2
for the answer.)
some energy into your regular meetings and start the process of
Team.” Use a couple of the questions every week to get your team thinking about
Profit, Passion, and Growth, and to get their creative juices flowing. Download
your copy at http://www.ProfitInPlainSight.com/101Questions.
in Plain Sight, you’ve already taken your
first step to becoming more open, more focused, and more successful. You’ve
taken your first step towards creating a process for sustainable levels of
increased profits. And you’ve taken your first step that will differentiate
your business from your competitors’ when you implement well. Just keep turning
the pages to make it happen.
employees? It means embedding the desire to be part
of something more, to be the best, to behave every day in
ways that add value to your customers, and to earn profit with integrity that
will help the entire company grow and succeed in the future.
Transformation that you’ll see in Part I, Possibilities, which will give them
the powerful AHA! Moments of information, inspiration, and motivation.
forward, because information, inspiration, motivation, and good intentions need
to be turned into action before you can transform stubborn challenges into
Profit, Passion, and Growth (see Figure 2).
you’ll divide and conquer the workload and transform your profit and growth
more easily than you might imagine.
your customers? It means creating an environment
where they love doing business with you and know that your success is part of
their success, because you save them time, make or save them money, solve real
problems for them, give them peace of mind, and make them feel good. It means
being the path of least resistance and getting it right the first time. It
means they’re happy to pay for the value you provide.
you take action with the systematic approach of the Profit in Plain Sight
Framework to solve the five stubborn challenges that are holding you back from leading
your market by industriously activating your road map to success (see Figure
power of Infused employees with the Two Drivers of Transformation.
factors that Enthuse customers as you systematically overcome five
stubborn market-driven challenges with integrated solutions that build upon each
Passion, and Growth … in less time than you’re spending on e-mail.
time. Your people aren’t onside. You have other priorities that need your
attention and focus. You’re uncertain of whether you can make a commitment to
see this through. You don’t believe that significant profit increases are
possible in your business or in your industry. Hogwash!
powerful, counterintuitive, yet proven, approach to see what’s possible from a tactical perspective and will powerfully move you past
“we’ve always done it this way” thinking with each of five stubborn
market-driven challenges. In this book, you’ll learn exactly how to do that for
for longer and know for certain how to become their preferred partner. You’ll
stop guessing what they might value and know for certain how to deliver value
to them that results in Top-Line Growth. You’ll stop applying bandaids to
quality issues and get the sludge out of your system to stop the profit leaks
and grow your Bottom Line. And you’ll know exactly how to avoid “me too”
inventions that are passing for innovation and innovate in low-risk, low-cost ways
that will set you apart from your competitors.
and economic turmoil, people still need to buy goods and services and people
still do business with people. The need to enthuse
your customers with the desire to do
business with you and to infuse your
staff with the passion and talent to deliver never
five stubborn market-driven challenges, and therein lies the stumbling block.
an endless stream of unrelated tasks, so-called best practices (which don’t differentiate
you from your competitors), flavor-of-the-month management and proverbial
silver bullets. Over 90% of business owners, leaders, and key employees polled
admit they get lost chasing bright shiny objects, and those are simply the equivalent
of trying to change nice, dry, comfortable diapers to icky wet diapers that don’t make sense to your people. Uncertainty, seemingly wasted time,
wasted effort, confusion, and the feeling of a lack of progress simply causes
fear and resistance.
of stand-alone tactics as “Kidney Stone Management” (his lengthy list back in
the 1990s has only expanded with time).
it’s a kidney stone — it will only cause them
pain for a while, it will pass, and business as usual can return. No wonder our people are burned-out and skeptical when so many new
initiatives are launched, so many seem important, and so many run out of steam.
Explain Kidney Stone Management to your executive and management teams at all
levels. You’re guaranteed a few rueful chuckles of recognition and an AHA!
Moment that indicates that approach is no longer going to be part of your
for good comes down to realizing that you’re in wet diapers and wanting the dry
ones you’ll get by shifting the way you do business. Dry diapers are the result
of implementing the step-by-step road map of over 57 detailed, value-add Profit
and Growth Accelerators for near term yet sustainable Profit, Passion, and Growth.
they’re going to get there (see Figure 3), Kidney Stone Manage-ment is no
longer a problem and they will be informed,
than a series of disconnected events will consistently create successes and a
sense of forward momentum and progress — the transformation you’re looking for.
reluctant to show their weakness by asking for help. Successful businesspeople
ask for help all the time. They call it getting input and they know the value
of not reinventing the
wheel. Profit in Plain Sight is the window to Rapid Results Resources that are not just shoulds but specific hows — proven step-by-step instructions plus additional
proven strategies and tactics that are beyond the scope of this book.
you might imagine. They deliver smart practices specifically implemented in the context
of your unique company. All you have to do is commit to transforming
conventional passive reading into active learning
their profitability or more — in less than one year, in less time than they and
their team were spending on e-mail — has identified obstacles to success. And
as they began the process, they found that each and every obstacle dissolved
with the straightforward, practical approaches laid out in this book. At this
point, all you need to do is finish reading the next two pages, and take the
actions outlined. Then, turn the page and do it again. That’s it. Are you with
but you can’t make it drink. But I always say that you can make the horse
thirsty or make the water sweeter. From the sheer fact that you’re reading Profit
in Plain Sight, I know you’re thirsty.
opportunities doesn’t come from rigorous change management processes that try to force-fit people into a change that they haven’t bought into. That’s
just leading the horse to water. Instead, it comes from naturally leading your
team where you want them to go by building an infused culture that thirsts for excellence and that reflects their desire to
find the easiest and most effective ways to achieve that end. When you share
this book throughout your organization, you’ll help lead your teams’ thirst for
where you want them to go.
streamline complexity and stay focused on what really drives your business
forward. That’s where the systematic Profit in Plain Sight Framework is
extremely valuable — bite-sized modules are easy to implement, in less time
than you’re currently spending on e-mail. Make the process painless and make
the water sweet when you take an integrated approach rather than succumbing to
Kidney Stone Management.
of leading others. I’ve experienced the frustration of dealing with these
Challenges over and over, just as you have.
I’ve used every one of these Solutions in Plain Sight, as a leader in large
and small companies and with my consulting clients. They’ve worked across a
broad range of industries and they’ll work for you too.
put many lenses on that theme, but never lose sight of that as our goal.
Growth — enthusing your customers, and infusing your employees. I’ll show you what you need to do
as wet diapers to motivate change and, in Part I, you’ll see Possibilities as you
learn how to activate them to kick-start the process and help
Plain Sight in this book and a total of 57 Profit and Growth Accelerators in
the Profit in Plain Sight Framework. In Part II, Shift to Practicalities,
unfold as we tackle each of the five stubborn market-driven challenges.
cherry-pick just those that are holding your business back the most, you will
see impact on your Profit. You’ll impact the Passion your teams bring to the
business. And you’ll sow the seeds for Growth.
within your reach.
business from the ups and downs of economic turmoil, and invest in everything
you need to take your business to the next level and help drive our economy
forward. You can finally feel confident in your plan for the future.
out in isolation; play is getting support to achieve breakthroughs and
feeling a sense of progress. So go ahead and put some play back in your day and
some bucks on your bottom line.
You Can Do It. You Will Succeed.
Download your copy of “The
101 Questions You MUST Ask Your Leadership Teams” at
to start changing the conversations at every level of your organization.
This is an ideal tool for executives and mid-level managers to use to spice up your
regular team meetings and begin to shift your culture to one of profit and
See Appendix 1 for the
secrets of achieving focus and transformation in less time than you’re
Check out Appendix 2 for
the solution to the “forms of transportation” brain teaser at the beginning of
on how your thinking is changing, so that you can generate the AHA! Moments to
break free of the conventional thinking that keeps you stuck when trying to
solve five stubborn market-driven
your own mind, evaluate what you’re learning, and ponder what is shifting or
changing in terms of your attitudes and behaviors, with the goal of eventually
building a new mental framework of how things work. This will allow you to
continually add relevant information and discard the irrelevant.
behaviors will follow.
metaphor for opportunities hidden in our business?
2.Which items on the list of five stubborn market-driven challenges are
top of mind for me right now — and why?
3.How effectively are we solving those challenges today?
4.How often do our people see our efforts as Kidney Stones because we fail
to give them the big picture with a road map for implementation?
5.How committed am I to create an environment where my horses are thirsty
and the water is sweet?
Inspire. Motivate. Transform.
of Transformation that deliver big wake-up calls and pave the way to transform your
business more quickly and easily than you might imagine?
Challenge is your greatest burning issue today, and then work backwards to put the
foundational work in place that may be required to trigger the
Anne C. Graham is on a mission to help 5 million business leaders and their teams double their profit per employee – or more in less than one year, in less time than they’re spending on email. Drawing on over 25 years of deep profit and growth expertise from her “in the trenches” and executive experiences with Fortune 500 companies and smaller firms, she closes the all-too-frequent gap between the good intentions vs. year-end results. The solution is the roadmap she wishes she’d had – a Profit Plan that transforms “we don’t have the budget for that!” into a “YES!” to funding every greater dream and goal for their business as they create prosperity for their company, their employees, their customers, and their communities.
As a best-selling author, international speaker, and accelerator, Anne inspires thousands of business leaders each year to Profit… On Purpose by moving past conventional thinking to discover Profit In Plain Sight. Audiences and clients love Anne’s fun and interactive approach based on value to the customer, NOT accounting, and her ability to create profound AHA! Moments so that participants leave with a new perspective of their possibilities plus practical actions they can implement for immediate impact. Anne is the Managing Director of the Legendary Value Institute, a popular faculty member in an award-winning MBA program, and a passionate boater on west coast of British Columbia.
You can visit Anne’s website at www.ProfitInPlainSight.com
Contact Anne at:
Author Website: www.AnneCGraham.com
Linked In: https://www.linkedin.com/in/annecgraham
Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads by clicking HERE
the house mocked me as I rummaged
through the Sunday paper looking for the travel pages. I ignored the
meticulously folded “Help Wanted” section of the newspaper and the yellow
highlighter that my husband had placed on the counter to remind me that I’d
been unemployed for two months and needed to find a job – soon. The ring of the
kitchen phone saved me from isolation and from a job search as the thick accent
of my aunt came across the crackly line inviting me to move to France.
considered English, she handed the phone to my great uncle Martin, and I heard
his booming voice.
telephone. Uncle Martin, the baby of my
grandfather’s family, ventured overseas as a teenager to fight in World War II,
found a French wife, and stayed.
Martin always came home for the family reunion at the beginning of summer.
calendar, assuring myself it was late June and Uncle Martin’s visit had ended
nearly two weeks before.
I asked in a quiet voice meant to encourage him to lower his volume.
get right to the point.” He hadn’t lost his American directness. “Lucie and I are tired.
need a break, maybe a permanent break.”
“You and Aunt Lucie are…but you can’t be…you can’t break up?”
lines. It sounded as if he said something like “Zut!”
“We’re tired of working so hard. We’re old and it doesn’t look like any of
Lucie’s relatives are gonna step forward and take over. That’s why I’m calling.
Will you and Grayson come over and run this place?”
eight-room bed and breakfast that he and Aunt Lucie ran in a small village in
Provence. Lucie’s family had owned the home for generations, wringing olive oil
from the trees and wine from the grape vines. But as big cities and ample
education called, the younger branches of the family moved away. When Uncle Martin
and Aunt Lucie found themselves the only ones living in the big, old house
during the 1970s, they decided to capitalize on a tourism boom and turned the
house into a bed and breakfast. They encouraged American and English tourists
to stay, and, after A Year in Provence came
out in 1990, their business exploded with people who wanted to see the land
that Peter Mayle described.
“obviously, since you’re not working.”
current jobless status. When a huge
conglomerate bought our local newspaper and combined resources with the paper
in the next town, I became superfluous. So, after years of writing about home
design, I sat staring at my own shoddy decorating. I tried to look on the
bright side. Now I actually had time to try some of those design tips. To add
depth to the alcove next to the fireplace, I painted it a darker color. Next I
added crown molding around the opening from the living room to the dining room.
positive so an amazing job would find me,
and I watched cable TV shows about happy families. Who knew The Waltons was on five times a day? Mix
that with the Duggars, that family with 19 kids on TLC, and my days just flew
past. I slowly realized that driving my kids to sporting events and
extracurricular lessons did not count as quality time. Inspired by those TV
families, I amplified my efforts to pull my 14-year-old twins closer. When they
ambled home from school, I’d suggest some family activities. “Let’s draw a
hopscotch on the driveway!” I’d say. Their eyes rolled wildly in their heads
like horses about to bolt. “How about making homemade bread together? We can
all take turns kneading? Or maybe an old fashioned whiffle ball game in the
goods store for new soccer cleats or swim goggles. I declined, picturing the
credit card bills I juggled now that I didn’t have an income.
to France winning approval from my husband, Grayson, who had just been
complaining about money.
planned our next extravagant purchase. Of course, my pragmatic husband, the
almost accountant, never used credit cards. But with my own income, I wasn’t
that concerned about using credit cards. When I started to run a balance, I
made the minimum payment every month. No need to inform Grayson who would’ve
disapproved of my indulgences. Not that I bought things for myself. Nothing but
the best for our kids with their private swim clubs, technologically engineered
swimsuits, travel soccer teams, and state-of-the-art skateboards. I hadn’t
bothered to save for an emergency but spent and charged as I went along until
the bottom dropped out of journalism.
visiting you and Aunt Lucie, but without a job now, I just… I can’t see it
agitated. “I’m talking about you moving in here and running the bed and
breakfast. I’d send the plane fare to get you here. You, Grayson and the
for you, Grayson and the twins. Both of them.”
14 years earlier made them one entity for the rest of their lives.
bar stool. “We can’t just move. Leave our house, school, Grayson’s job.”
Yes! I waited for a job to come to me and it did. A spectacular opportunity. I
pictured myself in a flowing skirt and low-heeled, leather sandals walking
along a dusty road away from the market that would line the village streets.
I’d carry a canvas bag with French bread jutting from the top as I headed home,
the pungent fragrance of a cheese wafting from the bottom of the bag. Although
I’d never been to France, I watched any sunny movie set in Europe. The women
always wore skirts and had leisure time to linger along the roadside, smelling
footfall in his casual Sunday topsiders as he came in from the office. Even on
a Sunday, the work at Grayson’s accounting firm was plentiful.
into the phone, “When are you thinking, Uncle Martin?”
rose again. I cupped my hand over the phone to try to smother the sound of his
bellowing. “I’m tired of dealing with these snippy tourists. I want to roam
around the world and give other innkeepers a hard time.”
lightly so Grayson, who was drawing nearer, wouldn’t realize the importance of
this conversation. The idea began to form in the back of my mind: We could make
this happen — with a little cooperation. I shot a hopeful glance toward
Grayson as he walked in the room. I quickly raised my eyebrows twice, which I
thought should give him an indication that good news was on the phone. He
looked grim and tired – the horizontal line between his own eyebrows resembled
a recently plowed furrow.
into the phone and punched the button to hang up as Grayson threw his aluminum
briefcase on the island. His look turned from grim to suspicious.
phone. “He has a business proposal…”
showed because Grayson dropped his head on top of his briefcase for just a
minute before he stepped toward the cabinet over the refrigerator. He opened
the door and pulled down a bottle of Scotch.
About The Author
Paulita Kincer is the author of three novels, The Summer of France, I See London I See France, and Trail Mix. She has an M.A. in journalism from American University and has written for The Baltimore Sun, The St. Petersburg Times, The Tampa Tribune, and The Columbus Dispatch. She currently teaches college English and lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband and three children.
We’re happy to be hosting Kim Boykin and her A PEACH OF A PAIR RELEASE DAY BLITZ today!
About the Book:
Title: A Peach of a Pair
Author: Kim Boykin
Publisher: Penguin Random House/Berkley Books
Genre:Southern Women’s Fiction
Purchase at Amazon
“Palmetto Moon” inspired “The Huffington Post” to rave, It is always nice to discover a new talented author and Kim Boykin is quite a find. Now, she delivers a novel of a woman picking up the pieces of her life with the help of two spirited, elderly sisters in South Carolina.
April, 1953. Nettie Gilbert has cherished her time studying to be a music teacher at Columbia College in South Carolina, but as graduation approaches, she can t wait to return to her family and her childhood sweetheart, Brooks in Alabama. But just days before her senior recital, she gets a letter from her mama telling her that Brooks is getting married . . . to her own sister.
Devastated, Nettie drops out of school and takes a job as live-in help for two old-maid sisters, Emily and Lurleen Eldridge. Emily is fiercely protective of the ailing Lurleen, but their sisterhood has weathered many storms. And as Nettie learns more about their lives on a trip to see a faith healer halfway across the country, she ll discover that love and forgiveness will one day lead her home.
About the Author:
Kim Boykin was raised in her South Carolina home with two girly sisters and great parents. She had a happy, boring childhood, which sucks if you’re a writer because you have to create your own crazy. PLUS after you’re published and you’re being interviewed, it’s very appealing when the author actually lived in Crazy Town or somewhere in the general vicinity.
Almost everything she learned about writing, she learned from her grandpa, an oral storyteller, who was a master teacher of pacing and sensory detail. He held court under an old mimosa tree on the family farm, and people used to come from all around to hear him tell stories about growing up in rural Georgia and share his unique take on the world.
As a stay-at-home mom, Kim started writing, grabbing snip-its of time in the car rider line or on the bleachers at swim practice. After her kids left the nest, she started submitting her work, sold her first novel at 53, and has been writing like crazy ever since.
Thanks to the lessons she learned under that mimosa tree, her books are well reviewed and, according to RT Book Reviews, feel like they’re being told across a kitchen table. She is the author of A Peach of a Pair, Palmetto Moon and The Wisdom of Hair from Berkley/NAL/Penguin; Flirting with Forever, She’s the One, Just in Time for Christmas, Steal Me, Cowboy and Sweet Home Carolina from Tule. While her heart is always in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, she lives in Charlotte and has a heart for hairstylist, librarians, and book junkies like herself.
Her latest book is the southern women’s fiction, A Peach of a Pair.
Visit her website at http://kimboykin.com.