Fiction Friday – The Attic

 

This is one I wrote it for a 1000-word challenge. The prompt was to write a story using 1000 words or less that was an unbelievable tale.


 

Coffee in hand and a half-eaten bear claw on a plate, Gavin paged through the paper, scanning the classifieds. When calls for work evaporated, he resorted to answering ads. He set down his mug as he read the request printed halfway down the third column.

Wanted: A man to help an old woman clean out her attic. Must be single, hardworking, and ready for adventure. Rewards will be great. 555-0123

He chuckled and picked up his phone. Cleaning an attic, he could do, and the lady that posted the ad sounded like a hoot. “Hello. I’m calling about the ad in the paper. You need help with your attic?”

“Ad? Oh my! Has it been sixty-five years already?” Her voice sounded dream-like. “1515 Story Lane. But I won’t know if you are right for the job until I meet you.”

“Yes, ma’am. I’ll be there in a half-hour.” He ended the call, shaking his head. What criteria did she have for cleaning out an attic? Sixty-five years? What was that about? He finished off his pastry and downed the rest of his coffee. As he darted past the display case in front, the fruit-topped tarts caught his attention. Maybe a sweet treat would make him right for the job. He ordered two, then asked for another to be added to the box.

He drove across town to the well-kept Victorian. Before making his way to the front door, he stopped to admire the ancient structure. Flowers that despite the nip of fall in the air bloomed brightly along the walkway and in pots on the porch. He glanced up at the dormer, where he presumed the attic awaited its cleaning. Curtains moved.

Gavin hurried to the door, afraid the older woman had started without help. He rapped three times and waited, the box of tarts growing heavy as his anticipation mounted. He had to give the old woman credit. She made something so mundane as cleaning an attic seem exciting, almost daring.

The door opened, and a woman well into her eighties with the eyes of a twenty-year-old smiled. “Thank you for coming.”

“I brought you a little something.” He lifted the lid to show off the pretty treats.

“You are perfect for this job. Come in.” She shuffled out of the way, a cane clutched in the hand he hadn’t seen. She hadn’t been in the attic. “Carry those into the kitchen for me.”

He followed her through doorways surrounded in carved wood moldings and across richly colored rugs laid over wood floors. “Your house is beautiful.”

“It makes me happy to hear you say that.” The sadness in her voice contrasted with the words she spoke. “I’ll be moving soon, and this home deserves someone who appreciates its beauty.” She pointed to the refrigerator as they stepped into the kitchen.

He tucked the box of sweets into an empty spot. “I’m ready to get started.”

The woman touched his cheek. “The minute you climb into that attic, your life changes. Are your really ready?”

He inched backward, unnerved by her touch and her words. “How do you mean?”

“In every box in that attic is a treasure. You must find the one that calls to you. When you accept it, it is for life. And this is where you will live.”

“Whoa. I thought I was here to help you clean.” Gavin spun on a heel and started toward the front door.

“Sixty-five years ago, my Nathanial stood right where you are, his hand on the doorknob, ready to flee because what he’d heard sounded unbelievable.”

He glanced up the stairs. “What made him change his mind?”

“I’m not sure he ever changed his mind—until the day he died he called it unbelievable—but he listened to his heart. You brought three tarts.” She rested a hand on his arm. “Once you choose her, she’ll call and place an ad to run sixty-five years from today.”

“How do I get into the attic?” He set aside the ridiculousness of believing such a tale and hoped maybe love waited behind that moving curtain.

“At the very top of the stairs is a small door.”

He breathed in deep before trusting his weight to the well-worn stair. The creak caught him off-guard, but whatever hid behind the dormer pulled at his curiosity. One more step, then another, and his pace quickened. He raced up the last few stairs and bent low to get through the miniature door. The sunlit space held boxes and trunks. What had he expected to find? In every box is a treasure. He scanned the room, unsure how the process was supposed to work. He opened the box closet to him. Inside sat an ornate hand-held mirror. He peeked into another bin which held a pair of heels, the color beyond description. Next to the front dormer, sat an old steamer trunk. Like the pull of a magnet on metal shavings, he moved toward it. Faded stickers from ports of call all over the world adorned the outside. What treasures lay within? He knelt in front of it and lifted the lid. At the bottom lay a treasure map and a small music box.

Gavin cradled the small wooden box in his hand and wound the key on the underside. He opened the lid and watched the dancer spin around as a tune from his dreams echoed through the attic.

A hand touched his shoulder. He squeezed it and turned to see the dancer in front of him.

“You came.”

Gavin pulled her into his arms. “And I brought you a treat.”

Fiction Friday – Could Be

Here’s a fun little read for your Friday. I wrote it for a 500 word challenge. (I didn’t win.) But I like this story. What do you think?


 

 

At six o’clock, Lisa pushed open her door and paused. Instead of her apartment, she faced two doors, labeled Is and Could Be . Shaking her head, she glanced from door to door, and reached for the Is door, half-expecting the other to disappear as soon as she touched the knob.

It didn’t.

The Is door creaked as she pushed it open, only a sliver. Peering through the gap, she spotted her table, her couch, her cat. What stopped her from rushing in, returning to her routine was the mystery behind the Could Be door.

She wrung her hands, her gaze glued to that door. Summoning courage, she touched the knob and breathed in deep. She twisted the handle, and the door swung open.

“That you, love? Dinner’s in the oven.” A husky voice called from somewhere out of sight.
Excitement danced in her chest. She tiptoed toward the voice. “Hello?”

Tall and chiseled, the man standing in the kitchen padded toward her, his jeans dragging around his bare feet. “How was your day?”

“Good.” Lisa scanned the room, searching for any hint of his name. A mechanic’s shirt draped over a chair rescued her. “Thanks for making dinner, Blake.”

He wrapped her in a hug and kissed her forehead. “It won’t be ready for an hour.”
Lisa’s cheeks warmed at his tone and implication.

He reached for her buttons, giving her a clear view of the ring on his left hand that matched the one on hers. “That enough time?”

“Yes.” Eagerness raised her voice an octave.

He carried her to the bedroom and laid her down on crisp cotton sheets. Goosebumps rose to meet his fingertips where they brushed her skin. He stretched out on top of her, catching her lips in a tango of desire. Lisa moaned, her dreams becoming reality.

 

***

Birds chirped outside the window, waking Lisa from the best night’s sleep she’d ever had. She hesitated, not wanting to open her eyes, afraid the entire evening had been a conjured dream—a satisfying, delicious dream.

Whiskers pressed against her shoulder. “Morning. I need a shower. Mind grabbing the paper?”

Lisa rolled him onto his back and slid on top of him. “I thought last night was a dream.”
He drew hearts on her back with rough and calloused fingers. “Good one, I hope.”

“The best.” She tasted his lips before slipping out of bed and pulling on her robe. “Be right back.”

In the hall, she picked up the paper, then turned back to the door, which hung open a sliver. She pushed it open and paused in horror.

The cat meowed, welcoming her back to her old life.

Her taste of what could be had vanished.

Swiping at tears, Lisa called the first garage listed in the phonebook. “Hi. My car’s making a funny noise. I wanted Blake to look at it.”

Working down the list, she repeated the call until she located a mechanic named Blake.

She grabbed her keys and raced across town.

Cover Reveal: Finding Kate

Covers for the Hill Country Secrets series are inspired by the setting. The photo from the cover of Finding Claire was snapped while on a walking trail not far from my house. It’s a snapshot of the Texas Hill Country.

After writing one particularly heart-pounding scene in book two, I knew what I wanted on the cover of Finding Kate. The bridge pictured crosses a creek along the Leon Creek Greenway and offers a glimpse of hope at a critical point in the book.

Finding Kate releases July 24, 2017.


For those interested in helping me get the word out about my books and staying in the know about what I’m writing, I’ve started a new group on Facebook. Join my inner circle and become a virtual resident of Schatzenburg, TX. Send me a note if you want to join.

Review: When the Timer Dings

Katharine Grubb, author of Write a Novel in 10 Minutes a Day, released a new book. Here’s my review of When The Timer Dings:: Organizing Your Life To Make The Most of 10 Minute Increments.

Schedules and I have a love/hate relationship. I appreciated this book because it wasn’t a how-to book or a do-it-this-way book. It focused on different facets of organizing. The chapter titles give a taste of what you’ll read about:
Organizing Your Foundational Truth
Organizing Your Attitudes
Organizing Your People
Organizing Your Time
Organizing Your Habits
Organizing Your Stuff
Organizing Your Tools
Organizing Your Margins
Organizing Your Fails
It’s not a book you’ll toss aside discouraged because you can’t make her system work. The book is encouraging and prompts you to look at your own motivations. I recommend this book.

You can order the book on Amazon.

Guest Post: Sandrine Spycher

Today, Sandy joins us to tell us about her newest book, Creative Therapy 2.


Creative Therapy 2: More Words by Sandrine Spycher

In the continuation of Creative Therapy (published in December 2016), Creative Therapy 2: More Words is a collection of poems written spontaneously day in day out depending on the mood and emotions of the moment. The title refers to the therapeutic aspect of art and creativity. And the subtitle More Words can be read simply as a description of continuity from the first book to the second one, or as a metaphor where words are solutions to the everyday problems.

Writing Out Loud

My poems in Creative Therapy 2 are not structured or organized according to any plan fixed in advance. I didn’t outline the texts at all, but wrote as the words came. I call this technique “writing out loud” because it’s like thinking out loud except I write as I think. I chose to write spontaneously and without structure to preserve a sort of “journal” quality in my writing, which means writing the emotions as they come to record and process them.
Writing without a plan was also a way for me to stay honest and transparent in my poems. As I have written in the Foreword to Creative Therapy, being transparent was one of the main characteristics of the poems since the beginning. Transparency is indispensable when writing is used as therapy because too many embellishments would hide away the very feelings that I’m trying to make sense of.

Amusing Muses

I get a lot of inspiration from friends and partners. Although I write about my own feelings, there is always a little, or sometimes a lot, of them in my words. Their presence is highly important in my life and therefore they are also present in my poems. My friends have an influence on my heart and my mind, and although not explicitly dedicated to anyone in particular, my poems mention some of my loved ones.
I find it interesting also to see the different influences from different people, some of them on an emotional level and others on an artistic level. My writing evolves as the influences in my life change. Writing as feelings arise implies that when a new friendship is created, a new mode of writing comes into play. On this note as much as on the mental health aspect, my book is biographical and transparent.


Malaysia

the more my friends leave,
the more I feel
how precious and irreplaceable
your voice and your presence are—

the more my friends leave,
the more I believe
no picture can ever replace
your hair to run my fingers through.

then I let go of my phone
(too late)
and beg for physical contact
(already gone)
so please don’t leave me behind.


The particular writing process that I used when working on Creative Therapy 2 allowed me not only to make sense of my emotions, but also to keep track of the influence of my friends and the many sources of inspiration in my life. Form and content are strongly linked in this collection. The book will come out both in paperback and digital format, with a short biography by my friend Jude Sirbu and a couple of illustrations by myself.

What happens when you can’t say goodbye?

As a reader, have you ever reached the end of the book and hesitated to close the back cover, not ready to say goodbye to the characters in the story? I’d love to hear what books have provoked this reaction. What do you do?

That happened to me writing my romantic suspense novel, Finding Claire. It started as a seed of a plot idea as I drove through the Texas Hill Country. The thought, Someone could get lost out here, burrowed into my imagination and blossomed into a plot. At first, I struggled with creating the right characters. Alex came into focus once I had his name, Alejandro Ramirez. Rainy took shape as I wrote her scenes. After hours and hours with these and the other characters, I was nowhere near ready to say goodbye to them when a solid draft of Finding Claire was finished.

What happens when you can’t say goodbye to your characters?

My solution: the Hill Country Secrets series was born. While Finding Claire was with beta readers, I penned what I thought would be the second book in the series and a novella. I considered putting the novella out as an extra, but there were plot holes to be fixed. As I remedied what was broken, added description, and learned more about my secondary characters, that novella morphed into a full novel, with letters for the background story, a little more romance, and a dose of danger and suspense. It became Book Two. And I am happy to announce that the novella-turned-book-two finally has a title and a release date.

Finding Kate
Release Day: July 24, 2017

 


STOP READING HERE IF YOU HAVEN’T FINISHED FINDING CLAIRE AND DON’T WANT SPOILERY INFO.
REALLY.
You sure?
Alrighty then.

One lapse in judgement can ruin forever.
Finding Kate
Hill Country Secrets, Book Two

 

Time doesn’t heal all wounds, but it sometimes delays retribution.

After learning she was kidnapped as a child, Kate is eager to move to Texas. Alex—excited about their newly budding relationship—suggests a road trip to Denver to pack up her apartment. When her story hits the 24-hour news cycle, long-kept secrets threaten Kate and Alex’s happily-ever-after and their lives.

Kate wants to start over in the house her mother loved. Alex wants time for the relationship to deepen, but when the unthinkable happens, he realizes love rarely shows up alone.

In a hunt to find Kate, Alex lands at her laptop, searching. Can he keep her alive? Can he keep her at all?


For those wondering what happened to the book I thought would be book two, it is in revisions. Book Three will be released later this year.

Blog Tour: This Dread Road by Olivia Ard

Last year, I had the opportunity to beta read Olivia’s book, This Dread Road. I loved it and jumped at the chance to be a stop on the blog tour.

Summary

It’s September 1968, and Howard Knox freshman Annemarie Vanderhorst is happy to be free of her controlling mother’s societal expectations. She vows to spend her time at college wisely in pursuit of her own dreams. But before she can figure out what she wants from life, Henry Eden, the dark and handsome stranger in her philosophy class, takes over every waking thought.
Nearly half a century later, Claire James returns to Bennett after leaving her fiancé, determined to be independent for once in her life. After convincing her father to let her work for the family business, she soon realizes being a responsible adult isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Loathed by her coworkers, neglected by her best friend, and held captive by a terrifying secret, she doesn’t know how much more she can take.</p>
<p>The lives of these two women, decades apart but uncannily similar, finally intersect one fateful night. With broken hearts and hope for the future, will they find the answers they’re looking for?

Release Date: February 14, 2017
Published by: Three Amigas Press
Genre: Historical Romance, Women’s Fiction</p>
Available from: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Createspace

Excerpt

“Everyone, please take your seats.” The professor glanced at his watch and frowned before letting his arm fall back down to his side. “Class should have begun three and half minutes ago. Apparently, punctuality is no longer a priority at this school.”
As he spoke, Annemarie darted through the door, red—faced and panting. “So sorry,” she mumbled to the professor, who either didn’t hear her apology or refused to accept it.
The weight of fifty—six pairs of eyes bore down on her shoulders as she stared up the stacked rows, hoping to find an unclaimed desk. In her desperation, she started up the nearest set of stairs. There had to be an empty seat near the back, right? Stomach clenched, she grasped the handrail and continued her ascent. What would she do if she couldn’t find one?
Susan. None of this would have happened if it weren’t for Susan.
Annemarie had been happy to grab lunch at the cafeteria after she and Susan left their biology class, but she’d let her roommate talk her into making a quick trip into town instead. She’d sworn up and down they would make it back in time for their one o’clock classes.
“My dad and I ate at this great little deli downtown last summer when he brought me for a visit. It’s just a few streets over.”
But the deli was busier on the first day of class than it had been over the summer. They stood in line for almost half an hour and didn’t receive their food for another fifteen minutes after that. Annemarie didn’t even know what her sandwich had tasted like, she’d had to eat it so quickly. She’d spent the next ten minutes running full tilt back to campus, hoping their professors would be forgiving.
So much for that.
Down below, the professor cleared his throat. Annemarie’s face turned an even brighter shade of red. Maybe her mother was right. Did she really need to take this class? Hurtling down the stairs and running out of the lecture hall seemed more appealing by the second.
But just as she decided to succumb to the temptation, she found what she was searching for: an empty seat. It was farther up than she would have liked, the very last desk in the very top row, but it was available.
With a sigh of relief Annemarie hopped up the last few steps and scooted behind those already seated, ignoring their grumbling about inconsiderate people. When she reached the end of the row, she tapped the shoulder of the boy—no, man—sitting next to the empty desk.
“Excuse me, is this seat taken?”
He looked from her to the seat and back. “Don’t think so.”
She slid behind the desk and tucked herself against the wall, willing herself to be invisible.
The professor heaved an exaggerated sigh and said, “Now that everyone is finally ready, let’s begin. I’m Dr. Liam Craig. Welcome to Introduction to Philosophy. In this course, you will learn to …”
Annemarie leaned over and whispered, “Sorry about that. I’m usually on time, or even early.”
Keeping his eyes on Dr. Craig, the man beside her nodded but said nothing.
“My name’s Annemarie,” she said. “What’s yours?”
He met her eyes with a heavy—lidded stare before returning his attention to the front of the classroom, again saying nothing. His jaw stiffened, and was it her imagination, or was his hand twitching?
When it became obvious this was the only answer she could expect from him, Annemarie leaned back in her chair and tried not to let it bother her. Class had already started, after all—she was the one being rude. Besides, what did it matter? She was there to learn about philosophy, not moon over some guy.
But as Dr. Craig droned on about fallacious reasoning, the nature of reality, and the existence of God, Annemarie couldn’t keep her mind from wandering back to her handsome seatmate.
With ten minutes left, Dr. Craig said, “I think I’ve covered everything necessary for our first full class meeting, so I’ll give you an early dismissal today. Don’t get used to it, though. Take a copy of the syllabus on your way out, and please prepare to discuss chapters one and two of your textbook for Wednesday. And be on time,” he added, glaring up at Annemarie.
Without a word, the man next to her stood, stepped behind her, and slowly made his way down the steps. He took intermittent pauses to allow others to pass him, but he spoke to no one. People parted around him and rejoined on the other side. The guys seemed to size themselves up against him, while the girls ducked their heads and gave him a shy smile, but he didn’t seem to notice any of them. When he reached the bottom of the stairs and released his grip on the railing, he limped across the narrow stretch of floor between the lectern and the first row of seats. She couldn’t help but wonder what had happened to his leg.
Before she knew it had happened, she was the last person in the classroom other than Dr. Craig. She blushed and gathered her books, chiding herself for her distraction. Why should she care about this person she’d only just met? He didn’t care about her—he’d made that abundantly clear. She should just put him out of her mind and focus on school.
Even so, for the rest of the day, she couldn’t shake the memory of his eyes—shielded, mistrustful, and darker than a thundercloud.

About the Author

Olivia started writing creatively at eight years old. During middle and high school, she attended several writing conferences. Her short story “By Its Cover” placed first in its division in the 2008 District III Alabama Penman Creative Writing Contest. She earned her bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Montevallo in 2012, married in 2013, and published her first novel in 2014. She received a Readers Favorite five-star review for her holiday novella,’Tis the Season, in 2016.
Olivia lives in central Alabama with her husband JD and their cats, Buddy and Lafayette. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys watching quality television, teaching herself how to cook, and playing Pokémon GO.

Connect with the Author

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Pinterest

Feet Out, Feet Back, Repeat

Remember as a kid (or maybe as an adult) when you learned to swing without being pushed?

The hardest part was at the beginning. You’d inch back to get a little momentum, then swing forward, legs out. At the furthest point forward, you buckled down, tucked your feet back, and pulled. With each iteration, you gained speed and height.

When you reached full swing, all the initial hard work paid off as you felt the wind in your face, like you were flying through the air. Over and over again.

I love that feeling.

This year I’m trying something new. I committed to write every day, at least 300 words. I anticipate that all year will feel like I’m pumping my legs, out and back, trying to get that swing into motion.

Maybe some of those words will be woven into more frequent blog posts. Some (Lots actually!) will go into books two and three of the Hill Country Secrets series. It’s going to be an exciting year.

I’ve logged words every single day so far. Feel free to ask me about my adventure. If someone gave you a ticket to do something every single day, even for just ten minutes, what would it be?

Happy New Year!

Finding Claire Releases Tomorrow!

Tomorrow is the release of Finding Claire, my romantic suspense novel. A blend of romance, mystery, and genealogy, the book tells the story of a woman kidnapped in January 2016 and the story of Emma in the summer of 1983.

I hope you all enjoy it!

 

Early feedback has been great. Check out these reviews –


It earned 5 ★★★★★s from Readers’ Favorites!

Read the review written by Jack Magnus.


Jennifer at Dandelions Inspired rated it 5 ★★★★★s on Goodreads and published this review.

This mystery/suspense/romance was just what the doctor ordered today! “Finding Claire” is the upcoming release from author, Pamela Humphrey, about a young woman who … Read more.


Maureen at MoMo’s Book Diary rated it 5 ★★★★★s.

MoMo’s Book Diary highly recommends this thrilling novel as a spellbinding 5 star read. … Read more.


Kaytlyn at The Bohemian Bookworm rated it 5 AMAZING ★★★★★s.

I absolutely LOVED this book! I knew after reading the synopsis that this book was right up my alley. Humphrey creates a beautifully enchanting mystery that … Read more.


You can also read what people are saying about Finding Claire on Amazon and on Goodreads.

Huge thanks to the bloggers and ARC readers who took the time to read Finding Claire. I am so excited for tomorrow!

Book Signing for the Blue Rebozo

You are all invited to The Twig Book Shop, located in the Historic Pearl, on October 8th from 11 AM – 1 PM. I’ll be signing copies of The Blue Rebozo.

For more information, see The Twig’s event calendar or contact me.

Mark your calendars! I hope to see you there!

Local Author Pamela Humphrey To Sign Books At The Twig Book Shop
SAN ANTONIO, Texas, September 27, 2016 – Inspired by her genealogy research, Pamela Humphrey traced her deep Texas roots and penned the story of her ancestors in “The Blue Rebozo.” Weaving fact and fiction, she told the story of Petra Ramirez and her family.

A history shared by many in South Central Texas, her family migrated to Guadalupe County, Texas, from Mexico after the American Civil War to work as sharecroppers. The family struggled to scrape out a living, endured hardships, but cultivated a sense of family that continued into subsequent generations.

Her hope is that through storytelling, history becomes personal, giving current generations an enduring connection to their past.

Set in Guadalupe County, Texas, the book focuses on the life of Petra Ramirez, but recounts the struggles and joys of several generations.

The book signing begins at 11:00 AM on October 8th at The Twig Book Shop, located in the Historic Pearl.