FVP Holiday Sale!

FreeValley Publishing and its literary artists will be included with other types of artists in this year’s Si View Community Center Holiday Bazaar! Come down and get your chance to own limited edition special book packages and bookmarks from several of our authors made especially for gift giving or collecting by our fans. December 7th 10-3

And if you’re not in the area, you can still purchase our publications for holiday gift giving. See our individual Featured Author pages for links to all of the books or see the Product Guide page for QR code quick links. Happy Holidays!

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A Good Time was Had by All

We had a great time at our panel presentation and meeting folks from our community last night! Thanks so much for coming out to see us! Seems those who were there appreciated it to the fullest.

Another warm thanks to King County Library System and SnoValley Writes! for hosting us!

We’ll be posting some excerpts, or perhaps the transcript or a video, of the evening’s program soon.

Here’s some photos of all of our featured authors:

Jenny Returns

He walks the mall by day seeking the eternal Jenny, but there is no one who comes close until this day, and he aims to keep her his.

Capture

A mall is no place to spend your days. It’s a way station beckoning with misdirection, curtains and sheets to cover and soften dreary existence.

It was nearly time for the mall to open and I was bored to death.

Most mornings people cluttered the entrances. I stayed back, in the telephone alcove, long since removed with cell phones everywhere. When I was innocent I’d done what other young bucks had done: I honed in on girls and talked up my soon-to-be historic exploits. That phone booth was crowded with young things talking to friends they could not be parted from, not for one minute. Close enough, brushing a ficus or wandering to look in the window, you might overhear them, feign interest in a display while they used the reflection to adjust their hair, always with hope they’d look at you, maybe turn to friends and giggle, maybe make that second look.

The guard opened the doors, and this Monday two weeks ‘til Christmas there was a crowd. Mostly moms with a list, or older women with clipped coupons headed for the big box stores.

And there she was, the free space for my bingo card. She turned into Dorfmans and I followed, unseen. She stopped at cosmetics, idly glancing down, talking on the phone to Marsha-something. High breathy voice. She picked up a lipstick. Not the right color at all. Much too red. But who’d listen to me, some stranger?

“Let me send you this.” She held the phone to capture her incarnadine lips, and I ambled up behind her. A quick flash, and she sent the photo.

I walked away before the ending, the rising voice, the stumbled answers about a stranger ruining her selfie.

I disappeared into the crowd, maybe ten or fifteen feet, imagining her perfume—one of those light citrusy types. She wasn’t so confident now, and pretended to try on earrings, using the mirror to see behind her, trying to match the face in that photo.

Her voice was lower, confidential, tinged with hysteria. “No, I do not know who he is or how he got there.” She jabbed to end the call, her elbow holding her purse close to her hip as she strode down the marble floors.

Good. I could see her in the sunlight over the food court. The play area was now Santa’s Workshop, with moms pushing strollers, pulling screaming kids. I slipped even closer.

She stopped at the info booth to show Cliff. “You know this guy?”

Good ol’ Cliff. He shook his head and sighed. “Yeah. We all know him. Used to work here. Girlfriend died here, and he got a little crazy. Thinks he sees her sometimes. Harmless, but call 911 if you see him again. More of a bother, really.”

Good ol’ Cliff. A bother, huh?

He was talking to the guard station, and I caught her name. “Yeah, Madeleine Jenkins. It’s him, again.”

“That’s it? ‘On the lookout’? I’m just some blonde looking for trouble?”

“We take complaints seriously at Fairhaven Mall. But he won’t touch you. We spot him, we’ll take care of him. He just shows up now and then. Can’t do much unless he does something stupid. It’s a public space; people do stupid things. Stupid, not illegal.”

“Harassment is illegal.”

“If he harasses you, we can deal with that. If you see him again, let security know.”

Just a few nudges and whispers led her to the bench where Jenny and I had been sitting when she passed. We’d shared our hopes, kissed, even touched in public. We were not-quite-arguing about chick flicks versus real movies, and she’d gasped, and sucked in her breath. Then, dead. Stroke. Nineteen and a sophomore in college, like me.

I was screaming at first, for someone, for anyone to come and goddam help, but she was gone before her head hit the marble floor.

That moment, laughing and arguing, the shaft of sunlight as a halo of cornsilk, was my happiest. And the saddest, tying joy and sorrow to that bench.

Then I was a blur of grief and shuttered emotions. My guys offered me other women as solace. I tried that. Tried not doing anything but flicking through photo albums, wandering around school, lost, avoiding classes and friends.

After a dark time I found myself hanging around the mall, hoping to see someone like Jenny.

Cliff was right. I was harmless. Nothing I could do, really. That part of life was over. I just wanted to watch. Maybe remember.

She saw the bench in the sunlight by the fountain and sat down, just like Jenny. I was going to sit at the bench when Cliff walked up.

“Thought I’d find you here.”

“Why?”

“Just wanted to be sure you felt safe. Haven’t seen him, if you’re wondering.” He wandered away.

She scowled. “This mall creeps me.” She pulled out a lipstick—that same too-red color. Wasn’t right for her.

I swatted the lipstick from her hands.

She cried out, looking to see who’d done it.

The lipstick rolled over to the fountain’s edge, and I pushed it into the water. She stood up, disbelief washing her face.

“What the—?” She walked over and looked in. “Well. Maybe not really my color. Maybe something less red.” She shook her head and walked towards the entrance.

I moved beside her with my arm on her shoulder. She shivered. My Jenny. Sensible as always. She called Marsha-something again. “You’ll never believe it. Dropped that new Crimson Slash right in the fountain. Fifteen bucks. Gone. But it looked like death on me.” She walked out the door and off to her waiting car, I suppose.

I stayed behind where I belonged, in the mall. Maybe another day Jenny would show up again and we might walk together, she alive, full of energy and fun, and me, here, in the shadows.

A mall is a terrible place to die, and an even more terrible place to wander.

by Stephen J. Matlock  Published with Permission

Note from the Author: This is my second entry to the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction contest. I came in the top in the first round in my division. If I can come in the top 5 averaged over both rounds, then I advance to the third round.  My prompts were Ghost Story, Shopping Mall, and Lipstick. We get the prompt midnight Friday evening, and we have to turn in a completed, 1000-word story at midnight Sunday.

Note from the Editor: Go Stephen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  -sjk

Assassins in the Banquet Hall

DawnofSteamOneCover[Excerpted from the letters of Gregory Conan Watts to his fiancee]

While they were at that, Miss Bowe had found herself having drawn a great deal of attention from our assailants, having ruined the first shot. Somehow she had found a second blade from the table, and thus was fighting at least three men, perhaps more, though I could not be sure, armed with a bodice knife and a steak knife. Despite this poor armament, she was holding her own, though her breath was labored, and she could barely move — and certainly not lunge into her efforts — due to her own dresses and bindings.

The table she had knocked over guarded her back, with Julietta Penn remaining behind her and the table for cover. Our gypsy woman meanwhile had leaned herself across the table and was desperately sawing through the threads of Samantha’s bodice with another steak knife, that Sam might fight and breathe. It came free at last, and Samantha lunged forward in her far-less-restrictive undershirts, surprising the men who thought they had her pinned down.

I do not know if she dispatched them or simply fought past them, for even as the others were fighting for our representatives here, she headed for the new royals of France, the original targets of the assassination attempt, and there found their guardsmen fighting a desperate battle. I imagine they were quite surprised to find a woman armed with a pair of mismatched knives, in a torn dress and her undershirts, fighting on their behalf. She has even said since that they at first attacked her themselves, but she convinced them of her good will when she felled a gunman coming at them by throwing her steak knife. She then re-armed herself by groping about on the nearest table for further silverware while fighting off another assassin using the bodice knife she’d borrowed from Miss Penn.

Somewhere in the chaos I lost track of Giov anni Franzini and assumed he’d crawled under a table or under some rock to hide. He quite surprised me later, when we learned he’d run down two of the assassins who had attempted to flee in the chaos and felled both, albeit from behind as they were running.

I could not see all of it, but by the end as we regathered, I would swear Samantha had gone through at least two table settings, but had held onto Miss Penn’s knife. She was bleeding from half a dozen cuts, at least, and looked a wreck, her hat hanging from one side of her head, still held to one now-loosed braid by a single hatpin. She was decent only by the simplest definition, but for all of it, she looked quite pleased with herself, unlike anyone else in the room.

Our small group was once more gathering, soon to be helping in a call for order. We would assist in patrolling the grounds all night, trying to make sure that we had all of the assassins and that no one attempted to flee before they might be questioned. First, however, Miss Bowe asked, somewhat too loudly, of Sir James, “That was fun; do all your parties end like this?”

This is what drew the final scandal, which has hit the rumor mills, I understand. Overhearing our American misfit, the Queen of France fainted.
With love, always,

Gregory Conan Watts

from First Light, Volume I of the Dawn of Steam trilogy.

by Jeffrey Cook, with Sarah Symonds    Published with Permission

Cover image by Michal Marek 

 

Halo of the Heavens

breathing-space-6-18-13He was startled to see the sun had fallen even lower toward the plain.  It was extraordinary. The sky was changing too—no longer only blue.  A wide band carried the whole spectrum of colors, and the red end began to overtake the blue.  He was spellbound watching it and was suddenly aware the light had nearly faded away.  A deep terror gripped him. The sun was dying.  Perhaps this was the cause of the seamless darkness that he could feel, as much as remember, from before—when he was Under.  He was filled with dread.  He had an urge to bow his head and wail but could not break his gaze from the sun’s demise.

As he absorbed the end of light in helpless resignation, a pinpoint of white light appeared in the darkest part of the sky.  Soon there was another—and another.  There were holes in the darkness.  Or, no, these seemed to be on the sky—or in it, like the sun.  He witnessed the stars as a new creation.  Wonder replaced his fear.  This was not the darkness he once had known.

He rose to his feet and began to turn about, whirling under the beautiful heavens.  Becoming dizzy and falling to the ground, he rolled to his back.  He lay there full of excitement, grinning in pure joy.  Even the memory of Majeska did not interrupt his enchantment.

After a time he sat up again and, filled with new strength, looked toward the mountains.  Their shadowy figures were outlined against the mass of stars.  He marveled at their grandeur as his eye followed the horizon away from the place where the sun had disappeared into the land.  He noticed a strong glow of light near the earth opposite the sun’s resting place.  It was white, like the starlight, but wide and misty. He watched as the halo got wider and brighter.  And then, like a shot through him, an arch of intensely bright light broke over the edge of the plain.  He stood dumbstruck as it grew and grew.  Then his breath caught as the vibrant orb tore free of the horizon and floated—free among the stars.

by Sheri J. Kennedy a.k.a. Kennedy J. Quinn   Unpublished excerpt from draft of UNDERNEATH, book one of SECRET ORDER OF THE OVERWORLD  Published with Permission  Image credit: Sheri J.Kennedy

Note from the Author: After long agonizing, I cut this favorite excerpt from my first epic fantasy novel manuscript, UNDERNEATH, because it didn’t move the story forward. While writing for NaNoWriMo today several of us were discussing how tough it can be to cut scenes you love during edit. I still think of the images in this vignette often, and I’m pleased to have a chance to share it as a flash fiction piece. -SJK

Three Short Years

“What’s a cherry red spot”, I asked. image 3 years


The doctor wouldn’t tell me.  She dodged the question completely.  Again, not a good sign.  I was desperate for some sort of concrete answer about anything at this point.  I wished she’d just spit it out already!  If I could have, I would have shaken it out of her.  She told me that she was scheduling an appointment at Children’s Hospital in Seattle for us the next day.  They would be drawing her blood and running a screen for possible neurological conditions.  Neurological?  But she’s functioning, I thought.  She’s been getting better.  I was more confused and now scared than ever.  What is a cherry red spot anyway?

Something no one should ever do is go home and Google any possible medical condition they suspect.  All it will do is scare you to death.  Or in my case, rip apart your world completely.  I just know that after I searched for “cherry red spot” online all it could represent was horribleness.  I spent the next three hours crying in a ball on my kitchen floor.  I had to call my husband, Loren to come home from work.  I had never done that before.  I read online that cherry red spots are most likely indicative of Tay-Sachs Disease.  The Wikipedia blurb didn’t have any redeeming things to say about it.  Once we were at Children’s with the ophthalmologist, and he confirmed that he suspected Tay-Sachs Disease I had to admit that I had heard of it, but had no clue what it was, what it meant. After his very dry and brief explanation from a neurological standpoint only one thing stuck out to me: the word degenerative.

“Degenerative?  She’s going to get worse”, I asked.  And then the unforeseeable end all blow of an answer came spilling from his mouth.

“She’s terminally ill”.

I watched those words pour out in horror and slow motion.  It was the most vial sound I had ever heard.  I remember thinking of how badly I wanted to try and gather them up from the floor as quickly as I could and shove them back down his throat.  I wanted to shut him up and make him never have said it, but it was too late. It wasn’t a mess to be cleaned up and taken away. These words had been spoken, and the sound of them could never be unheard. It was dark and dense in sound, like the thud of a lead pipe hitting a dry dirt floor. It still reverberates in my ears.  And this is when I experienced true devastation.

     This was the one and only time in my entire life, up to that point, that I was literally speechless.  As we made our way over to the hospital’s lab to have her blood drawn to be tested for this rare disease the clerk asked me the patient’s name and I remember my tears staining my cheeks and my mouth opening, but my precious daughter’s name I couldn’t will to come out of the gaping hole on my face. I took a breath and tried again, but still nothing. Finally Loren rescued me and spoke in my stead.

“Elliott.  Her name is Elliott, Benson”, he said.

The next day as I walked out to check the mail, that dreaded child profile had arrived.  Frustrated, angered, and saddened to read about what my child could and would not ever do, I called the state department of social and health services immediately and requested that they stop sending these to me because we had no need for them and they upset me too much.

I gave my daughter a masculine name to give her a competitive edge and to hopefully be a self-fulfilling prophecy of strength.  Little did I know when I dreamed it up what challenges she would soon be facing, or how fitting it would become.  She has always been “Miss” Elliott.  It is how we, and in turn everyone else always addresses her.  It was never a name she needed to live up to.  Never did her name upstage her.  She embodied it fully and she wore it completely.

Excerpt from THREE SHORT YEARS by Becky Benson  Published with Permission

You can see documentation of Miss Elliott’s medical journey HERE.

We spotlighted this story when Becky Benson contacted us. Send us an email about your book or to submit a story. Your snippet, excerpt or story could be featured on our home page too. See our About or Contact Us page.

Save the Date! Meet the Authors Event

FreeValley Publishing authors will be hosted by SnoValley Writes! at an official King County Library System event as part of their NaNoWriMo programs on November 26th from 6:00-8:00 p.m. at the North Bend Library Meeting Room.

This will be a unique opportunity to hear each author speak about their writing and publishing journeys and to ask your questions and get first-hand answers in dialogue with Snoqualmie Valley local authors. Most of our authors created their published manuscripts during NaNoWriMo, so if you’re a Wrimo, come and be inspired! The event is free and open to everyone. It promises to be a lively evening, and we look forward to talking with you!

FVP Meet the Author NB Library flyer