Need a treat to beat the heat? Great! Keep reading…
Goodie #1: Whispered Pain is now permanently FREE on all ebook retail sites! Download your copy today and spread the good cheer with fellow bookworms! The links are below: Amazon B&N iTunes Kobo
Give yourself a special bonus and get the audio version (deeply discounted) on Audible.
Goodie #2: Tainted Future is out in print, audio, and ebook! To celebrate, I’m offering the first two books, Tainted Cure and Tainted Reality, for only $0.99 each! PLUS ~ the first 25 people to respond to this email will receive the audio version of Tainted Future for FREE via Audible!
Goodie #3: Fine as Frog Hair is available for preorder at the following sites for less than a buck! Release date is August 31, 2016 and the audio version, featuring the amazing voice talent of Homer V. Jones, will be available as well. Though a short story (less than 15,000 words) I believe you will enjoy the story of Marvin Hermesch.
Below is the synopsis:
Can the past heal the future?
Ninety-one-year-old Marvin Hermesch is determined to find out.
After sneaking out of the retirement home on a hot and humid Sunday afternoon, Marvin embarks upon a journey. His memory is deteriorating fast, and he’s having difficulty recalling the face of his deceased wife, Ruthie.
As his short-term memory slips, it awakens memories buried deep from his younger days and vivid nightmares of his youth, including the horrors of World War II.
Armed with an empty journal, some water, and his trusty old truck, Marvin heads to his childhood home in the backwoods of Grant County, Arkansas for one last journey; one final battle.
Marvin fights to regain control of his mind and body by confronting the tragedies of the past in hopes of healing the future.
When people we love pass on we are left with only our
memories of them in our hearts and minds. Recalling touching moments tend to make
us shed tears. Hysterical laughter ensues when remembering a funny story
involving our loved one. Even a favorite phrase or saying sticks, and when
heard again from the lips of another, immediately dredges up memories of the
special person in your life who used the same expression.
Knowing they are no longer around to say them hurts the
heart and soul like nothing else can.
My grandfather passed away in 2005 and the mere mention of
his name makes a lump of tears form in my throat. We were very close and I had
the privilege of growing up and listening to stories of his youth told in a
deep, rhythmic baritone thick with a southern accent. As most storytellers,
Grandpa loved an audience to regal with lavish tales of a world no longer
around, interspersing the stories with nuggets of old-school values and ideals.
Many humid summer nights were spent on the screened-in front porch shelling
peas (yes, I shelled them but no, I refused to eat them) and listening to him
talk about life in southern Arkansas. To say I miss those times would be an
One of his favorite sayings in response to the question,
“How are you?” always made me laugh. He’d give a mischievous grin and reply,
“I’m fine as frog hair!”
The first time I remember him saying the phrase I was around
eight and I giggled. “Grampa! Frogs don’t have hair!” to which he replied,
“Darling, it’s so fine you can’t see it, but it’s there. Some things you have
to use your heart to see.”
At the age of eight, I really didn’t grasp the meaning of
the explanation. All I knew was the phrase made me laugh whenever he said it,
and the expression became a running joke between the two of us. The tradition
carried on when my son was born, and my beloved grandfather passed on his
wisdom, morals, and our family history to his great-grandson with each bedtime
Fine as Frog Hair is
the title of my latest book, a short novel (under 12,000 words) with certain
parts inspired by my grandfather. It’s a tribute to a man I loved, respected,
and miss every day
Grandpa would cluck his tongue or shake his head if he heard
someone use the expression “Those were the good old days.” His response? “Only
to those who never experienced them.” This story explains why he felt that way,
and how strong previous generations were in a very different world than we live
I’m thrilled to announce the audio version will be narrated
by Homer V. Jones. I cried when listening to his audition sample. Mr. Jones
sounded so much like my grandfather it was eerie and wonderful at the same
Fine as Frog Hair
is slated for release August 31, 2016 on all retail channels (Amazon,
and iTunes) and is
available for preorder for only .99 cents. The synopsis and an excerpt from
Chapter 1 are below.
Can the past
heal the future?
Marvin Hermesch is determined to find out.
out of the retirement home on a hot and humid Sunday afternoon, Marvin embarks
upon a journey. His memory is deteriorating fast, and he’s having difficulty
recalling the face of his deceased wife, Ruthie.
short-term memory slips, it awakens memories buried deep from his younger days
and vivid nightmares of his youth, including the horrors of World War II.
Armed with an
empty journal, some water, and his trusty old truck, Marvin heads to his
childhood home in the backwoods of Grant County, Arkansas for one last journey;
one final battle.
Marvin fights to
regain control of his mind and body by confronting the tragedies of the past in
hopes of healing the future.
MARVIN SHUFFLED DOWN the
sprawling concrete steps as fast as his old legs would allow. The smell of
gardenias and magnolias hung heavy in the humid, late Sunday afternoon air. The
fragrant aroma embedded its natural perfume on his damp shirt—a welcome
reprieve from the stench of disinfectants and bleach. Sweat sprinted down his
back and face while making his way across the thick grass to the back parking area.
the edge of the blacktop to catch his breath, he wiped the dampness from his
forehead. Glancing around to ensure no one had noticed him slip outside, ninety-one-year-old
Marvin Dean “Junior” Hermesch let a true, genuine smile form—a first in nearly three
years. The only thing standing in the yard was the brick inlaid sign proudly
proclaiming the name of the place, Rolling
Brooks Estates. The faux-gold, trimmed lettering was overly ostentatious
and didn’t reflect the continual nightmare of the poor, elderly souls trapped
behind the doors, stashed away with nothing to look forward to except death.
arrived at his new home two years prior, he’d gasped at the beauty of the building
and grounds. At the time, he thought the lovely surroundings would help ease
the pain of selling his home and moving into the assisted-living facility full
of complete strangers. The three-story, red brick exterior sported six
enormous, white columns gracing the porch encircling the entire place. A
well-manicured yard dotted with weeping willows made the area look more like a
scene from Gone with the Wind than a retirement home.
The beauty was
a fake façade—a siren’s call beckoning weary travelers of life with false
promises of rest and sanctuary. The place was nothing more than a fancy, large
mausoleum, complete with thin and frail corpses shuffling around inside. The
residents were dried up husks of their former selves, betrayed by their own
bodies and minds. The life sucked out of them little by little each passing day
once strong shoulders, Marvin took a deep breath, letting the sweet aroma of
the flowers invigorate his soul. They reminded him of his birthplace; made his
heart thump with excitement, knowing the backwoods of Grant County was today’s
to spend the remainder of his life withering away while the staff and other
residents watched him wilt from afar. He was just a name and number—a frail
body occupying Room 272—and when he passed, another aged soul would slip into
were like elderly cattle huddled together, never noticing when a member of the
decrepit herd dropped to the ground.
Two years of
having every move monitored, no say in what to eat, when to sleep, who he
shared a room with, how he lived, was
more than enough.
It was time to
go. Time for Marvin to head back home and reconnect with his roots before the
dark shadows of confusion overtook his thoughts forever. He feared the next bout
would be a permanent break, trapping him inside the twisted hallways of a
Picking up his
pace despite the intense waves of heat billowing up from the pavement, Marvin
reached his old Dodge truck. He tried, yet couldn’t recall, how long it’d been
since he’d driven. Weeks? Months? A year? Would he even remember how to operate
fingers shaking, Marvin unlocked the door and climbed behind the wheel, tossing
the bag full of goodies on the floorboard. The tattoo on his right forearm of
an anchor with the words USS Langley
had faded, yet under the bright afternoon sun, the bluish-black ink seemed
brighter. Pride swelled inside his concaved chest. He’d been a Gunner’s Mate on
the ship during World War II—and was one of the fortunate who’d survived after
revisit those memories, Marvin
glanced at his hands. The thick, silver wedding band still held its place of
honor on his left ring finger even though his beloved wife Ruthie had been gone
for almost ten years.
his beautiful wife, even though he missed her so bad it made his chest tighten,
was much better than reliving the horrors of the war. For years, he’d kept the
terrifying images locked away in the deepest recesses of his mind. Once
discharged, he’d gone on with life, married, owned a successful construction
business, and enjoyed the companionship of friends and his wife. Those
activities helped keep the memories sealed away.
when Ruthie passed on from cancer. The lock inside him weakened, and when
Marvin moved into Rolling Brooks Estates
after suffering several falls at home, the
mental lock snapped in two, releasing the horrid visions of the war which
haunted him day and night.
think about that! No you aren’t, Junior. Not today. It’s time for a Sunday drive
to clear the cobwebs from the head. Yes siree!”
his concentration on the ignition switch, Marvin said a silent prayer for the old
V8 to behave. He grinned when the truck started right up. He patted the
cracked, worn leather on the dashboard. “That’s my girl. You’re all I got left
to rely on. Let’s take us one last journey, okay? Just two old hunks of junk no
one cares about riding off into the sunset. It doesn’t matter what anyone
thinks about us, right? Like Meemaw always said—if we’re breathing, we’re fine
as frog hair, aren’t we Bertha?”
With one last,
loving caress of the worn dash, Marvin put the truck into drive. He gave a fake
salute in the direction of the retirement home then glanced in the rear view
mirror. His cloudy, blue eyes stared back at him with a renewed sparkle. The
thick waves of white hair curled up at the ends from the sweat on his brow.
“God, when did
I get so old? I’m certainly no longer a towhead. I’m an old gray dog ready to
revisit—in person—the vivid memories of my younger days before the recollections
disappear for good.”
My latest release, a romantic suspense entitled Suicide Lake, is slated for release on May 20, 2016. For a limited time, you can snag the ebook for only $.99!
who have secrets…
Thornton is on the brink of despair, ready to take a final plunge and join the
other tragic souls at the bottom of Bradford Lake—known to locals as Suicide
Beneath the murky waters…
change when she’s startled back to reality after a body brushes up against her
from the depths below. Terrified, Renee runs away and slams into her old flame
Cliff Simpson, a deputy with Whitten County Sheriff’s Department.
Will stop at nothing…
events unfurl after the discovery of the corpse. Renee and Cliff find
themselves caught up in a web of lies, deceit, and mystery.
To keep them hidden…
instead of being able to slip away silently and become another anonymous
statistic, Renee finds herself entangled in a murder investigation. Is Cliff
her ally or enemy? Who can she trust? What other secrets will rise to the
sneak peek at Chapter One!
Poor little Renee Michelle
Runsford, nee, Thornton.
That’s what people would say when
my body was discovered, all bloated and flesh missing from being nibbled on by
fish. Yet another sad story to be passed around on social media then forgotten.
Boom! A big firework exploding in the sky for all to see and ogle. A burst of
excitement for people to ooohh and aaahh over. When the bright lights
disappeared, memories of me would last no longer than the smoky remnants.
I threw a pebble into the water,
watching the ripples spread out from the point of entry. They started out small
then widened into large, lopsided circles. Some of the edges caught the orange
rays of the disappearing sun, making the water look like it was on fire.
I didn’t miss the comparison to my
THE FIRST BIG boulder that crashed into my personal space
happened at thirteen. Up until then, though not anywhere near close to the
words normal or perfect, my life had been…tolerable. My father, the late, great
piece of shit known to others as
Raymond—I’m—too—much—of—a—Redneck—to—have—a—middle—name Thornton, disappeared
from my life. Mom—the always sad and perpetually whiny Caroline Clark Thornton,
told me dear old Dad found a new family to spend time with rather than us.
I was so hurt, so saddened to see
Mom in such pain, I didn’t question her story. I was too preoccupied with other
things like helping to pay the bills and attempting to maintain my grades.
Determined to be supportive, I lied about my age and snagged my first job at a
laundromat. The pay was pathetic yet it did help put food on the table.
Unfortunately, some of the money
made its way to Gene’s Liquor Store and bought bottles of wine. I didn’t
realize the connection until a few years later. By then, it was too late to
help. Caroline—I—was—once—the—Homecoming—Queen Thornton was a raging alcoholic.
THE NEXT ROCK thrown into my personal pond happened three
years later and I still felt the ripples even after all this time. After a long
Saturday working at the laundromat I arrived home and discovered Mom in a
drunken stupor. Unlike most times when she overindulged and simply cried
herself to sleep, ol’ Caroline Thornton was on a rampage. The ugly memories
clouded my vision, my mother’s words as fresh in my mind as the day she spoke
“He left us! The no good, dirty,
piece-of-shit! Left us to fend for ourselves. How could he? I mean, he married the Caroline Clark! I was homecoming
queen, you know. Could’ve had any man I wanted in this county, yet I picked
him. Gave him a family. Took care of our home. Cooked dinner. Serviced him whenever he wanted.
“Mom, I think you’ve had enough
for one night.”
“Don’t you talk to me like I’m a
child, Renee! I’m the mother here. I’ll say when I’ve had enough, and I haven’t
yet. Don’t think there’s enough booze in the world to forget what he did to me.
“Okay, Mom. I’m going to fix some
coffee. It’s been a really long day. Would you like some?”
“Oh, my sweet Renee. Always
looking out for me. Of course I would. You make the best coffee.”
“Thanks. I’ve had a lot of
practice,” I muttered.
Fortunately, Mom was too
intoxicated to catch my heavy sarcasm.
“You should let me highlight your
hair. It’s too boring. You’ll never catch a man with that pile of mouse fur on
your head. Some blonde streaks would help. And why aren’t you wearing any
makeup? A lady should always put her best face on when she leaves the house. If
you keep going out looking so frumpy, people will think you’re nothing but
poor, white trash. You could be beautiful, Renee, just like me, if you try a
“We are poor, Mom.”
“Well that certainly isn’t my
fault! It’s your father’s. I’ve been trying to get a raise at work, but so far,
“Maybe you should look for a
different job, Mom. You’ve been slaving away at the store for years. If that
doesn’t work, Mr. Richardson might give you one if you quit missing so much
“Oh, little miss high and mighty!
Big words coming from a girl who works in a laundromat all day! What you do
isn’t near the stress I have at work.
“Here, Mom. Have some hot coffee.”
For a few minutes, the
conversation dwindled down to nothing but sporadic comments about mundane
things, mostly about my boring face, bland choice of clothing, and mousey hair.
I thought the night would end on a somewhat normal note. I was used to Mom’s
constant bitching about my appearance.
Boy, was I wrong.
After Mom finished her coffee, she
pushed the empty cup to the center of the table. She fumbled around looking for
a cigarette in the pockets of her tattered robe. Twice, she nearly fell from
the chair. Once she found the pack, lit one, blew a heavy plume of smoke from
thin lips smeared with red lipstick, she dropped the bombshell.
“Your dad didn’t leave us.”
Stunned, I replied, “What do you
mean? Of course he did! For that Cyndi chick who worked at Snack-n-Go.
“I sort of lied. To protect you.”
“Sort of lied to protect me?
Exactly what does that mean? Did he leave you for another man or something?” I
For the first time in years, Mom
laughed. It was a strange sound, mixed with the heavy wetness constantly in the
chest of a smoker. “Wow, sixteen and already a hard-core cynic. No, Renee, your
dad wasn’t gay. He was a cheater like I said. And he did have an affair with
Confused yet curious, I asked,
“Then what part of your story was a lie?”
“That he left us.”
Irritated at her drunken
ramblings, I stood and went to the sink, unwilling to listen to any more. “I’m
going to take a shower and do my homework. Goodnight, Mom.”
“No, you aren’t. Sit down, I’m not
finished with getting this off my chest. I’ve got to. If I don’t, I think I’ll
Mom never shared her innermost
thoughts and feelings with me. Something about the tone in her voice made the
hairs stand up on my arms. “I’m listening.”
“I suspected he was cheating, so
one night, I followed him. He said he was going for a ride on his Harley to
clear his head. I knew he was lying because I saw it behind his eyes. Sure
enough, I caught them together at Bradford Lake. Oh, I was so angry. One
minute, I was screaming and yelling at them both, and the next, I was standing
at the water’s edge covered in blood.”
“You…are you saying you killed
Dad?” I whispered.
“Yep. And Cyndi. Took a tire iron
and smashed their cheating heads in. Dumped them and the bike in the lake and
MOM’S WORDS HADburned a hole
in my chest. I left that night, running out of the house despite her drunken
pleas to come back. I ran down the dark street of our trailer park, through the
center of town, out past the baseball fields, until I collapsed into a sobbing
The only comfort I found was in
the arms of the man who would end up being my ex. He happened by and saw me
crying and pulled up. His strong arms enveloped me in a warm embrace while I
wept. He didn’t ask what was wrong, just provided companionship.
Oh, and a bottle of tequila, which
we drank together under the moonlight until both of us were so drunk, I’m not sure
how we ended up having sex.
We did, and the stick turned blue
two months later.
A month before I gave birth, Mom
died in a car accident on her way home from a bar, and I married the father of
my child. A sweet, baby boy who only lived for six months. Burying the little
body of my son sent me to my first trip inside a psychiatric hospital.
Things had been screwed up ever
Now I was homeless after losing my
oh-so-exciting menial job. The job prospects were nil for a forty-nine-year-old
high school dropout living in a small town. With minimal education, I didn’t
qualify for much. I couldn’t compete with young, twenty-somethings who were
well schooled in technology. Unemployment kept me fed and the lights on but
wasn’t enough to pay the mortgage. After the six months of minuscule checks
stopped, I couldn’t even afford the filing fee for bankruptcy.
No siblings. No children. No
extended family. No close friends willing to take me in, so things boiled down
to one, horrifying truth.
I’d been forced to rely on a woman
who for years had been a painful thorn in my side. With my house in
foreclosure, I swallowed my pride and showed up on the doorstep of Eleanor
Runsford. To her credit, she opened the door and ushered me inside. I’d been
living in a back bedroom, hiding myself from the world, for two months.
God really had a sick sense of
humor and to be quite honest, I was tired of it.
Staring down at the worn out
comforter I brought with me, I let a deep sigh escape, feeling oddly connected
to the disheveled rag. At one point, it
had been a vibrant collage of colors, loved by someone, a warm treasure they
snuggled up to every night.
Not anymore. The colors had faded
into a dingy mishmash of nothing, a used up rag cared for by no one. Tossed uncaringly into a back bedroom where
no one would see it. Just like me. No
one would ever miss the pile of thread should it disappear, and I doubted
anyone would really miss me, either.
I ROLLED THE full bottle of Xanax around in my hands for the
longest moment. The small piece of plastic, a worthless outer shell that would
serve as proof I took my own life, was one of the last things I would ever
How utterly symbolic.
Although Eleanor had a myriad of
medications to choose from, Xanax seemed the fastest avenue and was the one she
had the most of. This was not the first time I contemplated killing myself but
I had never come this close to actually accomplishing it. The previous times I
entertained these thoughts I was like Hamlet, lamenting my lot in life and all
the sadness and pain that had been my constant companion. All the other times I
stopped myself, unwilling to end my life for fear of God’s retribution against
When these morbid, suicidal
thoughts entered my mind, it was due to a panicked state I created over an
event leading me to want to end it all. I would bounce between hysterical
crying jags to under-the-covers-for-days bouts of depression.
This time was different. My mind
was no longer like a tennis ball bouncing around atennis
court. No more thoughts bounding wildly from one side to the other. A few weeks
ago, I began wandering into the deepest, darkest recesses and crouched in the
backcorner, closing every tie to my world as I
went. And as my mind retreated, my soul
followed, veering so far away from God I just didn’t care anymore if offing
myself would damn me for all eternity.
Hell, I was damned right here on Earth
Fear of fire and brimstone was
replaced by this constant throbbing of mind-numbing memories. My new medical
issues didn’t help any, either. I wanted more than anything to vanquish
everything away. To blink my eyes just once and start over; to be the recipient
of some other-worldly miracle. Seriously, just to clasp, even if only briefly,
onto the notion that there was some sort of hope.
Those wishes never came to pass,
so here I sat, ready for the end.
The enjoyment of life had been
drained from my body and soul with each wound I sustained over the years. I was
being bled dry and the final mortal wounds came this year, one right after
another. Vicious blows that didn’t just knock me on my ass but stomped me into
the ground. Now, I was a lifeless corpse
stumbling through life with no purpose or direction.
It was time to go. Time to join
the others and take the plunge into Suicide Lake.
I LOOKED OUT across the water and over to the tree line.
Gray, leafless and dead; a perfect summation of what my life had become. My
final day in this wretched world and my last view was of dead trees, a used up
comforter, and gripping a plastic pill bottle.
Why would I have expected more?
Uncapping the lid, I shook out my
salvation, counting them as I went. Twenty pills seemed enough to do the trick,
so I grabbed my water bottle in my lap to chase them. I wanted my body to
become as tranquil as the water in front of me, ready for the constant ache in
my back and heart, to cease.
The sun was almost gone. Three
pills downed, I stopped. Before swallowing any more, I took in one last look of
the beautiful lake. I understood, fully and completely, why others came to this
spot to end their lives. The tranquility was a welcome reprieve from the
chaotic world. A final memory burned into the brain of peace and beauty.
I glanced back down when something
hard bumped against my foot. The last glint of the sun’s rays danced off the
top of the water. Squinting, I noticed the dark, red glow was back.
Instead of basking in the lovely
color on the gentle ripples, I screamed.
The red sheen wasn’t from the sun.
It was from blood, and it coated
my feet, which rested right next to a stiff hand poking up from the depths
I jumped to my feet, scrambling to
get away from the corpse. The comforter, water bottle, and pills went flying.
Instead of going after them, I let them disappear under the water.
Heart pounding and body shaking, I
backed away from the edge of the boardwalk. My first instinct was to grab my
cell and call for help. I felt around in my pocket, only to remember I didn’t
bring it with me because it had been turned off three days earlier for
“Ma’am? Are you okay?”
Spinning around, I came
face-to-face with a man. It took me several seconds to realize he was a cop.
And I knew him.
“Clifton! You scared the shit out
of me! What are you…oh, never mind. I’m just glad you’re here. I, uh, didn’t
bring my phone, so I was going to head to town and call for help.”
Clifton Simpson walked toward me.
In the dimming light, dressed in his uniform with the vest underneath giving
him extra padding, he seemed bigger than I remembered.
“Renee? Renee Runsford?”
“Thornton. I changed back after my
Clifton moved closer, all of his
six-foot plus frame only inches away. He smelled like stale coffee, sweat, and
cheap cologne. I hadn’t seen him in years but recognized the thick head of jet
black hair—now interspersed with flecks of white—and his deep, rhythmic voice.
How I didn’t hear him walking down the boardwalk earlier escaped me. Guess I
was too wrapped up inside thoughts of my horrible life.
“Oh, that’s right. Forgot. Sorry.
So, we got a call from a concerned citizen. Said they saw a woman sitting out
here on the edge of the dock, alone. Asked for a unit to stop by and check it
out, so here I am. What are you doing out here, Renee? You been drinking? You
“My mother was the drinker in my
family, not me, so no. I look unsteady because I just touched a dead body.”
“Excuse me?” Clifton replied. His
forehead knitted together in disbelief and confusion. “A body?”
Stepping away, I moved to the edge
of the dock and pointed. “Yeah, body. Didn’t you hear me scream?”
Clifton pulled out a flashlight
and walked past me, peering over the edge. “I did, but thought…oh, shit.
Doesn’t really matter at this point what I thought.”
Backing away, Clifton put his arm
on my chest, forcing me to step back. He grabbed the microphone on his shoulder
and radioed for assistance.
The warm breeze from earlier was
gone, along with the annoying mosquitoes. Darkness settled like a death shroud
over the lake. A chill of fear made me shiver. Clifton noticed and led me to
his unit. He pulled out a jacket and handed it to me.
“You should’ve worn something
warmer,” he said.
“Wasn’t planning on staying out
here long,” I grumbled. My mood was deteriorating as the Xanax flowed through
my veins. Sirens wailed in the distance. “May I go now? Sounds like your
buddies are close.”
“Sorry, Renee, but you’ll need to
stay here until one of the detectives speak with you.”
Aghast, worried they’d notice I
was barred out, I opened my mouth to protest. I shut it just as fast when I
remembered the pills—and the bottle with Eleanor’s name—had fallen into the
The radio on Clifton’s shoulder
crackled to life, saving me from having to respond. The sirens were closer and
I could see headlights bouncing through the winding road leading to the lake.
So much for a quiet, peaceful
evening to end my life. There certainly would be noise and activity now.
Of course, someone else’s tragedy
trumped my own.
Available now for only $.99 at the
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