A free short story for you

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Take It Off

by Judi Lynn

Noira wore a smug smile as she laid down three aces and two queens.  She raised an eyebrow at Speed. “Take it off.”

She reached for her wine as her boyfriend gave a smug smile.  They were sitting across the kitchen table from each other, their empty wings container pushed to the side, along with crumpled napkins and paper plates.  She didn’t cook.  Takeout containers littered the countertops.  She’d worry about them tomorrow.  Sometimes, she cleaned on Saturdays.  Sometimes, she didn’t.

Speed’s biceps bulged as he flexed his muscles for her and pushed his thumbs below the elastic of his boxer shorts—his only remaining article of clothing—lowering them a little to tease her.  With a smirk, he tugged one side wider and pulled out a handkerchief to toss on the floor.

Noira’s jaw dropped.  “No fair!”  She still wore her bra, panties, and both socks.  The socks didn’t match, but she’d been in a hurry getting ready for work this morning.  “A hanky doesn’t count.”

“It was on my person, so it does,” Speed argued.  He took a long draw of his beer.  He had a strong chest, great abs, and a fantastic fanny, but skinny legs.  His fanny was still covered.

She narrowed her eyes at him.  He’d won at strip poker the last two weeks and crowed about it.  The dork still thought she was drool worthy, even though she was a little overweight and her left knee had two small scars and didn’t work right.  Aftermaths of the pickup running into her small car.  She was ready for victory this time around, and a hanky wasn’t going to save him.  Before she could protest further, though, Speed’s cellphone rang.  He glanced at the I.D. and reached for it.  “Speed here.  I’m putting you on Speaker.”

“It’s me, Roly.  I’m on duty tonight but just threw up, feeling worse every minute.  Can you finish my shift for me?”

Noira’s shoulders sagged.  Speed had worked last Friday night.  They were looking forward to this one.  Speed pressed his lips together, disappointed, but finally said, “Sure.   Is Stringbean going to drop you off, then pick me up?” 

“He’s already back at the hospital for me to get my car.  He’ll be at your place soon.”

“I’ll be ready.”  Speed wrinkled his nose as they heard retching in the background.  “Spray the inside of the EMS so I don’t catch what you have.”

Roly grunted and disconnected.  Probably a good thing, and Speed started to the bedroom to pull on his uniform.  He stopped at the doorway, though, bent, and pulled down his undershorts to moon her. 

Noira cheered.  Her guy had a great ass.  By the time he got off shift at midnight, though, her victory would be hollow.  He wouldn’t feel frisky anymore.  She grabbed her cane and went to the bedroom, too.  Might as well change into her pajamas.  Then as Speed’s EMS pulled to their door, she hobbled to the kitchen to grab a bottle of wine before settling on the sofa and flipping on the TV.  She pushed an empty pizza box out of her way, so she could put her feet on the coffee table. 

Speed dropped a kiss on Noira’s head on his way out of the apartment.  “You got lucky, you know.  I could feel it.  You were going to lose tonight.’

“In your dreams.”  She searched for something to watch while he was gone.  As an EMT, Speed worked a lot of weekends, but for once, he’d had Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights off, like she did.  It was too good to be true.  Noira glanced out the window to watch him slide behind the steering wheel of the vehicle and kept watching until the EMS pulled out of the parking lot.  Then she lifted the wine bottle to take a swig.  So much for a great evening. 

By the time Speed got back again, the show she was watching was over and the wine bottle was empty.  She still had energy, though.  She raised her eyebrows hopefully as Speed started to the couch.  Then she got a good look at his face.

“What happened?”

He flopped down beside her and reached over to push a stray chestnut curl out of her face.  “We had a bad night.  We’d made two heart attack runs before we were called to an accident.  A guy ran right in front of a woman’s car, and she hit him.  Couldn’t stop in time.   He was still alive when we got there, but he was in bad shape.  When we checked him over and decided we could load him on the stretcher, there was a pool of blood underneath his back.  He had a gunshot wound under his left shoulder blade.”

She sat up to listen to him.  “Did he make it to the hospital?”

He shook his head.  “We did our best, but he’d lost too much blood.  When I was trying to strap him on the stretcher, though, he grabbed my wrist and said, ‘Danny did it.  I saw him, so he chased me down and shot me.’”

She frowned.  “He couldn’t have run far.  Was there a crime close to where he got hit?”

“Cops came to talk to the driver, and I told them what the guy said.  They told me they’d check on it.  I was thinking if you go to work on Monday and hear or see something, I’d like to know.”

“I’ll ask around.”  She worked for a woman judge in the courthouse, knew a few detectives, too.  With a case like this, she had a good chance of hearing gossip.  But she didn’t have to wait that long, because when she opened the morning newspaper, she recognized the man who’d been shot.  She and Jayce had been tight in high school.  They were a couple their senior year until Jayce joined the marines and she started school to be a paralegal.  Then she’d met Speed, and they’d been together six years.

She pushed the front-page news to Speed.  “I didn’t even know Jayce was back in town. He was my high school steady.  Was in the marines and sent overseas.  He survived that and then came home and got killed?  That’s not fair!”

Speed quirked a dark brow at her.  “You, of all people, should know life isn’t fair.  You got lucky you didn’t have to use crutches for the rest of your life.”

She had to give Speed his due.  He never even blinked when her leg got creamed in the car accident.  He had her back through the whole rehab therapy sessions, listened to her when she felt sorry for herself, then told her to buck up, buttercup, and figure out how to deal with it.  She pinched her lips together.  “You’re pretty wonderful, you know that, right?”

He grinned.  “I’m a prince.  You got lucky.”

They both laughed.  Then he asked, “Did Jayce have a buddy named Danny back when you knew him?”

A shiver slithered down her spine.  “Danny lived a few doors down from him.  They’d been friends since grade school, but boy, were they different.”

“Different how?”

“Jayce always wanted to make a difference in the world.  Danny thought the world owed him a good time.”

“Do you remember Danny’s last name?”

“Warshawski.  Had a mouth on him.”  Speed gave her a look, and she shrugged.  “I know.  So do I, but I’m nicer.”

“You’re the best.  You have good taste.  You like me.”

“There you go again.”  She smiled, then looked at Jayce’s picture on the front page and took a deep breath.  “This is such a bummer.  Did you read the article?  Was there another crime in the same vicinity?”

Speed scanned the rest of the news story and shook his head.  “Nothing in this.”

Noira squared her shoulders.  “I want whoever did this behind bars.  Both of us need to keep our ears open.”

Speed finished his coffee and came around the table to give her a quick hug.  “Sorry you lost an old friend.  Let’s do something today.   Want to take an overnight trip?  Get out of town for a minute?”

They hadn’t done that for a long time.  “Chicago?  Lots of great neighborhood restaurants and things to do.”

“Can you make it through the history museum?”

“I’m slow but steady, like the tortoise.  Pack light?”

“Let’s do it.” 

Forty-five minutes later, they were on their way.  They didn’t get back until almost dark on Sunday night.  They’d pushed Jayce out of their minds all weekend, but once they stepped back in the apartment, his newspaper picture was still on their kitchen table. 

Speed opened Sunday’s paper and shook his head.  “Nothing new.  They’re still working the case.”

“I’ll ask around at work tomorrow.  Tell everyone I knew him, that we were close once.”  And she found out that Hunter, the detective she knew best, was working the case. 

“Was there anything unusual when you knocked on doors and talked to people?” she asked him.

Hunter studied her.  “How close were you?”

“I went to school with him, dated him.  He was my first love.”

Hunter grimaced.  “Okay then, all we know is that someone called in a complaint that people were shouting at each other, arguing on his street.  It wasn’t that far from where Jayce got shot, so we knocked on doors.  No one had anything to report, but one woman had a black eye.  When we asked about it, she said she’d hit it on a kitchen cupboard door she’d left open on accident.”

“Can you tell me her name?”

“If you don’t tell anyone else, including Speed.”

She crossed her heart and waited.

Hunter said, “Adalyn Miller.  Divorced.  Mean anything to you?”

“I went to school with an Adalyn, but her last name wasn’t Miller then.  Danny had a huge crush on her.”

Hunter reached for the notepad in his pocket.  “Tell me about this Danny.”

So, she did.  When she finished, Hunter gave her a thumbs-up and said, “Gotta go.”

For the rest of the day, Noira sorted through crime photos and witness statements for an upcoming trial.  When she left for the day and got home, Speed was already gone, working a night shift.  He’d left an empty Arby’s bag and sandwich wrappers on the table.

The apartment couldn’t hold any more garbage, and she was restless.  She grabbed a trash bag and went around the rooms, throwing away empty boxes and papers.  When she finished, the apartment actually looked nice, so she called Door Dash and ordered chicken tenders, fries, and honey-mustard.  After she ate her meal in front of the TV, she cleaned up her mess.  Might as well let Speed see a clean place for at least one night.

When she woke the next morning, Speed was sitting in the kitchen and pushed a cup of coffee and two of her favorite donuts her way.  “We should celebrate.”

“Are you back on days again?”

“Yes.  And Jayce’s killer is behind bars.”

“Who was it?”  But Noira already knew. 

“You helped crack the case.  Hunter went to question Adalyn.  Her black eye had turned an ugly purple and yellow and he pressed her about it.  She finally admitted that Danny had pounded on her door that night, and she’d let him in.  He was furious with her.  They’d been seeing each other but she told him she’d met a really nice guy, that they were over.  And he lost it.  Hit her.  Dragged her into the bedroom.  Jayce got there when he was holding her down and finishing up.  He dragged Danny off her, then Danny realized Jayce was the ‘nice guy’ Adalyn was seeing.  He ran to his car for a gun, and Jayce took off to lead him away from Adalyn.  When she heard that Jayce had been killed, she knew it was Danny, but he threatened to kill her parents if she said anything.”

Noira felt numb.  She knew Danny had an attitude, that he expected to get whatever he wanted, but she never thought he’d kill someone to get it.  And Jayce had done exactly what she thought he’d do.  He’d tried to keep Adalyn safe.  It was so depressing.

Speed hugged her shoulders.  “Want to call in sick today?”

She shook her head.  “And miss all the gory details?”  But her attempt at humor fell a little flat.  She sighed.  “No, it won’t change anything.  Might as well go in, look at the crime pictures, and do my best to help Hunter nail Danny’s ass.”

Speed kissed her cheek.  “Go kick butt, female warrior.  I’m off to save lives.”

They got ready and left for their separate jobs.  But when they got home that night, they went out to eat.  And drink.  And make merry.  They needed it.

Crafting Rich Characters (Part 5)

D. Wallace Peach did a great job on how to develop characters for writing. Thought I’d share.

Story Empire

Greetings Storytellers! We’re off to Part 5 of Crafting Rich Characters, the final installment of this series. In Part 1, we explored a character’s Physical Appearance, Mannerisms, and Quirks. In Part 2, we covered Attributes and Traits, Skills and Abilities, and Occupations and Interests. In Part 3, we looked at the Formative Backstory, Core Values, and The Lie. And in Part 4, we explored Secrets, The Big Fear, and The Mask.

In this post, we’re going to finish up character-building with Motivations and Goals.

And at the end, you’ll be able to download a worksheet with the aspects of character-building I’ve presented in this 5-part series.

Motivation

All images from Pixabay

Motivation liesat the heart of a compelling character’s profile. Much of what we’ve talked about in previous posts will contribute to an understanding of a character’s internal motivation.

Motivations and Goals are often confused since…

View original post 1,044 more words

The Walking Dead

No, I’m not talking about zombies. I’m talking about me. I’ve done too much lately, and if I sit down to read at the end of the day, I fall asleep. HH has shaken my shoulder too many nights in a row and said, “Give it up. Go to bed.”

I’ve started reading the new Lady Darby historical mystery by Anna Lee Huber (which just became a bestseller, so Yay!), and she’s one of my favorite authors, but I start reading and then I crash. It’s not her writing. I love Lady Darby. It’s me. I usually can squeeze in a second wind but not lately.

May’s going to be different. May has lots and lots of days with nothing on my schedule. May’s going to be heaven, and I hope to get a lot of writing done. Wish me luck. And I’d write more, but I’m getting tired:)

Enjoy your last days of April! And happy writing.

Dog Sitting

We’re dog sitting tonight. Our grandson and his wife brought their black lab, Evee, here with them and took her to the Chain Of Lakes for hikes and fun all day long with some friends and their dog. They came back to visit for a while, then were going back to their friend’s house to catch up and play gameboards they like. Their friends have a cat, though, and Evee is not good with small animals like cats, squirrels, and our chihuahua, so my sister’s babysitting OUR dog so that we can babysit THEIRS. She’s a tired girl, so she’s easy to care for right now. And she’s a sweetie. We really like her.

I grew up with dogs, a few cats, chickens, and pigeons. I like almost all animals. That’s why we took in the stray chihuahua and the stray gray kitten. They came to our door, and I couldn’t turn them away. It’s one reason pets end up in so many of my books. It’s hard for me to imagine not having a pet in a house. I suppose eventually the day will come when we don’t replace ours , but it’s not yet.

My friend swears I’m a masochist, but I have a tendency to like cats with horrible attitudes. Our very first cat, when HH and I were newlyweds, was a long-haired, gray tiger cat named Sesame. She and HH had a running feud and loved to irritate each other. Whenever she got too aggravated with him, she took his socks out of the laundry basket and buried them in her kitty litter. I tried to explain to her that I did the laundry, so she was punishing the wrong person, but that never computed. When she wouldn’t come in when I called for her at bedtime, I swore she’d stay out all night. But she learned that if she lifted the mail slot and let it drop over and over again, we couldn’t sleep through it and let her in. A smart cat.

In the Jazzi Zanders series, Jazzi has a sweet, orange tabby that’s always agreeable. Then she has a black cat named Inky who knocks over flower arrangements when he thinks Jazzi’s left him too many times. My black cat that did that was Pywackett, and he was happy to let me know when he was unhappy. And he was one of my favorites. Who can resist lots of personality?

In the Karnie Cleaver series, Matt has a border collie that helps him on his cattle farm. And the minute Jolly meets Karnie, he falls in love with her. So do Matt’s kids. My dad always said that a dog can tell a person’s true personality the minute he sniffs them. Karnie passed Jolly’s sniff test.

All I know is that a pet adds a lot to HH and my lives. And they add quite a bit to my novels. Kids and pets enrich stories. If you have a beast of some kind in your house, I hope it brings you much happiness, too.

Younger Sisters

HH and I invited my little sister to go out with us for supper tonight. Mary’s twelve years younger than I am, and that made it wonderful for me. I was getting tired of dolls and then my mom had a baby. Woohoo! Even better! A living, breathing something to play with.

I’m not sure why, but my mom was getting older, so when Mary cried, I couldn’t STAND it if Mom ignored her. My sister or I…okay, mostly me….went and picked her up even when our mom forbade it. “You’ll spoil her.” And we did.

When Mary got older, when she had a nightmare, she came to my room and crawled into my tiny twin bed with me. I’d wake up with my nose pressed against the wall and Mary smashed against me. Not so comfortable. And I’d take her back to her room and sit with her until she fell back to sleep. I told her Greek myths for bedtime stories every night.

And then I started college and started dating more than before. And I met John. He was smart. He brought her little presents, took her out for ice cream before our dates. And the time came that when some other guy came to our door, Mary would greet him and say, “Go away. I like John more.” And I still liked the little brat.

When John and I bought our house, he was still in the army, so Mary spent the night on sleeping bags in the living room with me, and we had tea parties. When John and I got married, she’d spend weekends with us. When I taught school, she’d come to my classroom on Friday afternoons and help me grade papers on Saturday mornings. What can I say? She’s my little sister, and I still think she’s wonderful.

Karnie doesn’t have a little sister, but she falls head over heels for Matt’s two kids–Jackson and Chelsea. And it’s mutual. Their mom left them when they were young, and they’ve been craving a mother figure in their lives. It’s a mutual admiration society. And it’s fun to write about. I’m finally a quarter of the way through this book. I’m enjoying it. I hope the rest makes me as happy as the first fourth.

Writing Time

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I won’t have time to write tomorrow. My grandson and his wife are coming Friday night and spending the weekend. Time to change sheets on the beds upstairs, clean the house, and cook ahead. BUT, I had time to write today. The first day to have a full day of writing since I got back from my trip. And I loved it.

My fingers skimmed across the keys. Words bloomed into sentences. Sentences blossomed into paragraphs. And paragraphs transformed into pages. I rewrote a previous chapter, then wrote a new one. And it felt WONDERFUL.

Karnie is blossoming in this book. She married Matt, loves his two kids, and is happy! And then her older brother, Porter, comes home. Porter is full of self-importance. He was always the golden boy in his parents’ eyes. He thinks he’s better than Matt and Karnie. When he learns that Karnie married Matt, a grass-fed cattle farmer, he’s unimpressed. And he lets her know it. Chuck, Karnie’s second brother, is offended. Matt is one of his best friends. And when he argues with Porter, the truth comes out. Porter moved back to Indiana because he got himself in trouble in Florida. It was a good time for him to leave there.

Porter always thought he was too exciting, too wonderful, to stay in a small town. HIs ego is too big for his family’s butcher shop. Two of my kids have moved away from Indiana, but not because of ego, because of weather and opportunity. I’m not making a statement about kids who move away. I’m making a statement about Porter. He’s full of himself. He’s good-looking and ambitious and …. self-important. Chuck is easy-going and a bit goofy. Karnie is too practical and straight forward. It makes for a fun mix.

I’ll lose this weekend because kids are more important than ANYTHING. But I can’t wait to get back to writing on Monday! What’s more fun than creating scenes that play out in your head? And I know Karnie better since this is my second book with her. And I feel more comfortable with her stories. So, she’s calling to me. So is the mystery. Who killed Farley? Glendale’s councilman made more enemies than anyone should. Because he wasn’t such a nice person.

Suspense

WARNING. THIS BLOG HAS SPOILERS, SO IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE MIDNIGHT MAN BUT INTEND TO, YOU SHOULD AVOID THIS!

I read Mae Clair’s reviews every week on her blog https://maeclair.net/. I’ve found lots of books I love from her recommendations. So I need to thank her for alerting me to The Midnight Man by Caroline Mitchell. https://www.amazon.com/Midnight-Man-gripping-introducing-Detective-ebook/dp/B09BVGYMD3/ref=sr_1_1?crid=1VQUU9SZHK6AB&keywords=the+midnight+man+kindle&qid=1650336968&sprefix=the+midnight+man%2Caps%2C72&sr=8-1

I read more straight mysteries than suspense, but every once in a while, I like to change things up–both in my reading and my writing. That’s why I wrote Posed In Death. The Midnight Man hooked me because of the wonderful characters in the story. Sarah is a detective who took a year’s leave of absence because her husband, another detective, died with plastic over his face while looking at child porn, not to commit suicide but some kind of sexual game. She never realized his obsession and couldn’t face her fellow officers, ashamed of what they must think about her. The author was clever! She introduced us to Sarah, who was arguing with her husband. I didn’t realize that her husband was a ghost whom she talked to until much later in the book. And I thought the trick the author played on me was wonderful! And she had a couple more up her sleeve.

There were SO many characters I fell in love with. I’ll buy the next book just because I liked Sarah so much. She’s caring and wonderful. Life has given her more hard knocks than any person deserves, but she keeps struggling to overcome them. Then there’s her friend and her son, Elliott. Elliott “sees” things no one would ever want to see, and he’s only seven, so he doesn’t always understand the images that play in his mind. They frighten him. Then there’s Elsie, who went to school with Sarah. I really felt for her and her son. Elsie is so overweight she can hardly get out of bed, and her son dedicates himself to caring for her. But Elsie has secrets, and once the reader learns them, they understand why Elsie is the way she is.

Every character is well-drawn. They sucked me into the story. And the Midnight Man with his sick Halloween game is enough to keep the reader turning pages. My only problem with the book was the reveal of the killer at the end. It worked but barely. It almost felt, to me, as though the writer intended one thing when she started the book and waffled at the end. The killer killed the first girl he “invited” to the old manor house. The second girl escaped. And he used the third girl to lure Sarah to her old childhood home. I won’t say more, or I’ll spoil too much, but the ending felt a bit contrived, and I felt a bit deceived, but I’ll still buy the next book. I just plain liked the people I met in the pages too much.

San Antonio is fun!

I’ve never done a vacation with just my daughters. My younger one, Robyn, picked San Antonio for the river walk and wine tours, and Holly and I joined her. We had a wonderful time! That city is just plain fun. Full of friendly people and tons of things to do.

Today, I tried to catch up on e-mails and twitter and things I missed. Tomorrow, it’s back to the keyboard and hopefully more scenes and chapters.

My grandson called today, and he and his wife are coming to stay this weekend. And after that, I think I’ll have a long dry spell to settle fanny in chair and write. I’m ready to get back to routine.

I had some of the most wonderful food I’ve had in a while in San Antonio. If any of you have a wonderful Salsa Verde recipe, I’d love to try it. Darn, it was good! I love chilaquiles. I’m going to have to eat healthy for a while to recuperate from the meals we had there. I need to think of something to make for my grandson and his wife when they come, too, but my mind can’t even wrap itself around menus right now. Food Overload. And it was wonderful:)

But it’s back to the real world tomorrow. Wish me luck.

Do “improvements” make you nuts, too?

I love wordpress for my blog, but every time I get a note that they’re making it “better,” I groan. Yes, they’re adding all kinds of new bells and whistles to it. No, I probably won’t use them. All I want to do is write my blog and post it. And every time they change something, it costs me time I don’t want to spend learning how to use it.

The last change–the “paragraph” whatever–made me nuts for a while. And to this day, when I hit “tags” to add key words, it NEVER gives me enough time to list everything I want. It cuts me off, and I can’t even find the stupid “tag” thingie again. And then I fuss.

My grandson would laugh at me. He works in business data and is constantly amazed by people like me who just want to do what they do and not learn anything else. But I picked wordpress because it was simple and easy. The more they add, the less simple it is, at least, for me. I liked it as it was. But EVERYTHING on computers keeps updating. There are people out there who want bigger, faster, more options. I’m not one of them. I don’t care if they add all kinds of things for those people, but I wish they’d leave what I do and use alone. If they had to add options, I wish they’d add buttons to convert Amazon format to Nook format and print format and every other kind of format with one push of one button. But they haven’t done that yet. Why not?

I love my computer. I love WordPress. And I’m one of those people who actually enjoy writing my blogs. Not sure if I really am, but it feels like I’m connecting with people I like who like me. And it’s odd, but I’ve grown really fond of a lot of people I’ve never met and probably never will. But I feel like I ‘know’ them.

Anyway, I guess my final gripe is that when computer geniuses change something for the “better,” I wish they’d remember there are people like me who just want to keep it simple. I don’t want to relearn what I’m already happy with. And I don’t want to be a computer whiz. I just want to write and blog and connect.

That’s why I quit bothering with Facebook Ads, Twitter Ads, and Amazon Ads. I don’t WANT to learn a new challenge. Make it simple, or you lose me. I’d rather spend my time writing.

Her Last Night

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Our daughter’s been a traveling nurse for a few years now. Her last assignment was in our hometown, which meant that when she drove up here to work three nights in a row, she could stay at our house. Twelve hour shifts from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. would do me in, but she loves them. Legally, she had to pay us “rent,” and she did, because she wanted to do everything RIGHT, but the best part, for us, was getting to see her more than usual.

We bought a second coffee pot so she could wake up to hot coffee. And I cooked a meal for her every time before she had to go to work, because if she got busy, she never knew when she’d have to time to grab something to eat. I sent her a “lunch box” every night she worked, too. HH teases me that I show my love for people through food, and he must be right. Because I tend to cook for the people I care about.

I have to admit, I’ve had a lot less time to write since she’s been staying with us. But let’s face it. Once this assignment’s done, I won’t get to see her that much again. And this is her last night at the hospital The hospital liked her enough to reassign her as a traveling nurse over and over again, but hopefully, Covid’s calming down, and nurses won’t be swamped anymore. As a matter of fact, for the moment, there are enough empty beds that even regular nurses are getting down-staffed there.

In one way, we’re all relieved this assignment’s over. She’s made the two-hour drive back and forth for over a year. She won’t miss it. She’s even talking about looking for a job as a regular nurse in Indy and calling traveling quits. It takes a toll after a while. I’ll miss her, but I really could use a regular routine and write more again. But all in all, I’m so glad she was part of our household for a while. I’ll miss having her pop in for a few days at a time. For all of us, it was wonderful while it lasted. And now it’s time to return to regular routines once more.