• “What the hell was that?” I asked as I pulled my seatbelt in the Uber headed toward Bernadine’s parents’ home.

    Bernadine put a finger to her lips and moved her eyes in the direction of the driver. “You never kno […]

    • How sweet for Tom to hide new gloves in B’s coat. Or did he? All this talk of bugs has me suspicious of everything and everyone! Of course Mather had to let everyone know the Mayor called him. Your characters are so distinctive. It’s fun to read about them living up (or down) to expectations.

  • CHAPTER 45

    Like anyone who has had a rough time and is in pain, the future at three in the morning always looks bleak. The monsters under the bed come out to play. They like the dark. They like misery even […]

  • Cilla dropped her hand and let the curtain close.  She sat on the bed,  closed her eyes and took deep breaths, willing herself to calm down and think rationally.  Preston won’t stay out there forever, but it does […]

    • I know I probably shouldn’t feel sympathy for Cilla, given her past and all, but you’ve managed to put her in a sympathetic position and I hope she finds a way to get out and put a stop to whatever Preston is involved in, before he has a chance to lay the blame at his sister’s door.
      Poor Terri, what a rotten way for people to treat each other – but I know it’s based on realism – I saw some of this in our own little town when we saw motorhomes coming from what others assumed was from out of town, giving the outsiders the stink eye and treating them poorly. I never thought the friendly people in our town could act that way, but it’s amazing what fear will do.
      Good for Ralphie and Donnie for helping Terri, it speaks well for them. Terri’s response seemed reasonable, even though Bob won’t understand it – but do I assume that Ralphie and Donnie carried her groceries into the house for her after Terri stormed upstairs?
      Great work!

  • Friday noon. At the front door, our bags were standing at attention.

    “You ready, Emma-Leigh?” I called up the staircase. “Let’s go! I want to get there before sundown.”

    I took the two bags and put them in the bo […]

    • Hi Hanri
      This is a pivotal scene. I love the idea of her trip around the house gathering bits and pieces that won’t be missed (perhaps a metaphor for all the parts of herself she hid in her marriage). I wonder if the intensity of this scene could be built up more. Here she is FINALLY making a choice for herself so everything in this scene needs to amplify that. The walk around the house could include memories that tip her further into her decision. I found myself reading quickly over the paragraphs describing the timing of the leaving, the reason they didn’t go last year and waiting for E-L by the car. Is she going to deliver E-L back to the house at the end of the week as E-L doesn’t have anything at the new house? Michael’s arrival is a great way to build even more tension but he fell a bit flat. He’s a man who likes to get his way so I was surprised at the reaction. And was E-L listening to this conversation? Would she get in the car in the face of hearing. Alma announce this? Can’t wait for next week!!

  • “Do you know what time it is?”

    Anne was not delighted to be called at 10 p.m. but Lilli had anticipated as much.

    “Sorry, sis, it’s an emergency. We no longer have a Dad.”

    “What??? When did this happen?”

    “ […]

    • Tough questions for Lilli to think about! No wonder she is having nightmares. And this seems to be the root of the problem, their inheritance: “Yes, but I don’t mean the money. ” I wonder what the significance of Danielle’s character is–I’m sure she’s been mentioned once or twice in a similar way of being unavailable/busy, but I don’t remember her well. Lilli seems a bit dramatic with the way she explains this situation to herself “we no longer have a dad”. I hope she is able to unpack and understand those feelings.

  • Dear Abby,
    Love reading your column every day. How come
     you’re able to give such good advice?
    Full Of Admiration, 35

    Dear Full Of Admiration,

    Thanks so much! Glad you like my advice.

    I try to stick to is […]

    • Hi Susanne, it does sound like Moon has a bit of a tormented soul. So brilliant and smart at an early age, but it seems it comes with its own drawbacks. She is quite endearing though with her emotional response to her readers:) Well done.

    • That last sentence is so powerful in showing us that Moon has endured hardships. Well done!

    • I don’t remember the source, so let’s give it to that prolific writer – anonymous.
      young person – How do you make such good decisions?
      old person – Experience.
      young person – How do you get experience?
      old person – Bad decisions.

      Great use of the prompt. Will go back and read about Moon.

    • This one made me see Moon a little differently – including a more hardship than we might imagine from someone so young. Well done.

    • Been there, done that, says Moon! No wonder she is able to give good advice, she has lived it! To be able to distill one’s own experiences to help others is an amazing skill! You have done an excellent job of letting us into Moon’s real life. Enjoying the progress of this story!

  • She finally found the opportunity two days later.

    Alone in the house at last, she was terrified that someone should suddenly appear and catch her, even though she had checked and double-checked that everyone had […]

  • Minsang sat cross legged on the bed, dressed in yoga pants and a black t-shirt. Her hair was damp from the shower, her skin soft and sweet smelling with lotion.

    Surrounding her were the contents of the duffel bag […]

    • Oh no! Is it Shiva?
      I’ve lost grasp of Minsang’s past and family tree (which I don’t think was happen if I was reading your book in one sitting as I no doubt would do). So I was really in her head and puzzling it put with her, and just as surprised and scared when the door burst open. I was glad to be reading about Minsang again. The repetition of the old woman’s words is effective. How interesting that Minsang ends up with the clothes and jewelry and isn’t repulsed by them given how they were used. But maybe she hasn’t fully grasped that yet.

      • Oops, I just posted a reply to your comment, but it didn’t reply directly to you – see above. Thanks for reading and for your comments, Kathy. I appreciate it.

    • I know what you mean about keeping track of who’s who and the details of the characters when you’re not reading the story straight through. You really have to pay attention too, as the clues and the facts have been doled out slowly throughout the scenes – I can tell you that Wu Te is Minsang’s biological father, and while the old woman isn’t Wu Te’s biological mother, she is his mother-in-law, and she has some crazy notion that that makes her Minsang’s grandmother.
      Minsang has no idea that she was adopted, so I wanted to spend some time in her head as she figured things out. She still doesn’t know who her father is, the old woman was going to tell her, but she died before she could reveal that little fact.
      Unfortunately, Minsang is going to be a bit busy to give it much thought, however…
      As for Minsang and the dresses – she’s been a bit of an odd character throughout – she really seemed to enjoyed playing dress up, and admired the clothes the old woman chose for her (in my revision, I’m going to have the old woman give her preferential treatment, to make this more reasonable), and she never really felt overly threatened during her captivity, especially since Shiva (Man Ho) always played by the rules of the New Moon Ceremony. I suspect Shiva’s about to start playing by his own rules, though, so we’ll have to wait to see what happens next…

  • Agony Aunt Moon McFarlane switched on her computer. Oh no! An update…always at an inconvenient moment…. She watched the bar grow, showing the progress of the update. When she was at about 75 %, her screen went “Bl […]

    • I like how this gives a sense of connection and communication.
      I noticed ‘went’ appeared twice in this sentence.

      When she was at about 75 %, her screen went “Blip!” and went black.

      I wonder if the second ‘went’ could be changed to eg ‘turned’?

    • Great job Susanne. This was a very heartwarming tale. One correction (I think) is on the line -“she fund just the right email for this day.” – I think it might should have been found (?). I’m really liking Moon.

      • Hi Shelley, you are completely right – thanks for spotting the typo. I‘m glad you like Moon! Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • This was gorgeous Susanne, touched my heart:) Love to think of the dear old grannie sending messages to her family around the world:) We all need to continue to be ‘lifelong learners’ nowadays. It never stops:) Well done.

      • Hi Jane, yes, life-long learning is the ticket – but isn’t that cool? That we’re able to do this? I just love learning. Thanks for commenting 🙂

    • So cute and nicely done. I liked the use of a Deat Abby note.

    • This is great, Susanne! “Brain gym” is a great term. I think Lilli needs to write to Moon for advice.

  • Moon McFarlane’s colleague was beelining through the office. He’s zooming in … Moon was used to being picked on. In school she had been ‘the gifted kid,’ the nerd, always excellent grades. Yet she possessed […]

  • Dear Abby,
    My life is boring. Been married for 27 years,
    kids out of the house,
    need a more youthful look,
    my house needs a makeover.
    My husband hates change, I crave it.
    Please pimp my life!
    Bored, 45

    Dear […]

  • Agony Aunt Moon McFarlane was editing her column.

    No good yet. She added a sentence, took out some words. She scrutinized her text. Better. Let’s count. One more word. Takes two to tango!

    Writing was her r […]

  • “Eh, Moon, wake up!“  Jock Miller’s foot gave Moon’s swivel chair quite a jolt.

    Moon McFarlane opened her eyes. ”I’m an agony aunt, I gotta think things through before I answer. Wouldn’t want anyone jumping […]

    • Great work Moon. I love the superpower theme – surviving our nightmares and waking up every morning. Great use of the prompt. Very fun read.

    • Hi Susanne, a fantabulous way to bring hounds into your story:) Poor Moon, napping at work due to her issues with sleeping sometimes herself. I like that the Editor stuck up for her though:) Well done.

    • Susanne–I mean Moon–is really nailing it with her advice! Love this line: face the dogs and tell them: ‘I will survive you.’

  • As the agony aunt of the LA Tribune, Moon McFarlane received many calls for help. When victims of domestic violence cried for help, she couldn‘t just write a response and then turn a cold shoulder to the topic. N […]

    • Hi
      I love how your advice columnist proposed self empowerment instead of adhering to the fates of the stars. CA

      • Hi CA, thanks for reading and commenting. That’s where the author comes shining through;) I firmly believe in empowerment.

    • I appreciate Moon taking a moment to breathe after the domestic abuse letter. And now she seems to be more in her territory with the theme of space 🙂

    • Still loving this! I think your Moon gives good advice! Maybe you need to consider that as a career!

      • Ha ha, yes, maybe I should 😉 Glad you like Moon’s advice. I do feel the pressure, though, I wouldn’t want her to screw up.

    • Jane replied 6 days ago

      Hi Susanne, I liked how you carried on from yesterday’s column, showing that Moon has a heart and worries about her readers. Today’s column was super cute – great advice to ignore all words that end with ism and logy:) Loved it:)

  • She sits at the bar

    Perfectly put together

    Sipping her drink

    With fervor and focus

    Until the loud slurp signals its end

    Looks to the bar tender

    “Another”

    Men smile and stare

    She looks away

    Returns the […]

    • There was something so simple and beautiful about this poem. The repetition of “another” and the little details about the woman were just lovely. I really enjoyed this.

      • Thanks Alyssa! Yes the prompt put the image of this woman into my mind, and the idea of her just asking for another after another. Glad you enjoyed 🙂

    • Hi Renee – I can almost hear the pinao playing in the bar gently in the background. Loved the simplicity of this and what it evokes in the reader, who can put their own image together, what she looks like, that she’s drinking…lovely.

      • Thanks Deryn. Yes I wanted to keep it vague to let the reader create their own ideas and image. I wanted to keep a mystery about the character. Glad that the atmosphere came out.

    • Hello Renee,
      Your ‘she’ evokes for me an Edward Hopper painting. Very well drawn images of the bar and its inhabitants. Well done.

  • Ties that Bind by SM Prasad

    Bernadine’s text frightened me.  I was the unfortunate cast-off in the middle of an investigation that seemed to have nothing to do with me.

     Whom was I supposed to trust? Was Al a p […]

    • Nice twist, I didn’t see that coming! I was wondering what they were doing with Ms. Calabrese, maybe hiding out, but now I see what Bernadine was after! Lots of detailed nuggets here: the traitorous bottle of Merlot, the ice-cold grip on the back of her neck, olives in a kid’s lunchbox. The secret text code Jen and Bernadine have is pretty convenient–when you edit, maybe consider introducing that earlier in the story? Maybe they use it humorously at some point or mention it somehow. I’m ready for next week’s scene!

    • Another puzzle piece clicks into place! I can’t wait to learn how Bernadine made the connection and what else she’s discovered. Deft moves on her part to get Jen safe with her and helping to get info from Ms. C. You gave me a perfect picture of Ms. C’s house; I’ve been in houses just like that. I was unfamiliar with “the game of the Hunter” so I searched and all the hits were either about a video game or a mystery trilogy based in Massachusetts. Is it a common colloquialism on Long Island? I have a feeling some intense action is coming up and I can’t wait to read it.

      • Hi kathy,
        Did not mean to be so esoteric. I should have left it hunter. I was using it as a word for law enforcement as opposed to mafia. But now I want to check out the mystery trilogy that you referenced! I am definitely trying to work on the intense action…thanks so much for the support!!

    • Hi Becky,
      thanks for the suggestion. Long ago, many scenes (and months) ago, I mentioned the olives in the lunch, but yes, that’s too long ago and I agree, we should have that code much earlier as a joke. That is a great idea!! Thank you for that. Thanks so much for your comments. I’ve had a really crazy work day so I haven’t read stories yet today but looking forward to reading some tonight!!

    • Hi Sudha, all your scenes are great but I especially enjoyed reading this one. There was something about the vivid way you described Mrs Calabrese’s house and her wonderful frank and unteacherlike voice, that made this scene really brilliant and distinctive to read. Good on Bernardine to have dug the dirt on Manetta and for bringing Jen into the confidence so that they can patch up their friendship. The reference to the code words was also such a great way for you and Bernadine to remind us and Jen of how deep-rooted and close that friendship is. Congratulations on an awesome scene 😊

      • Hi Ben!
        Thanks for the awesome feedback. I could see Mrs. Calabrese so clearly–we’ve all been in living rooms like that. And my mom is a retired teacher, so I got to hear how her friends spoke. Bernadine needed to make sure that Mrs. C wouldn’t get too suspicious if she showed up alone-she knows she has a very interrogatory style that can shut people up. Thank you for your comments

    • Another great scene. I was glad that Bernadine found a way to include Jen, even though she’s not supposed to tell her anything, at least Jen can feel included. Your descriptions of Mrs. C’s house was excellent, I could easily imagine myself in the room. I wonder what it smelled like, maybe pine sol, or lemon furniture polish, kitty litter, or stale whiskey? Some little reference would also go a long way in portraying Mrs. C’s character in addition to her whiskey drinking and her strong feelings against her husband. I loved the twist at the end, it finally made perfect sense why they were there – and while i was going to suggest you clue in Jen before hand, I think it works out better this way, so she doesn’t give away any clues about what she knows. Can’t wait to see what happens next!

      • Hi Peggy
        Thanks for the comment about adding what the room smells like. I would say, tomato sauce, stale whiskey and cigarettes poorly covered up by a cheap lavender air freshener spray.
        Thanks for your feedback, I’m going to make sure that I include this in the next draft.

    • I love the message with the childhood code. Quite lush Mrs Calabrese. Nice job tying in the captain and upping the intrigue.

    • This is such a vivid scene – what a character you’ve created in Mrs C. Apart from your ingenious pulling together of story strands that always surprise and work I couldn’t help wondering if at school Mrs C was prone to popping into the supply cupboard for a sly nip at her flask. Her flat was sad and claustrophobic- I imagined the heating turned up a little too much and the aroma of many previous ready made meals in the air. Fantastic plotting and Captain M is going to be caught out. Great .

      • Hi Julie,
        Interesting comment about Mrs C and her younger teacher days. I had a teacher who did that and by noon the smell was overpowering. I definitely agree with your feeling of too warm and old meals in the air.
        Thanks!

  • Cilla was fuming but stayed put.  Better, she thought, to be Cindy Meadows here than to be Cilla Tucker with Preston when he gets caught.  If he gets caught, that is; he’s always been good at being invisible whe […]

    • Julie replied 6 days ago

      Kathy- just to say your book cover is delightful and I look forward to picking it up in a bookshop. I had to stop following your story as I had just too many to read but will enjoy reading it later on 😀

    • Hello Kathy,
      Cilla’s recap is thorough, and once all the scenes are put together might not be necessary. Maybe in the next draft prioritize C and Preston’s backstory and childhood instead of events the reader would already know. There is jump to Cilla looking out the window to the suitcase, this could use a transition. and Yikes Preston! Did Cilla know that he had a gun? Will be interesting to see if Cilla also sides with Red and Terri….I see a girl gang forming!

      Thank you for sharing, Carolyn

      • Thanks, Carolyn! Yes, I’m hoping Terri, Red and Cilla end up as kind of a girl gang that maybe can team up again after this story is over. That’s the crazy idea I had when I started thinking of this as the first book in a series, when I still am somewhat bemused and overwhelmed to have found myself writing just one book!

    • Preston is quite the villain, turning on his sister like this. Too bad Cilla didn’t figure it out sooner, but it’s hard to distrust your older brother, even though she knows he’s a rat. I’m really worried for her.
      Glad to see Red seems to be on speaking terms with Terri. Looking forward to seeing where this goes next. Great job!

    • Hey Kathy,
      That was fun. You left the sudden surprise there at the end and it startled me. So that was done very well. You really write action in a way that is quite exciting. You lull us first and then strike!! The first section was a lot of backstory, which got a little dense. You flipped around on the tenses a little at the end of the section, no big deal. If it is possible to put in some dialogue or even intersperse with an action, that would be good, maybe she’s in her room organizing it or if you want her to be in a car, she’s texting a friend, so that when she leaves it in Preston’s room, we worry about where the phone is…
      Red’s consideration toward Terri and Bob is surprising. I hope it’s genuine.
      The ending really got me!!

      • Thanks, Sudha! I’m least confident when writing action, so I’m glad you think it’s working. Yes, I think there is much room for improvement in how to get Cilla’s point of view across and setting up whatever is going to happen next. I’m thinking maybe the combination of Terri and Bob making the permanent move and the effects of the pandemic are giving Red a new perspective. We’ll see.

    • Right, I’m up to date. You’d think a sister could trust her brother. Will Red help her? Can’t wait to see how this turns out.

      • Nonie, I appreciate your making the effort catch up. I’m a little annoyed at myself for locking a character in a room without knowing how I’m going to get her out, but I think Red will be involved.

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Debbie

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