Snippet: Return to Echoing Waters

The stuff of my life had been dumped without any thought into cardboard boxes stacked to the ceiling in one of those rent-by-the-month storage facilities on the south side of Vegas.  If I hadn’t come back from the dead who knows what would have happened to it.  Sold probably. The proceeds given to the state.

I turned to the manager and asked, “Are you sure all that crap is mine?”

“Your name is Dr. Fiona Butters, right?  And you lived at 3814 Juniper Drive?” he read from the rental agreement.  Poor sod was sweating profusely in the hot September sun.  His polyester SafeStorage shirt was a size too small, a couple of strategic buttons were missing but at least his fly was up.

FacebookProfileAbove is a 150 word snippet from Flipka 2, Return to Echoing Waters.  I’m posting it as part of a Sasha Black/Hugh Roberts #writespiration event. The challenge is to post a 150 word snippet from your WIP along with the working title.  Generally I don’t participate in writing challenges (too lazy) but sadly I had no door for Norm Frampton’s #ThursdayDoors and no ideas jelling for a blog post so I decided to play along!

Return to Echoing Waters is a sequel to Flipka, which you can read about here, if you like.

Feel free to play along!  Either in the comments here or on Sasha or Hugh’s blogs.

Murder by Cat

After spending two hours at a tax accountant’s with a 90 year old who can barely remember her first husband’s name I’ve decide my next Fi Butters’ mystery will be Murder by Cat, the strange tale of Ubiquitous K of Babylon Heights.

th-1Synopsis: A series of murders takes place at Babylon Heights, a retirement village where all the residents and in particular the owners have skeletons in their Depends. Reluctantly former psychiatrist Fi Butters is called on scene when one of the residents, her elderly aunt, convinces the others that Ubiquitous K (a Norwegian Forest cat whose owner has recently died) is the cold-blooded murderer. 

Murder by Cat, the strange tale of Ubiquitous K of Babylon Heights 

“One thing I’m certain of, she was not killed by a cat!”
“She wasn’t killed by a hat?”
“No dear, a cat.”
      Martha was one of those little old ladies who questioned everything she heard and thus it was impossible to get through a conversation without saying the same thing at least three times and she wasn’t alone. 
      “Well isn’t that the darndest thing.  Killed by a hat.”  Mr. Fassenbinder chimed it.  He’d long since lost his hair and hearing but refused to wear an aide because “there wasn’t much good to hear in the world, so why wear the damned thing?”  I had to agree.    
      The residents of Babylon Heights had assembled in the very same community room where holiday parties and bingo games were held. I figured there had to be at least forty folks which was fine; the room could easily hold a couple hundred.  Heavy furniture provided comfy seating which meant a few in my audience would probably doze off, but regardless, after my auntie introduced me I launched into an attempt to quell the panic that rattled their aging bones. 
     “Nobody was killed by a hat or a cat or even a bat!”  I chuckled which clued them in that something funny had been said.   A few followed suit with a chuckle that sounded painfully forced. Okay, Butters, I thought,  the last comedian to crack these folks up was probably Bob Hope.   “First of all, despite my aunt’s kind introduction, I am not a detective.  I am, or was, a psychiatrist.”
     “Was a psychiatrist?”
     “Yes Martha. Was.  But I won’t bore you with the gory details of my many career changes…”
     “Gory details?”
     “Well not really gory. . . “

Okay, that’s as far as I’ve gotten on this bit of silliness.  If I’m going to continue I need some appropriate character names. Do you have any suggestions? (other than – stop now Jan before you embarrass yourself any further!)

Learning to Ride, again. . .



For the past month I’ve been juggling priorities and only finding bits and pieces of time to catch up with blogging buddies. Writing came to an almost complete standstill and blogging – well, I’ve been  re-posting older pieces.  Marketing and promotion – forget it!

Now that I have a day unfettered by priorities, I feel like someone who’s fallen off a horse and now must regain the confidence to ride again.  What to do next?  Revamp the blog?  Work on my WIP?

My goodness, I can’t even remember where I left Fiona Butters. Tied to a railroad track outside Ely Nevada while on the trail of her missing beau, Civil War Professor Lopinski?  Or, in a small town in New England trying to convince a group of horny teenage girls that the th-1rock pile behind their boarding school is not a portal to the underground world of H.R. Lovecraft’s macabre imagination?

And, while I think I’ve worked out the skeleton of a plot, what will it look like to me now after thirty days?  Total and utter crap?  Probably.

The good news is I’m about 130 pages into the story and a Cheeto has not crossed Fi’s lips.  I can’t promise one won’t or that she’s suddenly going to start fasting, purging or yodeling but all things are possible.

How about you – are you finding it hard to get back on that old horse and ride bravely into the New Year?

In news from blogging and non-blogging buddies:

  • Many thanks to Mary Rowen, author of Leaving the Beach and Living by Ear for including me in her list of bloggers to check out. I’m honored!
  • For those of you who are fans of his work, there’s a new Duke Miller poem posted here.
  • Gentlemen bloggers, Hugh of Hugh’s News and Views has a new award especially for you!

#ThursdayDoors: Ely Nevada

ElyDoors3This door leads to the Nevada Northern Museum and Historic Train Ride in Ely, a town of about 5,000 people in eastern Nevada. Ely got its start as a Stagecoach and Pony Express stop. Then copper was discovered nearby in the early 1900s and times were good. But, as with any mining boom, eventually it went bust and the town had to turn to other sources of revenue, the Old Ghost Train run by the Nevada Northern being one of them.


The engine of the Ghost Train going out for a test drive.

This train runs during the summer and on certain holidays, such as Halloween and Christmas. The round trip to the Ruth mine covers about 14 miles and takes about 90 minutes (that’s not bad considering it’s the oldest still-running steam engine in America). We were there when no runs were planned but happily they were testing the engine.


Back doors to the platform.

The Old Ghost Train is most famous for Halloween runs, when employees dress in Victorian garb and tell ghoulish tales from Nevada’s colorful past, however there are other themed rides, for example:

  • The Polar Express (with a real live Santa, caroling, etc.)
  • Rocking Rolling Geology
  • Wild Wild West (of course).

Shack across from the train station. Not sure what it was used for.

Ely is famous for many other things:

  • The birthplace of Richard Nixon’s wife Pat
  • The eastern end of Route 50, the Loneliest Highway in the World (and it is lonely!)
  • The setting for the climatic scene in the movie, The Rat Race. 

And it’s famous for one more thing as well.  Let me think. What could that be?  Ah yes, it’s the setting for that wacky mystery Flipka! (okay, maybe not famous yet but a gal can always dream.)


Another great thing to do in Ely! Cocktails and Cannons! Oh boy!

But before you get all excited about hopping on the Ghost Train or racing people in a bathtub, keep in mind Ely is a six hour drive from Reno and a four hour drive from Las Vegas. There are plenty of hotels nowadays but my favorite is the original Hotel Nevada and Gambling Hall.  They have a huge sign in front that reads “We love Bikers.”  To a hotel staff used to catering to the Hells Angels, Joel and me in our Prius were like visitors from another planet!

This post was inspired by Norm Frampton’s wonderful #ThursdayDoors prompt.  Check out other doors and their histories! 

Unnatural Settings

MonsonYesterday I received this book in the mail. I don’t know how we missed it when cleaning out my mother’s home but apparently we did.  This is the story of the town where my mother’s family has lived for well over one hundred years.  It’s also the setting for the flashback scenes in Flipka 2 which I’m currently working on and so its arrival was mundo fortuitous.

I could say Monson is your typical small town in New England and in many ways it is, particularly back when I was growing up.


My great grandfather watering the dirt roads (one of his many jobs).

During summertime visits, I’d run wild through the town, picking blackberries and scoring free cokes at a garage owned by the town’s wealthiest man whose hobby was stock car racing but whose son had been “born bad.”  On his estate there was also a baseball diamond, a swimming pool and a pond with a boat and so the gang of poor locals I ran with happily tolerated the murderous son.


“You wild heathens better not drag mud through my kitchen!!!”

In the evenings the sticky heat of the day was generally alleviated by cackling t-storms and regretfully we’d head inside to get chewed out by Gram.

However idyllic as it seems, the town and the surrounding area were also the setting for the Dunwich Horror by H.P. Lovecraft, one of the core stories of the Cthulhu Mythos.


H.P. Lovecraft, Master of the Macabre, 1934

Lovecraft felt that area of Massachusetts was a “lonely and curious country” whose residents had “come to form a race by themselves, with the well-defined mental and physical stigmata of degeneracy and inbreeding.”  There were a couple of reasons why he felt that way.  First, the original settlers were from Salem Massachusetts and were therefore the descendants of witches.


Most likely the rock piles were used by the Native Americans for cooking and not orgies.

Second, there are many mysterious rock piles in the hills. Preachers of the 1800s postulated they were “the unhallowed rites and conclaves of the Indians” who “made wild orgiastic prayers” which were in turn answered by “loud cracklings and rumblings” in the earth. According to Lovecraft, they were the ancient ones demanding to be freed from the bowels of the earth so they could rape the locals and create monsters.


Another of great grandpa’s jobs – milliner. He is the seventh man from the left.

Hum, I wonder if the Monson library stocks any of Lovecraft’s books.  Somehow I doubt it. 

IMG_1114What is your hometown’s claim to fame that the city fathers probably would not include in a history book?

Wicked Wanton Wug’s Wake

Writers face many challenges when their characters are based on real people. The first challenge is, what if the person recognizes themselves and takes umbrage? Then you’ve lost a friend, a brother, a father or maybe an uncle. The second challenge is, how to integrate those characters into a work of fiction, making it clear that the actual person never said the words you put into their mouths nor did the crazy things you made them do.

There are two characters in FLIPKA who are based on actual people. The first is the character of Fi Butters.  I gave her the voice, mannerisms and cocky attitude of a dear friend who actually had an MA in psychology and worked back stage at a Vegas show (she even spoke a little Russian).  She did not, however, travel to a girls’ reformatory to solve a mystery involving bat caves, a 100 year old journal, and government secrets.  I gave her that adventure after she passed away too young.

The second character is Captain Wug.  To him I gave the voice, mannerisms and love of vocabulary belonging to a man by the name of Worlin Urquhart Grey my father’s flying buddy.


“I don’t think I have learned enough to advise you. Just observe the nuances of culture as you go through life. Everything changes. Things happen. Sometimes it seems like it is the end of the road, but it isn’t.”

This man really loved words. In fact he loved them so much that he spoke in long strings of obscure words often alliteratively.   I first got to know Wug when I attempted to babysit the Bellicose Barbarians…er… his four youngest sons, all of whom were under the age of eight (in fact, Dirty Dealing Dougie, was in diapers)  They lived in a two story house that wasn’t nearly big enough for the trampling mischief that four energetic boys can cause, thus Wug left me the first evening with this admonishment:

“Should these pugnacious jackanaps  lead you to perdition, unnerve the rabble-rousers with mention of the Black Snake.”

“The Black Snake?”  I asked.  He opened the door to the pantry and pointed to a long, thick, black leather belt hanging menacing on the back of the door.  I was horrified.  “I can’t do that!”

He chuckled.  He had a low voice and cackle that reminded me of a Welsh poet I was enamored of (Dylan Thomas.)  “You’ll not need to do the deed my dear, just issue a dire warning with injurious intent.”

He was right. The boys would all settle down (except for Dirty Dealing Dougie) if I even uttered the phrase:  “Black Snake.”  I can’t say that they became perfect gentlemen but they did cease and desist from clubbing each other to death.    As a practical joke I bought him a three foot long stuffed snake for Christmas one year. snake.jpgHe retaliated by bringing me back a ring in the shape of a cobra from Thailand (he was Pan Am pilot whose route was the far east).  It had sapphire eyes and a tiny ruby at the end of its tail.  I lost the ring or it was stolen and I’m sure the stuffed snake has not survived but I’ll always have the memory.

He recently passed away.  Below is his obit. Of course bagpipes were played.



Flying Buddies

Shattered Glass, Shattered Lives

I’m exhausted.  Two book club meetings, two release parties and a book convention all within the space of two months. And…they’ve all been entirely different experiences.  I never know what people will ask or what interpretations they will have of what I consider a fairly easy to comprehend novel.  The author never knows.

Two things I’ve learned:

  1. My readers are not an easy group to categorize. I thought women of a certain age but at release parties more men comment on the book than women – they loved it.  Who’d have guessed?  Not me.


    Release Party #2 – Reno Nevada. I was sweating it big time!

  2. Never underestimate the power of a good book cover.  Everyone wanted to know about the cover designers and what inspired them so here goes…
From Melody Paris, book cover designer:
“We are an aunt and niece located in Idaho. [I] am 35 years old and [have] been a professional graphic designer for more than a decade. Kaira is 17 years old, and loves photography. She is headed for Boise State University next Fall where she wants to begin her journey into Theatre and Film as a designer and cinematographer. She is also considering following [me] into the publishing world, at least part time.

FacebookProfileThe inspiration behind the cover came about after a discussion of Fi’s journey. My niece was over and we were discussing the book and how not everything fit for Fi, about like trying to drive down a broken road – a very bumpy journey with the mystery. So, I started out by creating a few designs around the idea of a broken road. I didn’t like my initial designs and that is when my niece Kaira suggested we try broken glass. Originally were were going to shatter the image and have it fragmented on the cover, but we didn’t like how that was coming out. That’s when we left the picture alone and added broken glass to the cover. We loved this cover because it represented both the literal and figurative road that Fi had to travel in this story and how broken she was as a character. Her life kept shattering, changing, and yet she still traveled that road, letting nothing stop her. She walked through the broken glass and was the stronger for it.”