A Loving Proposal

I’m going to take my cue from one of Agatha Christie’s novels as my response to today’s Word Press daily prompt. She had such an interesting way with words. And I love her characters’ names!

Swindolthwarp’s Surprise

Amos stood in the hallway watching the young woman hurry down the staircase. Always bustling around, this young lady. Always seemed to know where she was going and why. He liked that. And she was a pretty young thing. His old ticker skipped a beat.

As she passed him in the hall he caught her arm with the hook of his cane. “You. Miss Whats-your name-again?”

“Arthur. Miss Vivian Arthur.”

“Arthur. Yes. Good English name.” Amos drew her closer and wrapped his fingers around her arm. Nice bit of flesh she had, too. Not like some of the scrawny old birds throwing themselves at him lately. “I’d like to have a word with you.”

“Certainly, Sir. Are you wanting your tea already? I should start with dinner preparations soon.”

She took a step backward and he gripped her arm even tighter. “Never mind the tea, girl. I have something important to discuss. Something very personal. Come with me.” He tenderly pulled her into his study. “I’ve been watching you ever since you showed up — has it been a month already? I’ve see what an industrious sort you are. And not a waster, either.”

“Thank you, Mr Swindolthwarp.”

He leered at her lovingly. “To you I may seem like a poor old man, but I assure you, there’s more to me than meets the eye. I’m a lot more robust than my sons think. I’m not about to drop dead and leave them every penny like they wish.”

“No, I’m sure not, Mr Swindolthwarp. You seem quite robust yet.” She looked down at the hand that was clutching her arm.

“I try not to let on, but I do have quite a bit saved up, actually. I could look after you very well. You wouldn’t have to be a char anymore and work so hard every day. Mind you, I wouldn’t hire another cook, since you’re so capable. Having you doing the meals has suited my digestion to a turn. Once we’re married…”

“Married!” Vivian’s eyes opened wide and she turned pale, but quickly regained her composure. “Well. I never expected…”

“Surprised you, did I?” Amos chuckled with delight. “I’ve grown quite fond of you, you know. My wife, may she rest in peace, was okay, but an insipid sort. Not a lively thing like you. I think you could add some real zest to my life.”

“Whatever would your sons say, Mr Swindolthwarp? I fear they would resent me if I…er…if they thought…”

“Who cares what they say? They can go climb the Himalayas for all I care.” He pounded his cane on the floor twice to emphasize his point. “Right now they’re waiting for me to die so they can get their hands on my money and waste it all. But I can see you’re sensible. You won’t be tossing my life savings to the four winds.”

There came a sudden sparkle in her eye. “So this means no honeymoon on the Riviera?”

“Riviera!” The word made Amos gasp and sputter.

Vivian, alarmed, patted his back. “Oh, dear! Are you all right, Sir?”

One last cough and Amos replied, “I’m fine. I’m fine. Don’t fuss. I hate it when people fuss. But, my word! The Riviera. Do you have any idea how much that would cost?”

“You’re quite right,” she replied, her eyes taking in the threadbare carpet, faded wallpaper and the draperies that must have hung on these study windows for thirty years at least. “The money would be far better put into home improvements.”

“I knew you were a practical girl! Think about what I’ve said. You and I could make a delightful match. And I’m not too old, you know…” He ogled her amorously. “There may be snow on the roof, but there’s still a fire in the hearth. We could have a nice little family.”

He saw the hint of a smile flicker on her lips and took it she was delighted at the prospect.

She pulled away from him. “This is all very sudden. I shall have to give this more thought, Mr Swindolthwarp.”

He reluctantly released his loving grip on her arm. “You do that, girl. Remember, if you’re willing to take care of me, I’m willing to take care of you.”

“Thank you, Sir. This is so kind of you. I must start the dinner.” And she dashed off to the kitchen.

Amos chuckled again. He’d bowled the girl right over. But she’d come round, he was sure. Maybe by his 73nd birthday he’d be a married man again. And his sons could go jump off the cliffs of Dover if they didn’t like it.

Both Sides of the Coin

Those of you who follow my main blog, Christine ‘s Collection at christinegoodnough.com will be seeing this first book review for the second time. I decided to post the second book review for the sake of contrast. these are my opinions, for what they’re worth, and you may totally disagree. Please feel free to leave a comment giving your own thoughts on either book.

Only last week I learned that Amazon offers 100 free e-books every month, so I took a chance and downloaded Marcy McKay’s new book. And since this story is all about a feisty, nervy girl, I’ll link it to today’s Word Press prompt.

Pennies From Burger Heaven
by Marcy McKay
SkipJack Publishing

If you desire a compelling, suspenseful, poignant story with lots of twists and turns in the plot, this will definitely fill the bill. Life on the streets of Remington, Texas, is rough and raw at best. It becomes sinister after Copper’s Mama, a homeless prostitute, disappears one morning. Her eleven-year-old daughter, Copper, blessed with determination — and a good deal of scared — sets out from their cemetery “home” to find her. She heads into the inner city they know so well, slowly untangling the web of her mother’s past involvements, hoping one of the threads will lead to Mama.

If the reader doesn’t want to be dragged through the mire of a ghetto — the crime, drugs, gang wars, predators and hookers — then don’t read this. Language isn’t a stream of profanity, but there’s enough realistic dialogue. God, Jesus and religion get a lot of bad press among the destitute. There’s your stereotype phony televangelist, weak in the area of “lust of the flesh.”

That said, McKay has been accurate in her portrayal of the living conditions among the homeless and the people who prey on them, as well as the religious confusion that exists among the unchurched. Coming from a non-religious background as I do, I see the thinking of my own people in this story.

For me the real hero isn’t so much the I-can-look-after-myself, spit-fire Copper. She is very obviously the victim here as well as the protagonist. Rather, it’s the Detective who tries so hard to grab this scrawny little alley cat who’s clawing, kicking, and lashing out at him and everyone else. He wants desperately to rescue her before she gets tossed under a bus and squashed flat.

Thanks to some supernatural — maybe even divine — intervention, this kitten is granted her full nine lives. On one hand, you somewhat anticipate the ending, yet all the slimy twists and turns — and final revelations — are totally unexpected.

Marcy McKay has penned a sequel to this book; this doesn’t appear to have been released yet. If you’re interested, the book is free on Amazon until the end of March.

On the Other Side of the Copper…

I’ve heard that you can learn a lot about good writing from reading the stuff that doesn’t work. In which case you writers may want to check out this cozy mystery because this story doesn’t work well for several different reasons. (Again, in my opinion. Some reviewers think it’s great.)

Starboard Secrets (Series: Cruise Ship Cozy Mystery Series)
by Hope Callaghan

This is a rather short mystery and the writer must have wanted to save time; Millie, the main character, boards the ship for her first day at her brand new job, see a dead body right off, and immediately start making inquiries.

I find this story implausible from the get-go. Not much of the first chapter is devoted to her learning about her new position, rather she dives right into this investigation and trying to ascertain and interview the suspects. By the end of the next day the whole staff knows she’s searching for the killer. Not very bright.

There’s not much character development beyond quick descriptions. Millie’s coworkers seem to be of interest to her — and to the author — only insofar as they can contribute to her investigation. This may be getting right to the point, but it would be nice if there was more interaction apart from Millie’s curiosity.

The story is told mainly from Millie’s point of view, but the writer occasionally tosses us into one of the other character’s minds for minute to show us what they are thinking of Millie. I found this distracting.

As she picks up bits and pieces of info, Millie adds names to her “suspects” list, often at the slightest hint of this person having some discord with the deceased. I find this annoying, like she really doesn’t have a clue how to investigate and is grasping at straws.

For me, Millie doesn’t come across as a very bright or likable person, rather nosy and irritating, with an axe to grind. She’s out to prove to her ex (a private eye who isn’t around anyway) that’s she’s worth something by solving her own mystery. Thus her relating to others on board tends to hinge around her own issues.

Millie is portrayed as a devout Christian, yet her so-often-mentioned resentment toward her ex-husband tells us that “forgiving and letting go” isn’t a big part of her creed — at this point. However, betrayal is painful. Her pain isn’t resolved in this first book of the series; hopefully it will be as the series progresses.

I downloaded this book in the Cozy Mysteries & Mystery Books Box Set. In all fairness the third book in this group, Waves of Deception, is a good, believable, quick read.

Back Again

Hello Everyone,

I was shocked when I opened this blog and saw that it’s actually been a month since I posted here. I thought, “Maybe two weeks…” As you know, I have been dealing with health issues — and especially so this past month — but I’ve been blessed with a bit more inspiration lately to work on this again. A bit of spring cleaning and sorting is in order, maybe add a page or two.

As to my battle with leukemia, the decision has been made that next month we’ll start firing the big guns. At my Cancer Clinic appointment in February Dr Hart told me she felt it’s time to start chemotherapy, beginning in April. On March 8th, as a preliminary, I had a CAT scan and Dr Hart took a bone marrow sample. Not your nicest experience, but it’s par for the course. 😦

I have written a couple of stories lately in response to the Word Press Daily Prompt, like this humorous letter, RE: Missing Ferrari, using the given word “incomplete.” Read it here.

This week I’m inspired by Jeff Goins’ 7-day Blog Like a Pro challenge. Although I’m not at this time following each step, I’ve been watching with interest and checking out a dozen new blogs and articles.

Here’s the link to one of them, for anyone who’s interested in using Google.com for research: Five Google Tricks that will make you a better writer. This blogger has posted several other thought-provoking articles recently as well.

Another thing I’ve been doing lately is reading, and right now am enjoying P G Wodehouse. Read more about my impressions of this prolific English writer here.

TWANGED — A Regan Reilly Mystery —

Book Review:

by Carol Higgins Clark

This story hinges around a priceless artifact, a violin crafted in Ireland, that has now been bestowed on Brigid, an American singer of Irish origin. But along with the gift has come the curse, as everyone wants to remind her. A few people are quite hot under the collar; the violin was supposed to stay in Ireland or disaster would follow.

When Brigid starts receiving threats, the singer’s alarmed family asks CA private investigator Regan Reilly to act as her undercover bodyguard for a time.

By the time you’ve been introduced to the cast of oddball characters involved you suspect most of them of some sort of skulduggery. Someone sends threatening notes to Brigid; someone plans to kidnap her; several people have designs on the violin; a murderer is lurking. One night Regan finds a woman’s body floating in the pool during a party, with strong evidence she’d been pushed in. It’s impossible to tell who’s doing what, or if they’ll get away with it, until the very end.

This is a classic whodunit, well written, fast-paced, that keeps you turning pages, guessing – and chuckling – until the very end. Carol Higgins Clark has delivered another great read.

Someone writing a review of this mystery series has compared Regan Reilly to Nancy Drew. I feel this is not an unjust comparison; there’s excitement and danger, plot twists and turns, but no real heart-stopping horror.  Much more my speed. In my youth I was very fond of Nancy Drew. 🙂


Travel Tales to Tickle Your Fancy

Since a number of you who read this blog are travellers, I think you’ll want to hear about a new book that’s just gone live on Amazon.com: Travel Tales from Exotic Places Like Salford by Vancouver resident (and Brit ex-pat) Julian Worker. I was asked to write a review for The Story Cartel and here’s what I’ve said:

You need to take your time with this book, savoring it like chocolate truffles, and it’s set up in sections so you can do that. Rather than using chronological order the writer divides his book geographically, describing spots tourists would most likely want to visit and giving directions on how to get there, as well as some encounters he’s had with the locals.

Mr Worker gives some historical background as well as thorough details of the area he’s writing about. By the time I was done reading about some of these places I was ready to pack my bags and go! His description of the soccer/football match had me cheering, too, though I have no interest in that sport. And his last few pages about his trials with customs inspectors and linguistic misunderstandings made me chuckle. There are no accompanying pictures, but most places mentioned will have internet ads and websites if a person wishes to take a look.

I found this book intelligently written, well crafted and well edited. The writer shows due respect and sensitivity to various cultures and customs. If you enjoy visiting other countries or reading about others’ travels, you will really enjoy this book.

My Trip To England

I just got back from a trip to England, and let me tell you, I enjoyed every minute of it!  Exploring the many lovely formal gardens, smelling the wild heather as I hiked along hillside trails that overlooked lush farming valleys, winding my way on slippery stone paths alongside waterfalls.  England was wonderful!

My traveling companions were a teacher and her architect husband from Minnesota.  All along the way she made comparisons between what she was seeing and the landscape from her growing up days in Iowa, flat and bleak by the tropical English cottage garden standards.  She was enraptured by the beautiful flowers and bushes in various private gardens.  Thankfully these are open to the public at certain times of the year and we took in as many as possible.

Early one Sunday morning we took a small back road to the tiny village of Piddinghoe, intent on observing the Lewes Sheepdog Society trials.  These were being held on a grassy meadow in the Sussex Downs.  Finding the place was a challenge with only a couple of hand-painted board signs to guide us.  But watching the dogs in action herding sheep at the whistled commands of their trainers was well worth the half-hour drive on a narrow grassy lane up a steep ridge.

Mind you, not every part of our trip was pleasant.  Not used to the damp English climate, we were chilled to the bone in “economy class” English hotels, with their tiny rooms and “shared bath” somewhere down the hall.  Beware of letting some US travel agent book you into budget beds in Britain!  But after several miserable lodgings, we splurged and stayed at one luxury hotel in London with a super view overlooking the Thames.  Talk about posh; this place would rank with the Waldorf-Astoria!

outline-man readingI travelled with this couple on half a dozen trips actually.  The wife said she’d always longed to go by boat, but toured a huge liner at the dock in New York one day and decided that no, romance of sea travel notwithstanding, she never would stand the long trip over the ocean.  So we experienced the hustle and bustle of Heathrow every time.

The most exciting part is that my travels cost me only $1; my hosts paid for all the rest.  Can you believe it: $1 bought me all this adventure!  Since this is the season to count our blessings, let’s give thanks for those writers who, through their vivid word pictures, can take us along with them in their travels, make us shiver in their chilly accommodations and rhapsodize with them at the floral displays.  And also that their writings can be found at the Used Book Sale for only $1
Christine Goodnough,  October 2010

The book is My Love Affair with England – A Traveler’s Memoir
© 1992 by Susan Allen Toth, Published by Ballantine Books

Reblogged from Christine’s Collection

Short on Perception

Would-Be Writer Finds A Successful Career

Tony was born into a family of short people and received the physical genetics of his forebears. His great-grandfather was 5’2″; his grandfather was 5’3″; his father was 5’4″ and so was Tony.

His great-grandfather had built a home for his new bride some hundred years ago, built it to fit the size of people they were, and it suited them well. Tony grew up in this house and it was his idea of a great place to live, so he was delighted when he inherited the family home. It was the perfect fit for him and his short wife.

To earn his daily bread Tony took up building houses. He was a conscientious fellow, did quality work and built many houses. But his houses had what some people considered a serious flaw; they were built Tony’s size. For one thing, the doors in his houses were 6′ high and not an inch more.

People would say to him, “Tony, why don’t you put bigger doors in your houses? You know there are a lot of people higher than 6′ and they always have to duck to get in the door.”

“Those folks are too tall,” Tony would reply. “If they’re going to be so high-minded they’ll just have to bend a little. A little exercise would be good for them. My houses are simple and adequate; I’m building them the way the good Lord wants me to build them.”

“But Tony” argued one fellow, “surely the Good Lord knows there are people over six feet tall. If you’d just make a few changes, your houses would fit more people and your sales would be much better.”

“Nope,” said Tony. “Nobody needs a door over six feet high. I build what I build; take it or leave it. My sales are enough for me and my family and the house plan I’ve used for years works well for me. Why should I change anything?”

Tony built house after house and sold a lot to shorter people like himself. Unfortunately, no one over six feet ever bought a house he’d built. In fact – being so lofty and all – they tended to avoid even entering a house Tony had built. So his sales were modest; a number of his houses even sat empty because they just didn’t suit many people or their tall relatives who may want to visit occasionally. Tony just shrugged. That was their problem.

Tony retired early from the building trade. Later, wanting to add some zip to his retirement years, he decided to write his memoirs – then maybe even a few novels. Why, in time he could perhaps earn a nice income from writing. So he bought himself an up-to-date computer and spent hours completing his memoirs, then handed his manuscript to various relatives. They all nodded; it sounded good to them. Just like Tony himself speaking.

Then Tony got braver and sent his memoir to a few publishers, but no one was buying. After a number of rejections he decided he would publish the book himself. He was sure people would be interested in what he had to say, so he scraped together the cash and took it to a local printer.

The printer read the manuscript, then told him, “Tony, your memoir is interesting as a whole, but I find it hard to read. Your grammar needs help and some expressions you’ve used don’t compute with me. Maybe they are your family’s expressions but most people won’t know them. And some of those sentences should be gone over with a steam iron to flatten them out. Your clauses are as tangled and streamers in the wind.”

Then the fellow ventured to suggest, “Could you maybe find an editor to help you make this more readable? I think if your book were easier to read and understand, it would be more acceptable to a wider audience and your sales would be better.”

“Nope,” said Tony. “An editor would change too much. My family understand it. Other people just need to put forth a little effort and they could understand it, too. Anyway, the good Lord is my Editor. He’s told me what to write.”

“Umm… But surely the good Lord knows more about sentence structure and grammar than you seem do?”

“God doesn’t worry about such things. He’s only concerned with the message – and so am I. My writing is done in the simple, homespun style God loves. If people can’t understand what I’ve written it must be because they are too high-minded and vain. It would be a good exercise for them to read this; they need to come down to a more common level.”

So Tony had his memoir printed and he sold a lot of copies to his friends and relatives. He tried to sell it at various local Farmer’s Markets but didn’t have much luck. Many curious people picked it up, but after glancing through the first few pages they put it back on the shelf. Likely too lofty to appreciate such simple fare, Tony thought as he watched them stroll away. Not interested in exercises that would be good for them.

However, the poor reception did get him down some and one morning he said to his wife, “You know, writing just hasn’t done much for me. I haven’t ever recovered my costs from printing the first book, so there’s no point doing another. I think I’ll try something else – maybe small engine repair.”

So Tony bought a “Repairing Small Engines” manual and studied it carefully. He talked with other repair men and hung out in shops where he could watch engines being repaired until he got a handle on the process. Then he hung out his shingle; soon he had a great business and no spare time to wonder about spending. Tony had found his perfect fit.

He shakes his head when someone mentions his book. “I guess the good Lord just didn’t want me to be a writer.”

My Summer Reading List

In this post I’m going to compliment two other writers for their fiction, their stories put together with such skill and style.

Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark have joined forces, together with their sleuths Reagan Reilly and Alvirah Meehan, to solve a number of cases and rescue targeted victims from the clutches of unscrupulous people. Although these books are classed as crime fiction, so yes, there are crimes in each book, the stories are far more “human interest” with a dash of humor thrown in.

Their books seem “middle class family setting”, not sordid, steamy, or sinister. These are crimes that could happen to anyone, such as a forged will and a lost child, cases Alvirah solves in the book All Through the Night. Or the phoney investments scam carried out by one smooth talker in The Christmas Thief.

Both sleuths have a number of prior cases, but Deck the Halls is the first book where Alvirah and Reagan join forces. They must rescue Reagan’s business-owner father and his chauffeur from kidnappers asking an outrageous ransom. I have to marvel at the plotting skill of these two writers as a number of characters bring clues which fit together like pieces of a jigsaw that finally points to the whereabouts of the victims, who have been left to drown on a leaky houseboat.

In the second of this series, The Christmas Thief, a scammer who preyed on the rich and on one lottery winner in particular — a friend of Alvirah Meehan. After his release from prison, with the help of two bumbling cohorts and a starry-eyed poet, he searches for the takings he’s stashed in a unique place. He plans to cut down the tree he hid his loot in before he went to prison; to his dismay, someone else has claimed this particular tree and is about to haul it away. Just finished this story — a good mix of funny and suspenseful.

I take my hat off to these ladies for skillful writing and realistic story lines and look forward to reading more of their works this summer.


Something New in the Writing Dept

Hi Everyone,

First, a note from fellow writer, Joel Canfield, about his new project: a marketing forum for writers. Hop over and check it out. This promises valuable help for those of us who have a slim marketing budget.

Second, my contemplations about my blogs — and this blog in particular — have brought me to a decision. I really enjoy fiction, both reading it and writing it. I’ve actually written quite a bit already, so I’ve decided to publish some of my short stories here.

I’ll post one story every Friday, but if the story’s too long for one post, I’ll publish it on consecutive days.

So rather than this blog being the Collection that it has been, it can morph into “Fiction on Friday.”