With two of my big brothers – March Forth found its seed in my relationship with brother on the left.

Today is March Fourth – a date I have always adored. But in 2008, the date became marked the date when my brother died by his own hands. This short story is based on that event. However, the beauty of being an author means I can create a better world (or worse, if I choose) than reality in hopes of presenting alternate ways of viewing the world and our place in it. This short story appears in the box set Unshod along with other short stories set in the West. The box set is perma-free.

March Forth

By P.C. Zick

Eve woke from the first sound sleep she’d had in months. Silence greeted her, along with an empty spot next to her on the king-size bed.

Throwing on the robe she’d laid at the foot of the bed the night before, she walked over to the sliding doors and pulled aside the thick deep purple curtains. She viewed a snow-globe world as snow fell in large white drips obscuring the view of the mountainside she so dearly loved to see each morning. Yesterday, she spied the new green growth of tulips and crocuses—planted by the previous owners—poking through the soil in the beds surrounding the patio off her bedroom, but now snow lay an inch thick, with larger, wet flakes following one after the other. Rocky Mountain weather changed as quickly as the mood of a mercurial menopausal woman.

Despite hiding the flowers, the snow held its own beauty, which pleased her. Peace surrounded her and held her tight in its arms. She’d finally slept last night after weeks of restlessness. Or maybe it had been a year of restlessness. She had hoped that by moving away from Chicago and heading west into the mountains outside Boulder her life would improve. It did for moments that shot through her with the sheer enormity and beauty of the terrain enveloping her in a safe cocoon. But then came the nights, and the memories flooded her. She analyzed every sentence, paragraph, and action she had made through her entire life. In Eve’s analysis, she always came up short, and then somewhere between dark of night and dawn, she declared herself a failure.

As she watched the snow fall, she felt gratitude that last night she had slept, and no such declarations of a botched life assaulted her.

The day had finally arrived—March 4—and she greeted it calmly despite the ramifications of what it might reveal. Her bones told her that whatever transpired today would change her life forever, but she felt no judgement on the change. It would happen, and there was nothing to do about it.

Fifty years old, divorced, and living alone for the first time in her life, she was learning about loneliness. But this morning, Eve felt renewed with confidence that she hadn’t felt since Dan came home and made his announcement. “I’ve met someone,” he said in a clichéd regurgitation of events leading up to the moment of his confession. How unoriginal she thought now, although at the time it cut through the bone to her heart.

Wrapped in her serenity after a full night’s sleep, she walked to the antique walnut secretary in the corner of her bedroom. She knew what she needed to do before she left for the biopsy.

Eve pulled out a white sheet of stationary, a yellow sunflower imprinted on the top of the page. She frowned when she gazed at it. Her twin sister, Allie, had given it to her on their last birthday, right before the terrible fight that had cast a shadow on their relationship and from which they’d yet to recover. She always thought she and Allie had the twin connection stronger than any other twins did, but that had changed when Allie’s daughter died. Eve didn’t blame her sister for how she reacted. If anything ever happened to Carli, her daughter, she’d probably want to die. Allie lashed out at others after the accident, but Eve never dreamed the lashing would reach to her. She knew Allie resented her for being the one to deliver the news. But that’s the way it had played out, and it was just another of those memories that ran repeatedly in Eve’s head on the nights of her worst discontent.

It was a primal scream that erupted from Allie when Eve said, “Susie is dead.” Allie never forgave her for being the one to utter the words.

Pushing aside the negative thoughts, particularly on this day, she put her pen on the paper and began writing straight through to the final words. She folded the sheet in half and shoved it in the envelope before sealing it. She wrote, “Carli” across the front, and then placed the envelope in the drawer under the pull down desktop.

When she walked out to the great room of her cabin, she found her friend Sarah sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee and reading a novel.

“No paper today?” Eve asked.

“The snow delayed everything this morning,” her friend said without looking up from her book. “I was about to come in there and wake you up so we could get an early start. Did you finally sleep?” Sarah raised her eyes to look at Eve.

“I did. I feel at peace this morning. I don’t know what’s going to happen today, but I have a feeling it will be something significant. It’s March Fourth after all.”

Sarah smirked. “All right, Miss Soothsayer. I thought it was March 15, the Ides of March, that held significance.”

“Nope, it’s today. Besides, what happened on the Ides of March? A murder at the hands of best friends. With friends like those …”

Sarah held up her hands to stop her. “Don’t say it, Julius Caesar. So we shall march forth into the day with our shields and swords at the ready.”

Eve laughed at her friend. They’d only known each other a few months, but they’d quickly developed a strong bond when Eve took a job as a copy editor at The Rocky Mountain News. Sarah wrote a column on gardening and landscaping in a mountain terrain, which Eve appreciated especially now that spring soon would be here, and she’d have to learn all about the flowers and plants of her new home.

Sarah had spent the night with her so she could drive her to and from the biopsy in Boulder about a half an hour from Eve’s cabin.

Allie popped into her head again, and the pain seared through her. How could her sister be her enemy? Again, she brushed those feelings into the dustpan and mentally tossed them in the trash. Visualization worked for Eve on most days. She woke at peace with herself and her life, and she wanted to go forward in harmony with whatever the day might bring.

“Now don’t freak out,” Eve began, sitting down at the table with her friend, “but I have something to tell you. You promise not to freak out?”

“I don’t make it a habit to ‘freak out’ as you so quaintly put it. So, yes, I promise if it makes you feel better. What’s going on?”

“Something beyond my control is happening today that will change my life forever,” Eve said. “I don’t know what it is, and I don’t feel good or bad about it. It just is the way it is. But things will change after the day ends.”

Sarah stared at Eve before speaking. “You’re scaring me a little, but go on. I’m listening.”

“I woke this morning after the best sleep I’ve had in weeks. I woke feeling calm and with a sense of peace that I haven’t had since first Dan and then Allie left me.”

“That’s huge. It makes me happy, so why would I freak out?”

“There’s more.” Now Eve hesitated. What she had to say sounded so final. “When I woke up, I wrote a letter to Carli. I wrote out my last wishes.”

Sarah didn’t move or speak. She simply nodded her head.

“I didn’t do it because I think I’m going to die, I did it because I realized how very alone I am in the world. It doesn’t make me as sad as it did once. But I realized Carli is it as far as my survivors go, and she has no idea what my wishes might be after I’m gone.”

“So you wrote it all down?”

“Yes, I did. I wrote it down, and I put it in a sealed envelope with her name on the front. I put it in the drawer in my secretary, and you’re the only person I’m telling about it.”

“That’s good. Carli might not understand, especially with the biopsy and all.”

Eve smiled. Carli had wanted to be the one to take her today, but Eve insisted that Carli stay in Ann Arbor where she was in her first year of college. If she needed her, she’d bring Carli home at the right time. If the test came back with bad results, then they would figure it out. She only had six weeks left in the semester, so she’d be back in Colorado soon enough.

“She doesn’t need to know about it. Only you.”

“You’re probably just spooked with finding the lump and then the doctor rushing the biopsy.”

“Maybe, but it feels like something outside of myself. I’ve been through so much this past year that cancer is the least of my problems.” She stopped talking as tears threatened. When would that stop? She felt like she’d been crying for months, and she probably had. How Sarah put up with her, she didn’t know.

“Let’s get going,” Eve said. “If I can’t drink coffee or eat anything this morning, I might as well be on the move.”

The neighbor, a retired gentleman who kept a watch out for Eve, had already plowed the driveway, but the sidewalk leading to the house was nearly a foot high. They trudged to Sarah’s SUV. Mr. Carson was out on the road with his tractor. He waved to them as he passed.

“Nice man,” Sarah said. “You lucked out with him and his wife. Some neighbors aren’t so helpful. Or if they are, they’re too helpful.”

“No, Mr. and Mrs. Carson are just right. I don’t know what I’d do without the two of them here.”

The new life she’d chosen contained hours of loneliness. There was no way she wanted the house in Evanston, Illinois, where they’d raised Carli. It was a house of deceit now, filled with memories of a husband who came home every night pretending to love her and to care about the family. All the while he’d been spending his days at work with the “someone he’d met,” another CPA who’d taken the office next to his last year. He waited to tell her until Carli had started college at the University of Michigan last fall. Talk about the empty nest. Hers had been vacated, excavated, and exhumed. There was nothing left. So she took her share of the house from Dan and bought the cabin where she’d been ever since.

Eve sent a quick text to Carli, who she knew was already at work at the coffee shop near campus, telling her she was on her way to the hospital and that Sarah would keep her posted.

“I’ll give you my phone and wallet to keep,” Eve said. “The rest of my purse can stay in the car.”

“Sounds good. It’s going to be fine today. I know it. I’m starting to think like you. Something big is going to happen today, but what it is who knows?”

Eve woke in the recovery room. The doctor had told her the size of the lump required them to do general anesthesia, and she hadn’t protested. The less she knew about how they were invading her body the better as far as she was concerned.

“There she is.” A nurse stood next to her bed fiddling with the IV stand. “The doctor should be in here in a few minutes to tell you how it went. Do you want your friend to come in now?”

“Yes, and can I have some water?” Her lips felt parched and dry as if they might crack. The nurse held up a Styrofoam cup with a straw, and she sipped.

“There’s our sleeping beauty,” Sarah said as she came into the small cubicle where Eve lay trying to wake up. “You were in surgery for quite awhile. Have you talked to the doctor?”

“Good afternoon, young lady,” Dr. Gershom said as he came around the curtain. “How are you feeling?’

“Like I slept forever.” Eve tried to sit up but didn’t get very far.

“You did fine today,” the doctor said. “But the mass was deeper than we anticipated, and it took longer.”

“Is that bad?” Eve felt as if she was swimming underwater, trying desperately to reach the top for air.

“We won’t know anything for a week or so, but we took more tissue than planned. We want to know everything we can about it before we make any decisions. My office will call you when we have the results, and then we’ll schedule an appointment for you to come in and discuss the next steps.”

After the doctor left, Sarah pulled a chair up to the bed. “I called Carli when they told me you were out of surgery, but I’m sure she’ll want to hear from you as soon as you can.”

“Did you bring my phone?” Eve asked.

Sarah dug around in her purse and pulled out the cell phone, handing it to Eve.

“There’s something else, Eve.” Sarah paused. “I need to tell you something else.”


“Allie called a few hours ago.”

“Allie? Did you talk to her?”

“No. I heard your phone ring and looked at the screen. She left a message. I didn’t think it was my place to answer the phone.”

Eve’s head swam. Why would Allie be calling her on this day, of all days, after so many months of silence?

“I’ll call Carlie first, and then I’ll listen to the message.”

After Eve assured her daughter that everything was fine and that she’d be released soon, Eve handed the phone back to Sarah.

“Go ahead and play the voice mail on speaker. I have a feeling I’m going to need you.” Eve lay her head back on the pillow and shut her eyes. She rose this morning knowing that the day would bring some type of movement to her life. She hoped the date would live up to its name, no matter what Allie had to say to her. At least, she had called.

Sarah fiddled with Eve’s phone for a minute, and then she looked at her friend. “Ready?” Eve nodded.

The voice, so similar to hers, startled Eve into opening her eyes.

Eve, it’s Allie. I woke this morning with one thought in mind. I decided today would be the day I would end it all. What do I have to live for repeats over and over in my head, keeping me from sleeping most nights. I rose and went directly to my secretary in my bedroom—you know the one, it’s just like yours—and wrote out my last wishes. When I finished, I paused wondering whose name to write on the front of the envelope. Only one name came to mind, so I wrote “Carli,” but just as I dotted the “i” on her name, my phone rang. I wouldn’t have answered except that I glanced at the screen lying next to my stationary and saw “Carli.” I knew then it was a sign from Susie—one I’ve been asking for ever since she died.

Her voice cracked at the end, and then she stopped talking. Eve’s heart did a flip flop, not knowing what was coming next. Was Allie going to kill herself? Finally, the voice started again.

So I answered. Carli was calling to tell me about your biopsy today. She said she couldn’t stand that we weren’t speaking and that it made Susie’s death even harder for her. Funny, I’ve been so lost in my own misery, I never thought that others might miss Susie, too. Carli said she thought I should know. Now I know, and it feels as if she threw a rope down into the abyss of my despair. I threw away the pills a few minutes ago.

Again, silence, but Eve felt relief course through her knowing the pills were gone. She didn’t know if Allie had hung up or not. Sarah whispered, “She’s still there.”

I’m driving west in a few minutes and should be at the cabin by tomorrow night. I hope you’ll welcome me. You are my way back.

“She’s coming.” Eve shut her eyes, and tears fell on her cheeks.

“It’s happening just like you said.” Sarah wiped the tears on her checks with the coarse tissue provided by the hospital. “Are you okay with her coming? I can always call her and tell her to wait a few days.”

“She’s already on the road. I want her to come. Besides Carli, she’s all I have.”

“And she’s your twin. You must have felt like you had an amputation after the fight.”

“I haven’t felt whole since that day she told me she hated me. It was worse than the divorce.”

“All right,” Sarah said, pulling Eve’s clothes out of the plastic bag provided by the hospital. “Let’s get you out of here. You need to get some rest so you’re ready for tomorrow night.”

Sarah spent the night with her again, just to make sure she was all right, but in the morning while they drank coffee, Eve assured her friend she was fine.

“I can stay and help you get ready, maybe make something for dinner?”

“No. I’m fine. I’ve got some soup frozen, and I always have the stuff to make our favorite dessert.”

“What’s that?”

“Chocolate sundaes with French vanilla ice cream. It’s what we always had as kids on Saturday nights.”

Sarah hugged her as she prepared to go. “You were right. Your life changed yesterday, didn’t it?”

“We’ll see.” Eve wasn’t sure how they’d ever make things right again. Too much had passed between them during those dark months of death and divorce.

“When did her daughter die? Was it before the divorce?”

Eve shook her head. “It was the week after Dan told me. Susie was coming over to the house to take me out for lunch when it happened. I was the last person she’d called before the other car crossed the median and hit her head on. They called me, and when I said I was her aunt, they told me, and I said I’d let her mother know.”

“I am so sorry, Eve. I had no idea that’s how it happened.” Sarah came to her then and held her tightly, while Eve let loose with the tears that had been her constant companion since last September. “And so you told Allie?”

“Yes, I went over to her house. Susie and she had been fighting over the past few months because Susie didn’t want to go to Northwestern. In fact, Susie didn’t want to go to college at all, and the two had been fighting over it.”

“Were Carli and Susie the same age?”

“Yes, we liked to do everything together, even have our kids. Except marriage. That’s one thing Allie never did. She didn’t marry Susie’s father. In fact, she never even told him she was pregnant. Another sore spot with Susie. Allie resented that Susie could talk to me, but she kept it concealed mostly until after the death. Allie said I’d kept them apart.”

“She was in horrible pain. I can’t imagine how she must have felt, and you were an easy scapegoat. If she had been married her husband might have taken the brunt of it.”


Eve’s mind went back to that day when Allie screamed, “I hate you.” It was the day she’d decided to move west, even though she’d only been to Colorado once. But there was something about the Rockies that drew her, and the idea of leaving Chicago and burying herself in the immense landscapes gave her hope that she could escape the pain of the divorce and of Susie’s death. She needed to mourn both. Allie felt abandoned when Eve told her she was moving. She begged her to come with her, but Allie instead lashed out at Eve. And they hadn’t spoken since. She didn’t know how they could ever get beyond all of that grief and anger.

She heard a car door slam late the next day as she stirred the soup simmering on the stove. Heart pounding and hands sweating, Eve managed to open the front door just as Allie walked up on the front porch. They stared at one another for a long time, neither one moving. And then Eve moved toward her sister as Allie also moved forward. They fell into one another’s arms, crying and laughing.

“Let’s get inside before we freeze,” Eve said, even though she didn’t want to let go of Allie ever again.

“This is lovely, Eve.” Allie stood in the middle of the great room with its vaulted ceiling and cathedral windows and knotty pine walls. “The perfect mountain retreat. That’s what you did, isn’t it? You retreated from it all.”

Eve looked at Allie, wondering if she heard resentment in her voice. She decided if it was there, she would ignore it.

“You can hang your coat on the rack in the corner. How about a glass of wine?”

Allie nodded and followed her into the kitchen area. “Smells good. What’s cooking?”

“Minestrone—just like Mom used to make.”


They took their wine to the leather couch facing the stone fireplace, sitting side by side as if the past months had never happened. Eve marveled that it all seemed so natural and right.

“Do you know when you’ll have the results back?” Allie asked.

“Maybe a week. They’ll call me and schedule an appointment.”

“I’d like to stay at least until then.”

“Good. I’d like that. Carli will be pleased, too.” Eve paused. “There’s something I want to tell you. Your message was disturbing, but it also let me know we never lost one another. Yesterday morning, I woke very clear headed but certain something was going to happen that would change my life forever. I was thinking about the date—my favorite date—March Fourth.”

“I know you’ve always said that. Why did you think yesterday would be different from every other year when you’ve said the same thing?”

“I don’t know, but it was clear to me that I needed to do something. So I rose and went to the secretary that’s just like yours, and I wrote out my last wishes.” Allie gasped. “I addressed the envelope to Carli.”

“Just as I did yesterday morning.”

They turned to one another. Eve rose and went to her bedroom. When she came back holding the envelope, Allie was unfolding an identical piece of stationary with the yellow sunflower. She placed it on the coffee table in front of the couch. Eve did the same thing with her letter.

They’d written nearly the same thing, except Eve wrote about how proud she was to be Carli’s mother. Allie wrote about Susie. But they both ended it the same way.

Tell my sister I always loved her.

“I guess we really have that twin thing down,” Allie said. “To the letter.” They both chuckled.

“Move here, Allie,” Eve pleaded with her sister. “We’ll get help for both of us so we can move beyond the grief. And we’ll work through it all together.”

“Do you mean we’ll march forth hand in hand?”

“That’s exactly what I mean. Just you and me.”

“You mean you want me to leave Chicago?”

Eve laughed. “Yes, come west, young woman. There’s something fresh here in the Rockies. It’s the place for new starts while we still remember our shared past.”

Allie nodded, and then smiled.

In one movement, as if with one body, they raised their glasses and clinked them together to seal the pact they’d reached together.




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instagramI’m pleased to announce the release of a collection of Christmas short stories, Bright Lights and Candle Glow. You can download this anthology for FREE!

This collection from eight talented authors boasts short stories set during the winter holiday season. These tales encompass sober themes, heartwarming messages, and uplifting endings, appropriate for the winter season or all year long.

Arranged in chronological order, witness winter miracles from the mid-1800s through modern day, running the spectrum from somber to lighthearted.

  • Learn the meaning of the season from a Civil War soldier.
  • Go from rags to riches with a 1920s mobster.
  • Relive a fond holiday activity with a helpful Grinchy neighbor.
  • Create new holiday memories with a 1970s ranching family.
  • Meet a new friend whose advice rekindles the magic of the season.
  • Experience Christmas from a wise, aged perspective.
  • Cross cultures and beliefs to create a new holiday tradition.
  • Celebrate the season with estranged family after a life-changing revelation.

These stories are sure to enhance your experience of the holiday season. It’s a holiday-themed compilation of short stories with heavy messages and uplifting endings sure to warm the heart in the cold winter months.

Click here to download now!


Unshod finalUnshod – An anthology of traditional and contemporary western short stories where raw emotions and heartbreaking experiences written by nine female authors will captivate all reading tastes.

It gives me great pleasure to announce the release of this anthology, and it’s a great honor to have my short story “March Forth” placed in the same set with some very talented authors.

From Jan Morrill, Pamela Foster, Staci Troilo, Joan Hall, P.C. Zick, Janna Hill, Michele Jones, Francis Guenette, and Lorna Faith, here’s a peek at what’s in store:

Feel the pain of a young Japanese girl who comes home from an internment camp after World War II and learns it’s easier to go with the flow than to fight the current.

Struggle with an expectant mother on the cold winter prairie while she waits for her husband to come home from a hunting trip.

Journey with a young woman to the Four Corners as she tries to connect with her Navajo ancestors.

Try not to believe in the superstition of the blue moon—if one dies, three more will follow.

Know that one way or another, life will change inalterably that day.

Walk in the footsteps of an old cowpoke who thought he made the deal of a lifetime.

Suffer the torments of a young lady who wants desperately to marry but seems destined never to wed.

Walk the wild western paths and run from unimaginable dangers.

Choose between an unhappy life of luxury or a happy life of simplicity.

Nine female authors pen western tales that you’ll want to retell around a campfire. These aren’t your granddaddy’s westerns. They’re the next generation’s, and they’re darn good. And the collection is free on all major online retail sites!

Download Links





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cropped-typewriter.jpgI’m excited to welcome James Moushon to Author Wednesday today. James has been a tireless supporter and promoter of Indie Authors, so it gives me great pleasure to return the favor. He stops by today to talk about his latest release, Operation Alpha Dog, a collection of short stories, featuring the character Jonathon Stone.moushon1-alphadog300

Welcome, James! I’m so happy to have you here today. Let’s start with some information about you as a writer. When were you first able to call yourself a “writer” or “author?”

Actually, I have been both. In 1994, I became a published writer in national business magazines. At that time, I was writing about the coming digital conversion of books and business forms and what it would do to companies and their products.

In 2011, I became a published author with the release of my first novel, Call Off the Dogs. This title is being rewritten with the working title: Cajun Ghost (release date in the Spring 2016).

Do all your books have a common theme or thread? 

All my books are centered around my main character, Jonathon Stone. Jonathon is a CIA agent, working domestically for a secret CIA division called DOT. Because the CIA isn’t allowed to operate in the U.S. by law, this division is off the books. Jonathon attempts to catch terrorists and assassins while he struggles with drinking, gambling, and the ladies.

Sounds like a bad boy American James Bond. What’s the best thing said about one of your books by a reviewer?

It comes from a review for Operation Alpha Dog:

These stories… don’t waste any time and jump straight into the action. Some excellent plot ideas that work well in the short space given to them, quite different in locations and style but all very compelling and rewarding reading. So good, I devoured it in one sitting.

What’s your one sentence pitch the new collection of short stories?

A six-pack of complete Jonathon Stone Mystery short stories filled with murder, mystery, and espionage.

Sounds intriguing! How long do you estimate it took you to write, and then publish, this collection?

There are six unique stories. I would estimate two months of writing and editing, but the elapsed time was much longer.

Is the book traditionally or self-published? 

This is a self-published collection. I started from the technical part of creating eBooks in 1994. That transferred to learning the whole publishing process. Choosing self-publishing was next.

You were really in at the beginning. I didn’t start until 2012 with the Indie Author movement, although I’d been published traditionally since 2000. What is the best thing someone could say about Operation Alpha Dog?

It is a quick, interesting read with twists and turns for the reader to enjoy.

That’s always good for readers living in such a fast-paced world. Explain how this book was conceived in your imagination.

The collection is an extension of Jonathon Stone Mystery series and the various assignment the CIA has had Stone conduct.

What type of research did you do in the writing of this book?

This is part of the fun I have writing. I very seldom write about a location I haven’t lived or visited. I study terrorism, the CIA inner workings, current events and specifics of the locations Stone must visit to carry out the op.

I love doing the research for my books as well. Not everyone does, so that’s a good start. Without giving us a spoiler, tell us a little bit about your favorite scene in this book.

Jonathon Stone catches an assassin in “Operation Red Dragon.”

Jonathon Stone’s plans for a quiet gambling experience is interrupted by the sighting of a known gun for hire from Mexico. A casual weekend in the desert for Jonathon changes into an apparent assassination plot. With the FBI and the Secret Service involved, Jonathon tries to apprehend the elusive hit man before he can do damage.

Thank you so much for stopping by Author Wednesday, James. I wish you great success with this new collection of short stories. And I hope you’ll stop by again–maybe for a guest post on the wisdom you’ve gained through your experience and research on being an Indie Author.

moushon1About James:  James Moushon is a Mystery author and a published writer in the electronic document field. He is the author of the Jonathon Stone Mystery Novels. He has published two books: Black Mountain Secrets and Game of Fire, and Operation Alpha Dog, a collection of short stories featuring Jonathon Stone. He is currently wearing two hats. He is a mystery author and a book publishing blogger.

Social media sites

Website: James Moushon – Mystery Writer

Author’s Blog: eBook Author’s Corner

Blog: HBS Author’s Spotlight

Blog: HBS Mystery Reader’s Circle

Twitter: @jimhbs


Goodreads: Check Out Goodreads

Google+: Check Out Google+

Facebook: Check Out Facebook

Spotlight post with Profile + Interview: HBS Author’s Spotlight

Amazon Author Profile

Links to books

Black Mountain Secrets

Game of Fire

Operation Alpha Dog




TALES_final_fullTales To Count On by S.R. Mallery, a unique collection of short stories, contains a variety of genres, including historical, Gothic, and fantasy. They are organized by word count, which the author says often determines the story when written under the constraints of submission guidelines. Interesting concept that developed into a full-blown eclectic combination of historical, contemporary, and mysterious stories.

Full disclosure: I edited and formatted this book. The “work” became a labor of love as I became enamored with the characters and the delightful storytelling ability of Ms. Mallery. Reading them provided me with hours of enjoyment. I’m a fan of S.R. Mallery’s writing, which is what brought us together in the first place. Click here to read my reviews of her other books, Sewing Can Be Dangerous, another collection of short stories, and Unexpected Gifts, a delightful novel of one young woman’s discovery of her roots.

If you’ve ever read any of the O Henry short stories and enjoyed them, you’ll be in for a treat with her newest book. Each one has some type of twist at the end. That’s a tricky task for an author who has to lead the reader down one path and completely change direction by the end to surprise even the most astute detectives. S.R. Mallery is a master at the technique and proves it thoroughly in Tales To Count On.

The craft of short story writing requires a special talent. Maybe that’s why they aren’t as popular as they once were. Maybe it’s because the big name magazines are no longer at the forefront of the publishing world as they were during the heyday of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Salinger, and Parker. Those writers made their names and their leap to literary infamy through the publication of short stories in The New Yorker or Atlantic Monthly. It takes a talented writer to create a short piece that contains all the same elements within a full-length novel. There must be characterization, believable dialogue, conflict, rising tension, and a climax. There must be a compelling story with mood to set the tone and powerful settings and descriptions. All of these techinques must occur in 500 to 4,000 words. And that’s just what they do in S.R. Mallery’s Tales To Count On.

The range and depth of the stories caused me to sit back in awe of her genius when I first read them. Preparing to write my review, I reread some of them and my awe only increased. She explores issues, such as domestic abuse, mental illness, employer/employee relations, PTSD, and abusive parents. The stories take the readers to varied settings and time periods. Her point of view shifts as a literary technique in one story involving a traffic jam, allowing the reader the unique perspective of voyeuristically peeking into the lives of a varied group of travelers and the impact the stalled vehicles have on each character’s world.

Each of the multi-layered characters are developed with efficient precision from the snarky journalist whose karma comes back to haunt him to the young woman portrayed as a sexy young virgin during the French Revolution. Shocking endings all, so I can’t say much more than I have. What I can say is readers of all preferences will find something to love in this collection of stories that reveal much about the human condition.

Most of all, the shocking endings show the reader that nothing is as it seems on the surface.

If you’re looking for stories that are intelligent, well-designed, and edge-of-the-seat worthy, then you won’t be disappointed with Tales To Count On.

Click below to read my interviews with S.R. Mallery on Author Wednesday.

 S.R. Mallery – December 4, 2013

S.R. Mallery – April 22, 2015

Purchase Links

S.R. Mallery Amazon Author Page

Barnes & Noble Page

Kobo Page


NOTE: Because Amazon frowns upon authors leaving reviews for other authors, I no longer leave reviews on their retail site. However, I will continue to review books here on my own blog for Book Review Friday. Authors are welcome to share my reviews with their own social media networks and to publish excerpts of my reviews as editorial reviews on Amazon. My list of TBR books is long, but I’m always willing to consider new works. If I enjoy a book, I review it.


cropped-cropped-typewriter.jpgI welcome S.R. Mallery to Author Wednesday today. This talented author recently published a collection of short stories, Tales To Count On with a unique combination of genres, including historical, Gothic, and fantasy—with many twist endings. If you’ve ever read any of the O Henry short stories and enjoyed them, you’ll be in for a treat with this collection. Full disclosure: I edited and formatted this book. The “work” became a labor of love as I fell in love with the characters and the delightful storytelling ability of Ms. Mallery. She has also published another collection of historical short stories, Sewing Can Be Dangerous. You can read my review of that book here.TALES_final_full

Hello Sarah or S.R. I’m so happy to have you grace my blog today. Since today is Earth Day, I’d like to ask you about something Rachel Carson (Silent Spring) once said about her writing. She said she never chose a subject because as a writer, the subject chose her. Have you ever had this happen?

Talk about a subject choosing me!  I can still remember sitting with my father years ago, out on his little corner balcony way up on the 27th floor of a Manhattan apartment building.  As the sun was slowly setting and the lights were glowing across the Hudson River on one side, the twinkling lights of Manhattan on the other, he told me all about the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911.  According to him, not only was that day horrific—over 140 young women’s lives were lost—but how important that event was because of the building codes that were changed after that.

I sat there, riveted, envisioning those hapless immigrant girls, either leaping or falling to their deaths; girls who also piled up against doors that at that time only opened inward. So, several years later, when I wrote my very first short story entitled, “Sewing Can Be Dangerous,” it was all about that fateful day.SEWING_CAN_BE_DANGEROUS_full

Tell me about Tales To Count On and its eclectic short stories. 

My Tales To Count On is a mish-mash of stories.  The synopsis says it best:

Curl up and enter the eclectic world of S. R. Mallery, where sad meets bizarre and deception meets humor; where history meets revenge and magic meets Gothic.  Whether it’s 500 words or 5,000, these Tales To Count On, which include a battered women’s shelter, childhood memories, Venetian love, magic photographs, PTSD fallout, sisters’ tricks, WWII spies, the French Revolution, evil vaudevillians, and celebrity woes, will remind you that in the end, nothing is ever what it seems.

I’ve also been working on an historical fiction Wild West romance:

The Dolan Girls by S. R. Mallery has it all. Set in Nebraska during the 1800s, whorehouse madams, ladies of the night, a schoolmarm, a Pinkerton detective, a Shakespeare-quoting old coot, brutal outlaws, and a horse-wrangler fill out the cast of characters. Add to the mix are colorful descriptions of an 1856 Land Rush, Buffalo Bill and his Wild West Show, Annie Oakley, bank/train robberies, small town local politics, and romance. It’s not only a taste of America’s past, it’s also about people overcoming insurmountable odds.

I’m really looking forward to reading The Dolan Girls. It sounds very exciting and like everything you write, it’s a grab bag of action and conflict. Your stories are set all over the world. Do you think setting plays a role in your stories?

Although I feel good characters are probably the most important part of any fictional book, with historical fiction, setting is EVERYTHING!  In that genre, authenticity is vital in the transportation to older times. That’s what makes you live and breathe that period alongside of your characters.  People have asked me how I am able to capture people in past times and make them so believable. Well, there is a tremendous amount of research that contributes towards that: reading about actual events, studying the lingo of that specific time, the culture, the dress. In other words, it’s all important.

But I also feel even with my more modern material, settings help ‘set the stage’.

 Are you planning to continue writing historical fiction?

Probably, although one never knows what the future will bring.  I will be continuing on with the Wild West book next and a tiny seed has planted itself inside my brain recently about perhaps writing a murder mystery that takes place during the 1920’s Jazz Age.  But who knows?

I love that period in American history, between the two world wars and during prohibition. Life was lived with a different attitude. How did you choose the title for the new book, Tales To Count On

As for the title for Tales To Count On, that was a hard one.  First of all, these stories are so eclectic and range from 500 words to 5,000 with various genres included.  Titles came and went and just when I thought I had something, then either Amazon already had that title listed, or it didn’t grab me or my supportive friends.  Then one day, my brother casually asked, “How ‘bout Tales to Count On?”  And that was that!

Smart brother! It’s a perfect title. Tell me how you came up with this unique idea for Tales.

Having decided to ‘clear out my writing cupboard’ to see if I could cobble together another collection, I started to put some of my flash fiction and other stories together. But unlike my Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads, which had the definite connection of sewing or crafting, just how could I link these very eclectic stories?  Then it hit me.  Since the ‘word count’ is so important for writers, why not link them that way?  Each story title would have the word count under it, and it would go by ascending order of numbers.  And…and…I could include a few of my stories that were lengthier, as long as I put the word count under their titles! Eureka!

It’s amazing how it all came together. I love these stories and I’m sure the book will be very successful. Congratulations on a job well done. I expect you back when The Dolan Girls is published. I’ll add that S.R. Mallery’s first novel Unexpected Gifts is under construction right now. She should have it up again sometime this summer. 

S.R.Malleryheadshot_04forblogsS.R. Mallery has worn various hats in her life. First a classical/pop singer/composer, she moved on to the professional world of production art and calligraphy.
Next came a long career as an award winning quilt artist/teacher and an ESL/Reading instructor. Her short stories have been published in descant 2008, Snowy Egret, Transcendent Visions, The Storyteller, and Down In the Dirt.

Click below to connect with S.R. Mallery



Facebook Fan Page



PinterestS.R. has some good history boards that are getting a lot of attention—history, vintage clothing, older films on this site.

Amazon Author page

Tales To Count OnAmazon

Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads  – Amazon

Book Review Friday – Sewing Can be Dangerous

SEWING_CAN_BE_DANGEROUS_fullI loved S. R. Mallery‘s first book, Unexpected Gifts, for its rich and varied historical eras used in the setting and theme of the novel.

She continues that same talent in her collection of short stories, Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads. The thread that holds the stories together is a literal one as all the short stories employ some type of sewing or weaving of threads at the heart of the plots. The stories are set in important historical eras and are sometimes romantic, sometimes horrific, and always riveting. The life of immigrants who worked in the textile plants during the heyday of the Industrial Revolution are profiled in one of the short stories. It’s not only an indictment of the appalling conditions of the workrooms but Ms. Mallery also examines the yearnings of a young woman who wants to disappear from her cruel and repressive father. Nazi Germany and all its ramifications on those who tried to help the Jews escape from the torture and death at the hands of the Nazis is the setting for one story. A quilt becomes the all important piece of evidence and hope for fifty Jews hoping to leave the country before they were rounded up by Hitler’s soldiers. Medieval courts, Hopi and Chinook native traditions, the sixties from a unique perspective, and more make up the varied and entertaining plots.

In the talented hands of Ms. Mallery, this collection of short stories allows the reader to escape into other worlds where even a macrame necklace can become an object of subterfuge and a piece of evidence in a murder case.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading each story. I began each one with great anticipation as I discovered the era, setting, and threads to tie it altogether. Sometimes the sewing and thread of the story wasn’t evident, and in other stories, it played a starring role.

The divergent historical content is impressive. Ms. Mallery’s research is evident only after completing the story because while engrossed in the plot of each one, I forgot I was reading and simply enjoyed each of the journeys Ms. Mallery created for me.

I highly recommend reading this collection of short stories weaved by a very meticulous and talented author.

S.R. Mallery’s Amazon Author page – find out more about her and find purchase links for both of her books.


Author Wednesday – Sarah Mallery


Welcome to Author Wednesday. Today I welcome Sarah Mallery, author of historical fiction and contemporary literature. I’m currently reading her novel Unexpected Gifts, which asks the question, Can we learn from our ancestors? Not only does the book explore the history of twentieth century United States, it also considers the present day as the main character searches for answers.

She’s getting ready to publish a book of short stories, Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads. Each of the stories are filled with suspense, mystery, action, and historical elements.SEWING_CAN_BE_DANGEROUS_full

Welcome, Sarah. I’m so happy you could join us today. It’s been a pleasure to meet you and read your work. I’m always curious about “voice” and how a writer knows when they have it. When did you first discover your voice as a writer?

I started late in life-never thought I could do it, frankly.  But when I tried my hand at my first short story, wow!  Those juices just kept on rolling. I had already published how to articles as a quilt designer, but my first published fiction work was a flash fiction piece that takes place in a battered women’s shelter (published by descant 2008)

 Do you have any special writing rituals?

I’ve been known to write entire scenes at a Carl’s Junior, but in general, I do write at home, either on the computer or at my desk, scribbling away next to a chirpy-purring cat named June.  Her brother Rocco is usually nestled at my feet.  But then, as I’m doing now, I can sit waiting in a car, a restaurant, a school and write away, to be typed up and edited later.

You sound a bit like me. When the muse hits, I can do it anywhere on anything. What is your vision of yourself as a writer?

I see myself as an author who keeps learning, growing, experimenting; exploring new time periods, working on style, descriptions, and all the rest.

I think the best writers do that. I don’t ever want to stop learning or remain stagnant in what I write. Who has most influenced your writing?

I have loved various writers, but the ones that really got to me were authors such as Harper Lee, Betty Smith, Mark Twain, O.Henry, Flannery O’Connor, Margaret Mitchell, and William Styron.  I loved their great story telling, their clarity of prose, and great descriptions without being too overly verbose.

Excellent ones to emulate. What are you working on these days?

I am finishing up the last edits of my collection of stories, Sewing Can Be Dangerous And Other Small Threads, due out very soon.  I am also trying to keep my hand in writing by working on more stories, flash and longer for another collection.  I have also been doing some research for a Civil War novel, for the future.

What knowledge have you acquired recently that might assist other writers?

First of all, I’ve learned so much from my publisher—the back and forth editing process, the collaboration on the book cover and trailer, the learning process of Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

But I have also learned that the process of writing and research is very, very different from marketing.  I can get into the latter, but when the balance is off, and I’m not really doing much writing or researching, I feel somewhat disjointed, out of whack.  So, although I am still discovering different ways of promotion, I really try to keep my mantra going:  balance-balance-balance…..

You explained my dilemma exactly these days. Let me know when you figure out the best way to keep balance in our lives. Why have you chosen to write historical fiction?

I have always appreciated looking at photographs from both my grandmothers’ photo albums.  As I studied my individual relatives, I wouldn’t just think, “Oh, that’s my Aunt So-and-So!”  I would scrutinize their outfits, their faces, their postures.  Were they sad? Happy? Bored? Annoyed at suddenly being put on display?  That strong ancestral interested dovetailed nicely with my love of U. S. history, so when I decided to write this novel, putting those two themes together just kind of clicked.

How does setting play a role in your books?

It means everything, frankly.  Writing historical fiction, if you don’t have decent settings, then what’s the point in trying to introduce readers to other places, other times?

Very true. Are you planning to continue writing in the same genre?

Yes, even if I end up writing murder mysteries. As long as it takes to do research, I realize that’s what turns me on—reading about different eras and then putting them into living, breathing stories.

How did you choose the title Unexpected Gifts and was it the title from the very beginning?

The ‘Gifts’ part was suggested by a friend, the ‘Unexpected,’ by me.  It kind of sums up the essence of the book, I feel.

How long do you estimate it took you to take the book from an idea to a finished, published work?

I would say it took a good three to four years…..yikes!

 That’s fairly typical. Is the book traditionally or self-published?

It is traditionally published, through Mockingbird Lane Press.

What is the message conveyed in Unexpected Gifts?

To never take our ancestors for granted––they are as much a part of us as our current, immediate families around us.

What is the best thing someone could say about this book?

That it’s a book that you can really sink your teeth into.  Readable, of course, but something that you walk away from, still thinking about scenes, characters, and lessons days, weeks, even months later.

What type of research did you do in the writing of this book?

All kinds, actually!!   I studied books/articles/documentaries about each time frame, looked at many photos, read about the language from not only those different places, but also separate periods.  For example, I looked up how people in Ireland talked during the early 1900’s, how African Americans talked up in Harlem during the ’20s; how in Bulgaria, they would shake their heads when they meant yes, and visa versa when they meant no; what the foods were like for each period and country, the clothes, the politics, you name it!  It took quite a while, but the journey was wonderful and I learned so much.

What else do you want readers to know about Unexpected Gifts?

Although there is a lot  of American history of the twentieth century, it is basically about a modern woman and her indecision, her problems, and her beginning to come to terms with her inner self by studying those people from the past.

Do you listen to music while you’re writing?

Not while I’m writing, but a lot of other times.  I use it as total inspiration––when I’m driving in my car, listening to Pandora. In Unexpected Gifts, I went from a tape during the late ’90s for my main character; ’60s tape, ’50s tape, ’30s tape, an Irish music tape (for one of my characters) and even an early nineteenthcentury music tape.  They all helped me think of plots, motivations, scenes, etc.

How does your immediate family feel about your writing life?

They are completely supportive, and if my housekeeping is not tip-top (it’s never been!), my husband doesn’t say a word.

He’s a keeper! What do you do during your down time?

I watch movies, garden, talk to family, friends, pet the kitties, cook, and try to C  H   I     L      L…

Thanks so much for stopping by today Sarah. I hope you’ll come back when your collection of short stories are published.

S.R.Malleryheadshot_04forblogsAbout Sarah Mallery from Sarah: I have worn various hats in my life. I started out as a classical/pop singer/composer, then moved on to the professional world of production art and calligraphy. Next came a long career as an award winning quilt artist/teacher and an ESL/Reading instructor.

My short stories have been published in descant 2008, Snowy Egret, Transcendent Visions, The Storyteller, and Down In the Dirt. “Unexpected Gifts,” my debut novel, is currently available on Amazon. “Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads,” my collection of short stories is due very soon.

Links to books and social media sites

Unexpected Gifts:




Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads:




Social Media Sites:

Twitter: @SarahMallery1

Facebook Fan page: S.R.Mallery (Sarah Mallery):


Author Wednesday – Jane Edacott


Welcome to Author Wednesday. Today I welcome Jane Endacott. She’s published Odious Seed and Other Stories, a collection of short stories, on Amazon Kindle. She’s currently writing a young adult fantasy novel. In her post, she discusses the writing of the new book in an unfamiliar genre for her as an cover

How to Write What You Don’t Know

By Jane Endacott

I am writing a YA fantasy novel, and I know nothing about fantasy.

When I started writing my book in 2007, I wanted to write about Otherization – the idea that people set themselves apart from others – because of a belief that others are fundamentally different from them.

I felt the story was best told in a fantasy setting.  It was a daunting challenge.  Not only was I writing my first book, but I was also writing for a genre about which I knew nothing.

The first lesson any writer is taught is to write what you know.  When you’re starting out, this is great advice because it helps you practice.

But whenever I did that, I came off as a self-absorbed sad sack.  My life is not at all extraordinary.  I have not built schools for young girls in Pakistan, and I have not trained in barefoot running with a Native American tribe.

Still, my mind went to places that don’t exist either on a map or in my memories, and I asked myself, “What if?”

In Odious Seed, my short stories tell of a developmentally disabled girl, nuclear scientists in love, the ghost of a stalker, a seed that begins to grow and sprout inside a man, and insects that consume a building.

I don’t know about any of those and even less about writing fantasy or magical realism.  Here are a few tips on how you can write what you don’t know.

Read, but not too much.  When writing something you don’t know, it often helps to read an author who has similar work.  It gives you a sense of how to do it successfully.  But it’s not the only way to do it successfully.  At some point you have to trust yourself and do your own thing.

Put yourself in their shoes.  Close your eyes and imagine that you’re watching the story from your character’s perspective.  What do you see and feel?  What are the smells and textures?  Answering questions such as these help make the world believable to our readers.

Experiment.  During the editing process, it’s easy to be fixated on one storyline, one characterization, or one description.  We sometimes approach the story with a single mind that limits our possibilities.  Trying different paths and variations opens our minds to discovery.

Make mistakes.  This goes along with experimentation. Never allow fear of failure to prevent you from trying something.  Don’t think it will work?  You don’t know until you try.  Even if you fail, you will learn something from it.

Remember, your characters are still human.  Even if you don’t know what it’s like to, say, grow up on a commune or be a race car driver, your characters are still part of the human condition.  They still argue with their siblings, have dysfunctional marriages, and say the wrong thing at parties.

If you practice with these things, you will be a stronger writer for it.  Writing what you don’t know helps you take risks and take your craft to new levels.  It allows you to explore uncharted territories. This is how you discover what you are made of.

Author photoAbout Jane Endacott – Jane Endacott is a blogger and fiction writer.  Her blog, “Word Savant,” helps other writers find connection and support in the creative process.  She recently released her book, Odious Seed and Other Stories, on Amazon Kindle.  She is also working on a YA series titled, The People of Fire & Water.  She also offers services as a writing coach.  She likes to read voraciously, run races, and eat food as if it were her last day on earth.  She lives in Portland, Oregon.