WHAT I DO

Hello, and welcome to my world. Back in 2010, I had no idea I’d be penning cross-genre novels dealing with anything from death to revenge to romance gone wrong. Perhaps it’s in my genes? I’m a funeral director by trade so lives lived well are my primary focus, even if I like to mess my characters up a little bit along the way!

My interests are varied and my commitment to words both written and spoken is absolute.

There are big things ahead in the coming months and I look forward to sharing them as I move along on this thing called writing.

More later.

Adult, unapologetic, and wholly cognizant,

I am,

A. B. Funkhauser

Gonzo Writer

August 2, 2018

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GAME OF THRONES: ALL THAT POO AND A ZOMBIE DRAGON TOO

more poo
Sam’s chamber pot scene could have been funny if GoT had a rep for funny

I tried to watch the first episode of Season 7 after a three-year break and was reminded in the first two minutes why I had quit in the first place:  the showrunner’s preoccupation with fecal matter and mangled human bodies. All that poo before the opening credits invaded my senses and put me right off my food. The autopsy scene that followed was just the icing on the cake.

 

The fact that three scenes in took me right back to where I’d left off three years ago (with

cersei
She just doesn’t change–ever.

a reference to the red wedding) told me that not much had happened on Thrones during my hiatus and that the show moved slower than Harry Potter’s battle with Lord Voldemort.

 

 

 

 

casket
Getting down with Jaime in front of Joff’s coffin raised the euw bar on Thrones

Glacial pacing notwithstanding, how much longer will Queen Cersei hang in there? She has a new do and her stylist is fabulous, but all those scowls and scene chews wore thin by S7 E2 at just past the 30 minute mark. At least I didn’t have to suffer another randy legover between the siblings in front of a dead son’s casket (that one was over the top and too cloying even to shock).

 

 

 

I had to eventually skip to S7 E7 and fast forwarded a couple of times before the wall

funny thrones
A heart-warming stoner scene that, sadly, never happened

came tumbling down. Winter has finally come and the zombies are on the march.

 

Slowly.

 

Very, very slowly.

 

Like this show. In its last gasps.

 

Someone win the game, already. I’m worn out.

CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE HEADS OUT WEST

Leigh Podgorski sets the stage for romance out west in the 21st Century.

 

As Song discovers the true power of freedom, Weston discovers he’s lost his heart.

Western Song - Copy - Copy (800x1200)When rodeo clown Cody Goode is killed by the notorious bull, Baby Face, a maelstrom of events unfolds in the small town of Wild River, Wyoming. The arrival of Cody’s secret Thai mail-order bride Song throws it and especially Weston Beaudurant into chaos. Immigration issues and Native American gambling explode. But at the heart of this poignant tale is the love story that emerges between the lonely cowboy and lovely Thai immigrant. The novel soars with romance, rodeos, Native Americans and cowboys who ride the range, rope, and even throw punches in a quintessential barroom brawl. Complete with a diverse cast of unique characters, this American saga plays out beneath the wide Wyoming sky tossed with stars.

About the Author

LeighLeigh Podgorski is an award- winning playwright and screenwriter. Among her favorite projects are a play and documentary on Cahuilla elder Katherine Siva Saubel entitled We Are Still Here and the one-act play Windstorm for which she interviewed Dr. Elisabeth Kubler Ross. Leigh’s novels include The Women Debrowska that is loosely based on her own Polish ancestry, Ouray’s Peak which follows the story of one matriarchal Ute Indian lineage, and the Mystic Mystery Stone Quest series that includes Desert ChimeraGallows Ascending, and the newly released Neuri Shape-Shifter. Her most recent novel is Western Song, published by Solstice Publishing who has published novellas My Soul to Take and The Season of the Neuri Knight as well as her short story Silent Night. Currently she is working on a murder mystery adapted from her play, Amara.

 

 

My Review

Western Review

Links

Western Song  http://amzn.to/2sTk6CM
STONE QUEST SERIES BOOK SET http://amzn.to/2s2oq3i
Desert Chimera http://amzn.to/1fnIpZP
Gallows Ascending http://amzn.to/1jTTHrR
Neuri Shape-Shifter http://bit.ly/19kCNyu
The Season of the Neuri Knighthttp://amzn.to/2A7MQrR
My Soul to Take http://amzn.to/2E8jMDa
The Women Debrowska http://amzn.to/2sjgshM
Ouray’s Peak  http://amzn.to/1phcImX
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My Links

SMART WITCH CRACKS HAUNTED HOUSE

 

If you like witches, sentient kitty cats and gritty murder in a contemporary setting, this writer is for you! 

 

Susan Lynn Solomon PhotoFormerly a Manhattan entertainment attorney and a contributing editor to the quarterly art magazine SunStorm Fine Art, Susan Lynn Solomon now lives in Niagara Falls, New York, the setting of many of her stories. She is the facilitator of the Buffalo Writer’s Critique Group.

 

Since 2007 her short stories on serious topics have appeared in numerous literary journals. These include, Abigail Bender (awarded an Honorable Mention in a Writers Journal short romance competition), Ginger Man, Elvira, The Memory Tree, Going Home, Yesterday’s Wings, Smoker’s Lament, Kaddish, and Sabbath (nominated by the editor of Prick of the Spindle for 2013 Best of the Net and winner of second place in the 2017 Word Weaver Writing Competition). A collection of her short stories, Voices In My Head, has been released by Solstice Publishing.

 

Susan Solomon is the author of the Emlyn Goode Mysteries. A finalist in M&M’s Chanticleer’s Mystery & Mayhem Novel Contest, and a finalist for the 2016 Book Excellence Award, her first Emlyn Goode Mystery novel, The Magic of Murder, has received rave reviews, as have the novelettes, Bella Vita, and The Day the Music Died. The second Emlyn Goode novel, Dead Again, was a finalist for both the 2017 McGrath House Indie Book of the Year and the 2018 Book Excellent Award. In the latest Emlyn Goode Mystery novel, Writing is Murder, Ms. Solomon once more demonstrates that murder has a sense of humor.

 

 

Writing is Murder Ebook Cover (1)Cursed by a Native American, the Bennet House is one of the most haunted locations in Niagara Falls. This is where Emlyn Goode and all but one member of her writers’ group hunt for ghosts on Halloween. What they find in the house, isn’t a ghost, though. It’s the body of Daniel Bennet, the missing group member.

 

A few days earlier, Daniel had shown Emlyn a document he’d found in the Bennet House, and told her it would anger people if made public. When the body is found, the document is missing. Accused of Daniel’s murder, Emlyn is certain that document will identify the true killer. But her search for it becomes dangerous when her lover, police detective Roger Frey is shot in the Bennet House and then the killer comes after her. Without Roger’s protection can anything written in her ancient relative’s Book of Shadows save Emlyn this time?

 

 

Amazon Link

 

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1625267916

 

 

My Links

Amazon Author Page:  https://www.amazon.com/A.B.-Funkhauser/e/B00WMRK4Q4

Website:  https://abfunkhauser.com/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/iamfunkhauser

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/abfunkhauser/

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/funkhausera/

Publisher:  http://www.solsticepublishing.com

 

 

SPOTLIGHT: LONG DISTANCE ROMANCE

Today, Spotlight welcomes Linda Lingle whose tale of love, loss and longing leaves us wanting more.

 

 

COVER - ORIGINAL - RESIZED 233 X 350Deirdre Reid and Hartley (Lee) Tate feel an immediate attraction when they meet at the office where they will work together and fall in love.   There is only one problem:  they are married to others and Lee has four daughters to whom he is devoted.

For 15 months Deirdre and Lee carry on a passionate affair.  Then Lee’s wife is offered a big promotion across the country.  With his heart breaking, Lee leaves Deirdre in San Francisco and moves East with his family so his wife can advance her high-powered career.  

Soon, unforeseen circumstances have Deirdre second-guessing her insistence on a clean break.  She resists every impulse to fly to Lee’s side, but on the first anniversary of their parting, Deirdre grows increasingly regretful and melancholy.  Then she receives a surprising Christmas present which sets in motion a 38-year ritual that, against all odds, keeps alive the love she shared with Lee. 

As her destiny unfolds, Deirdre dreams about finding her way back to her lover’s arms, and an unlikely guide emerges to light the path of her journey.

About the Author

ME - 2 - LIGHTENED + RESIZEDLinda Lingle began writing at a young age and had some early success with her whimsical short stories. Then life intervened and she took a break from writing to build a career in public service. When the storyline for Dear Heart, and its companion book, Sweet Heart, came to her out of the blue, it sparked her imagination and reignited her enthusiasm for writing. She is currently working on a screenplay for Dear Heart which incorporates the plots of both books. Linda lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, Arthur, and her dog, Sam.

Author Links 

Website:  https://www.lindalinglebooks.com/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/linda.lingle.10 and https://www.facebook.com/LindaLingleBooks/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/lindalinglebks

G+: https://plus.google.com/s/lindalinglebooks

 

 

My Links

Amazon Author Page:  https://www.amazon.com/A.B.-Funkhauser/e/B00WMRK4Q4

Website:  https://abfunkhauser.com/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/iamfunkhauser

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/abfunkhauser/

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/funkhausera/

Publisher:  http://www.solsticepublishing.com

 

SPOTLIGHT: AN EROTIC FAIRYTALE

Spotlight is pleased to welcome its first ever fairytale eroticist. Welcome Cassondra Windwalker!

 

parabl of pronouns-001.jpgTwo women is a lot for any man to handle, but when one of them is a child-devouring demon and the other is Eve, Mother Of All Living, Harry Adams really has his hands full. An erotic contemporary fairytale that follows the reincarnations of Adam and Eve and, of course, the ever-hungry Lilith, throughout time, Parable of Pronouns finds the first dysfunctional family in what may be their final story. Harry Adams and Riann Haava don’t remember who they are, but that doesn’t deter destiny from catching up with them as they struggle to overcome their own demons and save Harry’s son from a fate worse than death.

About the Author

IMG_0403 (1)Cassondra Windwalker earned a BA of Letters from the University of Oklahoma. She pursued careers in bookselling and law enforcement before resigning her post to write full-time. Her poetry, short stories, and essays have been published in numerous literary journals, and her second novel, Bury The Lead, will be released by Black Spot Books in September 2018. She currently resides on the coast of Alaska with a supportive husband, a dim-witted dog, and a zombie cat.

 

Links

Book link: https://www.amazon.com/Parable-Pronouns-Cassondra-Windwalker-ebook/dp/B078RSGM2Y/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

 

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CassondraWindwalkerWrites

Twitter: https://twitter.com/WindwalkerWrite

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cassondrawindwalker/

Email: cassondrawrites@aol.com

My Links

SPOTLIGHT: MEET THE J. D. SALINGER OF SCI-FI J. D. SANDERSON

His origins are shadowy and he is never photographed, and that’s the author! Imagine what his characters are like. Please welcome to Spotlight, author J. D. Sanderson.

DcyKXRPV4AA63j7Who is the Mystery Girl?

Bernard Abbey’s life was routine, stagnant, and lonely. That all changed the day she entered his life. To save him from being killed, a mysterious young woman transports Bernard to another point in time. As he comes to grips with what has happened, Bernard realizes his new friend is unable to speak. She cannot tell him who she is, where she came from, or how she can travel through time. Even worse, she’s unable to tell him what is chasing her.

As she takes him back and forth in time, they cross paths with strangers who claim to know his new friend, each with a different story of her origin. The only thing he knows for certain is that the fate of humanity’s idyllic future is somehow connected with his new companion.

“Sanderson blew my temporally-frazzled mind multiple times as the battle ranged from past to present … and even in-between.” – William F. Aicher – Author of ‘The Unfortunate Expiration of Mr. David S. Sparks’

 

About the Author

J.D. Sanderson has been writing professionally in one form or another for the past seven years. He currently lives in South Dakota with his family and their bouncy miniature poodle.

Links

Twitter handle – @ascifiwriter

Facebook page – facebook.com/authorjdsanderson

Product page – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DVSH29W

 

My Links

 

Amazon Author Page:  https://www.amazon.com/A.B.-Funkhauser/e/B00WMRK4Q4

Website:  https://abfunkhauser.com/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/iamfunkhauser

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/abfunkhauser/

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/funkhausera/

Publisher:  http://www.solsticepublishing.com

 

SPOTLIGHT: Murder and Mayhem with Author K. A. Meng

Welcome to Spotlight, where I’ll be posting at random, indie and small to mid-size press books as they come my way. Today, I begin with author K. A. Meng. We met through Solstice Publishing. Ms. Meng likes to rip her pages with gunshots and bumps in the night. Her latest stays true to form. 

The First Scheme-001One murder, one plan, two possible outcomes.

The sound of a gunshot pulls Joann Fields from a peaceful sleep into a living nightmare. Her husband David is bleeding from a bullet lodged in his chest. She tries to save him, but she passes out instead.

Joann barely regains consciousness before two detectives arrest her for the murder. She turns to the only man who can help her, reporter Mike Carroll. With the evidence piling-up against her, can Mike save her from prison or is she part of some elaborate conspiracy? 

 
 

About the Author

 

Profile2K. A. Meng lives in North Dakota, in the same town she grew up. Her love for the paranormal started at a young age when she saw her first ghost. 

Today, she spends her time writing paranormal romance, fantasy, and everything in-between. When life drags her away from it, she hangs out with her son and friends, goes to movies, watches TV, plays board games, walks her dogs, and reads books. She is actively involved in two writing groups and wishes to some day visit Disney World. 

 

Find Her

A Town of Murderers Book 1: The First Scheme: http://getBook.at/TFS

Author website: http://www.kamengauthor.com

Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B01LXPQVGY/

 

My Links

Amazon Author Page:  https://www.amazon.com/A.B.-Funkhauser/e/B00WMRK4Q4

Website:  https://abfunkhauser.com/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/iamfunkhauser

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/abfunkhauser/

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/funkhausera/

Publisher:  http://www.solsticepublishing.com

 
 

SHE’S BACK! AUTHOR, POET, BLOGGER LINDA SIENKIEWICZ ON “HOW TO’S” AND “WHAT FOR’S”

1.

We haven’t talked in ages, so I figure we have a lot of catching up to doLinda-small pic “off book.” For now, we’ll just jump in. Tell us, Oh Linda:  What makes a good story?

You need some kind of conflict to keep the reader asking “how will this ever be resolved?” You also need characters that the reader cares about, even if they’re flawed or do bad things. Most readers enjoy stories of redemption because we want to believe everyone can be healed and redeemed.

 

2.

I’ve read and reviewed IN THE CONTEXT OF LOVE, so I know the answer, but can you tell my readers if any of the characters in your novel are mirrored after real life people?

They’re a conglomeration of people I’ve known. Much of Joe’s cool is based on a boy I dated in high school. There’s a good dollop of my mother, who could be tight-fisted, controlling and opinionated, in Angelica’s mother and grandmother. My father was a great dad, but he could also be unemotional, like her father, and they both told impossibly corny jokes. And there is some of myself in my main character, Angelica, in that we both have obsessions and a dark side.

 

3.

IN THE CONTEXT OF LOVE is about family and the lies we tell ourselves. Where did this come from?

It stems from the myth of the perfect family. We look at other families and wonder howUntitled design their lives can be so perfect when, in reality, they aren’t. There’s some level of dysfunction in every family. Also, some people go through a stage where they don’t think they belong in their family. They feel like misfits. After Angelica accidentally discovers a life-altering family secret, she can’t reconcile reality with the fantasy she was raised believing, and has to leave home to find her own truth. The novel is also a love story on many levels.

 

4.

Why is the novel written in second person?

Actually it’s first person-second person address–

You’re frightening me…

Lol. The story is deeply intimate. Angelica Schirrick is a mother with two young children who must reassess her life when her husband lands in jail. When she was a teen, she suffered heartache after the sudden disappearance of her first and only love, Joe Vadas. This was followed by an unexpected betrayal within her family. Now, as an adult, she realizes she needs to speak without shame about this devastating family secret, and she wants to tell her story to Joe, the one person she truly trusted. So she does!

 

5.

NICE! Do you believe in love at first sight?

I think it can happen darn fast! Love at first sight is immediate intense attraction. Angelica has a crush on Joe before she actually knows him, and he’s instantly attracted to her. From across the room, they play the “I look at you and you look at me” game. Both of them are true romantics.

 

6.

What exactly is a romantic?

I think romantics have strong aesthetic sensibilities. They seek out what is noble, truthful and beautiful in life. They form deep and lasting bonds with other people, and easily pick up on other’s emotions. They also tend to project their emotions onto others, which leads them to idealize people. They are always looking for meaning in life. As Joe said to Angelica, “We belong together. We always did, and it will be this way no matter where our lives take us.” Angelica wants to believe this, but she needs a little convincing. I guess it’s up to the reader to believe if they will always be together!

 

7.

What’s new for you in publishing?

I’m super proud to be in a new anthology by McFarland titled IDOL TALK: Women idol talkWriters on the Teenage Infatuations that Changed Their Lives, featuring dozens of kick-ass female writers. It has fun, distinctly unique, and sexy stories of the right-of-passage experience of “puppy love.” I wrote about my “Horrible Celebrity Crush.” I cannot tell you who he is. It was all too horrible at the time. Seriously.  You’ll have to read about it.

 

8.

That sounds super! Hey, I’m thinking about heading down to Detroit for the annual Dream Cruise. Shall I bang on your door?

Lol. Call first. 😀

Will do! Thanks for dropping by, Linda. You inspire. 

–A.B.

 

About Linda

Linda K. Sienkiewicz writes about ordinary people on extraordinary journeys. She is the author of the multi-award-winning novel In the Context of Love. Her poetry, short stories and essays have appeared in more than 50 literary journals and anthologies. Among her awards are a Poetry Chapbook Award and a Pushcart Prize Nomination. Her MFA is from Stonecoast. She blogs about the oddities of life and the creative process at http://lindaksienkiewicz.com/blog/

If you enjoy gripping love stories and family roller coasters that leave you with the feeling there is still good in the world, you’ll enjoy In the Context of Love, an intensely charged story about family secrets, love and lust.
2017 New Apple Official Selection Award for Excellence
2016 Eric Hoffer Book Award Finalist
2016 Sarton Women’s Book Awards Finalist
2016 Reader’s Choice Finalist
2016 USA Book News Best Book Finalist
What makes us step back to examine the events and people that have shaped our lives? And what happens when what we discover leads to more questions? In the Context of Love revolves around the journey of Angelica Schirrick as she reevaluates her life and its direction.

Links:
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First Chapter of 

IN THE CONTEXT OF LOVE

I had convinced myself I could stomach seeing Gavin since social services told me it was in the children’s best interest to see their father. Despite his trespasses, I knew they missed him. They needed to see for themselves where he was, and that he was in one piece, but I certainly didn’t need or want any such assurances. The closer we got to the Madison Correctional Center, the sicker I felt. I knew it wasn’t going to be a picnic, but I’m not sure I can convey how awful it was.

Michelle, age ten, remained glued to my side, chewing her lip. Jude fidgeted like a typical eight-year-old. I’d brought games and books for them to share with Gavin, which, as it turned out, we had to leave in the car. They shuffled nervously into the visiting room, eyeballing the  prisoners. Many of them looked like any man you might see working behind the counter at the post office, stocking soup cans at the supermarket, or delivering a package to your front door. Some flinched oddly; others had bristled jaws or tattoos on their necks. I studied their hands, wondering if they’d forced a woman to her knees, pulled a trigger,or simply written a batch of bad checks.

Gavin’s face looked etched with lines,and his clothes hung on his wire-hanger frame. The four of us sat at a metal table, falling into the same seating arrangement we used to take at the dinner table. He seemed unable to look us in the eyes. I was glad he’d ditched his typical smugness. There was no way he could clown his way out of this one—the damage he’d caused was as clear and tangible as the waxed floor and steel bars. In a weaker moment, I might have pitied him, but mostly my heart ached for our kids. I was fuming that that we had to be here at all.

“Hey. Thanks for coming,” he said quietly, sitting rigidly, shoulders clenched, kneading his hands in his lap.

I glared at him for a few seconds, thensmiled. “Gee. Thanks for having us.”

He exhaled hard, as if it were my job to make this easier for him. He scuffed his feet around under the table, then said, “So, yeah, this is where I’ll be holed up for awhile, but I’m okay. It’s not so bad. I get to watch TV and play cards and work out. The food is lousy, but I can’t complain.” I lifted my chin and glared at him. Why couldn’t he say he was sorry? Was he? Did he even wonder what I’d toldthekids about where he was, and why? The two of us hadn’t spoken to each other since our blow up in the kitchen, and that was before his arrest and sentencing. I was angry at myself for sugar-coating things when I should have been blunt with the children.

Jude looked up, a mix of nervousness and innocent concern on his face as he picked at the dried blood from a scab on his elbow. “Dad?”

“What, big buddy? Go on. Ask me anything.”

He wanted to know if they slid Gavin’s meals under the bars in his cell, if his bathroom had a door, if he slept with a pillow and blanket, and wore leg chains when he went outside. Michelle asked if he had a roommate and his own television. I imagine they had expected to see him wearing a blackandwhite striped uniform, like in old movies, and his state-issued blue pants and shirt disappointed them, but at least they found something to talk about. Gavin loosened up and soon had them laughing. I was amazed that he found something to joke about. Was it a gift, the way he always made the best of things or was he in denial?

“Yeah, so don’t worry about me. Just remember, I’m still your father,” he said, his eyes catching mine when visiting time was over. He needn’t have worried we would forget. “You guys be good, you hear? Love you both.” It wasn’t unexpected that his love no longer included me, but hearing it smarted.

Rules stipulated that inmates couldn’t hug or touch visitors. Michelle started to cry. The guard said he couldn’t give us extra time. Red-eyed, Gavin turned his head and coughed into his fist. She pushed my hands away when I tried to comfort her on the walk out.

Once outside, Michelle hollered at Jude that he had asked dopey questions. He punched her in the back and told her to “get real.” He asked me in his high-pitched, boy voice, “Can we put Dad inside a big box and sneak him out next time we visit?” I shut my eyes and took a deep breath, having no idea what was going to happen to us. This was something I couldn’t fix.

“Sorry, kiddo. It doesn’t work that way.”

“You’re such a dope, Jude,” Michelle said.She looked up at me. “It’syour fault, you know.”

I stopped walking and grabbed her arm. “Sweetie, what are you talking about?”

Lips tight, she just shrugged. I made her look at me while I explained her father was the one who broke the law, and he did that all on his own. “Even Daddy doesn’t blame anyone but himself. Do you understand?”

Michelle was too young for her brows to be pinched together the way they were, so much like mine. “Do we have to come here again? It sucks. I hate it.”

“No. Not if you don’t want to. What about you, Jude?”

He was standing off by himself, scratching his elbow. “I don’t know. Won’t he be mad if we don’t visit?”

“Don’t worry about him being mad. You know what? You should be mad at him.”

I tried not to rage in despair as I drove home. Michelle’s hands were clenched in her lap, her forehead pressed to the glass of the front passenger door. She grunted and pulled away when I reached across the seat to touch her. Jude, in the back seat, sliced his hands through the air while making terrible noises, like screaming jet fighters, machine guns and scudding bombs. I’d prepared a list of questions to help them process the visit, such as What did you like? What didn’t you like? What made you feel better? but now it sounded like psycho babble. The entire trip had been hell.

For whatever reason, I thought of you again, and how different my life might have been had we still been together. I brought my right hand up, as if fixing my hair, so that Michelle wouldn’t see my angry tears. Where were you? Why was everything so hard? I wanted to scream. Honestly, I hated you almost as much as I hated Gavin at that moment. You had become the scapegoat for everything that had gone wrong in the last fifteen years, even though I was certain I still loved you.

Filing for divorce when your spouse is in prison is no different from when he’s not, and since Gavin didn’t contest, there were no lawyers or lengthy mediations. I got the house and everything in it, the station wagon, our savings, the credit card debt I hadn’t known about, and a spongy backyard full of moles. His chauffeuring business was dissolved. I sold his wrecked ‘86 Cadillac Seville for parts.

Despite everything, I missed him. It made no sense—after all, he had been gone more than he was at home. It was only his likeness that had slithered like a cold snake in and out of our bed for such a long time. I cried like a baby in the middle of the night while craving a fifth of Chivas Regal. I developed an irrational fear of sharp things. The idea that my flesh could be torn open by broken window glass, a tin can, or the edge of an innocuous piece of paper sent me into shivers. Anything could catch me unaware, cut and bleed me. Nights were shadowy and deep with no stars, and I felt disoriented and exhausted in the morning, as if I’d been pushing my way through drifts of snow to get to the other side of something. The same old fears that began in high school, after you disappeared as cleanly as if you’d been tied to an engine block and dumped in Lake Erie, came back. Sheathed in blue ice, I had no more substance than the frosted air that eked from my lungs.

Late at night, when the children were in bed, I would turn to your old tattered notebook, tucked safely in a box in the back of my closet. Reading your poems was one of the few things that gave me solace:

 

You cannot pass from child to adult

without falling into holes of doubt,

broken wheels of trust

and traps of betrayal.

 

In what ways had you been betrayed? What holes of doubt did you have? I was certain you and I felt the same sadnesses, even though our childhoods were vastly different. This thought made me feel close to you, as if, even in your absence you understood all I’d been through—my horrible secret, my mother’s pain, my family’s betrayal, my husband’s disloyalty, and my own unfaithfulness.

 

 

Copyright © 2015 Linda K. Sienkiewicz

Published in the United States by Buddhapuss Ink, LLC, Edison, New Jersey. All rights are reserved.

 

SHAUN BAINES: FROM SCOTLAND WITH NOIR

It started with a “Hi, whatcha write” on Twitter, and weeks later author Shaun Baines and I were exchanging book spotlight info and a Q & A or two. It’s got to be serendipity, right?

Shaun’s bio reads like a kindred. Who hasn’t had a run-in with a bloke with a “Bad Joe” tattoo? (And if you haven’t, there’s this guy I met in Oshawa with a scorpion on his neck…)

Crime mixed with darkness and a lot of fantastic means BIG CHARACTERS with BIG PROBLEMS and Shaun’s all over this with WOODCUTTER, his debut novel available now as an ebook and then paperback on June 7.

Congrats, Shaun. Damp Scottish cottages yield results.

Read on…

–A.B.

 

1.

Your novel is set in Newcastle Upon Tyne, an English burg a mere stone’s throw from Southdean. To what extent do the two cultures meet?

As coincidence would have it, I live near Southdean, following a move from Newcastle to Scotland. Daniel’s story begins somewhere like Southdean. He is hiding from his criminal family in Hounswood, a village in the Scottish borders where he hopes to make a new home. As you can imagine, places like these are off the map in some respects. They’re quiet and friendly and the cultures of Hounswood and Newcastle don’t meet so much as clash. Newcastle is a busy, sprawling city in real life and the city I depict is also dark and dangerous. There is a certain anonymity to both places, but Newcastle shines so brightly, it’s hard to hide for long.

 

2.

Protagonist Daniel Dayton is in a tough spot—at odds with his family and possibly his own skin. What attracted you to writing a character with such enormous identity dilemmas?

I think we all have identity issues at some points in our life and one of the themes of the book is to look at how identity is shaped. Whether you love or hate your family, they are instrumental in how you are shaped. It’s the Nature versus Nurture debate. You inherit from them genetically and they mould you as you grow. Daniel rejects both these ideas and sets out on his own to discover who he is. His biggest problem is that he is too late. The Daytons have crept into his soul and won’t let go.  He is as much a part of them as they are of him. How can anyone run away from that?

 

3.

I love a good crime/noir/thriller. How would you categorize Woodcutter?

I set out to write a crime novel. It’s what I read and what I enjoy, but it’s a huge canvas with many sub-genres. There are police procedurals, psychological thrillers, serial killers making it personal – the list is endless.

Woodcutter is best labelled as Newcastle Noir. It’s hard-boiled fiction with morally dubious characters and violent action. There is dark humour and a casual style to the writing. Of course, the final judgement rests with the reader. They can decide what it is. Just as long as they think it’s good!

Ed. – Amen! 😀

 

4.

Tell us how you got here? Was the publishing process onerous or a piece of cake? (I say this with tongue firmly in cheek :D)

The whole process has been a dream; painless from start to finish. I say that knowing how lucky I’ve been and some other writers may not have had that experience. The truth is I wrote a book, the best book I could and then submitted it to various agents. I was fortunate to have been chosen by David Haviland of the Andrew Lownie Literary Agency. Super Dave sent it to publishers and we decided on Thistle Publishing. A contract was signed and the front cover came through, blowing me away. If it doesn’t win any awards, I’ll be amazed. And then Woodcutter was published. It doesn’t make a dramatic story and sounds like I’ve had an easy ride. Maybe I did, but a lot of it was down to the people I surrounded myself with. My agent, my beta-readers and most importantly, my wife, who suffers my writer anxieties on my behalf.

Ed. — The support of family and friends is integral.

 

5.

Thanks to Netflix, a lot of us here in North America are well acquainted with English Scandi Noir—Broadchurch meets Wallander meets Shetland. To what extent does geography figure in your novel? Does it play a part in drawing Daniel home and keeping him there?

I wanted the Newcastle I know to be recognisable to others. I use street names and landmarks readers can identify. Any businesses or specific locations are of my own devising and I had fun naming them. I’m particularly pleased with the naming of a café called Mag’s Pies and Peas. People from the north-east of England will get that one. (The Magpies is the nickname of the Newcastle United football team. I don’t follow football, but I know enough to come up with a pun.)

Actually, it’s the geography of the north-east of England that drew me in. It didn’t occur to me to write something about my town until I moved away from it. I was alone in a different country and it made me feel closer to home.

 

6.

We have now shared our books and views on our respective blogs. What are your promo plans for Woodcutter?

I’ve been both surprised and warmed by how welcoming the writing community is. Support is everywhere. I have several book bloggers working on reviews, other authors tweeting and retweeting about Woodcutter. I have had articles in magazines and in the local newspaper. It’s ongoing. The book will be released as a paperback on 7th June so expect another flurry of marketing around that time. I’ll probably stop short of walking the streets wearing a sandwich board. But then again, maybe not.

 Ed. — Sandwich boards are “in” this year!

 

Thanks for stopping by Shaun and sharing your insights! — A.B.

Woodcutter is available on Amazon. If you read and enjoy it, he welcomes reviews.

You can also reach Shaun at shaunbaines.com or on Twitter as @littlehavenfarm.

 

What it’s about…

CoverOn the run from his criminal family, Daniel Dayton returns home to Newcastle Upon Tyne when his abandoned daughter is attacked.

But his family have problems of their own.  Targeted by a brutal mercenary, their empire is destined to be destroyed should Daniel refuse to help.

Betrayed by his parents.  Despised by his brother.  In love with his sister-in-law.  Home has become a dangerous place to be.

Daniel wants his daughter safe.  And he wants his revenge, but in the shadowy streets of Newcastle, things are never what they seem.

 

Chapter One

Charles Bronson woke with a start. He was five foot five, thick set with wavy blonde hair. Like his namesake, he sported a handlebar moustache, but it wasn’t so he looked more like the movie star or that lunatic in prison. It was to detract from the nervous tick in his cheek coming alive from the moment he rose to the moment he fell asleep.

He rubbed his eyes and gulped. “Are you still up there?”

The room was a bedsit in an abandoned block of flats known as the Devil’s Playground, home to junkies and rat faced dealers. The tatty furniture was pushed against the walls, clearing a space for a tin bath filled with slurry. He’d obtained it from a farmer in Crawcrook who was paid enough not to ask questions. Above it was a naked man called Enoch, suspended by his ankles to a beam in the ceiling. His arms were either side of the bath, braced against the floor. Enoch’s skin was slick with sweat as he struggled to stop his head dipping into the slurry.

Bronson checked his watch. “That’s almost two hours. Sorry I nodded off, but if you’re not going to talk, then there’s nothing for me to do, is there?”

“I don’t know anything,” Enoch said, squeezing the words through gritted teeth.

“I wish I could believe that. You know, I’ve drowned two people in that tub so far and they all keep telling me the same thing. They don’t know anything.”

Bronson approached, smoothing out his moustache. His nostrils had become accustomed to the smell of the slurry, but he was annoyed about his clothes. This kind of stink couldn’t be washed out and he’d binned two suits already. He lived on a budget and the organisation he worked for weren’t the type of people to dish out clothing allowance.

“Enoch, I’m going home for a shower. Don’t worry. I’ll come back, but I live a fair distance away and I love long showers. Do you think you can hang around for me?”

He smiled at his own joke, though he’d used it before.

“Please, Bronson. Let me down. I don’t know anything,” Enoch said.

Who had scared these people so badly they would rather drown in cow shit than spill the beans? This was going to go wrong again, Bronson thought. His boss wanted answers, but no-one was talking. He’d be left with another dead body to dispose of and an awkward conversation to be had with his superiors.

“You pay the Daytons one hundred pounds a week, right?” Bronson asked.

Enoch nodded.

“What’s it called? Your restaurant?”

“The Peking Lantern.”

“Oh, I’ve been there. It’s nice. Anyway, you pay money so your lovely restaurant doesn’t get burned down with you in it, right?”

Enoch nodded again.

“Why would you stop paying?” Bronson asked.

“I don’t know.”

Bronson grabbed Enoch by his hair and stared into his frightened eyes. “You do know, but you’re being very rude by keeping it a secret.” He yanked downwards, forcing Enoch’s head under the slurry. Enoch fought against him, but he was too weak to offer much resistance. Counting down the seconds on his watch, Bronson finally released him.

Enoch coughed and spluttered, choking on the slurry in his mouth. When he was able to breathe, his breaths came as whimpers.

“I. Don’t. Know. Anything.”

“Jesus Christ,” Bronson said, wiping his dirtied hand down the side of his trousers. “That’s bad for you and bad for me, isn’t it?”

This was supposed to be his breakthrough. He figured Enoch would crack the minute he saw the bath full of shit, but he’d turned out to be a hard bastard. He would have admired that except his own head was on the line too. Someone was choking the money supply to the Daytons. If he didn’t figure out who, Bronson’s name was as much shit as the slurry Enoch was about to drown in.

A knock came at the door. The authorities gave the Devil’s Playground a wide berth, refusing to pour resources into an unwinnable fight. They allowed the tower block to police itself. Knowing he was safe, Bronson opened the door and smiled.

Peter Pan Hands shook his coat from his shoulders as he entered. He was in his forties with tumbling locks of ginger hair. His green eyes sparkled with mischief no matter what he was doing at the time. The Irish lilt of his voice charmed women and gangsters alike.

“If it ain’t the Magnificent One,” Peter said. “I gather I’ve got a collection.”

Bronson closed the door. Peter wrinkled his nose, but seemed unfazed by the scene in front of him. “Why do you always take their clothes off?”

“It’s something Daniel taught me,” Bronson said. “People feel more vulnerable when they’re starkers.”

Peter considered the idea until he was distracted by something. “I thought you said this guy was Jewish. Aren’t all Jews circumcised?”

“Enoch runs a Chinese restaurant. How orthodox do you think he is?”

“Orthodox or not, it’s obviously pretty cold in here, if you know what I mean?”

Bronson laughed, slapping Peter on the back, but Peter’s face grew serious. “Listen mate, I only dump these bodies out at sea as a favour to you. I’m not dropping a live one in for anyone.”

“I understand. I didn’t think he’d last this long.”

“I’m freelance and I need the money, but…”

“It’s okay, honestly. I’ll take care of it.” Bronson pulled out a knife and waved it in front of Enoch’s face. “This is my friend Peter. He’s an arms dealer, but he also has a boat. He’s going to drop your dead body in the North Sea if you don’t give me the answers I’m after.”

Despite his exhaustion, Enoch swung away from the blade and started to cry. “Okay. Cut me down and I’ll tell you.”

Bronson looked to the knife in surprise. Why hadn’t he thought of this earlier? He’d carried that tub of shit up three flights of stairs for nothing.

He placed the knife under Enoch’s penis. “Get talking or maybe you’ll get circumcised after all. I ain’t no doctor and this place ain’t sterile. You don’t want little Enoch to go green and drop off, do you?”

With his face purple and his eyes wide, Enoch spoke to the knife. “Someone sent a photo to my phone. It was of my wife. She was tied to a chair. She had a blindfold on. Her face was bloody, but she was alive. Then they sent a text.”

“What did it say?” Bronson asked.

“No more money to the Daytons. Next time she dies. Tell no-one.”

“That was it?”

Enoch nodded. “They released her. She didn’t see anything, I swear.”

“And you never saw anyone either, I suppose?”

“No, but when she came home, she had five hundred pounds with her.”

“Jesus,” said Peter to no-one in particular.

Bronson looked at him. “They’re paying people to not pay us? That’s crazy.”

“Or really smart,” Peter said. “Who’s going to give you money when it pays more to keep it in their pockets?”

“And if they do pay, their loved ones die. Who are these guys?” Bronson rubbed his chin, hoping the answer might come in a blinding flash of brilliance.

Enoch snuffled back a sob. “That’s all I know. Please cut me down.”

The twitch in Bronson’s cheek took on a staccato rhythm. It sometimes happened when he was worried. Enoch had told him all he knew, but it wasn’t much. Aside from a text, Enoch had no contact with this new, mysterious gang. Bronson could check his phone, find the caller ID, but it was probably a throwaway and already smashed into several pieces. No-one this careful would be that stupid.

After hours of interrogation and buckets of cow shit, Bronson still knew nothing.

“Okay, Enoch, time to go home,” he said, working his knife through the rope.

Bronson shivered as the temperature dropped and a voice spoke behind them. “What did you find out?”

Bronson and Peter turned to see Scott Dayton walk into the room. He was as tall as Daniel, but with none of his warmth. Scott’s eyes were icy blue and his skin was white. He dressed in dark suits, tailored to limbs as thin as icicles. Sometimes he looked like a funeral director, sometimes like the corpse about to be buried.

He adjusted the knot on his silken tie. “I asked you a question.”

Clearing his throat, Bronson recounted the little he knew and tried not to stutter. When he finished, Scott studied him for an uncomfortable amount of time before turning his attention to Peter.

“It looked like Bronson was letting Enoch go.”

Peter shrugged. “He can do what he likes.”

“No, he can’t. Neither can you.”

Peter pulled on his coat, evidently feeling a chill. In all the years Bronson had known him, he never backed down from a fight. He admired that in Peter, but hoped today might mark a change and if it didn’t, Bronson was powerless to intervene.

“I don’t work for the Daytons,” Peter said, buttoning his coat, “and I’m not scared of you, either.”

Scott gestured to Bronson. “Give me your knife.”

“He didn’t mean anything by it, Scott. There was no disrespect.” Bronson looked at Scott’s extended hand and turned to Peter. “Tell him you didn’t mean anything.”

Peter’s mouth clamped shut. His eyes narrowed as Bronson presented the knife to Scott, who held it aloft like a trophy.

“It’s time you learned who has the power here.” Scott span on his heel, driving the blade into Enoch’s chest. There was no escaping the strike and Enoch didn’t scream. His strength had long been spent. He gulped in surprise and his arms gave way, his head sloshing beneath the shit. The body convulsed, spilling slurry over the floor and spattering Bronson’s shoes.

“It’s like that freaky cheek of yours,” Scott said with a grin. “All that jerking around for no reason.”

“You didn’t need to do that, Dayton,” Peter said, his big hands rising from his side.

“You came for a dead body, right?”

Bronson slipped between the two men. His back was to Peter, but his eyes were locked onto Scott.

“He didn’t pay his debts, Peter,” Bronson said. “He was protecting the gang trying to take us down. He deserved it.”

“You Daytons are butchers.” Peter placed a hand on Bronson’s shoulder. “You’re on your own with this one, pal. Give me a call if you need anything else.”

They watched the Irishman leave. Bronson sensed the coldness emanating from Scott in waves. “He won’t say anything,” he said.

Scott punched Bronson in the stomach. He doubled over and Scott forced him to his knees. He held Bronson’s face over the bath of slurry. The oily stain of Enoch’s blood rested on the surface.

“You better start getting me some answers or you’ll be the one hanging up there next time. Who’s out there? Who’s trying to take us down?”

“I don’t know,” Bronson said, immediately recalling Enoch’s fateful words.

Scott pushed his face into the slurry. It was cold and drew itself up his nose. It’s just water, he told himself as disgust clawed at the back of his mind. Just water. Not cow shit.

He was released, but didn’t dare breath. He blew the slurry from his nose, wiping his face clean before gasping for air. He’d rather suffocate than have that stuff inside him. When his head stopped spinning and the gagging passed, he looked around the room to find Scott was gone. He was on his own.

“Bollocks,” he said.

 

About the author

 

IMG_4612 (2)Shaun didn’t always live in a damp cottage in Scotland.  He once unwittingly lived in a flat beneath a white supremacist. He wasn’t always a writer, either. He worked in a factory, a government institution, as a manager in a purchasing department and later as a gardener.

He has had a gun levelled at him and been threatened by a man with ‘Bad Joe’ tattooed on his neck. He doesn’t knowingly associate with criminals.

Shaun comes from the north east of England where his novels are set. He is represented by David Haviland of the Andrew Lownie Literary Agency. His short stories combine dark fantasy with contemporary crime. They can be found online, in magazines and in anthologies, including Eclectic Mix Vol 5 and Metamorphose Vol 3.

Woodcutter is his debut novel published by Thistle Publishing. It is based on the criminal underworld of his native home, available as an ebook on Amazon. The paperback will be published 7th June 2018.

These days, he keeps chickens and bees, grows his own fruit and vegetables and wonders where it all went so right.