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About Heidi

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

About

I am a voracious reader and have been since childhood. Sharing that passion with others is something I love through blogging, social media, and conversations with friends. Along with being an enthusiastic reader, I’m embarking on a journey to becoming an author. I look forward to sharing that journey with you.

Stop back regularly for updates on what I’m currently reading. I’ll also be sharing my journey to publishing my own work, which I’m incredibly excited to share.

About my reading lists

Sharing my passion for reading and the books I love is something I enjoy. All of the books discussed on this site are books I have purchased and enjoyed without incentive or affiliate. The opinions expressed are my own. I am not paid for any of this content. Links to the books are provided for your convenience and are not affiliate links.

Copyright

All written and photographic content on heidislowinski.com (with the exception of content otherwise sourced and cited) is property of Heidi Slowinski and may not be copied or reproduced in any fashion. Sharing the entire blog post via social media and/or quoting portions of the post when it is shared is the exception. I retain the rights to graphics and request credit when used.

Images

Other than images created by Heidi Slowinski, all other images on this blog are the property of their respective owners. All possible effort has been made to give source credit to images when applicable. Heidi Slowinski claims no credit for any image on this site other than those created by me as already indicated. If there is an image belonging to you that appears on this website and require it to be removed, please contact me via the contact me page and I will remove it promptly.

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Book Review: Katie Watson and the Painter's Plot

This week, I’m reviewing Katie Watson and The Painter’s Plot by Mez Blume.

The story opens with Katie Watson, a young girl who is feeling a little left out when her parents and older brother leave her to spend her summer holiday with her grandparents while they go hiking in the Scottish highlands. Katie is a mystery enthusiast and amateur sleuth. During a day trip to Otterly Manor, Katie Watson finds herself transported to another time.

I am admittedly not a frequent reader of young adult fiction but I’m starting to discover more of it. I was initially drawn to this book by the cover art. It’s really unique! I really liked the symbolism of the different images on the cover and how they tie into the story. The story is well paced and action packed. The heroine, Katie Watson, is wonderfully inquisitive and seems wise beyond her years. I really enjoyed it.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

To check out more of my book reviews, head over to Book Reviews. Authors, you’ll also find a form to submit your books for review. Thank you for reading!


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99 Cent Novellas

It’s a 99 cent novella double feature! Coming this spring, I will be releasing not one but two novellas, on Kindle. These are in very early stages of development. I’ll be posting updates on their progress, including sneak peeks at the stories, titles, cover art and release dates. So be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss an update!

So what’s a novella? A novella is a short novel, ranging from 15,000 to 40,000 words. These stories will only be available on Kindle. And as my headline implies, they will only be 99 cents each!

The first book, called The Package, is based on a short story by the same title. Visit My Writing page to check it out. Aleina finds herself unintentionally thrown into the middle of an international spy ring that takes her across the globe. I’m having fun with developing this story because it’s allowed me to revisit some of my favorite travel destinations.

The second was inspired by one of those silly horoscope games to predict what 2020 has in store. This story is yet to be named and follows a woman in her mid-30s as she navigates her way through pursuing love and seeking a change in her career.

I decided to share these ideas as novellas between major works to give readers a chance to check out my writing. It also gives me an opportunity to play with different genres and story lines. I’m looking forward to sharing more about these stories as they develop.

Check you my current book, available on Amazon!

From the back cover: Excited for a fresh new start, Hillary Altman is about to begin her first semester of graduate school at small New England college. Ever the procrastinator, Hillary waits to the last minute to find housing. But fate smiles upon her, when she takes a room in a picturesque Victorian home, run as a boarding house. But Hillary quickly finds, that all is not as it seems at The House on Maple Street…

Read it free with Kindle Unlimited!

Ruth Long, Age 88

Welcome, reader! I am hard at work on Ruth Long, Age 88. Well, more accurately, I’m hard at work on the whole In Loving Memory series. For starters, the series finally has a name! Last week, I again featured the short story that started it all. I hope you enjoyed it. The first book is coming along nicely.

Between writing sessions on book one, Ruth Long, Age 88, I’ve started mapping out plans for the other books. Currently, the In Loving Memory series is planned to be a six book series. Each book will be a first person narrative, told from the perspective of someone who has recently died. Their stories will be interspersed with chapters, told from the perspective of their friends and family members. Despite the rather grim subject matter, this is a humorous series, while still honoring the wide range of emotions that come with grief and the loss of a loved one.

In the coming weeks, I’m going to be sharing more details about Ruth Long. Who she is, where she’s from, her family. I’ll also be introducing some of the other featured characters from upcoming books in the series. Make sure you subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss any updates!

When I was planning The House on Maple Street, I debated whether or not to include a prologue in the story. Ultimately, I did include one in that book. In this case, I’m definitely including a prologue, but with a bit of a twist. The prologue, in each story, is the lead character’s obituary. So to give you a sneak peek into Ruth Long, Age 88, this week I am sharing the prologue:


Ruth Long, age 88, died on August 7th, 2020, in Whittenham, WI.

She was born on April 4th, 1932 in Point Falls, WI to James and Mary Becker. She graduated from Point Falls High School in 1949. In 1950, she married her high school love, John Long, who proceeded her in death, after 65 years of marriage. Ruth was a tireless volunteer for several local organizations but her greatest passion was her family.

She is survived by her son, David (Melissa) Long of Chicago, IL, her daughter Carolyn Long of Whittenham, WI, three grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Memorial may be made to Whittenham Hospice. The family would like to extend their thanks to the hospice staff for their dedicated care.

A memorial service will be held at 11:00am, Monday August 10, 2019; with visitation preceding from 10:00am until the time of service at First United Church, Whittenham, WI. Internment will be held in the Whittenham Cemetery, following the service.


To enjoy more of my writing, check out my debut novel, The House on Maple Street, is available on all Amazon platforms. Available free to Kindle Unlimited members.

From the back cover: Excited for a fresh new start, Hillary Altman is about to begin her first semester of graduate school at small New England college. Ever the procrastinator, Hillary waits to the last minute to find housing. But fate smiles upon her, when she takes a room in a picturesque Victorian home, run as a boarding house. But Hillary quickly finds, that all is not as it seems at The House on Maple Street…

Bonus Short Story

This week, I’m including a bonus post, in addition to my regular update! I’m featuring the short story that started it all, inspiring Ruth Long, Age 88 and the entire In Loving Memory series. The story was based on the writing prompt: write a funeral scene from the point of view of the deceased.


Ruth Long, Age 88

Carnations, seriously?! So much for honoring your mother! What is this, a 1970s high school prompt?! Come to think of it, even my prom date sprung for a rose corsage. I battled cancer for heaven sake and look at the cheap ass flowers my kids picked. I bet it was that Melissa who picked these out. Never liked her. My David could have done so much better. Whatever happened to that Lisa he dated in college? She was such a nice girl.

I forgot how itchy this suit is. I should have donated it when I got sick, just to be sure they wouldn’t bury me in it. I never even liked this suit. I think I wore it to my nephew’s wedding. His wife, now she was a piece of work. Divorced twice, three kids. All illegitimate. Still not clear on how exactly that works but whatever. And then she ran off with her boss. Such a shame but he kind of had that one coming. And his new boyfriend is such a sweetheart.

They could have picked out a nicer box. How did I get stuck with such cheapskate kids?! John set up that funeral trust for our tenth anniversary. I nearly killed him. But there was certainly enough money to cover a nicer box than this. Polyester lining; I never. Not like they had to spend a lot on embalming. I’m practically back to my birth weight after all the chemo. I’m surprised they chose to have me buried in my most expensive wig. Would have thought that Melissa would have tried to sell it online already. Put me in some kind of headscarf, but not one of my good ones. She sure as hell wouldn’t let good silk go down with me. This thing is real hair. Bet that weirdo funeral director takes it off of me before they close the box.

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Speaking of that Melissa, here she comes now. Oh, look at those tears. I bet she put eye drops in before they got out of the car. Gosh they almost look real. You’re not fooling anyone sweetie. Give it a rest. No need to make such an exhibition of yourself dear. She asked me if I wanted to end it about three months after I started treatment. Offered to slip me the morphine. I never told David. What a bitch my son married. But look at him. So handsome in his blue suit. Just like his father the day I married him. Thank God they never had kids. That woman as a mother; ugh.

And there’s my sweet Carolyn. Oh my love, please don’t cry. You did your best for your mother. At my bedside every day. Such a shame she’s a spinster and will probably end up with fifty cats. So smart and so beautiful yet so completely inept when it comes to men. What was the name of that last moron she brought home? Brandon, no. Aaron, no. Brian, that was it. God, what a moron! Someone should check that guy’s basement. I bet he murders his pets. That creep had the nerve to dictate her wardrobe, hair style. Wouldn’t let her drive to work. Yelled at her when she mowed her own lawn. I’m going to put in a bad word for him when I get where I’m going. Or you, know. Maybe a good word; depending.

Wow, now there’s a face I never thought I see here. My sister Gina. When was the last time I saw her?! Five years ago. Or was it six? She couldn’t remember my number when I was alive. Couldn’t be bothered to show up even after I left her that message about my diagnosis. David even tried to call her last week, when the doctor said my day was coming up. But here she is. She always could be counted on to show up for a free meal.

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Oh my neighbor Jim is here. I don’t even have a pulse and he still makes it race. Look at those blue eyes. After John died, he was so kind. Took care of the lawn and cleaned the gutters. I wonder how he manages to stay in such amazing shape at 72. And still has that thick, raven hair. I really should have invited him over for dinner. Maybe light a few candles. What’s that Jim, the lamb is the best you’ve ever tasted. Why thank you; I just threw this meal together. Would you care for more wine? What’s that, you like my dress. Oh gosh, I just pulled this out of the back of the closet. Haven’t worn it in ages. And look at my hair, such a mess. You’re too kind. Oh, and there’s his wife, Carol. What a frump.

Here come the women from the ladies’ society from church. Really Liz; I look just the way I did before I got sick?! Time to have those cataracts done, dear. She always was blind as a bat. But I will miss Jenny. Such a gentle soul. So quiet and considerate. She visited me every week when I was going through treatment. She brought those wonderful cookies from that bakery on Main Street. Those were so good. I hope they have those where I’m going. Be a shame if they didn’t. Look at her, hugging my David. She’ll keep an eye on him for me. I know she will.

Wait, who on earth is that?! That’s at least the fifth person I’ve seen come through this receiving line to pay respects that I’ve never seen before in my life. Who does that?! Who honestly thinks some woman I’ve never met died. Gosh, I think I’ll take time out of my life to show up to her funeral and pay my respects. And look at this guy. Hey buddy, move it along before that sweat on your forehead drips on me and messes up my makeup. That poor artist had quite a time getting me to look like this. She really had to cake it on. I was waiting for her to pull out a pallet knife or a trowel or something. My face feels an extra three inches thick right now. Would it be rude to ask them to wash this crap off before they close the box?! I hate to think of spending eternity with this much whore paint on my face.

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Must be getting close to service time. I think I hear the organ starting to play. I hope they got Edie to play this thing. I never liked Sandra. Nice woman but she plays everything at one speed and one volume. Slow and loud.

I wonder what they picked out for a menu for the lunch when this thing is over. I told David I wanted the lunch to be held at that nice bistro near the cemetery. We held John’s luncheon there. They do such a nice job and the food is wonderful. If that Melissa had her way, I bet I would get cold cut sandwiches and salads in the basement. God, can you imagine?! Those big ugly coffee urns. People eating on disposable plates. And bars as far as the eye can see. I would be mortified. I’m sure my David selected the plated menu and not that ridiculous family style nonsense. So tacky. My niece did that at Ted’s funeral. But then my brother-in-law never met a plate of food too big. Never understood what Lois saw in him. She always was the eccentric one in the family. I thought my mother was going to have a stroke when she announced she was going on that mission trip to South America. Didn’t speak a word of Spanish. Those people usually help build things or teach people something. She had no skills whatsoever. But she did it. Two years later she came home madly in love with that Jose. No, Juan. Wasn’t that his name?! Roberto. His name was Roberto. She sent him the money to travel to our hometown and never heard from him again. She was devastated. Until she met that Polish foreign exchange student a few weeks later, when she started college. Always loved that about Lois; she was a free spirit.

Here comes the Reverend. Oh come on! They got Reverend Tom?! The man has a speech impediment and a lazy eye. I specifically requested Reverend Mark. What is Reverend Tom even wearing?! Are those chinos?! Did he decide to phone this one in? Nope, that’s fine Reverend. Not a big deal today. Just sending me off to meet my maker here. No reason to dress for the occasion. Wait. Hold on. Oh he’s just here to pay his respects. Thank goodness! Hey, watch the spitting on the blessing there guy!

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It’s getting quiet in here. Here come the last goodbyes. My sweet David. My first born. I love you my dear boy. The cards you made me on Mother’s Day out of construction paper. Misspelled words scribbled in crayon. Oh give it a rest Melissa! With the fake sniffles and the dabbing with the hankie. Where did she even find a hankie?! Seriously, how flipping pretentious. And my darling girl. Carolyn. Courage now, honey. I will miss your beautiful smile and hearing your wonderful laugh. I am so proud of the remarkable woman you have become. Remember me well, my love.  

Here it comes, the part I’ve truly been dreading. They’re going to close the lid on this hideous cheap box now. Which means I get to spend the next hour, laying here. In the dark. They could at least leave the lid open through the eulogy. How in the world am I supposed to hear it with the lid closed? And all this cheap polyester lining is going to muffle the sound. Because I’m sure dear Melissa wouldn’t hear of springing for the more expensive lining. Was she wearing my grandmother’s broach when she came through here?! She better not have been. That was supposed to be Carolyn’s. Ach! Wow, that funeral director isn’t exactly shy about throwing that extra bit of lining right in my face. Nope, can’t hear a thing in here. Gosh, this is going to be boring. I guess I should probably try to get comfortable. That’s going to be difficult in this scratchy suit. At least I can hear the hymns. They definitely got Sandra. Bet they’d all freak out if I started singing along.

Featured Short Story: "Room 306"

This week, I’m highlighting more of my short story work. “Room 306” appeared on Reedsy Prompts , as part of their weekly writing contests. This was written and submitted in response to the prompt: Write a short story in which the last line is the count down to midnight on New Year’s Eve

Room 306

The Christmas decorations hung from every corner of the care facility. The staff had put on a little New Year’s party during the residents’ lunch. Most would be long asleep by midnight that night. They wore party hats, had noise makers, and were given a glass of sparkling juice with their mid-day meal. The staff made the rounds at the tables, asking them to share stories of New Year’s Eves gone by. The stories ranged from times their children all gathered around for the evening to neighborhood parties in decades past. For a few, it was the night they met the man they would later marry.

But for the resident in room 306, it might as well have been any day of the week. Her time was growing small. The room was kept dim with soft, classical music playing. Staff came and went, checking vitals and changing her position every few hours to prevent sores.

”Keep her comfortable.” Those were the doctor’s orders. There was nothing more to do.

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The room was sparse but sophisticated. A black and white photo of the husband she lost on the nightstand. A large easy chair faced a small television which sat atop a bookcase, filled with well-loved volumes. Only one piece of artwork adorned the walls. She would tell anyone who asked it was a Chagall. On the dresser, was a pair of silver candle sticks. The staff provided battery powered candles for her to use. She turned them on every Friday night and turned them back off on Saturday evening. But they sat, unlit for about three weeks now. A small Hanukkiah adorned the side table, next to the chair, in front of the window.

Mrs. Ehrlich didn’t get much company since her arrival at the home three years ago. A young woman would come every other week to handle the laundering of her elegant wardrobe and bring her whatever she might need for personal care. Occasionally, the young woman’s errands would include fetching a new book or recordings of Mrs. Ehrlich’s favorite composers. Once, when she was visiting, a member of staff poked their nose in on some made-up errand, just to get a closer look and find out who she was.

“Are you a niece or a granddaughter?” the staff member asked.

“No ma’am,” she replied politely. “My name is Sarah. I work for Mrs. Ehrlich’s nephew.” With that she returned to neatly replacing Mrs. Ehrlich’s laundry in it’s proper place, in the small closet. Mrs. Ehrlich hadn’t engaged in the conversation. Instead, she sat in her easy chair with a freshly prepared cup of coffee and a black and white cookie, on a delicate china plate, presumable sent along by her nephew with the promise of a visit that would never come.

She mostly kept to herself. She read a great deal and studied the psalms. The staff tried to keep the residents engaged and entertained with various games and activities. Mrs. Ehrlich usually declined to participate. Except for the musical performances. She loved music. It was not unusual to find her enjoying a concert, being broadcast on television, on a Saturday evening. She preferred to take her meals in her room whenever it could be allowed. The staff fell into the habit of allowing it as often as Mrs. Ehrlich requested. Her meals were especially prepared, separate from the other residents’ food, at the request and expense of the same nephew.

Cora, the evening nurse, finished attending Mrs. Ehrlich before deciding to change the disc in the player.

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“How about some Mendelssohn for a change?” she suggested as she stopped the current disc. Mrs. Ehrlich’s breathing was shallow but still even. She didn’t stir at Cora’s remark. The Rondo Capriccioso Op 14 danced lightly through the air. Cora lingered, straightening and fluffing this and that to enjoy the solitude of the room and the beautiful music. She knew she needed to carry on but she hated to see residents nearing the end of life being left alone. Her supervisor wouldn’t allow them to linger in the rooms longer than was necessary. Mrs. Ehrlich’s nephew knew her condition and yet he didn’t come. Finally, Cora made her way out. She was needed to pass out the evening snacks before the residents would need to be helped to bed. The staff would gather for a sparkling juice toast at the PM shift change before she went home to her boyfriend and takeout food to ring in the New Year in just a few hours.

Around 10:30pm, the night nurse sent for the attending doctor to check Mrs. Ehrlich. Her breathing had become labored.

“It won’t be much longer,” the doctor said. “She probably won’t make it through the night. Any family should be called.” The nurse just nodded. They left countless messages for her nephew already. But they always went unreturned.

The young woman, who was employed to make biweekly visits, took the calls and simply said, “I’m sorry but Mr. Ehrlich is unavailable at the moment. I’ll be sure he gets the message.”

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The nurse went back to her station and pulled the contact record. This time she called the emergency number. No one ever attempted to reach him there. They were always under strict instructions not to use that number, save for extreme circumstances. A woman being hours away from death certainly seemed to meet that criteria.

“Yes,” came a harsh male voice after the second ring. She quickly stated her business and tried to impress upon him that his aunt didn’t have long. “Yes, thank you,” was all he replied before ending the call.

A short time later, a middle-aged man, with deep blue eyes and hair graying at the temples rushed through the front entrance and up to the security guard at the front desk. “Mrs. Ehrlich’s room, please. I’m her nephew.” The guard directed him down the hallway and to the left. The nurse was startled when the door to room 306 suddenly flew open to a man of average height and fit build hustling inside. His unfastened overcoat billowing behind him.

“Am I too late?” he asked hastily, slightly out of breath.

“No,” she stammered. “Let me get you a chair.”

“David,” came a soft, raspy whisper before the nurse could move. The nurse’s eyes widened as she observed her patient.

“Aunt,” Mr. Ehrlich responded with a relieved sigh as he rushed to remove his overcoat, tossing it carelessly onto the easy chair.

Mrs. Ehrlich’s eyes had opened and she spoke for the first time in a week. The nurse regained her composure and dashed from the room to find a chair. In her hast to get back to room 306, she nearly knocked over another night nurse.

“Geez, where are you off to?” she demanded in a harsh tone.

“Mrs. Ehrlich’s nephew is here,” was the reply as she raced off. The other nurse’s brow knitted in confusion as she watched her co-worker hurry off down the hall with the chair.

David settled himself in the chair at his aunt’s beside, gently encircling her frail, mottled hand in his. A slight color had returned to her cheeks. She blinked slowly and her breathing remained shallow.

“I’m so sorry I didn’t come sooner, Aunt,” he told her.

“You’ve been busy, dear,” she responded, speaking barely above a whisper. He looked away, ashamed with himself for not taking the countless messages from the nursing staff more seriously.

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They spoke softly to each other. David whispering words of comfort to his beloved aunt. She had raised him from the age of 10, when he lost his mother and father. Mrs. Ehrlich never married and had no children of her own. They made a rocky start, she having no idea what to do with a 10 year old boy in the house. But eventually, they fell into a routine and came to cherish each other. David credited her with his success in life. He’d been the youngest in the history of his firm to make partner. But the strain of the work it took him to get there had made him neglectful these past few years. She was the last family he had left. David would be lost without her. He hated having to put her in a place like this, at the end. She deserved better than this, after all she had done for him. She deserved to be at home. He wiped away a tear as it rolled down his cheek.

Mrs. Ehrlich drifted off slowly, around 11:30pm. The music continued to play softly, from the disc player on his aunt’s dresser. Before his arrival, the staff turned the television to face his aunt’s bed with a New Years Eve special playing on mute. The camera panned the crowds in Time Square before returning to a host. David studied the images as the footage cut to somewhere else in the world where the new year already arrived. Fireworks exploded over water creating a dazzling reflection. David turned his attention back to his aunt now and again, studying her as her breathing became increasingly shallow and more labored. The nurse came back, a little before midnight, to check her vitals again and to administer another dose of medication. They were left alone again.

“You’re going to see the New Year, Aunt,” he whispered as the count down started. He gave her hand gentle squeeze.

Seven…six…five…

He thought he felt a light squeeze from her in return.

Four…three…

A final, gentle sigh escaped Mrs. Ehrlich’s lips.

Two…one…

January Book Reviews


So many books, so little time! I am an avid reader and love to share recommendations with fellow readers. My choice in books tend to vary by my mood but some of my favorites are mystery, suspense, and thriller. Check back each month for new reviews. I would love your recommendations so please drop them in the comments!


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Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch

By: Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman

From the back cover: According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (the world’s only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner.

So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon—both of whom have lived amongst Earth’s mortals since The Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle—are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture.

And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist . . .

This book was recommended to me by a friend and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The exploration of nature vs nurture is done in a masterful and incredibly entertaining way. I also followed up to watch the Amazon Prime series based on the book and absolutely loved the adaptation. I highly recommend this one.


Little Women

By: Louisa May Alcott

Synopsis: Meet the March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. Little Women is loosely based on the author, Louisa May Alcott and her three sisters. The story follows the girls as they grow from childhood into adulthood.

I’ve read this work several times but pulled it back out with the release of the new film adaptation. The story is artfully written with complex and wonderful characters. The book remains incredibly relatable today and is one that should be on everyone’s reading list.


The Other Woman

By: Sandie Jones

Synopsis: Emily meets Adam while attending a conference at a hotel. He’s seemingly perfect! Emily thinks she’s found her happily ever after until she’s introduced to Pammie, Adam’s mother, who seems determined to split them up at any cost.

I really enjoyed this book. The characters are well developed. The story flows along with enough twists and turns to keep the reader engaged before coming to one final big twist. It took me thirty or forty pages to really get into it and there was something in the final twist that felt like people had suddenly appeared out of nowhere in the scene. Overall a great suspense story.


Conversations with RBG

By: Jeffrey Rosen

Synopsis: Jeffrey Rosen’s book is a composition of conversations he’s had with Justice Ginsburg, dating back to the 1990s through the present era. The book covers a variety of topics, including her early law career and her opinions on landmark cases, like Roe v Wade.

I am a fan of Justice Ginsburg and have been for many years. Reading Mr. Rosen’s book felt like having a conversation with her myself. This was a very approachable read, compared with other works about the Justice. I found myself jumping ahead through Mr. Rosen’s explanations of the context of the conversation to get into their dialog right away.


Until You

By: TJ Johnson

Synopsis: This is Book One in the Davaar Island series. Abby Carson is an aspiring author who has been working on her novel for about 10 years, at home in Australia. Struggling with writers block, she decides to leave her home, husband, and civil service job to pursue her dream of writing in a new setting; Scotland. More specifically, Davaar Island. Not only does Abby find her inspiration, she rediscovers herself with the help of a colorful cast of new friends.

I discovered this series through bookstagramming and I am hooked. I was about halfway through this book when I ordered book two so I could continue reading as soon as I finished. The characters are wonderfully relatable. The story is artfully descriptive with a really interesting cast of characters. There’s an element of suspense and a few racy love scenes thrown in to keep it moving along. This would be an excellent beach read. I can’t wait to continue the series.


Ruth Long, Age 88

I am back in writing mode, dear reader, and am pleased to announce my upcoming novel, Ruth Long, Age 88. The book is anticipated to be released in Fall, 2020! This will be the first novel in a new series, yet to be named. Just like my first work, The House on Maple Street, it will be released in Amazon Kindle and paperback formats.

Ruth Long, Age 88, and the series to follow it, was inspired by a short story, by the same name, I wrote as I was getting ready to write my first novel. The story was based on a writing prompt to write a funeral scene from the point of view of the deceased. It has been featured here on my blog and on my Goodreads page. Most recently, it was featured on The Blogging Station.

Ruth, as I imagine her, is the unapologetically sarcastic matriarch of a mid-west family. The story is a first person narrative as she reflects on her life, her relationships, and the way her family chooses to memorialize her on the day of her funeral. At times, picking apart their choices with a deliciously sharp wit.

When someone we love dies, we’re forced to boil down their life to a few hundred words in an obituary. We hope we’re memorializing a loved one in a way that would make them feel honored. In this story, we get to hear how she really feels and Ruth holds nothing back. It is a story that will hopefully make the reader think about life and death. But it will especially make you laugh.

I look forward to sharing more about this story in the coming weeks and months!

Down An Old Dirt Road

Welcome reader! This week, I’m featuring a short story from my archives. “Down An Old Dirt Road” is based on the writing prompt: a woman is sitting on the front steps of an old, ramshackle house, in an elegant black dress.


The lyrics of an old country song ran through her mind as she sat on the front steps, staring at the dirt walkway. But she wasn’t really seeing it. Missy’s childhood in this broken down little shack was playing like a movie in her head. Her bare feet beating across the rough planks of this front porch, chasing after one of her little sisters. Tucking in with her six brothers and sisters to sleep at night on an old mattress in the corner, on the floor. Her mother occupying the only bedroom in the house, waiting for her father to come home. He never did. He’d been a casualty of the war. Not a physical casualty but he was never the same when he’d come home. He walked out one night, never to return, leaving her mother seven mouths to feed on a housekeeper’s salary. They never had enough of anything.

That was until the night of the accident. Her mother was dead on her feet so she’d taken a ride from their landlord, Mr. Dix, who owned the farm up the road. Their ramshackle house sat on the corner of his property. Mr. Dix had seen her mother walking on the side of the road with her brothers and sisters in tow and offered them all a ride. The kids had piled in the bed of the truck. Her mother rode in the cab so they could discuss the late rent her mother owed him. Missy had always wondered if there wasn’t something more between her mother and Mr. Dix. Her youngest brother, Tommy, had arrived after her father had left them. And he looked nothing like the rest of them. None of that mattered now. Some kids out joy riding on the backroads took a sharp curve too fast, hitting Mr. Dix’s truck and sending it tumbling down a ravine.

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Missy had walked home from her job at the carhop that night and found the house empty. She was washing the grease from her face at the only sink in the house when the sheriff arrived with the news. Her entire family was gone. She was all alone at fifteen. They shipped her off to live with some aunt on her father’s side who she’d never met. She relived that night every year on this day.

The breeze came up, cool across her bare arms, bringing her back from her memories. She pulled her arms around herself a little tighter as she glanced out across the front yard. The sun was going down. She’d have to leave soon. Her high heeled shoes lay where she’d dropped them in the dirt, near her feet. If her mother could only see her now.

Her aunt Helen was her father’s only living relative. They’d lost contact after a disagreement no one could remember the source of anymore. Helen had married a prominent attorney but had been widowed young. They’d never had any children. Missy started a private school a week after moving into her aunt’s house. Her classmates had always made sure she knew she was a charity case and came from the wrong side of the tracks. Missy knew fate had given her an opportunity she never would have had otherwise and she was desperate not to let her mother down. She was going to make something of herself. Be a woman her mother would be proud to call her daughter. Despite her humble beginnings, nothing was going to hold her back. Not even the chiding and sneering from her classmates.

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Missy had graduated top of her class and received glowing recommendations from her teachers. She’d gone to college. Something she never dreamed would ever be in her future. And now here she was, in a black designer gown, on her way to receive an award for her work helping impoverished single mothers. The kind of help that would have made a difference for her own mother, if it had been available to her.

When she’d finished law school, Aunt Helen had called her crazy for taking a job with a legal aid group. She’d turned down the opportunity to clerk for a supreme court justice to take that job. It paid a pittance and she could only afford to rent a single room above an auto repair shop. But she’d saved every penny she could until she felt sure she had enough money. Then one day, Missy had driven across the state to old Mr. Dix’s farm. She was relieved to find that their little shack was still standing and that Mrs. Dix was still living at the farm. She’d sat in the Dixs’ kitchen, across from Mrs. Dix, and offered every dollar she’d saved to buy the little shack. Mrs. Dix said she must be touched in the head, said that dump should have been torn down years ago. It was a miracle the wind hadn’t taken it down already. But Missy was determined. Mrs. Dix finally agreed to sell it to her, along with a small parcel of land around it. Mrs. Dix had walked her to the door, shaking her head, wondering aloud what Missy could possibly want with that place. That was a long time ago now. Missy built a strong reputation and eventually started her own firm. She never forgot where she came from and never turned a client away for her inability to pay.

Missy still came back every year at this time, just to be with her memories. She had enough repairs made to the house, to keep the rain and the varmints out. But she hadn’t changed anything else over the years. There hadn’t been any money for proper funerals when her family had died. This was their monument. A memorial to their time here on earth.

Sometimes Missy missed her life in that little house. No indoor plumbing aside from the sink in the kitchen. One working light over where her mother had put their kitchen table. In the evenings, they would gather around that table to eat whatever their mother had managed to put together for dinner. They’d laughed, they’d fought, they’d been a family.

“Ma’am, we’re going to have to get going. Wouldn’t look good for the guest of honor to be late.”

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Missy hadn’t even heard her driver, Neal, approach. He’d been with her for the past two years. She’d always felt a little pretentious having a driver. Like she was putting on airs she had no right to. Her sister, Kim, would call her a snob. Her mother would find it embarrassing, her daughter being driven around in that big SUV.

“Of course. I’ll be there in just a minute,” she replied to Neal with a smile.

“Yes, ma’am,” he replied, turning on his heal to return to the waiting vehicle.

Missy took in a deep breath, as if taking in every ounce of this place her lungs could hold. She let her breath out slowly before reaching for her shoes. She dusted her feet off before she slipped them back on. She got to her feet and started back down the dirt path to the gravel road in front of the house. She made it ten paces before she turned back around, indulging herself with one last look.

“Bye Momma. See you next year,” she thought. Then she turned and quickly walked away.


If you enjoyed this story, more of my short story work can be found at reedsyprompt.com, where I regularly contribute to their weekly writing prompts. Your show of support by liking and commenting on my work is, as always, appreciated.

Visit my Home page for information on where you can pick up a copy of my book, The House on Maple Street, available on Kindle Unlimited.

Book Review: The House on Maple Street

This fast-paced book engages the reader immediately and is a must read for anyone who loves a mystery,” says Reedsy.


I am honored to receive another five star review from Laura Hartman of Reedsy Discovery! One of the best ways to support an independent author is to review their work. If you’ve read The House on Maple Street, please give it a rating on Goodreads and Amazon. Thank you for your support!


Review:

Student Hillary Altman procrastinated until two weeks before school started to find housing. Fueled by waning options and a tight budget, she was excited to see two signs as she cruised around the small town. “Maple Street Boarding House” read the sign by the curb and a hastily written “room for rent” in the window made her stop. The creepy landlord almost made her change her mind, but the charm of the home overrode her anxiety.

Settling in with the other boarders came easily, but she avoided Keith, the landlord. Evelyn, an older woman that actually worked at the college Hillary was to attend, is diving into the layers of the history of the Maple Street home and shares the fascinating facts with the other boarders. Dr. Immerman also works at the college as head of the history department. Then there was Robert. Hillary met him on the day she moved in and became infatuated with the handsome man who seemed rather shy. He doesn’t join them for dinner in the evening and, as a matter of fact, none of the other tenants have seen or talked to him. In addition to the boarders, Beatrice takes care of the home. She cooks and cleans for them and is related to Keith, the landlord.

Shortly after moving in, Hillary encounters a woman and her young son in the home. Apparently, Keith has a family. Sadly, Hillary overhears the fights and sounds of abuse from Keith’s rooms. No one else seems to know anything about it but she is determined to help, even if it puts her in danger.

The House on Maple Street on the surface is a well-done mystery. As the pages unfold, the reader is pulled into a story that is multi-layered with a delightfully surprising ending. Just when I thought I had it all figured out, I was surprised to find out I was totally wrong even though all the clues were there for me to see. Kudos to Ms. Slowinski for creating an unexpectedly spectacular twist in the final chapter.

This is the first book written by Ms. Slowinski. It is exciting to find a new author that jumps out of the gate to lead the pack. I highly recommend The House on Maple Street. This fast-paced book engages the reader immediately and is must read for anyone who loves a mystery.

Click here to visit Reedsy Discovery to fine more great reads.


Pick up your copy of The House on Maple Street

Click here to find it on Amazon. Available in paperback, on Kindle, Kindle Unlimited and in the Kindle Lending Library.

Click here to find it on Barnes and Noble. Available in paperback.

Click here to find it on Book Depository. Available in paperback.

Featured Short Stories

Welcome back, reader! This week, I’m excited to highlight some of my short story writing for you.

First, I’d like to thank Andy Thomson at The Blogging Station for featuring my short story, ‘Ruth Long, Age 88’. This story is based on a writing prompt to write a funeral scene from the viewpoint of the deceased. Click here to visit Andy’s blog and read the story.

More of my short story work can be found in my feed at Reedsy Prompts. The site offers weekly writing prompt contests and features stories from contributors. This month, on my My Writing page, I’m featuring my submission from Contest #18, in response to the prompt: Write a story about a character who buys a secondhand coat and then discovers something in the pocket


Click here to visit my Reedsy feed.


The Package

It happened just after takeoff. This thing that would change my life forever. I was getting settled in for a three-hour flight to Vancouver, celebrating to myself at my luck of getting upgraded to first class. I didn’t even ask. The gate agent just called me to the desk and handed me a new boarding pass.

“Looks like you’ve been upgraded,” she said brightly. “Enjoy your trip.” Things like that never happened to me.

My phone and earbuds were tucked into the pocket of my jacket. It was a vintage velvet blazer, in a deep plum, I found at a thrift store. They don’t make clothes like that anymore, I thought when I picked it up off the rack. I slipped it on and ran my hands over the sumptuous fabric. It fit perfectly, like it was made for me. Best twelve dollars I ever spent. As I reached into my pocket to retrieve my phone, my fingers caught something else. A piece of paper. I assumed it was my rumpled boarding pass but I pulled it out to have a look. It was not my boarding pass.

I turned the piece of paper over in my hands, trying to remember if I had tucked something into my pocket earlier in the day. Carefully, I unfolded the tattered edges. In very neat, precise script was an address, in Vancouver. Then a date, tomorrow’s date, I noted. And finally, 2:30pm. Nothing else. I shrugged lightly, refolded the note, and replaced it back in my pocket. The flight was unremarkable and we arrived early in Vancouver.

Later that evening, back at my hotel, after enjoying an incredible meal at a Yaletown hot spot, I remembered the note, still in my jacket. I retrieved it again, studying it a little more closely this time. The handwriting was unfamiliar to me. While I’d been to Vancouver several times, the West Hastings Street address didn’t mean anything to me. I flicked through my phone and searched it. It was a restaurant. One with really good reviews. I bookmarked it. Then I tucked the note back into my pocket and went to bed.

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I started my morning early, with a trip to the Granville Market for breakfast. It was my favorite spot in the city. I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast. The ferry took me back across to the city where I strolled, soaking in my happy place. I took lunch from a food truck near Gastown before doing some window shopping. Around mid-afternoon, I checked the time to find it was 2:00pm. I wasn’t far from the address on the note. My curiosity rose. Why not go? I thought. It wouldn’t do any harm. I shook off the notion and went on window shopping. It was silly, I told myself. But what a strange coincidence to find a note with an address in Vancouver, at a date and time, while I was in Vancouver. I finally convinced myself to go and headed off.

Only a few tables were occupied when I arrived. I waited a few moments at the hostess station when a bubbly young woman appeared. She didn’t ask how many in my party or if I preferred indoor or outdoor seating. She simply pulled out a menu and said, “right this way.”

I followed her to a table near the window. She set the menu down for me at a place setting across from a man, wearing dark glasses. I started to protest to the hostess but she sped away without another word.

“Sit down,” said the man. “We don’t have much time.”

“I’m sorry?” I stammered, “I think there’s been a mistake.”

“No, there’s no mistake,” he responded briskly. “Sit.” I quickly sat.

“You don’t understand,” I started again. “I found a note in the pocket of a blazer I bought at a thrift store.”

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“Right,” he responded abruptly. “And we don’t have much time. So if you’re done explaining things I already know, I’ll explain the plan.” I stared at him. “Good. So the drop point has been moved to a hotel on Davie Street. You’ll take this to the bathroom, near the lobby bar. Tuck it behind the toilet. Make sure no one sees you. Got it?” I didn’t respond. “Got it?” he asked again impatiently.

“I think you were expecting someone else,” I responded. “I bought a jacket in a thrift store, in the States. The note with the address of this restaurant and the date and time were in the pocket. I only turned up because I was curious. I’m not the person you’re waiting for.” His annoyance was written all over his face.

“Okay, here’s the package,” he said, sliding a small packet across the table toward me. “It has to be there by 10:00pm so don’t be late.” With that, he stood and left.

I was struck dumb. What was I supposed to do? It was like something out a movie. Did I pick up the packet and take it to the hotel? Leave it there on the table and walk away? I was only in town for a few days, after all. Then, my phone rang.

“Are you still at the restaurant?” It was the man again. How did he have my number? “You really need to get out of there. They could be watching you.” I glanced around the restaurant. The place was empty now. I ended the call, snatched up the packet, and left the restaurant.

I spent the rest of afternoon, wandering around the city. But I couldn’t relax. I kept turning the events of the afternoon over in my head. Why, why did I decide to go to that restaurant? I wanted to go back to my hotel but decided it might be too risky, now that I was caught up in this mess. Finally, as evening was setting in and the light was beginning to fade, I gathered my courage and headed off toward the designated hotel. My heart was racing. It was too early for much of a crowd in the lobby bar. I wasn’t sure what to do. Did I just go straight for the bathroom? Should I order a drink first? I certainly needed a drink about then. I decided ordering a drink and hanging around was a stupid move. The guy said to make sure no one saw me. Plenty of people would see me if I sat down and ordered something. I walked toward the bathroom, trying to be casual. My palms were sweating so hard the knob slipped out of my hand when I tried to open the door. I glanced around to make sure no one saw me, then tried again. Once inside, I tried to calm myself down, pressing my back against the door. All I had to do was tuck the packet behind the toilet and leave. And all of this would be over.

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As I was pulling the packet from my bag to tuck it away, the bathroom door flew open. In stalked a woman with long auburn hair, wearing high-heeled boots that came up over her knees.

“Hand that over and no one gets hurt,” she demanded. I didn’t see a weapon but I was sure she had one. Or maybe she didn’t need one, judging by the boots she was wearing. I froze. I didn’t know what to do. She took a step closer.

“Look, this is all a mistake,” I started rambling. “I found this random piece of paper in a jacket I bought at a thrift store. The next thing I know, I’m making drops in hotel bathrooms. I didn’t ask for any of this.” She didn’t respond. Her heels clacked on the tile floor as she slowly moved closer.

“I said, hand it over and no one gets hurt.” Her words were deliberate and measured.

“You know what, fine,” I responded impatiently. “I didn’t want anything to do with this anyway. Here, take whatever this is and leave me alone.” I held out the packet. She stopped.

“Seriously?” she shot back in amazement. “You’re just going to hand it over? Just like that.”

“You said to hand it over and no one would get hurt,” I retorted. “So here, take it. I don’t care anyway.”

“Oh, okay,” she said, taking the packet from me. “Thanks.” She studied it for a moment, shrugged, and then turned, leaving the bathroom. I stood there, breathing deeply, trying to come down from the adrenaline rush. But something told me this wasn’t over. I was checking myself in the mirror before making my exit when the door burst open again. This time it was the man from the restaurant.

“What are you still doing here?” he demanded. He didn’t wait for my answer but rushed over to the toilet, checking behind. “Where’s the packet?” he demanded hastily when he didn’t find it.

“It was picked up,” I told him matter-of-factly.

“What do you mean it was picked up? It wasn’t supposed to be picked up yet. Who picked it up?” I was surprised he was so flustered.

“I don’t know,” I responded. “We didn’t exactly introduce ourselves.”

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“Don’t get cute with me,” he hissed. “Who picked up the packet?”

“I told you. I don’t know. She came in here and said ‘hand it over’. So I handed it over.”

“You have no idea what you’ve just done,” he responded before rushing out of the bathroom.

I let out a slow breathe of relief when the door closed again. I waited a little longer before making an inconspicuous exit. I left the hotel. It was dark out by then. Music poured out into the street from the handful of bars I passed as I wound my way through the city, taking an indirect route back to my hotel. When I came upon a dumpster, I slipped off the velvet jacket and stuffed it inside. The note was still in the pocket. As I walked away, my phone rang. Another unknown number.

“Is it done?” the female voice asked.

“Affirmative,” I responded. “The package has been delivered.”

“You did well for your first mission,” she said. “There’s a dress in a shop window on Robson Street. Go and buy it at 10:00am tomorrow morning.”

“Got it,” I responded before ending the call. I tucked my phone into my bag and headed back to my hotel.


The House on Maple Street

My book, The House on Maple Street, can be found on Amazon and Barns & Noble. And now available on Book Depository!

From the back cover: Excited for a fresh new start, Hillary Altman is about to begin her first semester of graduate school at small New England college. Ever the procrastinator, Hillary waits to the last minute to find housing. But fate smiles upon her, when she takes a room in a picturesque Victorian home, run as a boarding house. But Hillary quickly finds, that all is not as it seems at The House on Maple Street…

Click here to find it on Amazon. Available in paperback, on Kindle, Kindle Unlimited and in the Kindle Lending Library.

Click here to find it on Barnes and Noble. Available in paperback.

Click here to find it on Book Depository. Available in paperback.