A Writer’s Serendipity or How Research Saved My Book

As a blogger and science nerd, I try to keep up with science news from a variety of sources. Oddly, that curiosity rarely benefits my writing. My writing style follows a diagonal on the chart below: Lawful Plantser, True Plantser, and Chaotic Plotter. And that’s pretty much how my research goes, too. I start with a plan and end going off script. This is the story of a writer’s serendipity or how research saved my book.

Image of a 3 x 3 table listing Lawful panther, neutral panther, chaotic panther in top row, lawful plaster, true plaster, chaotic plaster on the next row, and lawful plotter, neutral plotter and chaotic plotter on the final row.

My Research Method

Targeted research is when one narrows their topic and is very selective in choosing books and articles for said research. Targeted research is always my intent, it rarely is what gives me the most inspiration.

I love Google Maps. They allow me to “travel to” areas I’ve never visited. But the maps don’t give me the smells, the texture, or the mood of the place. For those, I search out travel blogs, expat blogs, and personal blogs. Sometimes, I reach out to a blogger for more details. Usually, bloggers respond with more information than I need. And that’s a lovely thing.

Sometimes, I need more hands-on research. That may mean a visit to a museum or a road trip to a location.

Be Prepared

Serendipity has been a big part of the Fellowship Dystopia Series. Although it isn’t quite serendipitous if you’re looking in the correct direction.

For example, I had selected Lynchburg, Virginia as a location in the first book, My Soul to Keep, because of its history and location. But until I visited Lynchburg, I did not know about the former Virginia State Epileptic Colony.

I happened upon the historical marker as I drove through the area around Lynchburg. After researching the Colony, it became a source of inspiration and an important location in the book.

Image of a historical marker which reads Centeral Virginia Training Center.  Established in 1910 as the Virginia State Epileptic Colony the center admitted its first patients in May 1911. It's an example of a writer's serendipity or how research saved my book.

Don’t Research Everything

When I first started writing, I would research the heck out of every topic and location I wanted to include in the book. It was a tremendous amount of work and I would amass more files than I could store (both physical and virtual).

You know what all the research did? Squat. Typically, I used very little of the research I collected before I started writing the book. Often, in writing the story, I’d find the research didn’t fit the book. Not only that, no matter how much I think I’ve planned the book, more than one thing changes during the writing. All that research work was a waste of time.

These days, I will research a general topic or time period or location. When I accumulate three or more pages of notes, I move on to another topic or I write.

It’s when I write the first draft that the real serendipity research happens.

Everyone Must Follow Their Own Best Flow

Legions of writing mentors will tell you not to stop writing once you start your first draft. Their belief is that if you interrupt the creative process, you will lose your way. That was true of me when I first started writing. Anything that interrupted my writing threw me off course or straight into what many refer to as writer’s block.

What works for me now is to research as I go. I write as far as I can based on my imagination or memory. When the writing stutters and I can’t seem to get through the next scene, I take a few hours to a few days for research.

When I’m in the middle of a draft, my head is full of possibilities. Maybe my character will go here and do this. Or do that and go there. Or…. It’s nonstop and a bewildering plethora of possibilities. But with a bit of research, my writer’s brain (some call this their muse) will latch onto some bit of information. That piece of information focuses my writer’s brain and writing the draft takes off again.

Serendipity Strikes Again

Recently, I was researching a blog article I wanted to write. I needed more scientific research to back up my story. I turned to one of my frequent sources, Sciencenews.org. My search of their website was fruitless. But the site was celebrating their 100th anniversary. 

My curiosity overcame what little resistance I had. I clicked on one of their original stories, and that resulted in another bit of writer’s Serendipity.

Dated September 19, 1921, the article titled, “Urges Artificial Selection to Produce American Race of Demigods” is a peek into a certain mindset. And a piece of a book I haven’t even outlined was born. Perhaps a character may grow out of this article.

Stay tuned to this blog to see if the final version of And When I Wake, the third book of the Fellowship Dystopia series, will use this bit of a writer’s serendipity or how research saved my book.

If I Should Die, a Sneak Peek at a Revision-in-Progress

A sneak peek is a portion of a story in progress. It’s an early draft which means there are grammatical errors, punctuation errors, and probably some story errors, too. So why post a sneak peek? It’s a tease of what’s coming. It’s a test—does this work? And it’s a peek into the writing process many readers enjoy. This snippet is from the revision draft and is part of a new chapter. So, without further ado, I present this sneak peek-revision draft, If I should Die, book two in the Fellowship Dystopia Series.

Image of a Monk class wooden yacht, the model for the boat in this sneak peek revision draft if I Should Die, book two of the Fellowship Series
a 58′ Monk class, luxury yacht–courtesy of YachtLife–a model similar to The Lady Angelfish

If I Should Die 

By Lynette M. Burrows

Day 2

The aroma of warm pancakes and syrup and the rumble of her stomach woke Miranda before her sleep shift had finished. She needed coffee, but the galley already held two people. David stood at the stove flipping pancakes. 

“Morning, Captain.” Wanda offered her a mug full of hot, black coffee. “Beryl’s piloting. David’s cooking. Mind if I go forward?”

Miranda took the mug. Lifted it and inhaled the fragrance of fresh coffee. “Go ahead.” Someone should get some extra sleep. She sat at the lower helm, sipped coffee, and watched the remaining fog roll off the river.

“Peace offering,” David said behind her.

She faced him. “You and I are not at war.”

He stood, braced in the hatch to the galley against the motion of the boat. Held a plate with a lopsided tower of pancakes.

Her smile broadened at the size of the stack. “That could feed an army.”

“Not after I get my serving.” His mouth twisted, rueful and hopeful at the same time. “Should I take some up to Beryl?”

“No, she’s already had breakfast and will eat again in a couple of hours when I relieve her..” Miranda peered down the passageway behind him. “Where’s Leslie?”

“Coming,” a lilting voice called. Typical landlubber, she lurched down the passageway toward the galley. Her strawberry blonde ponytail bounced behind her. And somehow the borrowed gingham dress fit better today.

Soon all three of them sat at the table and dug into breakfast.

When they’d had their fill, Miranda rose to take the dirty dishes to the galley.

“I’ll take care of those,” Leslie said and took the dishes. Duct tape made an extra seam down the back of her dress.

“I need to say something. Try not to get mad and just listen. Can you do that?” David asked once Leslie had slid the galley hatch door closed.

Miranda folded her arms on the tabletop, leaned forward. “Say what you must, but I won’t change my mind.”

“Even if you don’t believe that the Azrael are being grown again—think about what Leslie told us. There are Fellowship labs hidden in former mines hundreds of feet beneath the surface. That alone is cause for alarm. The Fellowship is up to something. If they’re not growing an army of assassins, maybe they’re making munitions, or a poisonous gas, or prisons for folk like us.”

“And that’s what you should focus on when you talk to Monkshood.”

He tilted his head, studied her.

The thrum of The Lady’s engines and the slap of water on her hull filled the silence between them.

“You still don’t see that you and Beryl should take precautions?” His voice held disbelief and a tinge of anger.

“They aren’t doing that just for Beryl and I.”

“No. They’re doing it for you and your refugees.”

The idea of an underground Redemption seized her in a tight, icy grip. She swallowed. Wiped her sweaty palms on her culottes. “All right. You’re right. Monkshood needs to know this. We’ll make sure you and Leslie get to that meeting.” She leaned forward. “But this doesn’t mean that my mission has changed. It means the Freedom Waterway is more important than ever.”

David set his mouth, then nodded. “Get us to Waverly. Maybe Monkshood will convince you that this means you have a new mission.”

She almost laughed. We’ll see who out stubborns who.

Want More?

Sneak peeks of the rough draft are available on this blog. See the first installment of chapters one through six.

Book One

Cover of My Soul to Keep shows a blue Fellowship shield in the background with a yellow and orange Washington monument atop that ending in the shield's point and in front of that is the silhouette of a young woman coming toward you.

Miranda lived a charmed life…until she broke the rules.

Now, she’ll fight the tyrants, even if they’re family. Even if it costs her freedom—or her life.

Available at all your favorite online retailers, My Soul to Keep, is book one in the Fellowship Dystopia Series.

Thank You for Reading

Revision is a process of refinement, expansion, and surgical excisions. As a result, chapters from the rough draft disappear or appear in different locations or from a different viewpoint. Kind of like putting a puzzle together, it’s a process I love. But I am not a fast writer. I hope to publish If I Should Die late spring or early summer of 2021. Did you enjoy this sneak peek-revision draft, If I Should Die, book two of the Fellowship Dystopia?

Sneak Peek at Paladina

It’s Friday. Time for another sneak peek at Paladina a WIP (work-in-progress). Paladina is a back-burner story that I work on a little here and there while I finish the Fellowship Dystopia series. Read the first scene of the story. It’s a story I really like and can’t wait to dive into more deeply. Perhaps you’ll feel that way too.

Sneak Peek at Paladina, a work-in-progress by Lynette M. Burrows
Image by R. Burrows ©2004

The Story Sentence

A protection specialist, sworn to defend a tiny Greek village, discovers they are pawns of treasure-hunting alien knights whose game pits her against her long-lost brother to save all of humanity. 

A Story Within the Story

The story, Paladina, takes place in contemporary Greece. But Greece is a land of myth and mystery. This except is the tale told to our protagonist. Will she believe it?


Paladina

by Lynette M Burrows

©2020

In the ancient world, in the city of Githeon, there lived a man named Theolytas. All Greece knew him as a soldier with strength bested only by Achilles and with cunning to equal the great Odysseus. And so when Agamemnon needed warriors to defend Menelaus’s honor, he came to Theolytas of Githeon.

But Theolytas did not raise his shield without Apollo’s approval. And so he consulted the soothsayer, Vasileios. Vasileios foretold Agamemnon would raise a glorious army, the largest in history. And prophesied that Theolytas would find glory in battle and treasure during the sacking of Ilios.

So Theolytas made love to his wife and kissed his children goodbye. He strapped on his armor, loaded provisions and his men-at-arms onto ships, and sailed to the port of Aulis where he joined Agamemnon’s fleet of a thousand ships. Never had Theolytas, nor anyone, seen such a fleet before. And they sailed for battle.

Sneak peek at Paladina includes this illustration of a Greek sailing vessel on ancient Greek pottery.

      But at Aulis, no breath of wind filled their sails for weeks. And when the winds blew again, they fell victim to Apollo’s plague-carrying arrows. Ill winds blew them off-course to Mysia. After many months they sailed into Ilios.     

The Battle for Ilios

      Theolytas distinguished himself as a courageous and formidable warrior against the sons of Priam.  But the sons of Priam retreated to within the impregnable walls of Ilios. And Agamemnon lay siege to the city. And the siege lasted nine long years. 

Theolytas’s men grew weary of the wait, and his treasury and armory thinned. Finally, Odysseus and Theolytas devised a plan.   

And the Princes of Ilios welcomed the great wooden horse into the city. And so lay open the city to Agamemnon, Theolytas, and the soldiers. 

The Treasure

In the last hours of that battle, Theolytas followed a glint of gold and found Paris, lying dead on Mount Ida.  He clutched a plain metal box to his chest. Theolytas wrested the box from the dead man’s hand and opened it. The sight of the golden apple, the sculpted quince, that lay within took his breath away. An inscription on the apple blazed with the words ‘To the Fairest.’ He beheld the apple long after the sounds of battle had ceased. And deep inside Theoloytas a desire, nay a need, grew. He had given ten years of his life and all the wealth of Gytheon for the war. He deserved this one small trinket. It would be his forever.

The Curse

On the journey home through the cities of Greece, Theolytas could not resist the urge to open the box. The apple’s glow drew men to his quarters. But each man who saw the apple fell ill, or crossed blades with Theolytas, or had a misstep. And each met untimely deaths.  

And word of the apple’s beauty passed amongst his men. To protect the apple, he drew his sword against his soldiers, the ship’s slaves, and even the men of villages they passed through.  

Now, Theolytas was a soldier and a little blood on his sword in the time of war did not disturb him, but the blood on his blade as he journeyed home weighed upon him.  Still, he could not let go of the apple.  

He returned to Gytheon and hid the box with the apple in his home. He vowed to leave the box unopened.  But his heart ached, so in the night Theolytas crept to its hiding spot, and opened the box. His wife came to see what disturbed her husband’s sleep and glimpsed the apple. By sunrise, the madness consumed her. 

Theolytas prostrated himself with grief. So great was his grief that he took no notice when his men elected another commander. Nor did he hear his children when they wailed in hunger. Finally, Athena took pity on him and sent him a dream. 

To Break the Curse

Theolytas sought the soothsayer to interpret his dream.  Vasileios told Theolytas that Hera cursed the apple of Eris. The curse of discord fell upon all but the one who held the apple. To break the curse, he must take the apple to the five-fingered mountain and find the giant white toad turned to stone. Behind the toad stood the opening of a cave. He must enter the cave with nothing but a lamp, a flask of water, an offering of the finest wine and roasted lamb, and the apple. Theolytas must partake of only the water and follow the cave to its end where he would find a rift in the wall. He must place the apple in its box deep in that crevice, make the offerings and pray to Zeus for five days. Only then would Zeus lift the curse from Theolytas and his seed. 

But when Theolytas retrieved the apple from its hiding place, he opened the box and its beauty overcame him. He could not bear to never see it again. 

One night as he gazed at the apple, his eldest son entered. The madness struck down his son, and Theolytas rent his clothes in remorse. In mortal fear for his daughter and his youngest son, he prepared for the journey.

      He bound his eyes with a cloth and retrieved the box, wrapped it in an oilskin, and tucked it in the bottom of his pack.  And so he departed for the five-fingered mountains.  

The White Toad

      After a year of wandering, Theolytas begged Apollo for guidance and he found the white rock shaped like a giant toad and behind it, the cave.  For three days he walked deep into the side of the mountain. His heart yearned to see the apple one more time, but he dared not fail.  And stumbling, he found the end of the cave. And with the apple still in its box and wrapped in the oilskin cloth, he thrust it deep into the crevice there. He gave the offerings and prayed.  

      After five days of prayer, weak with hunger he fell unable to rise. He cried out to Zeus that he had done all he, a mere mortal, could do. And Zeus saw what Theolytas had done and withdrew the curse from him. And Theolytas heard a river gurgle and fish leaped into his hands. He regained his strength, left the cave and returned to his home.

Free of the curse, Theolytas and his kin prospered. His daughter married a governor who led Gytheon in peace for 30 years. His son became a potter, famous for his kylix painted with the presentation of the apple at the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. He painted one, just one, with the story of his father and the apple. He gave that one to his father. When Theolytas would yearn to see the apple, he would gaze at the kylix and the story painted there and the feeling would pass. And so, Theolytas lived a long and peaceful life. And the apple and its curse remained deep beneath the five-fingered mountains within the cave of the toad-shaped rock.


Inspiration

Obviously, the inspiration is Greek mythology. I’ve been enamored of all things Greek since childhood. In this story I get to mix Greek gods and aliens and heroic female protagonists. What could be more fun?

And the Story will Continue

Readers of My Soul to Keep may have noticed that I love telling a story within a story. If you’re unaware of the Greek mythology behind the golden apple, or need a refresher, you might want to check out MythMan. I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek at Paladina a WIP. Did you remember the myth of the golden apple? Are there other myths you enjoy?

Sneak Peek: If I Should Die Chapter 6

Welcome to sneak peek, If I Should Die Chapter 6. This is the sixth (Duh) installment of sneak peeks at my WIP (work-in-progress). If you’ve already read chapters 1-5, skip the synopsis and recap and go to the section labeled chapter 6.

This symbol is a red shield bisected by a white cross. White stylized angel wings hover along side the upper third of the shield. The Fellowship Shield is a symbol that invokes fear for the characters of If I Should Die, Chapter 6 and for the whole book.

If I Should Die is book two in The Fellowship Dystopia Series (formerly called the My Soul to Keep series.) It’s the continuation of Miranda’s story (book one, My Soul to Keep).

Miranda has built a successful Safe Harbor rescue system across the inland waters of the United States. Refugees from the religious oppression of the Fellowship find safety and freedom aboard the Safe Harbor boats. But now her brother needs rescued so he can complete his mission. She’s committed to helping him, but she’s a peace-loving woman. Will she resort to violence and save lives or stick to her principles and sacrifice many?

ReCap

Chapter One: Miranda pilots her yacht, the Lady Angelfish, up the Missouri River to rescue her brother, but the U.S. Coast Guard and a Second Sphere agent stop her for a “routine” inspection. You can read a brief sample or watch me read the entire Chapter One.

Chapter Two: Irene, Miranda’s sister, can’t believe she’s the wife of the newly appointed Prophet. Nor can she believe she’s at the White House sitting with President Joseph Kennedy Jr. But there are drawbacks to being the Prophet’s wife. When she’s offered a role in a new “secret” project, she’s more than intrigued. You can watch me read the entire Chapter Two or read a brief sample.

Chapter Three: As a nighttime thunderstorm rages, Beryl tries to persuade Miranda to wait. But Miranda insists she must go ashore to find her brother. And since Beryl has sworn to protect Miranda, she must go too. But when someone sneaks up on them, Beryl’s hesitation to shoot endangers them. You can watch me read the entire Chapter Three or read a brief sample.

Chapter Four: After Miranda rescues her brother, he insists she’s in danger because his refugee claims that the Azrael are being reborn. Beryl reminds him that they destroyed the island with all the equipment and records for how to clone Azrael. Miranda can’t help but believe that since they had a Second Sphere agent on board, the Lady Angelfish earlier in the day and he didn’t recognize them, they are safe.You can watch me read the entire Chapter Four or read a brief sample.

Chapter Five: Irene is enjoying a day out with her daughters. Their visit to an ice cream parlor erupts into pandemonium when a car bomb explodes nearby. Life interrupted and delayed the YouTube video of this reading, but it should appear soon. Or you can read a brief sample.

If I Should Die, Chapter 6

By Lynette M. Burrows ©2020

Beryl gripped the pilot’s wheel tighter. She had a bad feeling about this trip. And so far she’d been right. Everything had gone wrong.

Submerged rocks and snags, the rock jetties that lined the shores, and the river’s rapid current made the Missouri a navigation nightmare under normal circumstances. Now they also had a river littered with debris from the storm. Silent projectiles and snags that lay in wait for them. How did Miranda avoid scuttling the Lady last night? In the dark with the storm stirred water, there’s no way she could have seen everything. Luck? More than luck?

Beryl had delayed launch because of the early morning fog. Finally, when the sun had burned off the fog and warmed the air, she launched. Only a half-hour upriver debris foul the props and before she’d caught on to the problem, flooded and overheated the engines. Somehow Wanda cleared the props and the flooded engines in a little less than an hour. Once bitten, Beryl didn’t let her attention waiver.

She slowed the engines and guided the boat around whatever sunken object lay beneath another bump in the water. Got the boat back into the travel lane. The slap of water on rocks made a percussion counterpoint to the burble of the engines.

Behind the trees to port, a car zoomed up a county road that twisted away from the river. She couldn’t keep from smiling. Ever since she’d escaped Redemption, she couldn’t get enough of the sights and sounds of the land.

She spotted the next mile marker buoy. Only 71? Damn. Good thing the meet isn’t until nine o’clock tonight. Might take us that long to get there.

A glance at the chart confirmed what she knew. They would reach the staunch Fellowship town of Jefferson City about noon. Not the greatest timing. Only one of the challenges this trip entailed.

So reckless to take the Lady halfway to Kansas City, but that was Miranda’s decision. Beryl snorted. So glad to not make those kinds of decisions anymore. And as long as the weather held, no slow traffic got in the way, and Murphy’s Law stayed away—they’d deliver their passengers on time. Not soon enough, but at least it was a relatively short trip.

Birds chirped. A soft, warm breeze caressed her skin. She inhaled the fresh scent of damp earth. One could almost imagine the Fellowship didn’t exist.

“Good morning,” an unfamiliar female voice called.

Beryl spared a quick glance behind her.

The girl refugee, Leslie, stood on the main deck close to the doors to the salon.

Attention back on the water, Beryl remembered her manners. “Good morning.” What is the refugee doing outside? Does she want to be seen? Or does she plan to argue about the Azrael again? “Living dangerously?”

“Wanda said it was safe to come out now. She said I could hang some wet things on the clothesline.”

“Sure.” Beryl guided the boat past yet another rock jetty. “But we’ve got less than ten minutes before we pass the next Fellowship town.”

“I’ll hurry.” The girl noisily clambered up onto the locker.

The squeal of the retractable clothesline sounded. Soon, clothes snapped and popped in the breeze and the girl’s footsteps retreated into the salon.

That was okay with Beryl. She wasn’t much of a conversationalist. In fact, she wasn’t much of a people person either. Ten years in Redemption’s isolation cells had seen to that.

Flap-flap. Redemption also had made her acutely aware of sounds. She glanced over her shoulder. Two pairs of blue jeans, two shirts, and two jackets fluttered in the breeze. His and hers?

The boat pitched against waves. She concentrated, scanned the waters over and over. The miles passed slow and steady.

Honk-honk-honk. Honk-honk. A flock of geese flew over them. Headed south.

She couldn’t fault Miranda for helping her brother. But we damn sure shouldn’t be here. We should be headed south too. Headed to their winter hideaway on Isla Mujeres’s carefree beaches. Trouble waited for them upriver. She could feel it.


Coming Soon

The current crisis notwithstanding, my hope—my plan—is to publish If I Should Die in the late fall. If you would like to stay up-to-date on my progress and be part of my advanced readers team, please sign up for Burrows Insiders.

What’s Your Vote?

If I Should Die, chapter 6  is as far as I had planned to take these sneak peeks. I had hoped the need to shelter at home would have passed by now. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is here to stay awhile. As always, I wish safety and health for you and your loved ones. Please take a moment and vote in the comments below. Should I continue sneak peeks with If I Should Die? Yes or No?

Sneak Peek, If I Should Die Chapter 5

TGIF! Though these days Fridays don’t feel the same, do they? However, this Friday is your Sneak Peek, If I Should Die Chapter 5 episode. (If you don’t want to wade through the recap, skip down to Chapter Five.)

For the Sneak Peek, If I Should DIe, Chapter 5, an Image of the Fellowship shield-a red shield sectioned by a white cross with stylized wings extending from the top third of the shield.

If I Should Die is book 2 in The Fellowship Dystopia Series (formerly called the My Soul to Keep series.) It’s the continuation of Miranda’s story.

Miranda has built a successful Safe Harbor rescue system across the inland waters of the United States. Refugees from the religious oppression of the Fellowship find safety and freedom aboard the Safe Harbor boats. But now her brother needs rescued so he can complete his mission. She’s committed to helping him, but she’s a peace-loving woman. Will she resort to violence and save lives or stick to her principles and sacrifice many?

ReCap

Chapter One: Miranda pilots her yacht, the Lady Angelfish, up the Missouri River to rescue her brother, but the U.S. Coast Guard and a Second Sphere agent stop her for a “routine” inspection. You can watch me read the entire Chapter One or read a brief sample.

Chapter Two: Irene, Miranda’s sister, can’t believe she’s the wife of the newly appointed Prophet. Nor can she believe she’s at the White House sitting with President Joseph Kennedy Jr. But there are drawbacks to being the Prophet’s wife. When she’s offered a role in a new “secret” project, she’s more than intrigued. You can watch me read the entire Chapter Two or read a brief sample.

Chapter Three: As a nighttime thunderstorm rages, Beryl tries to persuade Miranda to wait. But Miranda insists she must go ashore to find her brother. And since Beryl has sworn to protect Miranda, she must go too. But when someone sneaks up on them, Beryl’s hesitation to shoot endangers them. You can watch me read the entire Chapter Three or read a brief sample.

Chapter Four: After Miranda rescues her brother, he insists she’s in danger because his refugee claims that the Azrael are being reborn. Beryl reminds him that they destroyed the island with all the equipment and records for how to clone Azrael. Miranda can’t help but believe that since they had a Second Sphere agent on board the Lady Angelfish early in the day who didn’t recognize them, they are safe. You can watch me read the entire Chapter Four or read a brief sample.

If I Should Die Chapter 5 takes place in an ice cream store like the 1950s image here of two Soda jerks behind the counter and customers waiting for their treats.

If I Should Die, Chapter 5

By Lynette M. Burrows, © 2020

Irene walked out of  Garfinkel’s Department Store hand-in-hand with her daughters. Each of them carried a small bag with new shoes. Annabelle had a scowl on her face, but Sandra kept up a nonstop happy chatter. Shopping in DC was nothing like Buenos Aires. She missed the colorful shops and especially the open-air market. But the teachers’ conference day gave her an excuse to do things with her girls. Not a cloud marred the blue sky above and the spring-like temperature made this close to a perfect day. Perfect despite Annabelle’s dislike of shopping for shoes.

Irene didn’t want the day to end. A glance at her delicate gold wristwatch put a smile on her face. She’d told the chauffeur to pick them up at three. They had another half-hour to kill. Where should we go? She scanned the street. Half-a block down, a neon sign shaped like an ice cream cone hung above a small shop. “Girls, what do you say to some ice cream?”

Annabelle’s scowl lightened. “Can we have whatever we want?”

Irene grinned. “Banana Splits coming up.” That ice cream confection had been new to Annabelle just a few months ago. It had quickly become her favorite.

Soon the three of them sat at in chairs with heart-shaped wire backs at a round, pink table. The little shop teemed with happy, chattering people. They buzzed back and forth over the display case, oohing and ahhhing at the dozens of flavors and toppings. They ordered ice cream cookies, ice cream cones, and scoops of ice cream.

Irene took a small bite and let the cold creamy strawberry flavor melt in her mouth.

Annabelle attacked her banana split with precision. One bite from the chocolate scoop, one from the strawberry, and the next one from the vanilla.

Sandra dug into a pile of whipped cream and chocolate sauce covered banana. Spoon over-filled, she jammed it into her mouth, leaving a whipped cream mustache behind.

Annabelle giggled.

Irene thought her heart would explode with joy.

A brilliant flash of light blinded her. She blinked, tried to clear the dark spots that danced in her vision. Boom! The glass window shattered and showered the room with glass.

A blow hit Irene, knocked the wind out of her. Rocked the table. Sounds around her had a hollow, down-in-a-barrel quality.

Air whooshed out of her, out of the room.

For a split second, time stopped.

Her ears popped.

Screams and shouts roared.

She gasped, sucked in air. What just happened?

Her pulse roared in her ears and slammed against her chest.

Sprays of shattered glass covered the table.

Covered Irene.

Peppered Sandra’s hair.

Sandra screamed and flailed her arms.

Irene leaped to Sandra’s side. She didn’t seem injured—no blood, no part where it didn’t belong. Wrapping her arms around her daughter, Irene murmured soothing sounds, kissed the top of Sandra’s head, and searched the room. Irene’s pulse raced faster and faster. Annabelle? Where is Annabelle?


Be Safe

The video for Sneak Peek, If I Should Die, Chapter 5 will be up by next Friday. I hope you’ve enjoyed these little bits of work that I’ve shared. More than that, I hope you and your family are safe and well. Thank you for reading!