Friday, March 9, 2018

Reading Down Memory Lane

I love books.

I've spent many happy hours in libraries and bookstores.

I'm guilty of reading "one more chapter" more than once.

You share my love of reading. You know the joy of holding a new book in your hands. The familiar musk from the yellowed pages of an old tome. The crisp pages of a new release. The limitless possibilities that await within every page.

I've had the recent pleasure of sharing some of my childhood favorites with my sons. In the Wayside School books, we met Mrs. Jewls and her students from the 30th floor. We met Peter Hatcher in Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing—his brother Fudge—yes, Fudge—and their neighbors Jimmy and Sheila. That led to more books from the Fudge series. After we finish Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, Ramona Quimby is ready to join the party. I hope the boys like her as much as Peter...

New favorites await us as well... Louis Sacher's Holes and Small Steps are in our TBR stack. The movie Holes was amazing!

We picked up the five Percy Jackson stories from the last book order. I must confess, I'm enjoying them as much as the kids!

Not every book has been a winner with the boys. The Magician's Nephew was a bit scary, and I couldn't hold their attention with Anne of Green Gables. The boys didn't really get Amelia Bedelia so I reread some of her antics by myself in the children's section of the town library—on a little chair.

It never hurts to try new things, especially stories. I dream of the day we all sit quietly and read—even though a more likely scenario is me reading while the boys —not so quietly—play Minecraft.

What childhood favorites are on your list to revisit or share with your kids?

Friday, March 2, 2018

The Ideal Reader

I recently read an article from Writer's Digest "Should You Write for Yourself or for the Reader?"

The author of the post, Kip Langello, created a fictional reader—his ideal reader—to write his novels for. The article raised some really thought-provoking questions. When asked if you should write for yourself or the reader, Mr. Langello asks:

  • Do you want to get published and paid for it?
  • Do you want people to buy and read your book?
If you answered 'yes' to those questions, then ask yourself...
  • Who will read your book?

Art is in the eye of the beholder... Readers have varying, and often unpredictable, tastes in books. Writers are not objective enough to access the appeal of their work to a reader. Mr. Langello created a fictional character to be his ideal reader. He gave her a back story—a husband, a career, a life. He used this fictional character as his personal focus group. Would she like this character / scene / joke? Writing to a specific, albeit fictional, 'person' helped Mr. Langello complete, and successfully sell, his novels.

I always thought I wrote for myself. Although my ultimate goal was to publish, and profit from, my work, I didn't set out to write a book that directly targeted a specific audience. Until I read this article and saw the value in writing for the reader. But not just any reader...

My Ideal Reader

Who is my ideal reader? I always viewed my target audience as women between the ages of 20 to 45 who like romance novels, and fantasy / paranormal in particular, so let's start there.

My ideal reader is a 32 year old woman named Joanna. Joanna is single and works in an office. Nothing out of the ordinary happens in her life so she lives vicariously through romance novels. She believes in true love and happily-ever-afters—she's my ideal reader after all—and while she's waiting to meet "the one", she's not putting her life on hold. Joanna has a close-knit group of friends and an active social life. She loves coffee and weekends spent reading in her pyjamas. Her favorite color is blue. She leases a blue car. Her apartment—converted from a 1800s sea captain's house—has a lot of character. She loves trying new things... her latest venture is a candle making class. Last month, she took a French cooking class.

I wonder if Joanna will like my current work-in-progress...

Friday, February 23, 2018

Promo for Bound to Fate by @KiruTaye

Start the amazing and emotional Bound series for only 99c/99p. ❤📚🔞💯❤

Bound to Fate by Kiru Taye | F: @AuthorKiruTaye | T/IG: @KiruTaye

A relationship between Ike and Lara is forbidden but love like theirs cannot be denied. Catastrophe lies in wait and one night changes their lives forever.

Bound to Fate is a story about surviving tragedy, forgiveness, and the overwhelming love that pulls through against the odds.


ENTER THE GIVEAWAY: (runs until February 28)


Friday, February 16, 2018

Promo for Desperate Measures Romance Collection


Romance Collection
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Genre: Contemporary Romance, Romantic Suspense
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From mind twisting thrillers to pulse-pounding suspense, this limited-edition collection of today’s hottest best-selling authors has something for all tastes.

Whether you are on the edge of your seat or curled up into a ball with fright, this set from Romance Collections will not disappoint.

Step inside the minds of these characters. Ride along with them on their journeys. Indulge in their action-filled tales of suspense.

The time has come for… Desperate Measures.

Nicole Morgan  @authorNicMorgan
Eva Winters  @EvaWintersBooks
Maggi Andersen  
Aubrey Wynne
Cara Marsi 
Samantha Holt
Janis Susan May  @JanisSusanMay
Kris Bock  
Kiru Taye  @KiruTaye
Stacy Deanne  
Erin Lee
Krista Ames  
Michelle Grey  

Angus Robertson: 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Night Owl Romance "A Tea Party & Books" Scavenger Hunt

From the folks at Night Owl Romance...

It's a wonderful time of the year where we dream about all the great books we will read and add to our 2018 lists. Let us help you find some great authors and books to add to your To Be Read Pile. Plus along the way get entered to win Amazon Gift Cards that can help make all your reading dreams come true.


1st Place - $100 Amazon eGift Card

$50 Amazon eGift Card (2nd Place)
$25 Amazon eGift Card (3rd Place)
$10 Amazon eGift Card (25 Winners)
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As one of the sponsors of this event, I'm going to introduce you to new authors and help you find some great new books. Make sure to check out my featured title—A Vampire's Tale—along the way.

There are $900 in prizes up for grabs for 123 winners.. including the grand prize of a $100 Amazon Gift Card. Enter now.

Don't wait. The hunt ends on March 8.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Game of Thrones versus Outlander

At the People's Choice Awards last January, HBO's Game of Thrones lost both the Favorite Premium Sci-Fi/Fantasy Series and Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Actress to Starz's Outlander.

Which series do you prefer?

<< caution spoilers ahead >>

Game of Thrones

George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones (GOT) is epic. There is no doubt about it. I fell in love with this series during the first terrifying moments of season 1 episode 1.

(I haven't read the books (yet) so my observations are based purely on the show.)

It's a complicated story with a lot of complicated characters. That's the simplest way to put it. In fact, there are so many characters—the story begins with nine different families—it's difficult to pick a favorite. Even though, not unlike a daily soap opera, an episode may focus on a cross-section of the cast, allowing the viewer the opportunity to form a tangible attachment. It may be difficult to pick a favorite character, but it is not challenging to pick a least favorite. << clears throat >> Cersei Lannister.

With such a vast number of players fighting for the Iron Throne, death is inevitable, and GOT features some truly, horrific (and unexpected) deaths. Is anyone thinking about Season 3's Red Wedding? Martin has taken Stephen King's "kill your darlings" advice to heart. This phrase, originally coined by William Faulkner, means either letting go of the parts that don't advance the story or killing characters your audience has grown to love.

The GOT family tree is also (unsurprisingly) complicated. I found this lovely graphic on

The basic premise for GOT is dispute over the Iron Throne. The Baratheons had stolen it from the Targaryens. The Targaryens want it back, but so do the other Baratheon brothers, the Lannisters, the Tyrells, the Starks... with those not directly vying for the crown aligning themselves with those who are. It's an elaborate game. Strategic, like chess, but with potentially fatal results. The characters have differing motives—power, peace, unity, honor, protection—for pursuing the fight. It's the classic medieval quest, a prolonged and perilous journey filled with misadventure and hard choices. And dragons and a massive undead army.

GOT is set in the fictional Westeros. Martin has created a truly fantastic world. Fans take the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros very seriously. In my search for a map, I found many versions—hand drawn, vintage, comparative, Google-style—before finally selecting this graphic by Kitkat Pecson.

The title sequence is brilliant as well, with a three-dimensional (moving) map featuring different locations—depending on the episode—that foreshadows the next party of the story.

Overall, the show is magic. It's like watching a story come to life... which it is.


Diana Gabaldon's Outlander is an equally epic story. I discovered the series on Netflix and was instantly obsessed.

I actually stopped watching it for about a week to get my addiction under control.

The show and the books (I've read 1-4 so far) are fantastic. The show's casting was as close to perfection as I've ever seen. In my mind, no one could have depicted Claire, Jamie, and Frank/Jack as captivatingly. As a story, Outlander is simply marvellous—historically accurate with the ultimate in love triangles—a twentieth century woman trapped in the eighteen century with a love in both time periods.

The cast of Outlander is much smaller. The leads Claire Randall and Jamie Fraser are definitely my favorites.

Claire Randall is a strong, intelligent woman who doesn't mince words or hold back punches. Jamie Fraser—the embodiment of a braw Highlander—is brave and reckless, and possesses an intelligent mind capable of seeing beyond the present reality. And did I say damn sexy? I now understand swooning. Every woman wants to be loved like Jamie loves Claire.

"Don't be afraid. There's the two of us now."

Outlander is fantasy, but it injects enough realism—historical content, logical actions—that you feel the story itself could be possible. You can put yourself in the character's shoes—you can immerse yourself in their world.

The premise of Outlander is time travel. While on vacation in Scotland, Claire Randall accidentally travels 200 years into the past leaving her husband Frank alone and bewildered in the twentieth century. She lands in 1743 in the middle of a skirmish between the British Army and a band of Scottish Highlanders. The Highlanders save her from a British officer with nefarious intents. Upon discovering she has time travelled, she works on a plan to get home. Returning to her own time is hardly an easy feat. Claire must rely on her knowledge of eighteenth century Scotland—good thing Frank is a historian—and her wits to survive among the Highlanders. Both the British and the Scots are suspicious of her sudden appearance. Marriage to Jamie Fraser protects her from the British Army. Then, the unexpected occurs—she falls in love with Jamie. When faced with the choice of staying with Jamie or returning to Frank, she chooses Jamie.

Unlike GOT whose main focus is continuously on the game, each season (book) of Outlander moves in different directions—storyline and physical location.

The Comparison

Believability. Game of Thrones begins like a war-focused historical drama in the fictional world Martin built. The dragons, magic, and undead army make it a complete fantasy. Outlander takes place in (mainly) existing locations and follows true historical events. Once you reconcile with the time travel, the rest of the story is fairly credible.

Story. The game in Game of Thrones keeps expanding—adding exotic locations and characters with incredible back stories. A single location or character could provide enough material for a standalone story. Outlander's story is more grounded and focuses on the two main characters regardless of external circumstances.

Characters. Game of Thrones includes a tangled web of characters—heroes and villains. The story follows each character and their relationships with the other characters. Characters face challenges and adversity—with betrayal and brutal violence. There are too many 'main' characters to count. Outlander has clear main characters who also face their share of life-changing situations. With fewer characters to follow, the audience has a more intimate experience.

Chemistry. Love or hate. Both Game of Thrones and Outlander sizzle with the sheer amplitude of chemistry between their characters.

Pacing. Game of Thrones has an abundance of fast-paced action. The characters move from one significant event—battle, revelation, plot twist—to the next with lightning speed. In contrast, Outlander moves at a much slower pace, switching intermittently between action and drama—with no holds barred in its fight scenes.

The Conclusion

Clearly, both shows rate high on the epic scale. Game of Thrones is intricately plotted—including unexpected twists and neat conclusions—and doesn't shy away from the taboo. With GOT, you get action, romance, adventure, mystery. Add in the complicated family trees and the extraordinary world of Westeros... and you find a story bigger than life itself. Outlander includes paradoxical elements—time travel itself opens the flood gates of contradiction—that eventually make sense. It's more than a love story, containing a fair amount of action and (mis)adventure. You become invested, immersed in Outlander's characters, and their fate evokes strong emotion.

Both authors have created literary magic—I am amazed and inspired to create magic of my own. It's not a matter of which concept is better. The important thing is to read / watch / create fantasy. Believe in fairy tales and happily-ever-afters. I do.

Friday, February 2, 2018

When 'busy' became 'productive'

Maybe less than two years ago, my husband and I realized 'busy' had a negative connotation. Everyone we know was busy, is always busy.

'How was your week?' 'Busy?' 

'What did you do?' 'We were busy.' 

Busy, busy, busy. We, like many of our friends, were drowning in busy. What was this new state of 'busy' we had identified? It was regular life—work, school, activities, housework, hobbies—but it was out of control—more like running on an accelerating treadmill than actual living. At the end of each day—week, month—we were exhausted. What had we done? We were busy.

We decided to step off the treadmill. We made a conscious choice to turn 'busy' into 'productive'. Being productive gave us a feeling of accomplishment. Instead of running errands around town like a mad hamster, we completed errands. Being productive was positive. It indicated progress toward our goals. Being productive was the first step toward living instead of doing.

There's an app for that. And not just one. The smart phone is actually, really smart. Seriously. I'm not joking. My husband and I were tech late bloomers, not buying iPhones until 2014. Its capability impressed me then, and still continues to impress me. I use my phone to organize my life... and this is how...

Some of the gems I use:

Cozi is a shared family calendar—including reminders—with shopping and to-do lists, recipes, and a journal. I use the free version, but you can upgrade to Cozi Gold which has a few more bells and whistles than the free one. I use it mainly for the shared calendar—no more double-booking the family car—and grocery lists. You can receive reminders on your phone and by email. The app is also on the iPad.

I found the list making function on Cozi rigid so I use Wunderlist to organize my personal to-do lists. Reminders also come via phone and email. You can assign due dates and reminders for your to-do items. You can schedule recurring items. You can create subtasks. Items can easily move between lists as well—something Cozi can't do. Wunderlist is synced on my phone and MacBook.

Tody is my latest find. Its a shared cleaning app that's very convenient for roommates or families. If you feel behind in your housework... like it's almost spring and the fall cleaning isn't done yet? Tody might be for you. Those of us with productive lives tend to push housework to the end of the list. Maybe the bathroom and kitchen are (passably) clean, but when did you last santitize your light switches and door knobs? I did it last Friday... because Tody reminded me. I don't typically pay for apps—but after some comprehensive research on cleaning apps and there are a lot of them—I paid $9.99 for this one. It's a new purchase—I bought it last Friday—but I am very pleased so far. Getting stuff done is rewarding, and this app is definitely encouraging me to get stuff done!

Mint is a financial one-stop shop app. You can't make transfers or pay bills, but it provides a great snapshot of your financial situation—bank accounts, loans, investments, mortgage, assets, credit cards. You can input a monthly budget. I use it to keep on top of spending. It's convenient to track credit card purchases in real time instead of logging into a website or waiting for the statement.

DS File is how I access our home network-attached storage (NAS) device. It's like a personal cloud. It holds pictures, home video, and computer backups. I also back up on an external hard drive... you can never have too many backups!

Dropbox is how I share pictures with family and friends. I mostly use it through the website though. I can't remember when I got the app, but it's an easy way to save and share files so I'll keep it on my phone.

iCloud Drive is the Apple version of Dropbox. I backup select files from my phone and laptop. Plus, I use it to sync my Safari bookmarks.

These are some of the apps that make my life easier. I select apps based on intensive online research. I'm currently looking into apps for a home inventory system for groceries. Have you tried any of these? What are your thoughts?

Friday, January 26, 2018

Childhood Regrets

Sometimes, memories from my childhood pop into my mind. Like still images or grainy video. Haunting. Gnawing.

I never knew my maternal grandfather. He died before I was born. The man I called 'Grandpa' was actually my second step-grandfather. We called the first step-grandfather 'Grandpa Aaron' and I remember very little about him. He made me a wooden dollhouse and bird house, and, apparently, he was mean to my Grandma so they got divorced.

I was seven years old when Grandma married again. This kind, never-married-before, man became my Grandpa. He was a farmer—corn and soy beans—and he took us for tractor rides and let us play in the barn.

One day, my cousins and I piled into his old car—it had three seats in the front—to run an errand at a neighbor's place. I thought it would be a brief trip—stop, do what he had to do, go home—and I brought along a book to read in the car. In those days, I lived and breathed books—being a grown-up really cuts into my reading time. Instead, the neighbor kids invited us to play badminton while Grandpa did whatever he had to do. I didn't want to play badminton. Everybody else got out of the car and played in the yard. I stayed in the car and read my book.

When my Grandpa got back to the car, he chastised me for not playing with the other kids, and he said—I don't remember the exact words—that he was disappointed in me. His words crushed me. I hadn't seen staying in the car to read as a selfish choice. I became overwhelmed with guilt; a remorse that would continue to hang over me for decades like a dark storm cloud.

My Grandpa died a few years ago. I remember the good times—McDonald Happy Meal picnics in the park, shopping trips, ice cream cones, card games, eating another scoop of mashed potatoes because he kept passing me the bowl—and I remember the day I didn't play badminton.

This experience had a profound impact on me and contributed to the person I am today. When I see my son facing similar scenarios, I tell him my stories so he can make choices he may not regret in the future.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Promo for A River of Silence by @susancgoldner

When Detective Winston Radhauser is awakened by a call from dispatch at 12:45a.m., it can mean only one thing—something terrible awaits him. He races to the Pine Street address. In the kitchen, Caleb Bryce, nearly deaf from a childhood accident, is frantically giving CPR to 19-month-old Skyler Sterling. Less than an hour later, Skyler is dead.
The ME calls it a murder and the entire town of Ashland, Oregon is outraged. Someone must be held accountable. The police captain is under a lot of pressure and anxious to make an arrest. Despite Radhauser’s doubts about Bryce’s guilt, he is arrested and charged with first degree murder. Neither Radhauser nor Bryce’s young public defender believe he is guilty. Winston Radhauser will fight for justice, even if it means losing his job.
Buy Links:


In only eleven minutes, Detective Winston Radhauser’s world would flip on its axis and a permanent line would be drawn—forever dividing his life into before and after. He drove toward the Pima County Sheriff’s office in Catalina, a small town in the Sonoran Desert just twelve miles north of Tucson. Through the CD speakers, Alabama sang You’ve Got the Touch. He hummed along.
He was working a domestic violence case with Officer Alison Finney, his partner for nearly seven years. They’d made the arrest—their collar was sleeping off a binge in the back of the squad car. It was just after 10 p.m. As always, Finney wore spider earrings—tonight’s selection was a pair of black widows he hadn’t seen before.

“You know, Finn, you’d have better luck with men if you wore sunflowers in your earlobes.”

She laughed. “Any guy intimidated by a couple 14-carat web spinners isn’t man enough for me.”

He never missed an opportunity to tease her. “Good thing you like being single.”

The radio released some static.

Radhauser turned off the CD.

Dispatch announced an automobile accident on Interstate 10 near the Orange Grove Road exit. Radhauser and Finney were too far east to respond.

Her mobile phone rang. She answered, listened for a few seconds. “Copy that. I’ll get him there.” Finney hung up, then placed the phone back into the charger mounted beneath the dashboard.

“Copy what?” he said. “Get who where?”

She eyed him. “Pull over. I need to drive now.”

His grip on the steering wheel tightened. “What the hell for?”

Finney turned on the flashing lights. “Trust me and do what I ask.”

The unusual snap in her voice raised a bubble of anxiety in his chest. He pulled over and parked the patrol car on the shoulder of Sunrise Road.

She slipped out of the passenger seat and stood by the door waiting for him.

He jogged around the back of the cruiser.

Finney pushed him into the passenger seat. As if he were a child, she ordered him to fasten his seatbelt, then closed the car door and headed around the vehicle to get behind the wheel.

“Are you planning to tell me what’s going on?” he asked once she’d settled into the driver’s seat.

She opened her mouth, then closed it. Her unblinking eyes never wavered from his. “Your wife and son have been taken by ambulance to Tucson Medical Center.”

The bubble of anxiety inside him burst. “What happened? Are they all right?”

Finney turned on the siren, flipped a U-turn, then raced toward the hospital on the corner of Craycroft and Grant. “I don’t know any details.”

TMC was a designated Trauma 1 Center and most serious accident victims were taken there. That realization both comforted and terrified him. “Didn’t they say the accident happened near the Orange Grove exit?”

“I know what you’re thinking. It must be bad or they’d be taken to the closest hospital and that would be Northwest.” She stared at him with the look of a woman who knew him almost as well as Laura did. “Don’t imagine the worst. They may not have been in a car accident. Didn’t you tell me Lucas had an equestrian meet?”

Laura had driven their son to a competition in south Tucson. Maybe Lucas got thrown. He imagined the horse rearing, his son’s lanky body sliding off the saddle and landing with a thump on the arena floor. Thank God for sawdust. Laura must have ridden in the ambulance with him.

But Orange Grove was the exit Laura would have taken on her drive home. The meet ended at 9:00 p.m. Lucas always stayed to unsaddle the horse, wipe the gelding down, and help Coach Thomas load him into his trailer. About a half hour job. That would put his family near the Orange Grove exit around ten.

The moon slipped behind a cloud and the sudden darkness seemed alive and a little menacing as it pressed against the car windows.

Less than ten minutes later, Finney pulled into the ER entrance and parked in the lot. “I’m coming with you,” she said.

He shot her a you-know-better look, then glanced toward the back seat where their collar was snoring against the door, his mouth open and saliva dribbling down his chin. It was against policy to leave an unguarded suspect in the car.

“I don’t give a damn about policy,” she said.

“What if he wakes up, hitches a ride home and takes out his wife and kids? Put him in the drunk tank. I’ll call you as soon as I know anything.” He ran across the parking lot. The ER doors opened automatically and he didn’t stop running until he reached the desk. “I’m Winston Radhauser. My wife and son were brought in by ambulance.”

The young nurse’s face paled and her gaze moved from his eyes to somewhere over his head.

With the change in her expression, his hope dropped into his shoes. He looked behind her down a short corridor where a set of swinging doors blocked any further view. “Where are they?”

It was one of those moments he would remember for a lifetime, where everything happened in slow motion.

She told him to wait while she found a doctor to talk to him, and nodded toward one of the vinyl chairs that lined the waiting room walls.

He sat. Tried to give himself an attitude adjustment. Maybe it wasn’t as bad as he thought. Laura or Lucas could be in surgery and the nurse, obviously just out of nursing school, didn’t know how to tell him.

He stood.


Sat again. The hospital might have a policy where only a physician could relate a patient’s condition to his family.

His heart worked overtime, pumping and pounding.

When he looked up, a young woman in a lab coat with a stethoscope around her neck stood in front of him. She had pale skin and was thin as a sapling, her light brown hair tied back with a yellow rubber band. Her eyes echoed the color of a Tucson sky with storm clouds brewing. “Are you Mr. Radhauser?”

He nodded.

“Please come with me.”

He expected to be taken to his wife and son, but instead she led him into a small room about eight feet square. It had a round table with a clear glass vase of red tulips in the center, and two chairs. Though she didn’t look old enough to have graduated from medical school, she introduced herself as Dr. Silvia Waterford, an ER physician.

They sat.

“Tell me what happened to my wife and son.”

“I’m so sorry,” she said. “It was an automobile accident on Interstate 10.”

The thread of hope he held started to unravel. “Are Laura and Lucas all right? I want to see them.”

Her throat rippled as she swallowed. “There is no easy way to say this, Mr. Radhauser. I’m so sorry for your loss. But there was nothing we could do for them.”

All at once the scene bleached out. The tulips faded to gray as if a giant flashbulb had gone off in his face. The doctor was rimmed in white light. He stared at her in disbelief for a moment, praying for a mistake, a miracle, anything except what he just heard. “What do you mean there was nothing you could do? This is a Level 1 Trauma Center, isn’t it? One of the best in the state.”

“Yes. But unfortunately, medical science has its limits and we can’t save everyone. Your wife and son were both dead on arrival.”

His body crumpled in on itself, folding over like paper, all the air forced from his chest. This was his fault. Laura asked him to take the night off and go with them. Radhauser would have avoided the freeway and driven the back way home from the fairgrounds. And everything would have ended differently.

He looked up at Dr. Waterford. What was he demanding of her? Even the best trauma center in the world couldn’t bring back the dead.

There was sadness in her eyes. “I’m sure it’s not any comfort, but we think they died on impact.”

He hung his head. “Comfort,” he said. Even the word seemed horrific and out of place here. Your wife and son were both dead on arrival. Nine words that changed his life in the most drastic way he had ever imagined.

“May I call someone for you? We have clergy on staff if you’d like to talk with someone.”

A long moment passed before he raised his head and took in a series of deep breaths, trying to collect himself enough to speak. “No clergy, unless they can bring my family back. Just tell me where my wife and son are.” His voice sounded different, deeper—not the same man who went to work that evening.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “But when deaths occur in the ER, we have to move them down to the morgue.”

Radhauser stood. Beneath his anguish, a festering anger simmered. Laura was a good driver. He was willing to bet she wasn’t at fault. More than anything now, he needed someone aside from himself to blame.

Outside, a siren wailed, then came to an abrupt stop. The sound panicked Radhauser as he headed for the elevator, waited for the door to open, then got inside. He pushed the button to the basement floor. He’d visited this hospital morgue once before to identify a fellow police officer shot in a robbery arrest gone bad. The door opened and he lumbered down the empty hallway.

As he neared the stainless steel door to the morgue, a tall, dark-haired man in a suit exited. At first Radhauser thought he was a hospital administrator. The man cleared his throat, flipped open a leather case and showed his badge. “I’m Sergeant Dunlop with the Tucson Police Department. Are you Mr. Radhauser?”

“Detective Radhauser. Pima County Sheriff’s Department.”

Dunlop had a handshake Radhauser felt in every bone in his right hand. “I’m so sorry for your loss, Detective.”

“Are you investigating the accident involving my wife and son?” Radhauser looked him over. Dunlop wore a pin-striped brown suit with a yellow shirt and a solid brown tie—the conservative uniform of a newly-promoted sergeant. The air around them smelled like antiseptic and the industrial solvent used to wash floors. “Have you determined who was at fault?”

Dunlop hesitated for an instant. “Yes, I’m the investigating officer. From the eyewitness reports, your wife was not to blame. A Dodge pickup was headed south in the northbound lane of Interstate 10 near the Orange Grove exit. No lights. He hit her head-on.”

Radhauser cringed. The image cut deep. “Was he drunk?”

“I need to wait for the blood alcohol test results to come back.”

The anger building inside Radhauser got closer to the surface every second. Silence hung between them like glass. He shattered it. “Don’t give me that bullshit. You were on the scene. What did you see? What did the breathalyzer read?”

Dunlop’s silence told Radhauser everything he needed to know. “Did the bastard die at least?”

“He was miraculously uninjured. But his twin boys weren’t so lucky.” Dunlop’s voice turned flat. “They didn’t make it.” He winced, and a tide of something bitter and hopeless washed over his face. “The idiot let them ride in the pickup bed. Five fucking years old.”

“What’s the idiot’s name?”

“You don’t need to know that right now.”

Biting his lip, Radhauser fought against the surge of rage threatening to flood over him. “Who are you to tell me what I need to know? It’s not your wife and kid in there. Besides, I can easily access the information.”

Dunlop handed him a card. “I know you can. But you have something more important to do right now. We can talk tomorrow.” He draped his arm over Radhauser’s shoulder the way a brother or a friend might do.

The touch opened a hole in Radhauser’s chest.

“Say goodbye to your wife and son,” Dunlop said, then turned and walked away.

In the morgue, after Radhauser introduced himself, a male attendant pulled back the sheet covering their faces. There was no mistake.

“Do you mind if I sit here for a while?” Radhauser asked.

“No problem,” the attendant said. “Stay as long as you want.” He went back to a small alcove where he entered data into a computer. The morgue smelled like the hallway had, disinfectant and cleaning solution, with an added hint of formaldehyde.

Radhauser sat between the stainless steel gurneys that held Laura and Lucas. Of all the possible scenarios Radhauser imagined, none ended like this.

Across the room, two small body bags lay, side by side, on a wider gurney. The twin sons of the man who killed his family.

The clock on the morgue wall kept ticking and when Radhauser finally looked up at it, four hours had passed. He tried, but couldn’t understand how Laura and Lucas could be in the world one minute and gone the next. How could he give them up? It was as if a big piece of him had been cut out. And he didn’t know how to go on living without his heart.


For an entire year afterwards, Radhauser operated in a daze. He spent the late evening hours playing For the Good Times on Laura’s old upright piano. It was the first song they ever slow danced to and over their fourteen years together, it became their own.

He played it again and again. The neighbors complained, but he couldn’t stop. It was the only way he could remember the apricot scent of her skin and how it felt to hold her in his arms on the dance floor.

Night after night, he played until he finally collapsed into a fitful sleep, his head resting on the keyboard. The simple acts of waking up, showering, making coffee, and heading to work became a cruel pretense acted out in the cavernous absence of his wife and son.

Susan Clayton-Goldner was born in New Castle, Delaware and grew up with four brothers along the banks of the Delaware River. She has been writing poems and short stories since she could hold a pencil and was so in love with writing that she became a creative writing major in college.

Prior to an early retirement which enabled her to write full time, Susan worked as the Director of Corporate Relations for University Medical Center in Tucson, Arizona. It was there she met her husband, Andreas, one of the deans in the University of Arizona's Medical School. About five years after their marriage, they left Tucson to pursue their dreams in 1991--purchasing a 35-acres horse ranch in the Williams Valley in Oregon. They spent a decade there. Andy rode, trained and bred Arabian horses and coached a high school equestrian team, while Susan got serious about her writing career. 

Through the writing process, Susan has learned that she must be obsessed with the reinvention of self, of finding a way back to something lost, and the process of forgiveness and redemption. These are the recurrent themes in her work.

After spending 3 years in Nashville, Susan and Andy now share a quiet life in Grants Pass, Oregon, with her growing list of fictional characters, and more books than one person could count. When she isn't writing, Susan enjoys making quilts and stained-glass windows. She says it is a lot like writing--telling stories with fabric and glass.