I originally wrote this short story for a Write In Weekend Challenge for WriteOn Refugees. Recently, Neoleaf Press decided to publish a “Strong Women” anthology for Mom’s Favorite Reads group. I figured this was the opportunity to expand on this particular story. My friend, author Sue A. Hart, had encouraged me to tell readers more about Elle.
My grandma used to say that ‘everyone is talented, but some people haven’t discovered their talent yet.’ Grandma was a wise woman. I don’t know if she would be proud of my new-found talent, but I’m getting ahead of myself…
My name is Elle. My dad was a fan of Elle MacPherson. What can I say? It was the 80’s, and my dad was a scumbag who left us years ago. I was as far from the supermodel type as someone can be. I’m short, plump and unremarkable. No one notices me. This fact helps me as I hone my new talent.
I discovered my new talent quite by mistake. I was minding my own business walking down the Las Vegas strip towards my hotel. I was at a conference of greeting card writers. You know — those little sayings inside of special occasion cards. In the age of the internet and social media, the greeting card business is looking for innovative opportunities to expand their market. And that is how I happened to be in the wrong place at the right time.
I was sipping on my diet soda running through some ideas for a “Happy Divorce” card, and I heard the squeal of tires. Turning, I saw a black sedan jump the curb and continue to skid in my direction.
My little stubby legs didn’t carry me very far. I stood with my mouth hanging open and my diet soda spilling onto the sidewalk awaiting my imminent death. I squeezed my eyes shut and said a quick prayer. But death never came. I cracked open one lid far enough to see the black sedan inches from me. Prayer does work! Hallelujah!
What happened next defies any rational explanations.
Two beefy guys sprang from the car; their guns were drawn. I sidled back hoping they weren’t interested in a greeting card writer.
“Stop right there, toots!” One of the behemoths rumbled in my direction. I felt the cool press of steel against my temple. Sweet Lord! I’m gonna die! In Vegas!
I don’t know what came over me, but I decided right then and there that if I were going to die, I would go out fighting. I stomped on the guy’s foot, slammed into his solar plexus with my bent elbow, and as he leaned forward gasping, I socked him in the nose with my clenched fist. Blood gushed out of his nose, and the dumbass dropped his gun right where I could grab it.
I didn’t hesitate. I put a slug into my attacker’s forehead. His friend was frozen for a second before he charged me. That second was all I needed to put gangster #2 in my sights. I hit him in the chest and the forehead. They call those “kill shots.”
I wiped my prints off the weapon with my shirt, picked up my cup (DNA, you know) and blended into the growing crowd. Remember, I said no one ever notices me. It comes in handy when you moonlight as an assassin.
I’m not in the greeting card business any longer. I’ve found my talent.
Join me this weekend, July 29 – 30, at Valley West Mall in West Des Moines, IA. I will have a table at the Book Expo where I will have my books for sale and will be signing books. With over 30 authors, this should be a fun event.
Hi all! I wanted to give you a glimpse at the first chapter of my current WIP. It’s a story of second chances, love lost and found, and dealing with a new chapter in life. The story’s protagonist is Libby Crenshaw — a 50-something widow whose life is empty when the story begins…
Here is a glimpse at Empty Chairs, Empty Promises
I suppose some of my neighbors would call me crazy or at least odd if they watched me standing in subzero temperatures along the Mississippi River. I wasn’t sure how long I had been standing in the snow. I didn’t wear a watch today. Hell, I don’t even remember what day of the week it is. Don’t even ask me the date.
I think I’ve been frozen in this same spot for more than a few minutes. My fingers start to feel numb inside my thick gloves as I stand on the riverbank searching for the small splotches of white among the bare branches along the river. Slapping my hands together does nothing to relieve the effects of the winter temps. My breath surrounds me with crystalline clouds.
For the last twenty years, I’ve watched the bald eagles soaring over the river and roosting in the bare trees. Today they are absent. The other oddity is the frozen river. For the first time, it froze solid without a trace of open water. Would it hold me if I walked out on it? Could I make it across the wide expanse to the other side without falling through the ice and being swept away by the force of the mighty river that flows beneath it?
Something bumps my leg. I look down — for a moment perplexed — at the yellow lab smiling up at me with its tongue hanging out the side of its mouth. Mia. That’s her name. She pulls on her leash encouraging me to move. It wasn’t a bad idea, I guess. We would be much warmer inside.
I pull up the collar of my wool coat and adjust the scarf around my neck. Definitely, time to get away from the river and the cold winds blustering through the valley. I wave at the passing vehicles and stop briefly to exchange a few words of greeting with some of my more adventuresome neighbors who brave the cold as I have to walk the dog or get some exercise.
Mia’s pace increases as we near the large white house I’ve called home for the past 25 years. The house I had shared with my husband, Joshua, for almost as many years. Our children are grown and live far away. They call, but it isn’t the same. I open my back door and stomp my boots to get the snow off. I unhook Mia’s harness hanging it, my coat, and scarf on the hooks next to the door. Toeing off my boots, I kick them into the corner and scurry across the icy cold cement floor in my socks eager for the heated interior of my home.
The warmth of the kitchen is comforting on such a cold morning. The radio is tuned to the morning news and fills the still house with the humming drone of the announcers. I find it soothing. Leaving the radio on during the day is a new habit. The house has been too quiet, too empty. The hypnotic tick, tick, tick of the hall clock just reminds me of time passing me by.
My birthday is just around the corner. I’m going to be fifty years old. I never envisioned my life would take this fateful turn. I pictured vacations to exotic locales with my husband at my side. In my dreams, I watched with pride and pleasure as my husband walked our daughter down the aisle. Our future would involve both of us playing with the grandkids. And on days like today, the two of us sitting at the kitchen table enjoying a hot cup of coffee as we planned our day.
Oh, I’ve heard all of the platitudes. Life isn’t fair. You’re young — you’ll meet someone else. You’re lucky you are financially stable. And my favorite, don’t you think it’s time to get past this and get on with your life. I’m sure most of the advice is well meaning. But I will handle my grief in my own way and in my own time.
I fill Mia’s bowl with kibble adding a tablespoon of coconut oil because I read somewhere it was good for her coat. Grabbing a mug from the dish drainer, I fill it with water and pour it into my coffee machine. The new coffee makers are quick and make a decent cup of coffee, but personally, I really miss the sound and smell of coffee percolating. Inserting a packet into the correct slot, I wait for the machine to produce my hot cup of caffeine. My chilly hands welcome the wonderful warmth radiating from the mug.
The kitchen did have a table and 4 chairs by the bay window overlooking the back yard. After Josh died, I was overwhelmed with the thought of sitting at that table alone with three empty chairs. I replaced it with two chaise lounges with a round table placed between them. The second chaise doesn’t cause any discomfort for me. It provides the promise of one of my children visiting. Nathan is in the Navy stationed in Washington state and Carrie moved to New York City to pursue a banking career. They returned home for the funeral, but their work commitments cut their time at home short. I understood. They are adults with their own lives.
Within the toasty security of my kitchen, I look through the help wanted ads in the local paper. Housekeeper. No thanks. I don’t like cleaning my own house much less anyone else’s. Bartender. Not in my skill set. Milker. I try to picture myself up at 4 am every day hooking suction cups to cow teats. The mental imagery makes me giggle. It could be a backup plan.
The radio news changes to easy listening music. I tune the radio to a station that plays classic rock. It’s the beginning of another long day.
After a morning of repetitive tasks, I’m ready for a break. The sound of the doorbell gives me an excuse to cease and desist from my chores. I wipe my hands off on my jeans and shoot a fast glance in the hall mirror as I pass. I look like crap. At least my hair is combed today.
I open the door and a gust of frosty air intrudes into my home. My body shivers at the sudden decrease in temp. Standing on the stoop is a dark-haired woman who looks to be in her early 20’s. I don’t recognize her and wonder if my mind is failing me again.
“Can I help you with something?” At my query, the young woman squares her shoulders and runs her tongue over her dry lips before answering.
“I am looking for Mr. Joshua Crenshaw.” She gazes past me into the house, her eyes searching.
“He doesn’t live here anymore.” It sounds like a half-truth, but I don’t know this woman and my husband’s death is too personal to share with strangers.
The brunette’s eyes widen. “This is the address I was given. Do you know where he lives now?” she asks. I sense a weariness in her voice as well as her appearance.
“Before I tell you anything else about my husband, could you tell me your name and your business with him?” I have an uneasy feeling. Nausea makes my insides churn as my hands grow clammy.
“My name is Amanda Norton. Joshua Crenshaw is my father.” I gasp. The room spins around me. I detect a distant voice asking if I’m okay. My tongue lies heavy in my mouth. The acrid taste of my coffee coming back up in my throat makes me gag. I lean my forehead against the frigid surface of the front door hoping this is a nightmare and I’m still in my bed.
I croak out the words, “My husband is dead.”
Every writer I’ve ever communicated with over the past few years will tell me that they want people to like what they’ve written. I do as well, but I also want them to feel something beyond “liking” my story.
I want the reader to feel a multitude of emotions when they read my books — fear, sorrow, anger, indignation, love and happiness. In essence, I want them to feel what the main character is feeling at that time. My goal is to have them step into the story become a part of what is happening by playing it out in their minds.
I read somewhere recently that when we listen to a story various areas in our brain are stimulated. If a passage talks about how something feels or sounds, the sensory cortex becomes active. If we are reading about some type of physical activity, our brain’s motor cortex responds. As storytellers, we can affect our readers deeply.
My characters aren’t perfect, and I don’t want them to be. Real people cannot be assigned labels like “good” or “bad”. People are too complex to be deemed one thing or another. I want my readers to react to the fictional characters inhabiting my story’s world. Whether it’s a negative or positive emotion, I want them to feel something.
Clare Thibodeaux is the main character in my suspense series. Clare can be distant, stubborn, and can make some very bad decisions. She can also be a loyal friend; and at times, she cares about people many readers dislike. Clare resists being told what to do, being overprotected or treated like she’s weak. Throughout the series, she struggles with letting someone else help her. Some of the other characters are overbearing and too protective to the point of being dismissive at times.
Because of these unflattering character traits, some of my readers won’t care for my books. That’s okay, I don’t like every book I read. No matter what, I have elicited an emotion, and that is what art is all about!
The holiday season is beginning, and a new threat to the citizens of Bayfield is discovered as young women go missing. Clare assists in the search for the most recent woman and finds she has become a target.
The winters are harsh near Lake Superior… And somewhere in Bayfield, there is a person with a soul colder and more brutal than any winter day in Northern Wisconsin. A fact Clare will discover for herself.
In honor of Veteran’s Day, I’m offering the first book in the Clare Thibodeaux series free Friday, November 9th through Sunday, November 11th!
I am so honored to come from a family of veterans including my father, my father-in-law, my husband, my youngest son and his wife, my brother-in-law, uncles, cousins, and a niece. I was also privileged to serve my country in the Army Reserve for 8 years.
If you haven’t had a chance to read the Clare Thibodeaux Series, here is your opportunity to check it out for free. Go to my Amazon author page for this limited time offer.
Then, watch my blog for more deals in the near future.
Thanks for reading! ~~ Kate
I know, I know. It has been a year and a half since Winter’s Icy Caress was published, but the good news is (Drum Roll, followed by Pregnant Pause)… Never Show Your Hand (Clare Thibodeaux Series, Book 3) is available to purchase on Amazon!!!!
I also updated the covers of all three books to celebrate!! Exodus is a variation on the original cover which was done in a watercolor painting effect. For Winter’s Icy Caress, I wanted a dramatic cover which reflected the eerie suspense of the story.
I hope you like the new covers!
Stay tuned for special pricing on all three books in the coming weeks!
Interesting Fun Fact! The Jeep pictured on the new cover of Exodus is actually MY Jeep!
Miss Lydia watched the woman running down her sidewalk from her kitchen window. If Miss Lydia remembered correctly Clarice was quite the track star in her days at Sinippi Cove High. In fact, Miss Lydia was certain the other woman had run all the way from the library where the fleet-of-foot Ms. Travers worked part-time. A frantic tapping increased in strength until it reached the level of a pounding knock before the octogenarian ambled to the back door. Miss Lydia could have arrived faster, but she liked to frustrate her younger neighbor.
As soon as she started to open her kitchen door, Clarice appeared body part by body part sliding in with the skill of a spelunker through the crevice in a cave. Her friend had a serious case of head-sweating as evidenced by her wet locks and the sodden collar of her dress. Miss Lydia handed her a dish towel which the librarian accepted with a nod mopping with unprecedented enthusiasm at her damp face and neck. It took her guest a few moments to slow her panting enough to speak.
“You will never guess what I just heard at the library,” Clarice crowed throwing the dish towel down on the counter for emphasis.
“No, I don’t suppose I will guess the news. Since I’m in my 80’s and my days are numbered why don’t you tell me, Clarice,” Miss Lydia stated with a wry tone. Unfortunately, her sarcasm was lost on her young friend.
“Well…” Clarice provided a long pause to build suspense (too bad it only built irritation), “You wouldn’t believe who walked into the library this morning.” Feeling another pause in the ready, Miss Lydia made a repetitive circular movement with her hand to get her friend to hurry up.
“Spit it out, Clarice,” Miss Lydia said, her words staccato and harsher than her usual clipped manner of speech.
“Enid Floss,” Clarice whispered the words. The whites of her eyes were clearly visible around her irises.
Miss Lydia opened her mouth slightly with shock for a fraction of a second before snapping it shut hard enough for her dentures to clack together. Miss Lydia never wanted to appear shocked in front of others.
“What did she want?” the older miss hissed like a snake as she uttered the pronoun representing her arch nemesis — the Jezebel of Sinippi Cove.
Trembling like a leaf in a hurricane, Clarice divulged the ultimate betrayal, “Enid Floss is entering the Magnolia County Bake-Off. And if that isn’t enough, she is planning on baking Snickerdoodles.”
Miss Lydia’s signature cookie. She gently tapped her closed lips with the index finger of her right hand as she ruminated on this debacle. Enid was her best friend until they reached the age of seventeen. Miss Lydia had met a nice, young man and had fallen in love. His name was Roy Floss. The rest of the story would have to wait. Let’s just say — although 69 years had passed — Miss Lydia never forgave Enid. Pushing Clarice out the door didn’t prove too difficult, she knew when it was time to leave Miss Lydia be.
It took all of three days and dozens upon dozens of batches of Snickerdoodles before Miss Lydia was satisfied she had the winning entry for the Magnolia County Bake-Off. The day of the big event Miss Lydia dressed in her best church clothes, submitted her entry, and walked past Enid Floss with a triumphant smile. Later, as Miss Lydia accepted the Blue Ribbon for her Caramel Chai Snickerdoodle cookies, she felt like a champion. (On a side note — Enid didn’t even receive an honorable mention for her Snickerdoodles.)