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KRL is a California Magazine with Local Focus and Global Appeal.
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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Dying Brand: An Allison Campbell Mystery By Wendy Tyson

by Cynthia Chow

Details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of the review.

Image consultant Allison Campbell specializes in helping clients reinvent themselves while projecting confidence and charisma. That’s the last thing Allison is feeling, though, when she receives a call from Leah Fairweather. Not only does this blast from the past announce that Leah’s husband Scott was murdered, but Leah drops the bomb that Allison was Scott’s last appointment on the day he died. Scott was a regrettable mistake Allison had made four years ago when she crossed a line with a client during a troubled time in her marriage. She’s only glimpsed him briefly since then, so learning that he may have tried to contact her is upsetting.

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Far more disturbing are the explicit photographs that begin to be dropped off, first at her home and then her friends’ homes, which reveal a side to Scott she never knew existed. After a tragedy destroyed her marriage, Allison and her ex-husband have begun to repair their relationship, but that’s in jeopardy now. To protect her future, Allison is forced into exploring whether she ever really knew Scott, and why someone seems determined to ruin her life again.

It’s not surprising that Allison created a career helping others forge new lives for themselves, as she too has remade her own to escape the past. Allison’s mentally ill mother is disintegrating with Alzheimer’s and her abusive father remains cold and distant. Everything changes, though, with the reappearance of the substance-abusing sister who ran away fifteen years ago, bringing with her a secret that could surprisingly save their fractured family.

Image source: Henery Press

Narratives alternate in this continually shifting novel as characters evaluate their relationships with old lovers and are surprised by new ones. The main plot holds all of the stories together, and it’s Allison who drives the mystery with her compulsions and vulnerability. Despite her strong exterior, Allison has never felt secure in her own happiness and she’s haunted by the fear that it could be taken away at a moment’s notice.

Allison’s support system includes her mentor and former mother-in-law, Mia; her business manager/partner, Vaughn; and her boyfriend/ex-husband Jason. While each has their own challenges and flaws, together they’ve become a family far more real than her own. This is a unique and enjoyable series of reinvention and—oddly enough—acceptance.

To enter to win a copy of Dying Brand, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Deep,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen June 6, 2015. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

Use this link to purchase the book & a portion goes to help support KRL & to indie bookstore Mysterious Galaxy:

Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Hard-Boiled Detective by Ben Solomon

by Sandra Murphy

Solomon has written a collection of eleven stories of about twenty pages each. Each features a hard-boiled detective. What makes the stories stand-out-different is the lack of details considered standard fare by other writers.

The detective’s name is never given. Nor is his location, although from some of the street names, you’d get a good hint. What year is it? Most any year you’d like, pre- cell phone and political correctness. What’s spectacular is that Solomon pulls it off without the reader even noticing right away.

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The stories are written as statements the detective gives the police. He explains what the problem was, what he thought happened, and how it really turned out. Being noir, there’s always a twist the reader never sees coming.

Image source: Ben Solomon

“It’s bad business to plug your client” is the start of one story that takes the reader back to black-and-white movies, Jimmy Cagney and days when cops and PIs worked together but not without suspicion on the part of each about the other.

This is the most consistently noir example of writing since the classic 1940’s tales of murder and mayhem, with a goodly dose of betrayal thrown in. If you’re looking for complex stories, intriguing characters, and a gritty dose of reality, this is a book you’ll enjoy—not just once, but again and again. Like the prologue says, in these stories, the victims outnumber the winners.

Use this link to purchase this book and a portion goes to help support KRL & it supports an indie bookstore:

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the arch, in the land of blues, booze and shoes—St Louis, Missouri. While writing magazine articles to support her mystery book habit, she secretly polishes two mystery books of her own, hoping, someday, they will see the light of Barnes and Noble. You can also find several of Sandra's short stories on UnTreed Reads including Bananas Foster.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Spring Book Boutique in Visalia

by Nancy Holley

Looking for interesting conversations, pleasant surroundings, and a place to peruse books at your leisure? The Spring Book Boutique at Neighborhood Bookstore is for you.

Twelve authors, a photographer, and an artist from Kings and Tulare Counties are joining together to create a venue that is stimulating and enjoyable.

The first Neighborhood Bookstore event, just before Christmas last year, featuring seven of the same authors and a photographer, was so successful that a spring boutique was immediately planned. When asked about the origin of Neighborhood Bookstore, Irene Morse, one of its founders, explained, “In these days, when a person has a book published, the publisher does very little marketing unless the author happens to be famous. Marketing becomes the author’s responsibility, and the question becomes how to get exposure.”

The idea behind Neighborhood Bookstore happenings is to fill that gap, to provide local authors the opportunity to show off their work and their talents. Each of the participants has a unique background and interests to share. They are thought-provoking conversationalists with many stories to tell.

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The locale for Neighborhood Bookstore – 4416 W. Damsen Avenue, Visalia – occurred by happenstance. When Irene and her co-founder Carole Firstman looked for a site for the first event, they considered many options, but none seemed to fit the bill – pleasant, charming, relaxing, and inexpensive. Then, Irene realized she could move some of her furniture to the garage and make room for seven authors and a photographer to have individual spaces in her home.

The decision turned out to be perfect as visitors could talk with each contributor individually, have places to sit and relax with a book, pause to look at inviting photographs, and partake of refreshments in a delightful atmosphere.

As plans for the Spring Boutique progressed and more authors and an artist were interested in participating, Irene’s home was outgrown, but not her yard. The front, side and back yards of her corner lot home, provide ample room for each of the 14 contributors to have his/her own space with additional shady nooks and crannies for relishing the landscaping and partaking refreshments.

Image source: Irene Morse

The authors represent a wide range of genres. Anthologies filled with local stories and tales of travel adventures await your review. Mysteries and detective series, some based on true events, can be found. Science fiction, non-fiction, essays, and memoirs, along with novels for young adults, will be available.

Talent abounds in our area; meeting some of the most talented is a special treat. Having the authors sign your purchases can make them more meaningful to you and to those for whom you may be buying gifts.

As if all of this isn’t enough, you even have the opportunity to learn what inspired the works displayed. If you are a frustrated writer, they may be able to provide you with encouragement and share nitty-gritty details that might inspire you!

The boutique will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, May 17, 2015. For more details, please call (559) 732-6869. As you enter Neighborhood Bookstore, you will be asked to sign a guest register and in exchange receive a raffle ticket. Each hour a drawing will be held with the winner given the option to select a book from those donated by the authors.

Exhibiting their work will be:

Authors: Mary Benton, Jana Botkin, Newell Bringhurst, Stephanie Carroll, Winnie Enloe-Furrer, Carole Firstman, Gloria Getman, Phoenix Hocking, Marilyn Meredith, Irene Morse, Arthur Neeson, and Silvia Ross.

Photography by Jane Thomas and Gourds by Toni Best

Come to Neighborhood Bookstore for a delightful, informative stroll through the works and lives of local talent!

Nancy Holley has been involved in the Visalia Community Players off and on since the 1970s, both as a director and actor. In 2010, she retired from 25 years as a software consultant and has since expanded her role at the Players. She is now Membership Chairman and assists with the Players on-line ticketing system.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Avengers: Age of Ultron Movie Review

by Jesus Ibarra

Special coupon for Dinuba Platinum Theatre at the end of this review.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron picks up a couple years after the original film building on the development of the Phase 2 Marvel movies. When Tony Stark and Bruce Banner jumpstart a peace keeping Artificial Intelligence, Ultron (James Spader), things go terribly wrong and Ultron decides that the only way to keep the peace is through the mass killing of the human population. The Avengers must fight with everything they have to stop him, even adding new recruits to the team along the way.

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This film overall was everything any comic book fan would want and more. It was fun, hectic, splash pages came to life, kick ass yeah moments, and great character work. And that post credit scene was to die for. From the running gags to the physical comedy this movie, while grim at times, never fails to make you smile. Hands down my favorite moments that brought a goofy grin to my face where the moments where director Joss Whedon shot scenes that looked like they came straight from the comic books. I’m talking splash pages that require two pages, that’s there and it is beautiful.

Everyone involved brought their A game, but I have to praise James Spader, Paul Bettany, and Scarlet Johansson for killing it in their roles. James Spader brings a certain menace to Ultron that I don’t think anyone could have done better. I also have to praise the crew for capturing Spader’s physicality as he waxes poetically about the nature of life and death and for the great quips Ultron delivers.

Paul Betanny, who has voiced JARVIS throughout the Iron Man films, also kills it. He plays the android Vision who has a critical role in the film, and he captures the Vision’s ability to be awestruck yet show incredible wisdom. Finally, Scarlett Johansson, if the Hulk stole the Avengers then Black Widow stole Age of Ultron. She not only rocked her action scenes she killed the great character development given to Black Widow here, and while we learn more about her tragic past we also learned that it isn’t what defines her.

Image source: Marvel

Any of the films failings can almost all be attributed to editing. While not terribly edited it does leave you feeling like there were some scenes missing. And that’s because there was. Joss Whedon’s original cut of the film was a little over three hours long. This also probably contributed to some action scenes being a little too hectic with too much going on and not having a point of reference. Frankly, I would have gladly given my money to see a three hour Avengers movie because it the freaking Avengers. In a world where Lord of the Rings can be that long I don’t see why Avengers couldn’t be that long too.

While this film will never capture the excitement and awe of seeing all these characters get together in the first Avengers there is no denying that this film continues to build on what Marvel has made with their mega-franchise. Much like in the fictional Marvel Cinematic Universe, we live in a post Avengers world. Where every movie studio, with comic book properties or not, is trying to build a similar mega franchise of interconnected films that will make them all the money. But in my opinion, none will ever come close to nailing it like Marvel has done. And Age of Ultron, while not the best film made, is an exciting cinematic achievement that while being massively entertaining plants seeds for the next Marvel movies to come.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron is currently playing at Dinuba Platinum Theatres 6. Showtimes can be found on their website. Platinum Theaters Dinuba 6 now proudly presents digital quality films in 2-D and 3-D with 5.1 Dolby digital surround sound to maximize your movie experience.

Print this coupon and enjoy a special discount for Kings River Life readers only!

Jesus Ibarra is 22 years old; with a love of all media, he's always on the lookout for the best finds.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Oh Say Can You Fudge: A Candy-Coated Mystery with Recipes By Nancy Coco

by Cynthia Chow

Details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of the review.

Everyone on Mackinac Island expects an explosive display of fireworks for the Fourth of July celebration, but they certainly didn’t plan on the fireworks warehouse going up in smoke! As a newcomer (despite her family’s ownership of the historic McMurphy Hotel and Fudge Shop), Allie McMurphy normally wouldn't have been allowed onto the fireworks committee. But she insisted, and she now feels some responsibility for the explosion, which killed technician Rodney Rivers.

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It's been an unusual summer for the island, with accidental fires flaring up and Allie continuing to discover a new body every month. She learns that the efficient Mr. Rivers had a shady partner—and threats left on the dead man's phone indicate that he might have had his own explosive secrets.

After initial lapses in common sense (she knows there may be sabotage but still enters a building full of fireworks), Allie fortunately displays both practicality and intelligence that make her perfect for this fudge-filled cozy novel. Her real reason for involvement is to prove that neither she nor the celebration is cursed with bad juju. While developing a closer relationship with the extremely attractive and wealthy Trent Jessop, Allie juggles her duties preparing delicious Fourth of July-themed fudge, running the hotel, and attempting to prevent anything else from going up in smoke.

Image source: Kensington

The author (who also writes under the name Nancy J. Parra) continues to craft delectable mysteries. Allie is focused on becoming accepted in the society where she summered and where newcomers will always be called “fudgies” and residents pass on gossip faster than the local newspaper can print it. Mackinac Island is a charming place to live, with motorized vehicles prohibited and bicycles the main means of transport.

Fudge recipes are scattered throughout the novel and even non-bakers will be tempted by the descriptions of Allie's unique creations. It’s an idyllic setting with a threat of real jeopardy as the fires increase and the threats to Allie escalate. This is a strong third entry in the series that revels in candy-making and genial good humor.

To enter to win a copy of Oh Say Can You Fudge, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Fudge,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen May 16, 2015. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

You can use this link to purchase the book & a portion goes to help support KRL & an indie bookstore:

Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).

Musseled Out: A Maine Clambake Mystery By Barbara Ross

by Cynthia Chow

Details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of the review.

When Julia Snowden took temporary leave from her job as a Manhattan venture capitalist, it was to help save the Snowden Family Clambake Company in Maine. Her initial commitment of six months has stretched into eight, and now her employer is forcing her to make a decision. While she misses her New York life, she also enjoys living back home and running the family’s clambake on Morrow Island. And then there’s the relationship she’s started with her childhood crush, Chris Durand…

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Julia is further pressured by the self-proclaimed Mussel King, David Thwing. Just as the Snowden family business is coming out of the red, David plans to open a rival seafood restaurant. When his body is discovered under a family friend’s fishing boat, it looks as though Julia’s brother-in-law Sonny may be involved. The boat’s owner, Peter Murray, is missing and presumed dead.

Lobstering is a precarious business, and fluctuating prices place tremendous stress on lobstermen and their families. Secrets also seem to be a way of life in Busman’s Harbor. Chris avoids explaining why he disappears for days, Sonny refuses to tell his wife about a frightening phone call, his father has an unexpected abundance of extra cash, and Julia’s own mother seems to be out of contact.

Image source: Kensington

While Julia struggles to decide whether to trust Chris and let the past be the past, the two bond together as they substitute as cook and waitress at the local diner and town gathering-place. While there, Julia can’t resist pleas for help from a missing man’s wife, to the exasperation of the local police (who are refreshingly competent and on the case).

Readers will enjoy immersing themselves in this tiny town dependent on tourism and seafood for survival. Families there have been fishing and lobstering for generations, and encroachments on their territory directly threaten their sole means of support. Julia herself is torn about whether to return to Manhattan, where her career was as challenging and rewarding as it was exhausting and lonely. Readers will be empathetic to Julia’s dilemma, and seeing her learn to trust her instincts and the warm community of Busman’s Harbor is extremely satisfying. The delicious descriptions of local Maine cuisine, along with lobster recipes, are a wonderful bonus.

To enter to win a copy of Musseled Out, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Mussled,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen May 16, 2015. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

You can use this link to purchase the book & a portion goes to help support KRL & an indie bookstore:

Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).

No Hair Day, A Mother's Day Mystery Short Story

by EB Davis

Enjoy this Mother's Day mystery short story, originally published in 2012 in the A Shaker of Margaritas: Bad Hair Day anthology.

I stood in front of the powder room mirror, my hand frozen in mid-air clutching the blond wig that I was about to fit over my unlovely pate. A man armed with a knife had entered my home through a screen door I’d failed to lock. His intrusion shattered my enjoyment of this “off” chemo day in the regiment. I held my breath. Wasn’t my no-hair day bad enough without some jerk-off home invader?

He passed by unaware of my presence. I watched him in the mirror, his head turning from side to side, as he walked forward into the family room past the staircase–athletic shorts, black tee shirt, tattoos down his arms, and high topped sneakers. He could have come straight from the basketball court, but the knife in his hand told me he had another game in mind. I jammed the wig on my head and peered out the door.

Why me? The question I’d asked myself every day for the last six months since my ovarian cancer diagnosis. The lack of answers rankled. My bald head resulted from Taxol, one of my chemotherapy drugs. I resented cancer and now I resented this intruder. How dare they disrupt my beautiful life? Like on my chemo days, which took nine hours and left me exhausted, I felt like crying. My life had become surreal–my time–precious. Spending it with some lunatic wasn’t on the schedule. Maybe he’d take some stuff and leave.

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Since I was close to the front door, escaping to my neighbor Carla’s house across the street was my best choice. I crept out of the powder room in the direction of the screen door when reality smacked me and chilled my bones. My sixteen-year-old daughter, Jenny, slept upstairs in her room. Summer vacation started today. I’d forgotten she was at home while bemoaning my fate.

Mothering Jenny had taken a backseat to my diagnosis. My heart rate zoomed as I assessed the situation. Protecting my child, putting myself between the man and Jenny and getting her out of the house without alerting him were my priorities. A quick swivel reversed my direction. I scooted toward the staircase checking to make sure his back was turned. I got as far as the second step.

“Where are you going, lady?”

Doctors had poked and prodded me with futile questions since my diagnosis. No wonder cancer patients developed black humor as a survival tactic. It came so easily now. How should I answer his question? Just checking to make sure there were fresh sheets in the guest room? Getting the key to our safe for your convenience? I answered him with silence and continued up the stairs.
He ran over and grabbed my arm.

My other hand remained on the handrail. I pulled back to resist. He wasn’t a large man, but his goateed face looked thirty years younger, a few years older than Jenny. Before my diagnosis, I’d gone to the gym three times a week and lifted weights. Chemo had weakened me, but I managed to twist my arm out of his grasp, lean into the railing and use the height from the third step to snap my foot into his chest. As he flailed from the blow, he grabbed my hair. The wig pulled from my head. His eyes widened and he uttered a squawk staring at the wig in his hand before falling backwards into the lower hallway.

I ran up the stairs as Jenny stumbled out of her room still full of sleep, and I envisioned the toddler she’d once been. I grabbed her arm. “Quick there’s a man, an intruder downstairs. Let’s go into the master bathroom.”

“What? Are you serious?” she asked, but then we heard pounding on the steps.

I pushed her in front of me. Once in the bathroom, I slammed the door shut and locked it, doubting it would stop him for long.

“Do you have your cell phone?” Jenny asked.

“No. Do you?”

“No. What are we going to do?” she asked me, her voice a panicked whisper.

“The first thing I’m going to do is get you out of here.” I surprised myself with my determination and shoved open the bathroom window. “You can get out onto the front porch roof, and then scoot into the valley between the main house roof and the garage. Hide there, but if a car passes, wave and yell to call the cops.” As I worked to remove the screen in the window, the man pounded on the bathroom door.

Image source: Elaine Douts

“Open the door, ladies,” he said. His voice wasn’t loud, which surprised me. Perhaps he’d invaded others’ homes before and had perfected a routine.

I ignored him and put my hand on Jenny’s arm to propel her out the window.

She resisted. “I’m not leaving you, Mom.”

“Oh yes you are,” I said, and pushed her toward to open window. “You can get help.”

“No.” Jenny turned to face me in a boxer’s stance. She had grown to her full height, taller than me by two inches.

I looked up at her as if she were crazy. “Of course you’re going. Staying is nuts.”

“Ladies, open the door before I bust it open.” The intruder sounded irritated, as if we failed to follow his script. I ignored him again.

Jenny squared her body, her feet aligned with her hips. “No, you’re always pushing me away. I’m not leaving.”

“This isn’t the time to defy me. On Friday night when I want you home before midnight– defy me then, not now.”

“This isn’t defiance–it’s demand.”

“What do you mean?”

“You know damn well what I mean.”

Why did she sound like me? I wasn’t sure what she was saying, but I knew it had nothing to do with the current situation. “I want you safe.”

“I want you safe, too,” Jenny said, echoing my words.

An abrupt bang resounded against the door. “Open the door, now,” the intruder said. The quietness of his voice unnerved me. He was more insistent this time.

Anger flashed over me. How dare he? In the last six months, new demands had been thrust at me that I never wanted, resented, but I couldn’t deny. Juggling chemo, while maintaining a normal life for my husband and daughter, was wearing thin. The twit at the door had no idea his demands were last on my list of priorities. “Jenny,” I said, using my most authoritative mother voice, “go now.”

“No. You can’t order me away anymore.”

“I will break this door down,” the intruder said.

“Oh shut up,” I yelled back. “We’re having a discussion.”

“What?” Incredulity seemed to color the intruder’s question.

I ignored him. He had no idea that I faced death every day. I was only concerned for my daughter, who wasn’t complying with my wishes. She faced me looking angry too. “You haven’t let me go with you to any of your chemo appointments.”

“Do we have to discuss this now?” My disbelief at her poor timing must have been apparent.


“Honey, you don’t want to go with me.”

“Yes, I do.”

“In the first place, it’s boring. In the second place, it’s awful. I don’t want you around all that sickness and death.”

“You pushed me away. We should be fighting this together. You’ve pushed Dad away, too.”

“I’m not. I’m trying to protect you. My friends can take me to and from chemo. Your life should be normal.”

“My mother has cancer and I’m supposed to act as if nothing is wrong?”

We faced each other, arms crossed against our chests. “Yes,” I said, aware that my answer sounded stupid.

“Open the door, now!”

Jenny and I turned toward the door simultaneously and yelled, “No.”

“That’s crazy, Mom. I’m not going to pretend everything is normal. I won’t live in denial even if you are.”

Was I living in denial? No, I wasn’t in denial. I was totally and absolutely furious about having cancer. Jerry, my husband, adjusted with a quiet determination I had yet to muster. My response wasn’t productive the professionals told me. One of the nurses had recommended that I go to a support group. I’d frustrated the counselor by refusing to meet the challenge of chemo.

Resenting cancer made me its victim, a status I needed to lose, she said. I was supposed to become proactive in my treatment, which would boost the effectiveness of the chemo.

She designed visual exercises in which I was supposed to evoke my inner warrior. What inner warrior? There were no Valkyrie women in my ancestry. It was all make-believe, pretending to decide who would die on the battlefield as if survival were my choice. The counselor wanted me to conquer the cancer by slaying the cells using the chemo as my weapon. I was flunking support-group therapy.

Yesterday, the lady receiving chemo in the hospital bed next to mine said I should look at the hair loss as a way to experiment with hats, as if without chemo I would have missed a great opportunity. Then she winked and donned a black, fuzzy fedora worthy of Marlene Dietrich. I turned away at her prattle as she patted my arm. The only opportunity I’d missed was punching her.

Why did everyone get me mad? I should be appreciative and well-adjusted. I felt like a rebellious child and looked away from my daughter as tears formed in my eyes. “Okay, maybe I haven’t accepted my diagnosis. I don’t want to die and I don’t want you to see me die. I’m angry that I may hurt you, and it’s not my choice at all.”

“See, that’s the problem, Mom.”

“I don’t understand.”

“No, you don’t.”

With another blow to the door, the intruder said, “You bitches are dead meat. Open the door or I’ll knock it down.”
His goateed face appeared in my mind. “By the hair of your chinny-chin-chin?” Sarcasm worked for me.

He must have remembered his fairy tales. “What? That pisses me off.”

Like I cared about his emotional state! It was obvious he didn’t have had a gun or he would have used it by now. “Go steal some stuff, why don’t you?”

“That’s not why I’m here.”

What the hell? “So why are you here?”

“Two reasons. The first is your pot.”

“Pot? What pot?”

“Everyone knows people who get chemo have prescriptions for pot–good pot.”

The nausea removed the extra sixteen pounds I’d accumulated, a pound per year, since I bore Jenny. I felt lousy, but I loved the result. The doctors said I was more than welcome to a prescription for Marinol, a drug containing THC, which would reduce the nausea but also get me high. Being caught up in my own drama was bad enough. Being a bad example to Jenny broke the rules in my motherhood manual. Sure, there are exceptions to the rules, and Jenny would forgive me. But what if I didn’t win this fight?

Would my daughter remember a whacked-out, stoned mother, her final memories for the rest of her, I hoped, long life? No way, wasn’t happening.

“I don’t smoke pot. I don’t want my daughter to have some whacked out pot-head for a mother.”

“You didn’t take the pot?”

Contempt or ridicule? Either way, he thought I was an idiot. Who cared for his opinion? He suffered from false information. Doctors don’t prescribe marijuana.

“Oh for crying out loud,” Jenny said to the intruder. “I know who you can buy it from. Let me give you the kid’s name and phone
number. There’s money in the top drawer of my bureau. Go buy an ounce.”

I turned to Jenny amazed, but she ignored me, opened the cabinet doors and took out appliances, placing them on the countertop.

“What? We’re going to do our hair?”

“No. We’re not doing our hair.” She plugged in all three curling-irons I’d bought her. After using the first one for a week, she claimed it pulled her hair. I bought a Teflon coated iron the next time, but it performed with lackluster results. The third one was smooth and chromed. It finally worked fine. I watched as she took out my old electric rollers. I hated those damn things.

The curlers got so hot they burnt my fingers when I tried to roll them. And after I’d put a few into my hair, I always burnt my hand on the uncovered, hot rods as I selected the next roller.

“So what are we doing?”

“Demonstrating positive action,” Jenny said.


She nodded toward the door and whispered, “We’ll burn him when he tries to get us. Look for anything else we can use.”

I had no intention of fighting the young man. “That’s ridiculous.”

“No, it’s not. Why won’t you fight?”

“I shouldn’t have to.”

“Well you do. ‘Shouldn’t’ doesn’t have anything to do with it.” Jenny glared at me.

Evidently, I frustrated my daughter as well as the medical team, counselor and the intruder. No sounds came from behind the door, which worried me. What was he up to? I hoped he had left, but then I heard a noise.

“What’s that?” I said to Jenny.

She walked over to the door and assessed the noise. “Sound like he got a crow bar, maybe from the garage.”

I heard a splitting sound. The cheap hollow-core door was cracking. “You said there were two reasons you were here. What’s the second reason?” I asked the intruder.

“To kill you,” he said matter-of-factly.


“With two kills, I gain leader status with my gang.” He laughed.

With all the other problems I faced, the intruder’s presence had taken a backseat to my irritation. Now, fear arose, and I felt my stomach quiver. Jenny and I looked at each other. We’d surmised the same thing. His manner was too calm and determined, making him an effective enemy. This reality preempted cancer and threatened Jenny.

Like everything else out of control in my life, my inner warrior, the one the counselor tried to get me to summon, arose. I grew a foot in height and developed muscles like Hulk Hogan. I gritted my teeth, lowered my head and prepared for battle. No one hurts my daughter.

I whipped open the cabinet doors. Underneath the sink, I kept cleaning supplies–spray tile cleaner, spray ammonia for mirrors, baking soda for dental appliances and vinegar for the shower doors. From helping Jenny with science projects I knew combining baking soda with vinegar would cause an explosive, frothing reaction. I took them out, mixed them in a squeeze container I used for lotion when I traveled and shut the applicator before the mixture escaped. Jenny grabbed the pail holding her old bath toys. She took her squirt gun and filled it with ammonia.

“I have a good aim,” she said, with a nasty smirk she threw towards the door.

I heard the door crack again and saw the hinges skew.

“There’s Carla,” Jenny said, from her view of the window.

Carla’s car pulled up in her driveway. As she got out, I yelled for her to call the cops. Her mouth dropped, and she ran into her house. The bathroom door gave way.

The intruder pulled out a knife and grinned. “The cops won’t get here in time to save either of you.”

Jenny lifted her squirt gun and pulled the trigger. Ammonia streamed into his eyes. He dropped to his knees, bent over, covered his eyes with his hands and howled. The knife clattered onto the tile floor. Jenny bent over to get the knife.

“Careful, pick it up by the blade,” I said, contrary to my normal admonishment. “His fingerprints are on the handle.”

She took my advice and threw it out the window. We’d find it later.

I ripped two curling-irons off the counter, yanking the cords out of the outlet, and hit him in the neck with the hot irons pressing them against his skin. He yowled in pain, writhed up on his knees, facing us, grabbed at the irons and burnt his hands. Jenny stuffed hot curlers down his athletic shorts. The netting around his privates held the curlers like they were made for the purpose. He grabbed his crotch, which pressed the searing curlers into his privates, a result he hadn’t considered.

Jenny took the curler appliance from the counter, dumping the rest of the curlers so the hot rods were bare. When he let go of his crotch, she slammed the hot rods into his chest, toppled him over backwards and then straddled him while branding him with the rods.

I grabbed my hair dryer and wound the cord around his ankles securing his legs.

“You really ought to let us wash the ammonia from your eyes before they’re permanently damaged,” I said.

He opened his eyes, and Jenny leaned back to give me a clear shot. I squirted the baking soda/vinegar solution at him. It erupted out of the container, smacked his eyes with a velocity and an acidity I appreciated. Elementary school science rocked. Jenny and I had loved the exploding volcano project.

His mouth dropped, as if he were dumbfounded that anything we could inflict would damage him. The kid was arrogant and ignorant–typical, young male. I took out the portable clothes line and extracted the cord. Jenny knew I wanted to tie his hands so she lifted up on her knees and flipped him over. As his face started to slam onto the tile floor, he tried to protect his face by carrying his weight on his elbows. I yanked one arm back, and Jenny took hold of the other. She held both of his wrists together as I tied his arms behind his back with the cord. His face crunched into the tile. I heard the pop of his nose. He screamed.

Seeing him trussed, squealing like a pig, I said. “I’d quit the gang, dude. You’re one of the three little pigs, not the Big, Bad Wolf.”

A siren screeched in the distance, getting louder as it came down our road. Carla came out her front door and directed the cops to our house. I yelled to the patrolmen to enter through the screen door and come upstairs.

The police took our statements and found the knife in the front yard. One of the patrolmen noticed the intruder’s injuries.

“What did you do to him?”

“Just gave him some beauty treatments,” I said.

“Nothing women don’t go through every day,” Jenny added.

The patrolman rolled his eyes. After they left with the punk in their custody, Jenny and I sat at the kitchen table.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I didn’t mean to push you away.”

“Two can fight better than one, Mom. We’ve got the entire summer. By the time I go back to school, you’ll be finished with the chemo, recovered.”

I admired her positive stance and felt affirmation in her belief. “Yes, I’ll be cancer-free,” I said. My conviction wasn’t false bravado. My warrior wouldn’t fail me now.

“Tomorrow I’m coming with you to chemo. If you need pot, I can get it for you.”

I shook my head at my Valkyrie daughter and was about to wave my finger in her face, but I stopped and saluted. “Yes, ma’am, commander. We’ll fight this together, and we’ll win.”

E. B. Davis’s short stories have appeared online and in print. Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays, included “Compromised Circumstances.” The Carolina Crimes: 19 Tales of Lust, Love, and Longing anthology contained “Ice Cream Allure,” and “Wishing for Ignorance” was chosen for A Shaker of Margaritas: That Mysterious Woman. She blogs at writerswhokill.blogspot.com. Look at her website at: www.ebdavismysteries.com

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Picture Was Old by Maria Ruiz

by Maria Ruiz

Since this story involves a mother, it seemed perfect for Mother's Day.

The picture was old, the edges bent and broken from the many hands and years it had been subjected to. The photograph showed a group of smiling faces, 12 of them, young and younger, from about two years old to almost 20, the faces of a loving family.

I looked at it and could see the smiles of my beloved aunts and uncles, from youngest to oldest. They were seated at a long wooden table with what looked like tortillas and a bowl of beans to be shared among the gathering.

There was Aunt Annabel, Uncle Everett, one I didn’t know, Uncle Pablo, my mother, Aunt Maria, Uncle Ernesto, Uncle Manuel, Uncle José, Uncle Seth, another one I didn’t know, and Uncle Feliz.

I yelled to Mom again, “How many brothers and sisters do you have?”

“Why do you ask again? I told you, there were three girls and six boys that lived. Now stop asking me.”

I shook my head; Mom could account for nine, but this picture showed 12 faces. Who were the extra boys and girl at the table?

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Someone called me outdoors and I put the photo in my drawer and forgot it.

Several years passed, and I was cleaning out the drawer before we put it into the Salvation Army trunk. I picked up the mysterious picture and slipped it into my pocket instead of the box of photos and mementos that we were collecting.

Grandpa had died, and Mom and Aunt Suzy were cleaning out the furniture. Being the eldest of Mom’s kids, I was drafted to help. Sometimes I became overpowered with grief and would have to stop. Sometimes it was Mom or Aunt Suzy, but slowly we cleaned out all the drawers and under the seat cushions of the sofa and chair.

I stepped back and looked about. It was a little, one bedroom house with one tiny bathroom. Someone had added a couple of side rooms over the years using scrap lumber, and had furnished it with furniture that had been thrown out. Several of the four dressers in the house had one or more drawers missing. The seats on the sofa were collected from three other sofas, probably thrown out. The rocking chair in the living room had duct tape holding the arm together. All in all, I couldn’t imagine that the Salvation Army could use any of it.

The house itself was to be flattened and a new high-rise apartment building was going up on the lot. Life was changing before my young eyes. I reached down and patted the photo. I would guard this piece of life from the past.

Image source: Margaret Mendel

My mother had married a serviceman, and he moved all over the world, dragging his four kids with him. We only got back every few years to the town where Mom’s family lived. They were our only relatives and we were always the outsiders, strangers to the cousins and visitors to the occasional family get-together.

The family gathered at the mission for the brief service for Grandpa. I watched as all the sons and daughters milled around. Each of them came with spouses and children and it wasn’t always easy to count them. One, two, three, four, maybe five. My sister called me to sign the book and when I looked up, the group had melted away to find their seats.

The next chance I got to count the family was when we were gathered around the freshly dug grave. I knew that Uncle Feliz and Aunt Norma were unable to come. Mom stood next to Uncle Ernesto and in front of Uncle Stephen. His face had been one I couldn’t recognize.

After the ceremony, the family moved to one of the back rooms which had been donated for us to use that day. Aunt Annabel was pouring punch and several of the other aunts by marriage were setting food on the table. Mom was in the kitchen making coffee.

Some of the uncles were setting out folding chairs. The place was a beehive of activity. I moved over to Aunt Annabel and asked if I could question her a little about the family. She nodded and grabbed a passing aunt to watch the punch bowl.

Finding chairs out of the rush of milling people, I pulled out the photo and handed it to her. “I know this is a photo of the aunts and uncles, but there are more here and I don’t know who is who.”

Aunt Annabel started laughing. “Why yes. I can tell you. It was during the Depression and there were many out of work, especially here, in Santa Barbara where there is no industry. You could walk down State Street and see men, boys, and girls just sitting on the curbs. They didn’t live here, just passing through on the way to some farm or another where they hoped to find work. The railroad passed through town and some would jump off, hoping a miracle would happen. Well you know, we didn’t have anything. Sometimes we went to bed hungry. We all slept where we could find a place to lie down.

“Grandpa worked sometimes and then went on drinking binges. He tried to start a construction business and it would have gone broke if it wasn’t for your uncles. They were the ones that kept it going and got the work done. In the middle of that, Grandpa would bring home a homeless boy or girl. They would share some tortillas and beans, stay for a day or two, then move on. When Seth and Feliz came, they helped in the business; they stayed. Aunt Louise stayed and helped with the younger ones. I still don’t know why, but they just moved in. Life must have been horrible for them to think that ours was better. No one ever asked them why, we just moved over and passed the bowls.”

Her story opened up a new understanding of life during the Depression. It also explained why my mother was so generous, even when we had so little ourselves. She never let fruit from the trees, or excess vegetables from the garden go spoiled. She filled our little red wagon with avocados, apricots, plums, oranges and lemons and sent us walking up Main Street during World War II with a sign saying “Free Fruit Take What You Need.” It never took long to empty the wagon. Excess squash or tomatoes joined the fruit, and on those rare occasions when she fixed enough food to feed an army, bowls of soup or stew would be added. My sister and I never questioned her actions as we watched people reach for a fresh plum or apricot. The smiles on their faces when they bit into the tree-ripened delight was reward enough.

Even though I had never thought about her generosity, knowing how she had grown up in poverty, yet shared what little she had, made a big impression on me. I would never forget those generous people and I always wonder at those who have so much and would rather fight than share.

Maria Ruiz was born in Santa Barbara, California; her family had been there since the Spaniards first converted the Indians & created small towns. She graduated from the University of San Diego State in 1972 & taught for 8 years before starting her own business. After retiring she began a ten-year odyssey to visit and live in 57 countries around the world. She just recently relocated to California. Her book, I’ll be in the Fourth Grade Forever, can be ordered on Smashwords & Amazon. Her blog can be found at mariaruizauthor.com.

The Kevin Chabiel Music Festival - It's history and future vision

by Debbie Castleberry

In 1975, two young students met in band while attending Cherry Avenue junior high school. Kevin Chabiel played the saxophone and Warren Castleberry played the trumpet. Under the direction of Susan Shaghoian (now Susan Burley) they both blossomed into accomplished musicians and went on to the play in the concert, jazz, and marching bands.

After graduating junior high, they both attended Tulare Union High School and were fortunate to be mentored and taught by the esteemed band director Bill Ingram. They participated in the jazz, concert, marching and honor bands all four years, playing in the Pasadena Rose Bowl parade, Hollywood Christmas parade, Portland Rose Festival, Disneyland, Canada and many other local and National events. The experiences they shared for those six years would bond them for a lifetime. Neither Kevin nor Warren could know the path that lay ahead of them.

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Shortly after high school, Warren's life would take him out of California and away from his friends and family for many years. In 2005, while living in Illinois, Warren was hit by a farming truck while riding his motorcycle to work. He was critically injured and lost his left leg. His rehabilitation was long and in his desire to rebuild his life he made the decision to return to his hometown of Tulare California.

Warren has recently become the recipient of a running blade and named an ambassador for the state of California for the Amputee Blade Runners. The Amputee Blade Runners is a national charity organization that provides free athletic prosthetics to amputees who wish to promote and stay in an active life style. Warren will be completing his fifth marathon event this spring.

Kevin on Sax

During Warren's time away from the central valley area Kevin continued to play his saxophone and also became an accomplished keyboardist. Kevin worked with many local and national artists. Working on commercials, promotional videos, and performing live anytime he could. Some of the bands Kevin worked with were: Ruckus, which opened for John Michael Montgomery, 198 Express, and Class Action. While working full time driving truck for J.D. Heiskell and Co., Kevin still managed to mentor many musicians, as well as volunteer his time to those in need. In doing so, Kevin cultivated a reputation of respect and was loved by many.

In 2009, shortly after Warren returned home, the two friends reunited through a mutual friend and vocalist Gina Taylor and quickly picked up where they left off. By this time, Kevin was becoming involved in recording and sound mixing, which was also a passion of Warren's. Kevin had started a new band called Class Action and asked his long time friend to join him running the sound, which Warren was happy to do. The two spent long hours rehearsing and performing with the band and their friendship blossomed.

In 2014, Kevin began to experience frequent stomach pain and his friends and family noticed that he was not quite himself. Under the urging of his mother Josie, Kevin went to see his doctor. The news was shocking. Kevin was diagnosed with stage four inoperable pancreatic cancer. His friends and family were devastated. Kevin was always a person with a very positive attitude and he never wanted anyone around him to be sad and never liked to be the center of attention. Regardless of what level of musician he played with during his career he always made those around him feel as if it was his honor to be with them, and never saw himself above anyone. Kevin vowed to fight this disease with this same positive attitude. He continued to plan his life as if he wasn't sick. He had become an avid gun enthusiast and still wanted the family to get together at the shooting range and continue to do the other things they all normally enjoyed together. On October 24, 2014, Kevin lost his battle with cancer. Until the day he passed he was still making others smile.

Because music was such a large part of Kevin's life his friends, family, and fellow musicians came together following his funeral to honor him with music. It was during this tribute that the dream to keep Kevin's memory and music alive was born. Warren's wife Debbie was inspired to do what Kevin always did, give joy and promote togetherness through music.

Soon there after Debbie and Warren asked Kevin's family members for permission to create the Annual Kevin Chabiel Music Festival. The dream was to host an annual music festival to benefit charities and Kevin's music scholarship that would feature local, and hopefully at some point, national artists. Honoring Kevin's vision that music is a passion and art form to be enjoyed by all. Kevin's family was in complete support and thrilled that Kevin's legacy would live on. Working together with the Castleberry's the planning for the dinner and concert began.

This year's inaugural festival will benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Kevin and his band Class Action donated their talents to LLS and supported their mission of raising awareness and funds to provide life saving research for blood cancers, as well as patient and family services. As members of Team in Training, an endurance sports training team that raises money for LLS, the Castleberrys suggested the charity. Because Kevin's life was taken by cancer and his previous support of LLS, everyone involved agreed it was the best charity for the first festival.

Finding the bands for the concert was an easy task. Because Kevin was so well known and loved by so many musicians, everyone that was asked to participate in the fundraiser agreed to do so, donating all of their time and talents to the cause. Because of the generosity of so many friends, family and community members that were willing to sponsor this event and make it a reality, the dream has grown from a small gathering to a large dinner and concert for the entire community to enjoy. Partnering with larger sponsors J.D. Heiskell and Pride Electric, The Kevin Chabiel Music Festival has become a reality.

The artists who will be performing for the festival are: Califas, The Charades, Rene Emilio, 3 and the Machine featuring Gina Taylor, Eddie Hernandez, The Heat, Landes Dung, and DJ Beat Rock, most of who performed with Kevin and were long time friends. Many raffle prizes were donated to include a guitar by Whites Music.

Tickets are $30.00 per person and can be purchased by visiting the festival's website at www.kcmusicfestival.org. Your ticket includes dinner and the concert. The concert will be taking place on May 16 at 5 p.m., at The Tulare Ag Center, 4500 S. Laspina St. in Tulare.

All proceeds will benefit LLS.

If you would like to learn more about the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society please visit www.lls.org.

Debbie Castleberry has 24 years working with non-profit organizations and has been both a participant and mentor with the Central Valley Chapter of Team In Training. She has completed eleven half marathons, one full marathon, and will be completing her twelfth half marathon on May 31 in San Diego.

No Vacancy: A Black Horse Campground Mystery By Amy M. Bennett

by Cynthia Chow

Details on how to win a copy of this book at the end of the review.

Corrie Black is jubilant as she celebrates the first No Vacancy day at her Black Horse Campground. After a drought and fire restrictions the previous year (no campfires allowed tended to dampen campers’ enthusiasm), there is cause to enjoy the early success of this year’s complete booking. Corrie couldn’t be happier to finally see the success of her family’s campground, which she took over following the death of her father.

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Corrie’s exuberance is cut short when she receives an anonymous note under the store’s door, warning her to close the campground on Saturday as her life is in danger. Bonney County Sheriff Rick Sutton immediately begins an interrogation of all of the staffers present, and suspicion soon falls on a mysterious customer who seemed to have an eerie fascination with Corrie.

Image source: Oak Tree Press

As Corrie worries about the safety and success of her campground, she is guarded both by Sutton and the newly-arrived former Houston Police narcotics detective, J.D. Wilder. While Wilder seems to be developing stronger feelings for Corrie, a formidable barrier exists in the form of Sutton, whose protectiveness over her is rivaled only by his respect for her independence. Corrie’s inner strength is considerable, and this will prove fortunate as she delves into her own family’s secrets to determine who is threatening her beloved campground.

As the perspectives shift between Corrie and J.D., readers are given glimpses into their lives and their tentative feelings for one another. Black Horse Campground is its own little community, and the lives of the staffers are a soap opera of miscommunication and romantic strife. This third installment in the series continues to follow the dynamic and evolving relationships of its large cast of enjoyable characters, with a conclusion that will have readers eagerly awaiting the next installment.

To enter to win a copy of No Vacancy, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Vacancy,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen May 16, 2015. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address.

Use this link to purchase the book & a portion goes to help support KRL & an indie bookstore:

Cynthia Chow is the branch manager of Kaneohe Public Library on the island of Oahu. She balances a librarian lifestyle of cardigans and hair buns with a passion for motorcycle riding and regrettable tattoos (sorry, Mom).

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

"The Marvelous Wonderettes" On Stage At the Reedley Opera House

by Lorie Lewis Ham

You can be transported to the '50s and '60s in the month of May by attending the musical comedy The Marvelous Wonderettes at the Reedley Opera House.

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The Marvelous Wonderettes pays homage to the high school Songleader squads of the 1950s. Springfield High Songleaders, Betty Jean (Lana Rotan), Cindy Lou (Makayla Cowin), Missy (Courtney Cowin) and Suzy (Laramie Woolsey), are called upon at the last minute to entertain at their senior prom. The first act takes place entirely at the prom and interwoven amongst the songs we get to know a bit about the four friends. Missy is the leader of the group and is a bit more proper and responsible than the others. Betty Jean, or BJ as she prefers, is the tomboy and has some anger issues. Suzy is a bit innocent and your stereotypical ditsy blonde. Cindy Lou is the boy chasing, prom queen type of girl, who isn't above stealing someone else's boyfriend. In this act, the girls sing some of the great and familiar pop songs of the day like "Mr. Sandman," "Lolipop," "All I Have to Do is Dream," and many others.

Left to right-Missy (Courtney Cowin), Suzy (Laramie Woolsey), Cindy Lou (Makayla Cowin), and in back Betty Jean (Lana Rotan)

Act 2 is set at their 10 year reunion where we get to see what has happened to the girls during that time. I won't share how their lives have changed, but some have changed massively, while others seem to still be stuck back in high school. Through the '60s songs of this act, the girls share their joys and pain. Songs in the second act include "It's My Party," "Leader of the Pack," and "RESPECT."

All four girls fit their roles perfectly. Lana and Laramie are a riot and keep you laughing all through the show. Each girl gets several solos, and you are treated to a lot of girl group type harmony. The songs are pretty and fun and each girl has a lovely voice. If you are looking for a fun time out with lots of laughter and great music, don't miss The Marvelous Wonderettes, which will be on stage at the Opera House in Reedley until May 17. This would be a perfect show to take mom to on Mother's Day! Tickets can be purchased on their website or by calling 559-638-6500.

Lorie Lewis Ham is KRL's editor-in-chief/publisher. She has published in many venues through the years and has 5 published mystery novels. You can learn more about Lorie's writing on her blog Mysteryrat's Closet.