Wednesday Words – Suzy Parish

Wednesday Words graphic

Please welcome my fellow Pelican Book Group author Suzy Parish to The West Corner!

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Socially Responsible Fiction

In 2011 my husband spent a year in Afghanistan, training locals to become police officers. He was stationed at Camp Nathan Smith in Kandahar. His emails and Skype sessions with me became the eyes and ears necessary for Flowers from Afghanistan to come into existence.

Previous to that, he served in the United States Army, and then retired after 26 years of service in our local police department.

Flowers from Afghanistan is a work of fiction, but many scenes in the novel are true-to-life. It will be released by Pelican Book Group, August 10th.

Recently I was in contact with a scriptwriter, and when she read the novel, she suggested that I line up resources for spouses of military and police and their significant others who may be experiencing symptoms of PTSD.

That communication led me to create a “Resources” page on my website. If anyone reads Flowers from Afghanistan and recognizes symptoms of PTSD in themselves or others, there is help available. Symptoms include Anxiety, sleeplessness, rage, flashbacks, nightmares, depression, guilt/shame, avoidance, isolation, hopelessness and emotional numbness. Serve and Protect is a unique and cutting edge 501(c)(3)non-profit corporation based in Brentwood TN, reaching Internationally. They facilitate trauma services for public safety professionals, locating the right resource to address the real issues they face. I feel it is essential as writers to give back to our community. One way for us to do that is to point our readers in the direction of help that is available for situations our characters encounter. I hope that Flowers from Afghanistan informs, challenges and makes readers think but also gives them a healing ending.

About the Author

photo of author Suzy ParishSuzy Parish is an author at Pelican Book Group. Suzy wrote as a Community Columnist for the Huntsville Times. She is currently a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). Her novel, Flowers from Afghanistan was a semi-finalist in the Genesis contest for 2013. Suzy discovered her love of books as a child in Richmond, Virginia when she took refuge from the summer heat in the local Bookmobile. She believes in the power of literacy to improve the lives of individuals and stewards a Little Free Library in a local park.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Flowers from Afghanistan cover artBook Description

Hope blooms in unexpected places

Weighed down by guilt following the death of his two-year-old son, Mac McCann accepts a year-long position training police officers in Afghanistan. Leaving his wife Sophie to grieve alone, he hopes the life-or-death distractions of his self-imposed exile will build a wall between him and his pain.

As camaraderie builds between Mac and the men on base—including a local barber and his precocious little boy—Mac’s heart becomes invested in stories beyond his own tragedy and he learns he is not the only one running from loss. But when the hour of attack arrives, will he be able to see past his guilt to believe there’s still something—and someone—worth living for?

With touching details based on true events, Flowers from Afghanistan is a redemptive journey of healing, a chronicle of hope in crisis, and a testament to the faithfulness of God through it all.

Flowers from Afghanistan is available from Amazon.

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Monday Mentions – The Rejected Princess by Katie Clark

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Please welcome Katie Clark to The West Corner! She’s here today with her novel The Rejected Princess.

The Rejected Princess cover artBook Description

When Princess Roanna Hamilton’s parents arrange a marriage with a prince of Dawson’s Edge—the mysterious and backwards kingdom to the south—Roanna reluctantly agrees, accepting that peace must be put ahead of her lifelong relationship with Prince Benjamin of Lox.

But when Roanna is introduced to Dawson’s royal family, strange mind-bending anomalies are awakened within her, and she discovers the Dawsonian royal family holds secrets of their own.

Roanna becomes locked in a battle between kingdoms. Rebels wish to eliminate people who possess powerful anomalies. With threats growing daily, Roanna comes to realize the danger she is in—not to mention how her own family, and Benjamin’s, would react if her anomaly was revealed.

Tensions rise when Lox is attacked. If Roanna is to save herself and her future, she must stall her marriage and squelch the growing rebellion—all while discovering how deeply her power runs. But will Prince Benjamin and her family accept her when the truth of her heritage is finally revealed?

Excerpt

Princess Roanna of Chester’s Wake had only been to the dungeon once in her life, but that one trip had scared her enough that she never wanted to return. Now, ten years later, Roanna worked in the palace libraries side by side with Prince Benjamin of Lox, her lifelong friend and cohort in crime all those years ago, as they sorted socks, coats, and blankets to take to the Rejected in the orphanages.

“I just want to look around the dungeon for a little while.” Ben’s voice pulled her gaze toward him.

Roanna hated the dark and dank dungeon, which reeked of bodily fluids. The place gave her chills.

Thunder boomed overhead, and Roanna gasped. Pressing her eyes closed, she took a deep breath to calm herself. Perhaps she was being silly.

Ben quirked an eyebrow at her and grinned. He leaned against the library wall and turned to the windows as rain dumped loads of water into the western gardens of her family’s palace at Chester’s Wake. Ben was taller than her, and his dusty-blond hair was parted messily to the right side. He was handsome, as so many hopeful girls had told him before. Not that he seemed to care about that.

Roanna finished tying a ribbon on the package she’d put together. She set it to the side and grabbed more supplies. Ben had been with her that fateful day in the dungeon ten years ago—the new cook’s assistant had dragged them there after catching them stealing cookies from her platter. She’d said it was to teach them a lesson they’d not soon forget. The assistant was fired that very day, and Roanna swore off even the thought of a life of crime.

Now, the idea of returning to the scene of their punishment all those years ago did not appeal. Why would he want to explore the dungeons, anyway?

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The Rejected Princess is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Pelican Book Group, and Walmart.

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About the Author

photo of author Katie ClarkKATIE CLARK started reading fantastical stories in grade school and her love for books never died. Today she reads in all genres; her only requirement is an awesome story! She writes inspirational romance for adults as well as young adult speculative fiction, including her YA supernatural novel, Shadowed Eden, and The Enslaved Series.

Connect with Katie Clark online

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Fiction Friday – Out of Her Element, Chapter Eight

Fiction Friday graphic

Missed the previous installments? Start with chapter one HERE.

Out of Her Element cover artChapter Eight

Della and Tabby took Mira into Dayton for a shopping trip after lunch. Mother and daughter had cornered Mira and forced her to reveal the contents of her wardrobe. When she admitted to owning two pairs of overalls, a pair of sturdy cargo pants, a sweater, a long-sleeved shirt, and two T-shirts, they planned the afternoon of shopping. Mira wasn’t sure she needed more clothing. After all, she’d survived this long with what she had. But the Montaigne women wouldn’t take no for an answer.

During the short drive into the city, Della told Mira the events of the coming week—the week of Thanksgiving.

“On Monday evening, we’re hosting a dinner party for some of Bill’s business associates and a few close friends of the family.”

Mira had never seen a dinner party, never mind participated in one. “I’ll stay out of the way and out of sight.”

“Oh, no, you won’t. You’ll be in attendance just like the rest of the family.”

“But I’m not family.”

“You’re close enough. While you’re living with us, you’ll be treated as one of the family.”

She didn’t know how to respond. A lot of the people she’d met since moving to the United States hadn’t even treated her as a friend, let alone family. And attending a dinner party? There had to be a way out of what was sure to be an awkward evening. “I don’t have a dress.”

Della laughed, extinguishing Mira’s tiny spark of hope for escape. “We’ll pick up something suitable. On Tuesday evening, Bill and I are supposed to attend a dinner, so you kids will have the house to yourselves.”

Tabby shot an endearing smile toward her mother and returned her gaze to the road. “Can I invite some people over while you’re gone? That way we’ll have something to do and Mira can meet some people our age.”

“That’s a lovely idea, Tabby!” Della turned to Mira and lifted one expertly plucked eyebrow in inquiry. “What do you think, dear?”

Did it matter? “I guess it’d be okay.”

“Great! I’ll tell my friends when I see them tonight.” Tabby looked at Mira in the rearview mirror. “Do you want to come with me? We’re going dancing.”

Mira had been to a few square dances since immigrating and knew several folk dances from Israel and Palestine, but she figured the dancing Tabby referred to was something entirely different. Like the kind of stuff she’d seen in movies and on TV…the kind of stuff she didn’t know how to do. “I don’t know.”

“You think about it, dear, and let Tabby know later,” Della said and continued with the week’s schedule. “Throughout the day on Wednesday relatives will be arriving. On Thursday we’ll have a big Thanksgiving dinner. Friday and Saturday will be fairly relaxed, and the visiting family will leave on Sunday.”

Mira’s mind whirled. Was every week that busy, or was it just because of the holiday? She couldn’t imagine a life where she had some event most days. Her life had been much more laid back until now, and she didn’t want to give that up.

They arrived at an upscale department store, and Della led the way inside. A saleswoman in a neatly tailored suit greeted them with a welcoming smile.

“Mrs. Montaigne, how lovely to see you again,” she said in a well-modulated voice. “May I help you find something this afternoon?”

“Yes, Ashley.” Della guided Mira forward. “This is Mira Hassan. She’s in need of a new wardrobe.”

“Very good.” Ashley turned to Mira. “What are you looking for, Miss Hassan?”

Since when did store clerks call customers by name? Feeling completely out of her element, she glanced at Della. “Um…”

Della patted her arm and turned to the saleswoman. “Let’s start with a dress or two.”

“We have some lovely dresses,” Ashley said as she led them to the correct department. “We also have some nice two-piece outfits, if you would prefer.”

“Okay.” Mira took in the wide selection of stylish clothing. What would the Montaigne women do if they knew she’d never worn anything so nice?

“Give me your coat, dear,” Della said, holding out her hand.

She did so, and Ashley studied her before turning to a nearby rack to pull out a knee-length blue dress.

“This would look stunning with your coloring.” Ashley held the dress in front of Mira and looked at Della for approval.

“That color is very becoming on you.”

It was a beautiful dress, but the length was wrong. “It’s too short.”

The others stared at her as if she’d lost her mind.

“This is a popular length,” Ashley assured her.

“It’s beautiful, but I only wear long skirts.” And not for the first time, she wished she could wear something shorter.

“Well, all right…” Ashley replaced the dress and moved to a different rack. She held up a long-sleeved dress in a fall pattern with an ankle length skirt. “Would something like this suit you better?”

Mira brushed her fingers across the soft fabric. “It’s very nice.”

Ashley smiled, her relief at finding something acceptable obvious. “If you’ll follow me, I’ll show you to the dressing rooms so you can try it on.”

“Okay.”

Tabby leaned close to Mira as they walked. “Why do you only wear long skirts?”

“Because of the scars. I survived the explosion that killed my parents, but my legs got hurt pretty bad.”

“That’s terrible!” A sheen of moisture in her eyes caught the light. “I’ll help you find some awesome long skirts.”

“Thanks, Tabby.”

Mira followed Ashley into one of the small rooms and smiled as the saleswoman hung the dress on a hook and left. After she changed, she studied herself in the full-length mirror. The soft knit material flowed around her legs as she moved, and the dress flattered her slim figure. The fall colors in the fabric made her coppery hair glow. She’d never felt more beautiful.

She stepped out to see what the others thought.

“Mira, you look gorgeous!” Tabby clasped her hands in front of her chest. “That dress is amazing on you.”

Della nodded, a pleased expression lifting the corners of her mouth. “You do look lovely. What do you think, dear?”

“I like it,” Mira said, running her fingers along the skirt.

Ashley brought over a belt made of gold rings. “This would complete the look.”

Mira held her arms away from her body while Ashley fastened the belt around her waist. Then she turned toward a nearby mirror and smiled when she saw the effect of the belt hanging loosely about her hips.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone look so stunning in something so simple,” Ashley said.

“We’ll take both the dress and the belt,” Della said. “Mira, why don’t you go change? Then we’ll find the other things you need.”

Soon, they were searching through skirts and dresses again. Della insisted on buying another dress and two skirts with coordinating tops. Tabby helped Mira find some casual clothing. Two pairs of jeans, a pair of khaki pants, and a half dozen shirts later, the women moved on to the shoe department. Ashley helped Mira select a pair of fashionable boots that went with the skirts and dresses, and a pair of running shoes to go with the casual clothing. After a quick stop to find undergarments and sleepwear, Ashley left the women in the capable hands of Tanya at the cosmetics counter and carried the clothing off to be held until they were ready to leave.

After exclaiming over Mira’s “amazing coloring,” “gorgeous eyes,” and “terrific cheekbones,” Tanya put together a makeup kit to highlight her natural beauty without overwhelming it. Once Mira had picked out a collection of bath and skin care products with much assistance from the saleswoman, Della led the way to the jewelry counter.

All the fuss being made was overwhelming. Never had Mira been treated with such importance or had her every move in a store guided by doting employees. She said as much to Tabby.

“Mom just wants you to feel special,” Tabby whispered. “She thinks every woman should have nice things. The reason the employees here are being so attentive is because Mom’s a good customer. They want to make a good impression so she’ll keep coming back.”

“But your mom is spending so much on me.” She tried not to remember the price she had seen on one of the skirts. She’d been so shocked that she’d refrained from looking at anymore tags. The entire wardrobe she’d brought with her had cost less than half of that one piece of clothing.

“It’s Mom’s way of showing she cares. Besides, you’ve seen where we live. Trust me, she can afford it.”

“If you’re sure,” Mira said as Della finished speaking with the man behind the jewelry counter.

“Mira, come over here and tell Philip what you like in the way of jewelry.”

Philip looked expectant as she tried to figure out what to say. She decided to say what she was thinking and hope for the best. “I don’t like to wear a lot of jewelry.”

“Well, you must like something.” He offered a charming smile.

“I guess a simple bracelet.” She avoided glancing at Della for fear she would hurt the kind woman’s feelings by being truthful.

Philip opened a drawer behind him. “Mrs. Montaigne described some of your new clothing, and I think I have just the thing.”

She peeked at Della, relieved to find her smiling as she waited to see what Philip had in mind. Mira returned her attention to the counter as Philip placed a velvet-lined tray on it. Several plain gold bangles rested on the black cloth. He lifted four and held them so they resembled a single piece.

“What do you think?”

“They’re pretty.” Memories of her mother wearing a similar style caused a smile as she gazed at the glittering bracelets.

“Those would look so cool with that first dress you tried on,” Tabby said. “You know, the one with the gold belt.”

Mira glanced at Della and found her nodding.

“Those will be perfect, Philip.” Her eyes scanned the glass counter. “May we see those pins and brooches?”

“Certainly.” He set the bracelets down and pulled out the tray she indicated. “There are several lovely pieces here.”

“Mira, do you see anything you like?”

She stepped closer and looked at the gold butterflies, flowers, and leaves. One pin designed to look like an oak leaf caught her eye. She pointed it out to Della.

“That one is lovely,” the older woman said with a smile.

Philip raised an eyebrow. “Shall I wrap it up for you?”

“Yes, please. Just place it and the bangles on my account.”

“Yes, Mrs. Montaigne.” He moved to take care of the sale.

They went in search of Ashley, who wasn’t hard to find. After Della settled the bill, they carried the purchases out to the car. Mira breathed a sigh of relief as she settled into the backseat. She’d had no idea that a couple of hours of shopping could be so exhausting. Tabby backed out of the parking space and glanced at her mother as she waited for a break in traffic.

“Where to next?”

Della turned in her seat and met Mira’s gaze. “Bill tells me you’re interested in horses and work well with them.”

“Yes, that’s true.” What did that have to do with Tabby’s question?

“Do you have riding boots?”

“No, I don’t.” She was a little afraid of what Della planned do with that information, but she couldn’t lie to the woman. Not after all Della had done for her.

Della faced the front again as Tabby took advantage of a window in the traffic. “We’re going to Stuart’s.”

“Okay, Mom.”

With any luck, Stuart’s wasn’t another fancy department store. Mira wasn’t sure she could handle visiting another store that was so far out of her comfort zone. She breathed a little easier when they turned into a shopping center filled with boutiques and other small shops. It resembled the kind of places Marnie and Harley had shopped when they went outside of Selma.

Tabby parked in front of the store in the center of the long, low building. She met Mira’s gaze with a grin as they climbed out of the car.

“You’re going to love this place.”

Mira looked at the store and smiled at the sight of saddles and bridles displayed in the large plate glass windows. She never minded visiting a tack store.

A cheerful man in his fifties greeted them when they stepped inside the leather-scented shop. “Welcome to Stuart’s. Can I help you ladies find something?”

“Yes,” Della said, “we’re interested in riding boots.”

“For all three of you, or just one or two?” he asked as he led them toward the back of the store.

“I’m the one who needs boots.” Surrounded by horse paraphernalia, Mira’s nerves from the department store vanished.

“Well, then, take a look at what we have and pick your boots.” He waved a hand at the display of boots. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

With Tabby by her side, Mira studied the selection of riding boots. She came to a stop in front of a pair that laced up rather than having to be pulled on.

“These look good.”

“They are,” Tabby said. “I used to have a pair almost identical to those. They were so comfortable.”

The cheerful man rejoined them. “Did you find a pair?”

Mira showed him the boots she and Tabby had just discussed.

“These will last you a long time.” He tapped the toe of one. “They have high-quality construction. What’s your shoe size?”

“Nine and a half.”

He pulled a box off the shelf. “Go have a seat, and we’ll see how these fit.”

As soon as Mira donned the boots, she walked a short way to make sure they were comfortable when she moved. She sat down to put on her own boots back on and smiled at the cheerful man. “They’re perfect.”

“Okay, I’ll go ring them up.”

As he walked to the front counter, she caught sight of Della studying a pair of form-fitting pants. She leaned over and whispered to Tabby. “What’s your mom doing?”

“It looks like she’s picking out a pair of breeches for you.”

Mira groaned. “Please, no more clothes.”

“I’ll go talk to her.” Tabby gave her a sympathetic look.

“Thank you.” She prayed Della would listen to her daughter.

She tied her boots and meandered toward the front of the store, admiring the tack. Della and Tabby met her close to the counter.

“You need a helmet if you want to ride,” Della said.

Why would she need a helmet? “I’ve never worn a helmet before to ride. Harley taught me to ride carefully and how to fall so I don’t hit my head.”

“Well, I require everyone who lives in my house to wear a helmet.”

“All right.” Mira shrugged. It wasn’t worth arguing.

Ten minutes later, they were in the car with the newest purchases and on their way back to the Montaigne estate.


Out of Her Element, Copyright © 2018 by Elizabeth West

Click here to continue on to Chapter Nine…

Wednesday Words – Jody Day

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Please welcome author Jody Day back to The West Corner! She’s here today to share a little about her Washout Express series.

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I was driving home from a Writer’s Conference in East Texas and passed a sign that said, Washout Express, Exit 477. I wondered what it would be like to feel expressly washed out, and imagined the exit might be the isle for misfit women. Thus the story was born. Bailey Brown stands for every woman who has struggled with low self-esteem, and needs to find out who she really is.

Book 2, Wedding Express, follows Bailey and Scott’s journey to the altar. Book 3, Joy Express is coming soon, and contains a considerable amount of joy and tragedy.

Thanks for having me here today!

About the Author

photo of author Jody DayJody Day is the author of the Washout Express series from Harbourlight Books/The Pelican Group. She writes inspirational fiction, poetry, and devotionals from her home in West Texas. Her passion is to encourage folks to look at life through love colored glasses, the love of Christ. She is president of her local writers group, Critique Café, and is a member of ACFW and Faithwriters.com. She enjoys teaching piano, singing with the Chorus of the Big Bend, and spending time with fourteen grandchildren.

Blog | Washout Express Fan Page

Wedding Express cover artBook Description

Scott West is about to marry the woman of his dreams, but when delayed grief and a life-or-death event jeopardizes their relationship, Scott is forced to ask himself what kind of man he really is. Can he own up to the truth and risk losing the love of his life? And if he does come clean, will it be enough for Bailey? Discover the power of hope, forgiveness, and love in Wedding Express.

Wedding Express is available from Amazon.

Monday Mentions – Washout Express by Jody Day

Monday Mentions graphic

Please welcome author Jody Day to The West Corner! She’s here today with her inspirational romance Washout Express.

Washout Express cover artBook Description

Bailey Brown has just lost her job, her birthright, and her fiancé. Loaded with enough insecurities to fill a suitcase, she prays for God to show her the way and then hits the road feeling like the ultimate loser…Exit 477: Washout Express. The roadside sign taunts Bailey. Is God confirming she’s expressly washed-up? Or does He have something better for her waiting at the end of the exit ramp?

Excerpt

He sent the new girl in to fire me. Phoebe Waverly vamped in on those stilts she calls stilettos with a cardboard box in hand.

“Mr. Graham asked me to inform you that you are terminated, immediately.” Her attempt at a professional voice only made her sound more Southern, one work leaning on another like dominoes toppling toward a period. “This box is for your things, Miss Brown. I’ll take that office key, if you please.”

The heat rose on my face. I decided not to acknowledge her.

I picked up my purse and headed for Darryl’s office. Miss blonde, fancy, shmancy, high-heeled, manicured, former Miss Texas had tried to steal my job. Looks like she succeeded.

My hand shook as I reached for the knob. I stopped, squared my shoulders, straightened my navy business suit, took a deep breath, and pushed open Darryl’s Graham’s office door.

He wasn’t there. Coward.

~~

Washout Express is available from Amazon.

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About the Author

photo of author Jody DayJody Day is the author of the Washout Express series from Harbourlight Books/The Pelican Group. She writes inspirational fiction, poetry, and devotionals from her home in West Texas. Her passion is to encourage folks to look at life through love colored glasses, the love of Christ. She is president of her local writers group, Critique Café, and is a member of ACFW and Faithwriters.com. She enjoys teaching piano, singing with the Chorus of the Big Bend, and spending time with fourteen grandchildren.

Connect with Jody Day online

Washout Express Fan Page

Blog

Fiction Friday – Out of Her Element, Chapter Seven

Fiction Friday graphic

Who’s ready for chapter seven? If you’d prefer to start at the beginning, click HERE for chapter one.

Out of Her Element cover artChapter Seven

“Lucas, please put the whip somewhere out of sight,” Mira said in English before switching back to Hebrew for the horse’s benefit.

He did as she asked, and she soon had the horse calmed again. Just like Harley’s horses, this one appeared to have had a bad experience with a whip.

“Can you show me to the arena?”

“Why don’t you let me take Maggie?” Lucas said, reaching for the lead rope.

She kept a firm grip on it. “I’ve got her. Just keep the whip out of sight, and we’ll be fine.”

“I put it behind a bale of hay.” He didn’t look happy, but he led her to a side aisle in the center of the building.

She continued to speak soothing words to the Thoroughbred prancing nervously alongside her. Lucas opened the gate to the arena and stood to the side as she led Maggie through. He started to follow, but Mira stopped him.

“The fewer people in here, the better. Just close the gate and don’t worry.”

“Sorry, I can’t do that.” He stepped into the arena and closed the gate behind him. “I’ll stay out of your way, but I’m not leaving you alone with Maggie.”

“Okay.” She wasn’t surprised he didn’t trust her with the horse yet. He had no idea how much experience she had. “Give me the longe line.”

Lucas handed her the long flat rope, and she traded it for the lead rope. She walked the horse to the center of the arena, reassuring her with promises of safety and gentle interaction. Lucas went to the low wall surrounding the arena and leaned back against it as he watched.

Mira walked in a circle to get the horse moving. Then she stood in the center, turning slowly as Maggie walked around her. She let out more line, widening the circle. Maggie’s gait was uneven at first but quickly smoothed out.

She raised her free hand as she called out, “Trot!”

Maggie increased her pace, trotting in a stiff-legged, stumbling manner. After going around a few times, her trot evened out. Mira let her go around a few more times before increasing her speed to a canter. This time, Maggie only went around twice before her movements were smooth. Seeing her in motion, Mira spotted the high quality of her breeding. She was a gorgeous animal with a powerful build and graceful movements. Mira cantered her another minute or two, and then gave a light tug on the longe line.

“Trot!”

At the pressure on her halter, Maggie came to a dead stop and reared up. Lucas straightened up and took a step forward. Mira spoke calmly in Hebrew and crept toward the quivering horse, gathering the flat rope as she walked. Such a severe reaction to light pressure told her a lot about the horse’s past. This poor creature had suffered at the hands of humans under the guise of training her.

When she reached Maggie, the horse reared again. Lucas moved toward them, and Mira switched to English, her eyes never leaving the horse.

“Lucas, I’m fine. Just let me work with her a while longer.”

“If anything happens to you, it’s my hide.” The tension in his voice did nothing to soothe the horse.

“Nothing will happen as long as you don’t interfere.” She kept her tone calm, despite the adrenaline flowing through her veins. A frightened horse was an unpredictable horse. Still, she believed she would remain safe if she stayed vigilant. With a slow, gentle motion, she lifted her hand to the nervous horse’s neck. “Easy, now, Maggie. I won’t hurt you. Easy, girl.”

It took several minutes of reassurance to clam her. Once she’d settled to only an occasional flick of her tail, Mira walked her around the arena, first in one direction, and then the other. Maggie balked a bit at the corners, but Mira’s gentle encouragement soon had her turning them with ease.

Mira decided to end the training session on a positive note and headed for the gate. Her heart picked up speed at the sight of Ben standing outside the arena with his arms resting on the wall. How long had he been watching her?

He stepped over to the gate as Lucas joined Mira. Lucas handed her the lead rope and accepted the longe line.

“You’ve worked wonders with this horse,” he said as Ben held the gate open to let them out. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen her walk so calmly.”

“Maggie’s taken baby steps. She still has a long way to go.” The praise lifted her spirit. Few in West Virginia would have appreciated her efforts, despite their effectiveness.

“She responds well to you,” Ben said as they walked back to the stalls.

“She’s responding to kindness.” But that didn’t stop the warmth his impressed tone caused. “I think she’s been abused.”

“It didn’t happen here,” Lucas said. “We would never hurt the horses.”

“I know.” The Montaignes were too kind to let anyone abuse their animals. “It was probably someone trying to train her fast and get her ready for sale. Unfortunately, now she has to be retrained and shown that training isn’t anything to be afraid of.”

“You’ve done a good job of that this morning.”

“Maybe, but this isn’t going to be fast or easy,” Mira said as they stopped near Maggie’s stall. “Do you mind if I give her a thorough grooming?”

“No, go ahead.” Lucas reached for the crossties and clipped them to the mare’s halter. “I think Maggie has earned a treat. I’ll be right back.”

Ben brought over a bucket of grooming tools as Lucas walked away. He set the bucket near Mira but far enough back that Maggie couldn’t kick it.

“Watch her carefully. She sometimes acts up in crossties.”

“I think she’ll be okay, but I’ll keep an eye on her.”

She was running a currycomb along the horse’s side with a circular motion when Lucas returned with two carrots. He handed them to Mira with a smile.

“Maggie’s worked hard,” he said, cautiously petting the horse’s forehead. “I figure she deserves a double treat.”

“She does.” She handed back one of the carrots and broke the other one into pieces about two inches long. “Why don’t you give her one so she knows you love her?”

Lucas broke up the carrot as Mira fed chunks one at a time to the happy horse. As she went back to grooming, Lucas gave the mare more carrot pieces while praising her good behavior. He stroked the mare’s face and neck as Mira worked her way around the horse. She traded the currycomb for a stiff body brush and thoroughly brushed the horse, flicking away dirt and loose hair. Lucas went back to work, but he stayed close enough to offer Mira assistance if she needed it.

A little while later, as she used a soft brush on Maggie, Bill and Josh entered the stable. They stared at the gray mare with her head low and eyelids drooping as she stood contentedly being groomed.

“Is that Maggie?” Bill asked, his tone stunned.

“Yeah.” Mira smiled as she ran the brush lightly across the horse’s face.

“What did you do to get her to behave so well?”

“Loved her and didn’t punish her when she acted up earlier.” She returned the brush to the bucket and turned toward him. “Once she found out I wasn’t going to hurt her, she calmed down pretty quickly.”

“The transformation is amazing.” Bill reached out to smooth the relaxed animal’s neck. When Maggie didn’t even flinch, he grinned. “You’ve worked wonders on this horse.”

“Maggie’s a good horse. She’s just been abused sometime before you got her.”

Josh turned from studying the horse. “How do you know that?”

“The way she reacted to certain things. Harley took in a couple of abused horses and they reacted the same way, only they were a lot worse.”

“Did you manage to get them straightened out?” Bill asked.

“Yeah, between me and Harley, we finally got them over their fears and spookiness, but it took a long time and a lot of patience.” She stroked the mare’s cheek and smiled. “Okay, Maggie, I think it’s time for you to go back to your stall and have some hay and water.”

She removed the crossties and put her hand on the mare’s halter to lead her into the nearby stall. The light pressure on her halter made Maggie nervous, but she calmed when Mira spoke softly in Hebrew. After making sure the horse had plenty of clean water and hay, she stepped back into the aisle and closed the stall door. Then she went to the tack room and let a relieved Dan out.

“I wondered where he was,” Bill said as the dog wagged his way over to greet his human.

Mira shrugged. “Lucas said Dan makes Maggie nervous.”

“Yes, for some reason the dog upsets her.”

“I can work on getting her used to him. But not right away. There are some other things I need to work on first.”

“If I’m not careful, Miss Mira’s going to put me out of a job,” Lucas said as he joined them. “This girl has a way with horses.”

“So we saw,” Bill said with a smile. “How did she end up working with Maggie?”

As Lucas told him the events of the morning, Mira spotted Ben sitting on a stool near the tack room with a bridle in his hand. She walked over and sat on a nearby bale of hay to watch him clean the leather.

He looked up at her with a smile. “Do you find cleaning tack fascinating?”

“Only if someone else is doing it.”

“I know the feeling,” he said with a chuckle. “It’s a tedious job, but someone’s got to do it.”

The sound of hooves caught her attention, and she looked up as both Bill and Josh led horses out of their stalls. She returned her gaze to Ben and he smiled.

“They like to go for a ride right after breakfast at least once when they’re both here.”

“That’s nice.” The well-lit stable seemed a little brighter when he smiled. “Harley and I used to go riding together when we got our chores done.”

“Is Harley your brother?” Ben rubbed saddle soap into the bridle.

“No, he was my mother’s cousin. I lived with him and his wife, Marnie, for a few years.”

“Why are you speaking of them in the past tense?”

“They died at the beginning of March in an accident.” Despite the sad topic, she felt so comfortable talking to him.

“I’m sorry to hear that.” He worked quietly for a moment then glanced at her. “Why were you living with your mom’s cousins? Where are your parents?”

“There were killed by a suicide bomber when I was thirteen.” She forced herself not to think about that day. “My father’s family had disowned him for marrying an American, so I had to come to this country to live with my mom’s family.”

“You’ve had a hard life.”

“Maybe, but there have been a lot of good times, too.” She might be comfortable talking to him, but she didn’t want him to feel sorry for her.

“Where are you from? Before you came to the US?”

“Palestine. My father was Palestinian and my mother was from here in Ohio.”

“Talk about worlds apart,” Ben said as he finished the bridle.

“Yeah, but they loved each other.”

He sighed and stood. “I have more work to do now, but maybe we can talk another time.”

“I’d like that.” She couldn’t wait to get to know him better.


Out of Her Element, Copyright © 2018 by Elizabeth West

Click here to continue on to chapter eight…

Wednesday Words – A. R. Conti Fulwell

Wednesday Words graphic

Please welcome author A. R. Conti Fulwell to The West Corner!

The Writing the Write Way

I’ve got the key to my castle in the air, but whether I can unlock the door remains to be seen.” ― Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

What is a writer?

Is it someone who resigns all that they are to the power of the pen?

Is it someone who’s head is constantly in the clouds?

Is it someone who fears carpal tunnel more than forgetfulness?

Yes.

A writer is anyone with a voice.

So how do you harness this voice? If you are a writer, you may find that your voice is more like a wild horse and less like a ball point pen. Many people think that writers sit down and produce a manuscript, sometimes in a surprising short amount of time and then send it off to someone who can publish it, and then – boom! – you are an author.

Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Writers write, and write, and write, and write some more, and once they’re done they edit, and edit, and edit, and edit some more. Then, after all of that, good writers go back, and they edit again, and again, until finally the piece they have created resembles their original idea in the best ways possible.

Now the title suggests that there is a ‘right’ way and a ‘wrong’ way to write. Even though we are taught in our English courses that there is a certain way of doing things, that does not apply to the field of ‘being’ a writer. Write in pen. Write in pencil. Write with poor grammar. Write with no commas. Just write.

Many of my fellow writers are afflicted with this disease, this malady called “Writer’s Block.” I don’t believe in Writer’s Block; in fact, the only form of Writer’s Block that whole-heartedly believe in is the piece of wood that sits on my book shelf with the words “writer’s block” embedded in it. Writer’s Block is a myth created by writers when they run out of ideas. I’ll admit, there is no one who wants to admit they have hit a brick wall; however, at the same time there is no one who can produce an award-winning book in the first draft. It is humanly impossible.

While I don’t believe in Writer’s Block, I believe in letting my books “cook.” Right now, I have about six books started, and I think of each of them as a crock pot that is set on low – all simmering, waiting for me to pick up the lid again.

Writing is just like life – you don’t have to have all the answers right now.

After all, writers hold the key to the castle, but the process of unlocking the door makes the writer an author.

About the Author

photo of author A. R. Conti FulwellA. R. Conti Fulwell holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English, and a Minor in Music, from Malone University, but her story-telling journey began long before her college years. Long ago, immersed in the Medici chapel, surrounded by the paintings of Gentileschi, the writings of Castiglione and Machiavelli, and the architecture of Brunelleschi, she found herself fascinated by the art of historical fiction, she began fashioning her own tales after the greats – Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, T.S. Eliot, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Amanda resides in Hartville, Ohio, and often shoots short-films within her hometown.

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When the Italian Came to Stay cover artBook Description

Like a fish out of water….

Serafina Rinaldi wants nothing more than be free. Free from boarding school, free from English society, and free from her haunting past. When her father calls in a favor from an English friend, Sir Matthew Renault, asking him to take his daughter back to Sir Matthew’s esteemed family estate, Cainesworth Abbey, Serafina is ready to give in, and forget she ever wanted anything more.

As Serafina settles in, she finds that not everyone at Cainesworth is against her. Making friends with Lady Eliza Carthidge, Matthew’s cousin, gives Serafina just the ally that she will need, as her past begins to collide with the family at Cainesworth. Joshua Stone, a man from Serafina’s past, comes to Cainesworth after the unfortunate death of his brother on the Titanic, looking for solace. Together, the four uncover a mystery, and a common scoundrel, connecting their worlds, testing their faith, and delivering them to the threshold of a destiny that they have all been seeking.

When the Italian Came to Stay is available from Amazon.