My First Rejection

A few months ago, I gathered the courage to submit “Escorting Mr. Colburn” to Hallmark Publishing. I knew that I would most likely get denied because of the amount of books I have not published and the amount of time I have not been writing, professionally. I say it that way, because the things I have not done are more quantifiable than the things I have, in the writing world.

Screenshot 2018-08-08 at 10.39.20 PM

I see this rejection as another opportunity. Hallmark is very specific on their guidelines and do not allow stories that are comprised of life after a significant death, feelings of depression and grief, and they like to keep the mood light. I don’t very much blame them because this is why a lot of people, including myself, like the Hallmark Channel. However, my writing just doesn’t quite fit into the Hallmark genre, at this time.

Instead of getting down about it, I am using this experience as motivation. It’s kind of like the game “Battleship”, which also happens to be my favorite childhood game, besides Clue and Life. In the game “Battleship”, one must blindly aim and fire at an enemies ships. Each miss gives the player an opportunity to know where their opponent’s ships are not. This actually gives them more of an idea where their opponent’s ships might be, so they can make a more calculated strike during their next turn.

I know this is not where I’m meant to go, at least for now. So now, I have a “miss” on my battleship board, but that just means I’m one step closer to finding the things I want in life and that are meant for me.

I will continue to do what I love, no matter if I’m ever picked up by a publisher or not. I can’t tell you how much enjoyment I get out of writing my stories. To step into another world, and share that with others, is a gift I don’t ever plan to stop sharing. Also, the level of support from family, friends, and those on social media have been exponential. Publishing my first book has positively changed my life forever. I have met new people, joined a supportive writing community, and found different strengths within me that I never knew were there.

No matter where writing takes me, I’ll always be thankful for the journey and the blessings I’ve received from it along the way.

Thanks for reading,

Marlena Owens

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Meet Guest Author, Marlena Owens… — Chris The Story Reading Ape’s Blog

If I’m going to do this right, I’m going to have to take you to the beginning. My beginning. Next, I will talk about life events that set me on the path to becoming a writer, and natural talents I discovered in myself, as a teenager. Lastly, I will address what it was like to […]

via Meet Guest Author, Marlena Owens… — Chris The Story Reading Ape’s Blog

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In a Sea of Authors, Don’t Give Up!

When it comes to reading, there are books upon books. Even more so, there are authors upon authors. One can get lost in the sea of writers, waiting on a little life boat, to hitch a ride on the large publishing company ship.

When one wishes to publish a book, one of the first things that comes to mind is, would anyone read it? The real question should be, would I read it? 

The truth is, there are many people in the world just like you. They may look different and not be completely the same, but if you enjoy the book you’re writing, chances are someone else out there will too. You deserve to be heard. Write the book!

Going back to the sea of authors, it can be easy to get discouraged in today’s world, when it comes to deciding whether to continue to write if you feel like your writing career is going nowhere. I encourage you to observe three points:

  • Ask yourself: Have I tried different avenues to get the word out about my books? This can consist of different websites, paid advertisements, author interviews, etc. Even within the area you live in could be a great place to start! My friends and family have been a great support when it comes to getting the word out about my books. It might also be helpful to think about business cards. I always carry a stack with me. Whether I’m eating at a restaurant, or checking out at the grocery store, I’m always handing them out!
  • Then, ask yourself: Have I tried connecting with other people in the same life boat as I am, waiting for the large publishing company ship to come sailing by? If not, I highly encourage you to do so. There are so many writing communities and websites, including social media, that one can join to connect with other people and exchange advice and experiences. It would also be wise to seek help from your favorite authors. Mine happens to be Jodi Picoult. Her website has some great FAQs. I highly encourage you to check them out!
  • Lastly, ask yourself: Have I given myself enough time to become published? In reality, it takes years to get noticed in any industry. I have set a personal goal to be published by a well-known publishing company within 10 years. This gives me plenty of time to finish school, work on my writing, and get my babies into their teenage years. This also gives me a reason to be mindful and patient. I know that I have plenty of time to focus on my writing and get where I want to go in life. It isn’t so much about how long I must wait to get published. In other words, it may not take that long. I’d rather say 10 years and it happen in 5 than say 5 years and lose the drive and courage to go on after 4 years. I’m setting my goals further out, while continuing the same drive (4 books published every year), so that I can go with the flow and let whatever happen, happen.

That’s why some people do not succeed, at whatever it is that they are trying to succeed at. It’s not that they aren’t good enough or that their books aren’t well-written, it’s the fact that they don’t want to keep going when they’re not recognized for their work, immediately (or within just a few years). One has to realize, if you understand that these things take time, and view it as a long term investment in yourself and your future, you’ll learn to appreciate the small victories and take the pressure of being published off of your shoulders.

To all of my writer friends out there, do not get discouraged. Your time is coming. It may take some time, but hang in there and don’t give up. You never know when that large publishing company ship might sail by, I wouldn’t want to miss it! Don’t give up!

Thank you for reading,

Marlena Owens

 

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Meet Guest Author, Marlena Owens… — Chris The Story Reading Ape’s Blog

If I’m going to do this right, I’m going to have to take you to the beginning. My beginning. Next, I will talk about life events that set me on the path to becoming a writer, and natural talents I discovered in myself, as a teenager. Lastly, I will address what it was like to […]

via Meet Guest Author, Marlena Owens… — Chris The Story Reading Ape’s Blog

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Preview My Second Book: Nora From the Hollow!

I wanted to take a quick moment to say thank you to everyone for the support! I am very excited to release the first two chapters, and some of chapter three, of Nora From the Hollow! As always, be sure to let me know what you think! The complete book will be published in September. “Like” my Facebook page @MarlenaOwensAuthor and follow me on twitter @m_owens_author for updates and giveaways! 

                                                 Chapter 1: Sheriff Warren
    “How well do you know Mrs. Nora Lusk?” Sheriff Warren asked Deputy Ward.
    “She’s best friends with my sisters and she’s our neighbor. She lives right beside the old home place that my sisters occupy. I live in the cottage just outside the home, but still on the family property.” Deputy Ward leaned forward in his chair saying, “We’ve crossed paths a time or two. Why do you care?”
    “Well,” said Sheriff Warren, leaning back in his chair, “you’re the deputy. Why don’t you tell me?”
    Deputy Dirk Ward looked around the sheriff’s office. It was stick built, dusty, and had only one jail cell in it. There were three chairs, behind three desks, for the 3 lawmen in the town. The first, Sheriff Neil Warren, had served the longest. He knew the most about the town and how to catch a criminal. The second, Dirk Ward, the youngest of three siblings, who just moved back from Buxton, recently joined and was learning the ropes. Lastly, there’s Jessup Ash, the other deputy. He’s a trigger happy know-it-all who’s full of himself. Luckily, he had the day off so Dirk didn’t have to listen to him talk about himself all day.
    Thinking back on Sheriff Warren’s question, Dirk knew he was being tested. “Well,” he began, “her husband just died three days ago and we don’t have any suspects. All we know is, he was shot to death behind his blacksmith shop, here in town. We don’t have any witnesses.”
    “You missed one thing,” Sheriff Warren said, putting his pointer finger in Dirk’s face.
    “What’s that?” Deputy Ward asked, looking Sheriff Warren in the eyes, trying to size him up.
    Sheriff Warren’s slicked back black hair, curled up mustache, burning cigar, and death stare gave him a rough and tough appearance. Looking at Sheriff Warren, Dirk knew he didn’t put up with any nonsense.
    “Lucius Lusk, Nora’s husband, was unfaithful.” Sheriff Warren’s eyebrows raised as though he had found the fountain of youth or they key to happiness.
    “With whom,” Dirk inquired.
    “Alice Mabe. It was confirmed by Alice herself the day after he was found, although the whole town knew what was going on.”
    Puzzled, Dirk began to think. He then said, “Did Nora know about this?”
    Sheriff Warren’s eyes widened as he took the cigar out of his mouth and let out a puff of smoke, saying, “Why don’t you find out, boy.”
    This was the first murder case that Dirk had been assigned to. To be honest, he was nervous. He was nervous because it was his first major case, and because he was investigating his sisters’ best friend. The only other cases he had been tasked with was to find the owner of the stray dog that had been hanging around the sheriff’s office. Unfortunately, he was unsuccessful. So, Buddy, the Golden Retriever, was now property of the Sheriff’s office. He was of no use to them except keeping the bed in the empty cell warm for a prisoner who would likely never fill it.
    Getting up from his chair, Dirk donned his gun, hat, and badge. He took a hint from Sheriff Warren and excused himself from the intensity of the room. Walking outside the sheriff’s office, Dirk could see the saloon straight across the dirt road. A few buildings down to the right was the mercantile and the school house, where Alice taught the children of Hollow Springs. A few buildings down to the left were the blacksmith shop, the sawmill, and the Inn. The saloon and mercantile were owned by Alice Mabe’s father. The sawmill and Inn were owned by the Jensen’s. Glancing back toward his horse, Bucky, Dirk hopped on and headed down the only road in and out of town, to Nora’s house.
    Passing several townspeople on his way out, and trying to act respectfully, Dirk nodded his head and kept his hat in line just above his eyes. Sheriff Warren said that’s the way the law should wear a hat. It gave them a bit of an edge. Creeping along the path, Dirk could see his breath in the cold fall air. He could see Bucky’s too. It looked as if the pitch black horse ran on steam, and his nostrils were the valves that the steam was released from.
    A few moments later, Dirk was outside of town. He continued on the desolate, and not very well maintained, gravel path. Passing him on either side was fields of corn with scare crows in them. Dirk felt small because he could barely see over the tall rows. Before he knew it, a crow had landed on the fence to his right, letting out a big “squaaaaakk”! This loud screech sent Bucky into a fit. Before he knew it, Dirk was on the ground and Bucky was nowhere to be found.
    “Bucky!” Dirk cried, clicking his tongue to bring his dear friend back. However, after calling for a few moments, he decided to continue on. He knew the sheriff would be furious if he couldn’t complete this one simple task, which was proving to be more of a pain than he had anticipated.
    Since he was almost to his family’s farm, where his sisters Amy and Amelia lived, he decided to go there to dry off and warm up. From the road, Dirk could see the house where his sisters lived and the cottage where he lived. There were cornrows on both sides leading up to the old family home place. Dirk’s parents moved away when they inherited Dirk’s grandfather’s farm in Buxton, a nearby town. So, their parents left their 100 acre farm to their three children to care for.
    Making his way up to the home, Dirk saw Amelia come out of the house first.
    “What have you gotten yourself into now, brother?” Amelia asked, intently.
    “About a mile back, Bucky got spooked and bucked me off.”
    “Well, daddy didn’t call him Bucky for nothing,” she said with a chuckle. “Let’s get you inside. Amy’s made some homemade vegetable soup.”
    Walking up the steps into their tiny home, Dirk could feel the lightness of the crisp air and the crunch of leaves under his feet. Peering into the house brought a wave of warmth and fond childhood memories.
    “What are you doing here?” Amy asked.
    “Just horsing around,” Dirk laughed, glancing back at Amelia who had already taken his jacket, his hat, and his boots, and set him a place at the table.
    “Do you want soup or not?” Amy interrogated.
    “Of course.” he returned.
    “Then you better tell me what you’re doing all the way out here during the time you’re supposed to be working for the sheriff.” Amy stirred the pot and scooped some out into a bowl. She wouldn’t put anymore into it until he gave her some answers. On the second scoop, she held it over the bowl while staring him down until he began to speak.
    “It’s Nora,” he said, giving into her demeanor.
    “I knew it! I swear, Dirk. If you…” Amy was furious. She was so furious, she almost spilled the soup. “She just lost her husband!”
    “Calm down. It’s just for questioning,” he assured her.
    She sat the bowl of soup in front of him with a glass of water and a handkerchief. Then, both of his sisters joined him, sitting across the table and giving him a stare that reminded him of their mother.
    “You can tell us,” Amelia coerced softly. She was the more nurturing and clumsy of his two sisters. Amy on the other hand was a stickler.
    “I just have to ask her some questions,” Dirk responded, stuffing his mouth.
    “What kind of questions,” Amy interrogated.
    Laying his spoon in the bowl and using the piece of cloth to wipe his mouth, he began to speak, “I need to know if she knew about Alice Mabe or not. If she did, that could have been a motive for murdering Lucius.”
    Before he could blink, Amy picked up the bowl of vegetable soup and poured it back into the pot on the stove. She thought about throwing it all over him, but that would have been a waste of perfectly good soup.
    “Get out,” Amy instructed.
    “Now, hold on just a minute, Amy,” Amelia spoke up, “I’m sure you have a perfectly good reason for this, don’t you, Dirk?”
    Glancing at the hardwood floor and the unevenness of the boards, Dirk shook his head. “No. I don’t have a good reason. Other than her husband’s dead and we don’t have any evidence. So, I’m out collecting it.”
    “Pfffh! Please!” Amy hissed. “You should be out questioning Alice Mabe! You know Nora wouldn’t do a thing like that!”
    “Or do I,” asked Dirk.
    “What on earth could you mean by that?” Amelia jerked the dishtowel from her shoulder and slapped it down on the table, glaring right at him.
    He answered, “Well. For starters, everyone in the town is afraid of her. She’s different, that’s for sure. She stays shut up in her house. She’s not very nice. And, she hates children.”
    “And so that makes her a murderer?!” Amy screamed. “We’re going with you!”
    “I’d rather you didn’t. I don’t want y’all to get her riled up,” he replied.
    “You’re afraid of her,” Amelia declared.
    “You know what. I’ve had about enough of this. I’ll just be on my way.” Dirk stood up and placed his handkerchief beside the place where his bowl once was. He pushed his chair in, donned his coat, hat, and boots, and headed back out the door.
    To his surprise, neither of his sisters followed him. He knew there was much to be done on the farm today, and honestly, they just didn’t have the time to assist him in solving a murder. He glanced back one more time to be sure Amy wasn’t running up behind him with a frying pan in her hand. She was that furious.
    Pacing himself down the path to the road, his stomach began to turn. Swallowing what bit of nervousness that was churning in his stomach, he continued on his way. About another mile down the road, was the path that cut off the road and lead to Nora’s home. It was a rather narrow path, barely large enough for a carriage. When he turned to walk to up the path, a large appaloosa horse, grey in the front and white with black spots in the back, rushed him at the fence. Dirk stopped in his tracks, putting his hands out on either side, trying to make himself look bigger. The appaloosa gave him a death stare while snorting white steam out of both of her nostrils. After a few seconds of the standoff, she turned away from him and trotted away. To be cautious, he walked slowly on the path and kept an eye out for her, in case she tried to rush the fence again.
    Still walking along the path, Dirk came to a cemetery on the left. As he approached, he saw a man digging. To waste even more time, he decided to stop in and see if he needed any help.
    “Hey, good man. You need a hand?” he asked.
    The gravedigger didn’t bother to look at him and continued to dig. His raggedy appearance and long greasy hair was unlike any person Dirk had ever seen in town before. “Looks like you could use a break,” he said, nervously.
    “Does Mrs. Lusk know you’re here, boy?” asked the gravedigger.
    “I’m on my way to see her.”
    “Then you best be on your way. A fog is rolling in. We all know what that means.” Without missing a beat, the gravedigger kept digging.
    Feeling as though his stomach was now in his throat, Dirk turned around, and continued onto Nora’s home. The fall air seemed to get thinner as he made his way up the large hill. The wind began to pick up and the smell of crushed leaves swirled around his body.
    Approaching the house, he could hear a murder of crows in the trees just off her porch. There must have been hundreds of them circling around above and flying from tree to tree. As he got closer to the home, their screeches went from calm to panic. When Nora heard this, she trudged her way toward the door.

                                                             Chapter 2: Nora Lusk
    “What do you want,” Nora yelled, blasting out of her home onto the porch. “You look like hell.”
    “It’s been a long day, Nora. I just need to ask you some questions.” Dirk threw his hands up into the air as if to say “I surrender”.
    “Alright. But if you piss me off, I can’t guarantee I won’t throw you out of the house myself.” She took her apron off and invited him in.
    At first, he was hesitant. He stood outside her home for a moment contemplating if he really should walk in. I mean, she could have killed her husband. And if she killed him, she could kill me too, he thought to himself. Yet, he remembered the sternness in the sheriff’s voice when he was given this task. Although, his last assignment was minuscule, he failed. He couldn’t fail again.
    Straightening his jacket and clearing his throat, Dirk made his way up the steps, onto the porch, and into Nora’s home. Surprisingly, it wasn’t all the townspeople had made it up to be. Yes, the crows outside were a little creepy and Nora was not a woman to be trifled with, but her home gave off a different aura. There were hooks by the door for coats. Dirk decided to hang up his jacket, and his hat, in hopes Nora would see it as a peace offering. While she fiddled with the stove, he sat down at the table and waited for her to bring him a cup of coffee. When she approached him with the coffee in hand, he sat back in his chair and removed his arms from the table, so she could sit it down in front of him. 
    “Ah,” she laughed. “Did you honestly think I was going to pour you some coffee? What do you want?” Her expression went from laughter to dead silence in an instant.
    This made Dirk take a big gulp from his empty throat. “The sheriff sent me,” he explained.
    “Of course he did,” Nora said, shaking her head. “You have 2 seconds to cut to the chase or I’m dragging you, and that chair you’re in, out my door. It would bring me much joy to see you tumble down those steps. I don’t like to beat around the bush, you know.”
    Taking another moment to think his last words through, if she were to kill him after he asked her this one question, Dirk began, “Were you aware that Lucius was sneaking around with Alice Mabe?”
    They sat staring at each other. Nora’s mind seemed to have went to another place. Then, in a moment’s notice, she burst into laughter again. She laughed so hard she began to cry. “YES! After all these years, that’s how he repaid me. By hanging around that smut.”
    Not knowing what to say next, Dirk remained quiet. It was not the answer he was expecting. If Dirk asked Nora if she killed Lucius because he was spending time with another woman, she might kill Dirk too. However, knowing that if he didn’t come back to the sheriff with answers, his odds might be the same, he dove in. “Is that why you killed him?”
    “Ha! Boy! If I wanted him dead, I wouldn’t have had to do it myself.” She took a sip of her coffee. The expression on her face was that of laying down a full house in a game of cards.
    “What do you mean?” Dirk seemed confused.
    Nora sat back in her chair and crossed her arms, “Well, if you must know. He gave the preacher counterfeit money every Sunday for about 5 years. Preacher Cliff was furious when he took all that money to the bank, only to find out it was fake. Oh! And then there’s Alice. She could have killed him because he wouldn’t leave me to be with her. He just enjoyed the thrill of secrecy. If he made it official with her, there wouldn’t be any more secrets now would there?”
    “No, I guess not.” Dirk took out his notepad and scribbled down a few words to help him remember what Nora had said.
    “You didn’t let me finish, boy. You aren’t very good at this are you?” She grinned a sadistic grin as if she knew everything he was thinking. “There’s also Silas Blanche. He told me he could treat me better than Lucius. He always had a thing for me. He could have done it!”
    Dirk wrote down a few more notes. Looking back at Nora, he seemed a bit skeptical. She was a hard woman to read. He had to remain unbiased because he had a murder to solve.
    Nora noticed this look of denial on his face. She immediately jumped up from the table and so did Dirk. He didn’t know what she was up to but stood still and watched her make her way over to the dresser. Reaching into the top drawer, Nora pulled out her .41 caliber Derringer Pocket Pistol and a note and laid them on the table in front of where Dirk was standing. “There’s your proof,” she said.
    Adjusting himself back into his chair and scooting it back up to the table, he slowly moved his hands past the weapon and to the letter, where he could see bits of a man’s handwriting. It read:
    He will pay for what he’s done to you. Then, we can be together. -Silas
    Dirk glanced back at Nora, who still had her poker face on, and said, “I’ll be taking this with me. The sheriff will want to see this.” He stuffed it into the inside of his jacket pocket.
    “Suit yourself,” she said, picking up her pistol and pointing it right at him before stuffing it back into her drawer.
    Dirk got up from his seat, seeing that it was almost dark. “Thank you for talking with me. I know it wasn’t easy.”
    “Don’t you dare think you’re going anywhere tonight. That fog is rollin’ in mighty fast. I doubt you could beat it.”
    With the expression of confusion on his face, Dirk smirked and continued onto the porch.
    “You know, Lucius died on a foggy night,” she said, running up to the screen door.
    Stopping in his tracks, Dirk thought about how much he missed while he was away. One wouldn’t think that a few years away from Hollow Springs would make that much of a difference, but it did. Growing up, he didn’t have to worry about a murderer in town, let alone a fog. “That’s just coincidence,” he replied and made his way down the porch steps.
    Outside the air was even more thin as the hair stood up on the back of his neck. The wind sounded like the ocean as it blew through the trees. Catching a glimpse of something moving out the corner of his right eye, Dirk drew his weapon just like Sheriff Warren had taught him, fast and accurately. To his dismay, it was a mere scarecrow whose arms were blowing in the wind. Placing his firearm back into the holster on his side, Dirk looked back to see if Nora was amused at the sight of his embarrassment. Luckily, she was not present at the door.
    Dirk turned to head back down the path. He listened to the creek that ran along it. No wonder Nora likes to be out here alone, he thought. It’s so peaceful.
    The hill got steeper as he took careful steps down it. He tried to plant his feet firmly onto the gravel but was very unsuccessful. Taking a step much too large for his stature, he fell to the ground. I have never been this clumsy, he thought to himself. Just then, he heard a laughing sound coming from the cemetery. Raising himself onto his knees and then onto his feet, being sure not to lose his balance, he found himself heading toward the spot where the gravedigger once stood. Looking around in the empty cemetery, he found himself surprisingly alone.
    “Hello!” he shouted, but there was no answer.
    Taking a moment to have a look around, as the fog was surrounding him and growing thicker, he examined the grave stones that laid around him. The first one he saw was beside the hole the gravedigger had dug. The headstone read: Lucille Lorraine Lusk April 18, 1889- October 12th, 1889. In the row behind that, there were two stones that read, Norma Jean Wicker November 1850- January 1875 and Peter Paul Wicker July 1852- April 1890. That must have been Nora’s parents, he thought to himself. Dirk didn’t know the family had lost a child and Mr. Wicker within the last 6 years. There were other grave stones but they had been weathered so much that they weren’t legible. Then, there at the very end, there was one more that he could read. It read: Jean Ophelia Wicker September 1869- June 1879. Dirk was astonished at the young deaths that had happened in Nora’s family. Although, it was just about like every other family during that time, Dirk thought there may be some importance to these dates and wrote them all down.
    Turning around to continue onto town, Dirk faced a dark figure standing between himself and the pathway out of the cemetery. When the figure removed the hood of its cloak, he could see it was Nora.
    “Geeze! Why don’t you just scare somebody!” Dirk yelled out of fear.
    “I saw you snooping, Mr. Ward. Whatever you’re looking for, you won’t find it here,” she said, approaching him.
    “All these young deaths. No wonder you don’t like people.”
    She looked around and back at him saying, “If you get too close to someone, you stand the chance of losing them.”
    “I can see that. Were those your parents?”
    “Sure was. Momma was two years older than daddy. She died while she was in labor with me.” Then pointing to the grave beside the hole for Lucius, she continued, “That was our baby, Lucille. She only lived for a few months. Lucius and I weren’t the same after that. Then, the next year, daddy died.”
    “I can’t imagine, Nora,” Dirk said looking around at all the stones. Then, he reached toward the stone that was away from all the others and asked, “What about this one, Jean Ophelia Wicker. Who was she?”
    “She was my older sister. She died when I was four. I watched a heavy gate fall onto her. She was crushed instantly.”
    “I’m so sorry, Nora. Maybe if everyone knew what you had been through, they would see you through different eyes, and maybe wouldn’t fear you or judge you so much.”
    Nora wiped her tears and began to shout, “You will tell no one of any of this! Do you understand? I have dealt with it by myself all of my life, I sure as hell don’t need any help or pity now.”
    Dirk nodded and paced himself, walking past Nora who was still staring at all the graves in the cemetery. He stopped and turned to look back toward her, but saw that she hadn’t moved and decided not to disturb her further.
    Heading back toward the path to town, Dirk felt like he was being watched. The fog was so thick, he could hardly see. Following the edge of the road, he was sure he had to get back to town to tell the sheriff what had transpired while he had been gone. Just as he was about to pass the place he and his sisters lived, he almost ran into Bucky, his trusty steed.
    “Hey, boy! Come here,” he said, rubbing his hands along Bucky’s nose and down his neck, fishing his hands around for the reins. Once he found the reins, he mounted and began to make his way back to town.
    Bucky was a nervous wreck. His steps weren’t as sure as they usually were and his head bobbed up and down at high intervals while walking. Buddy’s ears were constantly scanning to his front and sides. Off in the distance, Dirk and Bucky could hear something approaching.
    “Deputy Ward, what on God’s green earth are you still doing out?” the familiar voice said.
    “Well, Sheriff, I was just on my way back to you.” He stopped his horse right beside the sheriff’s.
    “What’d you find out, son?”
    “A lot,” he said, holding up the note Nora gave him and the notes he had taken while at her home.
    “Alright. Let’s head back. During a heavy fog is no time to be creeping around in this town, you know.”
    “That’s what people keep telling me,” Dirk replied, but before he could say anything else, the sheriff had already disappeared into the thick blanket of fog. Dirk couldn’t even hear the sheriff’s horse’s footsteps any longer.
    Finally, Dirk reached the sheriff’s office, where Sheriff Warren was sitting at his desk with his feet propped up. Entering the establishment, Dirk removed his hat and coat and laid the information down on Sheriff Warren’s desk.
    First, he picked up the letter from Silas and read it. “Hogwash!” he blurted, tossing the note back across the table toward Dirk, as though it were a playing card. Next, he picked up the notes Dirk had taken on who Nora thought had murdered her husband. “My best bet is, it was her,” Sheriff Warren said, reading Dirk’s facial expression.
    “You think it was Nora?” Dirk interrogated.
    “Why wouldn’t it be, is the real question, Deputy. Her husband was a menace. He was running around on her and giving the preacher counterfeit money. She could have saw a way out with Silas Blanche. She knew he liked her. What if she wanted to be with him, so she killed Lucius.” Sheriff Warren glared at Dirk as though it was Dirk’s problem to deal with.
    “She’s just been through so much,” Dirk continued.
    “Don’t you think we all have, Deputy?” The sheriff’s voice shook Dirk to his bones. “Her husband’s funeral is tomorrow.”
    “Let me guess,” Dirk began, “you want me to go.”
    “You can bet your pretty penny we will all be there, son. There’s nothing more telling than the reactions of those closest to the victim. We’re gonna be lookin’ for anything out of the ordinary.” He slipped the list of suspects and Silas’ note into his shirt pocket and gave Dirk a wink.
    “What do you mean?” Dirk was confused.
    “You’ll see, boy. I can guarantee it.” Sheriff Warren put his cigar out in the ashtray on his desk and walked to the door. After sliding into his jacket and putting his hat on, he opened the door. “Better get home. We’ll save the speculating for after Lucius’ funeral. Rest that sharp mind. We’re gonna need as many eyes as possible tomorrow.”
    After the sheriff walked out and rode away, Dirk gathered his thoughts and tirelessly headed home.
                                                         Chapter 3: The Funeral
    After Dirk left that evening, Nora sat outside in a rocking chair on her porch. The sun was setting and the wind was brushing through the trees. She closed her eyes imagining she was at the ocean. Her daddy always told her if she ever wanted to visit the ocean, all she had to do was close her eyes. The force of the wind through the trees created a wave-like sound. Back and forth, the trees would move, just like the ocean waves. Her daddy always told her if she wanted to see the ocean, all she had to do was look at the hay field. The breeze combing the hay in sheets made the hay have the appearance of ocean waves. Nora didn’t have to go too far to escape her town. In an instant, she could close her eyes and be anywhere she wanted to be. Hearing that her crows had come home to nest for the evening, she went inside to get them some feed.
    Walking back onto the porch, she threw the seed onto the yard and watched all of her friends flock to it. It was just cornmeal, but it was fascinating to watch the whole murder rush to it and devour it. Nora sat back in her chair and watched them. She thought about Lucius and the life they once knew. She thought about their daughter and her parents. She thought about the many generations that worked the very land she was now in possession of. Next thing she knew, she heard a ping sound on the porch. Looking down, she picked up a shiny key. The crows always brought her gifts in exchange for feeding them. She’s made jewelry, decorations, and wind chimes out of all the odd shiny objects they had given her. Without thinking of this object any differently, she stuck it into her shoe so she could place it in her junk drawer later.
    Realizing it was almost dark, she went back inside, stoked the fire, and blew out her oil lamps.

Thank you for taking the time to read an excerpt from Nora From the Hollow! Please let me know what you think! I can’t wait to publish the book in September. I look forward to hearing from you!

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70+ People Have Escorting Mr.Colburn in Their Hands!!

It has been about a month and a half since releasing my first book. So far, there have been 70 copies of the book distributed! Now, mind you, a portion of these were free units. However, it is still gratifying to know 70 plus people have a copy of my book (some people have shared copies)! The experience of releasing my first book has definitely opened my eyes to possibilities I never even thought was there. I didn’t expect my first book to make it into the hands of 70 people, but I’m grateful. It also makes me really excited to release my second book in the next 2 months. My second book is comprised of more characters, more interactions, and more drama. My first book had a Hallmark feel to it, and my second adds mystery and drama to that.

Recently, I also received my 5th review for Escorting Mr. Colburn. This one is on Good Reads, check it out below:37340523_255581281889355_8318536991545229312_n.jpg

This seems to be the common theme among reviews. The book was hard to put down and it had a warm feeling throughout, which is exactly what I was going for. However, Nora From the Hollow, my second book, will have a darker feel to it. Yet, it will be just as engaging and interesting. Because I’m releasing it in the fall of the year (and I love a good thriller mystery during my favorite time of the year), it is a perfect fit when curling up next to a fire while watching the leaves fall outside. Check out the cover, which fits the book perfectly, below:

Screenshot 2018-07-10 at 7.47.50 PM

I can’t wait to see how far my second book goes. I’m confident that everyone will enjoy the second one just as much as they did the first! Both of these books were such a delight to write. When I can’t stop writing, I know it’s going to be a great book.

I hope you all are doing well. I very much enjoy hearing from many different people on their experiences of reading and writing.

’til next time,

Marlena Owens

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Cover and Info on Nora From The Hollow, My Next Book

     I am SO excited to show you all the cover of Nora From The Hollow!! This book will be available Saturday, September 22nd, the first day of fall!

If you’re like me, and love fall, this book will satisfy all of your fall time cravings. There’s murder, mystery, spooky scenes, and twists and turns you’ll never expect! Heck, I didn’t even expect half of them!😂 As always, my books are comprised of elements that all ages can enjoy. So, get ready to snuggle up by the fire, sip on some hot chocolate, and follow Nora’s story as she finds out who murdered her husband, Lucius.

Here’s the brief book description:

In the fall of 1895, in the small town of Hollow Springs, there have been a string of murders. Most of these killings have happened during a fog, causing the townspeople to create superstitions around this naturally occurring event. This time, it was Nora Lusk’s husband, Lucius. Lucius wasn’t perfect. He was actually far from perfect. This leads Nora to make a list of three people who were capable of killing her husband. Lucius was known for putting counterfeit money into the church’s offering plate. Therefore, the angry Preacher Cliff is the first suspect. The second, Alice Mabe, was Lucius’ lover. She seemed like the type who would kill someone for the simple reason that if she couldn’t have them, no one could. Lastly, Silas Blanche, saw the way Lucius treated Nora and looked forward to the day when he could treat Nora better. Yet, he couldn’t do it with Lucius in the way. Ironically, when the town points their fingers at Nora, she and her beloved friends must work quickly to investigate the twists and tangles of the deep family rivalries, and the small town secrets of Hollow Springs, to clear her name! Just when you think you know what happened and why, another curve ball is thrown into the mix!

About the cover:
Once you read the book, the cover will make perfect sense. I hope you all enjoy reading it just as much as I have enjoyed writing it!!

Some great characters you’ll love:

Nora Lusk: She’s the anti-social crazy lady with a short fuse that the town fears. Yet, she has a soft side for her friends.

Dirk Ward: He’s one of the sheriff’s deputies who finds himself tasked with solving the murder of Lucius Lusk, Nora’s husband.

Amy and Amelia Ward: Sisters to Dirk and best friends/neighbors of Nora, serve as accomplices in the complicated investigation.

 

One interesting thing to note, my great grandmother’s maiden name was Nora Lusk. When searching for creepy dark names for my characters, I knew I had to use her name as the main character! Although I never got to meet her, I’m sure she would be thrilled!

 

Thank you all for reading,
Marlena Owens

Featured post

Benefit Raises Over 14,000 for Burn Victims

Full story here: http://www.wdbj7.com/video/?vid=487645701&vid=487645701

I was fortunate to participate in the motorcycle ride and purchase a t-shirt. It was beautiful to see the community come together for complete strangers. It makes me proud to live in the area that I do. Some say that Southwest Virginia is the poorer part of the state, but it’s usually the ones who don’t have much to give that give their all. Everyone that showed up that day had problems of their own going on in their lives. However, for one day, they were able to set that aside and do something so special for someone else. There was a great turn out and the donations are still pouring in! The total is now over $14,000, with every cent from the benefit going to the families of the victims!

 

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New Author Seeking Advice and Reviews

Since I’m new here, I’m asking for advice on self-publishing on Amazon, as well as reviews for my first book that I published, Escorting Mr. Colburn. This book is free until tomorrow on Kindle.

I have tons of questions!

First, what has your experience been with self-publishing?

If you could do your writing career over again, what would you change?

What genres do you find that do the best?

How long does it take you to write a book?

How much detail is too much detail?

How much drama is too much drama?

Do you recommend any other publishing websites, companies, agents, etc?

 

Questions for those who read my book:

What are your overall feelings about Escorting Mr. Colburn?

If you could change anything, in the book, what would it be?

What did you like the best about the book?

What did you like the least about the book?

Other remarks or suggestions?

Thank you to anyone who offers a suggestion. Advice is greatly appreciated!!

Thank y’all!

Marlena Owens

 

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Support a Local Author! Escorting Mr. Colburn: Free on Amazon from 6/29-7/3!! Enter into the FREE Giveaway! Info Below!

Hey, y’all!

Escorting Mr. Colburn is doing very well! To celebrate I am offering this book for free (download) on Amazon from Friday, June 29th to Tuesday, July 3rd. This will give anyone, who doesn’t want to take a chance on a new author, the ability to read my book with ZERO monetary contributions. Be sure to download it between 6/29-7/3! This is the only FREE promotion I will be running on this book. Download it before it’s too late!!

Also, to get the word out about my free book promotion on Amazon, I am doing a giveaway on Facebook! To enter into the giveaway, all you have to do is “like” my Marlena Owens Author page on Facebook (@MarlenaOwensAuthor) and share the post with this article in it. That’s it! At the end of the free promotion, I will draw a name out of a hat to win a FREE PAPERBACK COPY of Escorting Mr. Colburn (can ship if needed)!

So, please download my new book Escorting Mr. Colburn while it’s FREE from 6/29-7/3!!

To enter into the free giveaway for a paperback copy of Escorting Mr. Colburn, “like” my Facebook page: Marlena Owens Author, and share the post that contains this article!

Thank you all for the support. I am very excited to see the book doing so well and appreciate all of your kind words. It means more to me than you will ever know!

Thank you all!

Marlena Owens

51lpZ9HtvbL

Featured post

Benefit for Burn Victims and Ways You Can Help!

Recently, a flash fire broke out at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant in Radford, Virginia. Three men were injured in this flash fire. Two of them were burned on over 90% of their bodies, Andrew Goad (middle) and Dakota Grimmett (right). One, Travis Mitchell, (far left) suffered minor burns and was released from the hospital shortly after. However, Dakota and Andrew remained in the hospital. Sadly, a few days later, Andrew Goad passed away. Dakota Grimmett still remains hospitalized and fights daily for his life. He still has a long road of recovery ahead of him.

This area is about 45 minutes away from my home. I was devastated by the effects of the explosion. Then, I found out there was a benefit that was being organized to donate all proceeds to the families of these victims. It will be held on July 8th at the USW Hall in Radford, Virginia. There will be a dinner, silent auction, 50/50 raffle, a motorcycle ride, jewelry, and many other wonderful vendors. It is humbling to see the way the community is coming together to support our local heroes. Being close to some people that work at this facility, I asked myself what I could do to help. So, I will be set up at the benefit taking donations for copies my new book. All donations will be given to the families of these burn victims.

If you are in or around this area, please come by between noon and 6 pm. If you are interested in participating in the motorcycle ride that starts at 10 am, or want more information about this event, visit the event link below. Come and grab a bite to eat, a raffle ticket, a book, a silent auction item, and anything else offered to support our local heroes! If you have anything to donate or want to help out, please contact Amber Skidmore via the facebook event link below:

https://www.facebook.com/events/973127722851069/976577992506042/?notif_t=admin_plan_mall_activity&notif_id=1529599300683487

If the link doesn’t work, it can also be found by typing: Benefit Dinner for Burn Victims Injured in Flash Fire at BAE in the search bar.

If you would like to donate to their Celco Federal Credit Union donation account, please see the information below:

Celco Federal Credit Union:

P.O. Box 361

Narrows, VA 24124

Phone: (540) 921-2700

If you are interested in donating to their Go Fund Me pages or buying a t-shirt to help out, the links are listed below:

Go Fund Me:

https://www.gofundme.com/dakota-grimmetts-medical-fund

T-Shirts:

https://www.customink.com/fundraising/fundraiser-for-dakota-grimmett?ref=copy-link_social_desktop-campaign-page-share-top-v3&utm_campaign=desktop-campaign-page-share-top-v3&utm_content=fundraiser-for-dakota-grimmett&utm_medium=social&utm_source=copy-link&side=front&type=1&zoom=false

Fundraiser fo Dakota and Andrew Fundraiser - unisex shirt design - front

https://www.customink.com/fundraising/fundraiser-fo-dakota-and-andrew?ref=copy-link_social_desktop-campaign-page-share-top-v3&utm_campaign=desktop-campaign-page-share-top-v3&utm_content=fundraiser-fo-dakota-and-andrew&utm_medium=social&utm_source=copy-link&side=front&type=1&zoom=false

Full Story Here:

http://www.wdbj7.com/content/news/Officials-Crews-on-scene-of-a-fire-at-Radford-Arsenal-485197571.html

 

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The Reviews Are Coming In!

It’s only been about a week and a half since the paperback version of Escorting Mr. Colburn was released and only a few days since the e-book version has been released. So far, this is what readers are saying:

 

The amount of support that I’ve received with releasing my first book has been overwhelming, in a great way! I was not expecting this many people to read, let alone purchase something I had written. Not because I thought my writing was bad. I’ve always gotten positive feedback on my writing skills. However, I never knew anyone would care enough to read my work. Now that I am over the initial anxiety of publishing my first book, I am keeping the momentum up and am working on my second book! It’s amazing how I’ve gone from “I wonder if I can do this” to “Woah! I’m actually doing this!” The feedback from family and friends has greatly boosted my confidence. I am humbled by the amount of support and can’t thank everyone enough! I’ve honestly learned the only limits you face are the ones you set upon yourself!

Thank you for reading!

Marlena Owens

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About a Book: Escorting Mr. Colburn By Marlena Owens

I just published a book called Escorting Mr. Colburn. It is available on Amazon in paperback and eBook form. Many of my friends and family have purchased it. I can’t wait to hear what they have to say about it!

I got the idea for this book a few years ago but didn’t get the courage to finally finish it until recently. I would like to compare publishing your first book to riding home from the hospital with your first baby. You don’t know what to expect, you feel vulnerable, and you’re responsible for what you’ve created. I have always enjoyed writing but it took me gaining confidence in myself before I could share it with others.

About the book:

Justine lives in New York City with her brother, Sam. Their parents just passed tragically a few months before in a bus accident. As if life can’t get any harder, Sam’s school tuition is due in one month. With the help of her energetic and unique neighbor, Wanda, Justine explores her options. She doesn’t have any hobbies and isn’t very crafty. However, she knows the city like the back of her hand. Then she had the idea to start a personal travel agent business. Justine would accompany tourists to their destinations and be their personal tour guide. Yet, when she places her ad, she only gets one reply. Little did she know, that’s the only reply she would need!

Come on a journey with me, exploring the 3 most well-known destinations to visit in New York City!

This novel explores the process of grief and how our loved ones speak to us even after they’re gone. It also digs into living with regret after the death of a loved one. Lastly, this novel shows that one can find beauty in moving on. I hope you enjoy it.

Read the first two chapters for free via the link below!

https://madambraintrust.wordpress.com/2018/06/07/preview-the-first-two-chapters-of-my-new-book-2/

Visit my Amazon author page to purchase:

amazon.com/author/marlenaowens

As always, be sure to leave a review! I look forward to hearing from you!

51lpZ9HtvbL

Featured post

Benefit for Burn Victims and Ways You Can Help!

Recently, a flash fire broke out at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant in Radford, Virginia. Three men were injured in this flash fire. Two of them were burned on over 90% of their bodies, Andrew Goad (middle) and Dakota Grimmett (right). One, Travis Mitchell, (far left) suffered minor burns and was released from the hospital shortly after. However, Dakota and Andrew remained in the hospital. Sadly, a few days later, Andrew Goad passed away. Dakota Grimmett still remains hospitalized and fights daily for his life. He still has a long road of recovery ahead of him.

This area is about 45 minutes away from my home. I was devastated by the effects of the explosion. Then, I found out there was a benefit that was being organized to donate all proceeds to the families of these victims. It will be held on July 8th at the USW Hall in Radford, Virginia. There will be a dinner, silent auction, 50/50 raffle, a motorcycle ride, jewelry, and many other wonderful vendors. It is humbling to see the way the community is coming together to support our local heroes. Being close to some people that work at this facility, I asked myself what I could do to help. So, I will be set up at the benefit taking donations for copies my new book. All donations will be given to the families of these burn victims.

If you are in or around this area, please come by between noon and 6 pm. If you are interested in participating in the motorcycle ride that starts at 10 am, or want more information about this event, visit the event link below. Come and grab a bite to eat, a raffle ticket, a book, a silent auction item, and anything else offered to support our local heroes! If you have anything to donate or want to help out, please contact Amber Skidmore via the facebook event link below:

https://www.facebook.com/events/973127722851069/976577992506042/?notif_t=admin_plan_mall_activity&notif_id=1529599300683487

If the link doesn’t work, it can also be found by typing: Benefit Dinner for Burn Victims Injured in Flash Fire at BAE in the search bar.

If you would like to donate to their Celco Federal Credit Union donation account, please see the information below:

Celco Federal Credit Union:

P.O. Box 361

Narrows, VA 24124

Phone: (540) 921-2700

If you are interested in donating to their Go Fund Me pages or buying a t-shirt to help out, the links are listed below:

Go Fund Me:

https://www.gofundme.com/dakota-grimmetts-medical-fund

T-Shirts:

https://www.customink.com/fundraising/fundraiser-for-dakota-grimmett?ref=copy-link_social_desktop-campaign-page-share-top-v3&utm_campaign=desktop-campaign-page-share-top-v3&utm_content=fundraiser-for-dakota-grimmett&utm_medium=social&utm_source=copy-link&side=front&type=1&zoom=false

Fundraiser fo Dakota and Andrew Fundraiser - unisex shirt design - front

https://www.customink.com/fundraising/fundraiser-fo-dakota-and-andrew?ref=copy-link_social_desktop-campaign-page-share-top-v3&utm_campaign=desktop-campaign-page-share-top-v3&utm_content=fundraiser-fo-dakota-and-andrew&utm_medium=social&utm_source=copy-link&side=front&type=1&zoom=false

Full Story Here:

http://www.wdbj7.com/content/news/Officials-Crews-on-scene-of-a-fire-at-Radford-Arsenal-485197571.html

 

Featured post

Preview the First Two Chapters of My New Book For Free!

Be sure to let me know what you think!

Thank you for reading!

 

Escorting Mr. Colburn

Marlena Owens

 

Chapter 1

    “Taxi. Taxi,” Justine yelled as she ran along the side of the street with her 12-year-old brother, Sam, in tow. Feeling hopeless as she had already spilled her coffee, burned her forehead with her straightener, and slipped on one of Sam’s model cars, Justine was sure catching a taxi was the least of her worries.

    “Justine! We’re going to be late!” Sam reminded her, for the fifth time.

    “I know, Sam. I’m trying.” Justine’s exhausted look turned to a smile knowing that finally, a taxi had stopped. “Jump in!” She told him.

    “Where to, Miss?” The cab driver asked.

    “Prescott Middle, please,” Justine replied. She and Sam made themselves comfy for the ride.

    Justine loved the city. The smells weren’t always pleasant, but she loved the rush. The busyness of Manhattan. There was always someone going somewhere and doing something in this big city. Looking out the window, she admired the tall buildings that she had grown up around. Thinking of these buildings and her childhood made her think of her parents. She missed them. She knew Sam missed them too. She thought about the way her mother always gave her the best hugs. She thought about how her father always made sure she was up-to-par on her swing. She remembered life the way it was. A tear fell from her eye, but as fast as it fell, she wiped it away. Sam was looking out his window too. Justine supposed he was nervous.

    “Are you okay?” Justine asked.

    “I guess.”

    “Seventh grade won’t be so bad.” She reassured him.

    “I guess not. At least I get to go to my school and not a different one.”  

    “You let me worry about that, Sam. Are you excited to meet your teacher?”

    “Mr. Sizemore? He coached me in pee-wee football, don’t you remember?”

    “I’m sorry, I don’t.” She told him. But my mother would have, she thought to herself.

    “How much longer, Amir?” Justine asked the cab driver. Amir was a cab driver that Justine had ridden with many times. He is Indian, but he loves it here in The States. He immigrated from India as a young boy, with his parents. Justine loves to ride with Amir because of his accent and his stories.

    “I’d say about 10 minutes if this light would ever change, Miss Justine,” Amir replied.

    “Do you have any good stories today?” Sam asked Amir.

    “Why, sure I do. Did you ever hear about the Indian woman who ate the cow?” He joked.

    “Nope,” Sam said.

    “She became a God. That’s why we’re not allowed to eat our special cows. HA HA HA!”

    Sam and Justine didn’t understand Amir’s culture but made a slight laugh of the dry humor anyway. Their mother and father rode with Amir quite often, too. Amir knew just how to put a smile on their mother’s face.  

    “You know, a cow almost took my leg one time. I was walking the street and slipped on a pot and my leg fell into the cow’s mouth. Luckily, the cow was asleep and didn’t even wake up!” Amir giggled.

    “That was a good one, Amir,” Justine said.

    “Here you are, Miss,” Amir announced.

Justine opened the door, paid Amir, and waited for Sam to exit the car. Prescott Middle School was a large private school on the other end of Manhattan. Kids and their parents were flooding the school. Today is the day the students get to meet their teachers, receive their class schedules, and their supply lists for each class. Justine knew Sam was excited about seeing his friends again. A lot had happened over the summer. Luckily, with Sam going back to school, Justine could find a job and start bringing in income. The only thing that suffered in Justine’s life was her college experience. She dropped out when her parents passed away a few months ago. It was impossible for her to make funeral arrangements, take care of her brother, and manage her parents’ estate.

    Sam ran by Justine to greet some of his friends.

    “I’m going to find Mr. Sizemore. I’ll call you when I’m finished.” Justine told Sam. He nodded, as he was too busy to talk to his sister now. He had some much needed catching up to do with his friends.

    Justine walked through the tall automatic doors. It felt, to her, as if she was entering a mall. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. She walked into the front office to get directions from the office secretary.

    “Can I help you?” The secretary asked.

Justine looked down at the name tag on the secretary’s desk. It read Jackie Bryant.

    “Mrs. Bryant, Could you tell me where Mr. Sizemore’s office is?” Justine asked.

   “Sure. He’s in room 223, down the hall and to the right. If you reach the stairs, you’ve gone too far.” Mrs. Bryant replied.

   “Thank you,” Justine replied and set off to find Mr. Sizemore’s classroom. The halls were wide and seemed like they went on forever. Justine turned the corner and saw the stairs. Immediately to the right was Mr. Sizemore standing in the doorway to his classroom.

    “Hey, Justine. How are you? He asked.

    “Just the person I wanted to see. I’m doing great. Sam is in your class this year.”  

    “I noticed. How is he holding up?”

    “He’s okay,” Justine said. “He’s excited to get back into school. He missed his friends over the summer, which felt like an eternity.”

    “I’m sure it did.” Mr. Sizemore said. “Here is his class schedule and his supply list. I don’t require much for my students, but if you need help with anything, just let me know. I know how hard it can be to do it all on your own.”

    Justine felt as though Mr. Sizemore was referring to their “situation”. Everyone knew Sam was living with Justine in an apartment, in a complex. That was no secret. Everyone also knew that she was his legal guardian now. Justine sometimes felt like everyone was just waiting for her to fail. However, letting her brother enter the foster care system was not going to happen.

    “There is one more thing.” Mr. Sizemore interrupted. “Mrs. Bryant requests to see you in the office before you leave.”

    Justine nodded, “Thank you. Keep me updated on Sam, please.”

    “I sure will.” Mr. Sizemore stated and nodded Justine off to the front office. Sam was standing in the hall waiting for Justine when she walked out.

    “What did Mr. Sizemore say?” Sam asked.

    “Nothing. He just gave me your schedule and told me to visit the front office. Why?” Justine interrogated.

    “Everyone’s been asking about mom and dad. I just tell them there was an accident. I don’t know what else to say.” Sam said as he stopped with his back to the lockers that lined the wall.

    “You don’t have to tell them anything you don’t want to tell them, Sam.” Justine put her hand on Sam’s shoulder and looked into his eyes. She reminded him, “Everything’s going to be okay. I can feel it.” Sam nodded, and Justine gave him a tight hug. Then they made their way to the office.

    As they walked into the office, Justine looked at the secretary and said, “Mrs. Bryant” and before she could get the rest out, Mrs. Bryant interrupted her.

    “Oh, Justine. Please call me Jackie.”

Justine nodded. “Mr. Sizemore said you wanted to see me?”       

    “Yes. Please, step into my office.” Jackie said. Justine nodded and motioned for Sam to sit in one of the chairs in the front of the office. She had a feeling this was a more important matter from the look on Jackie’s sun-kissed face.       

     Jackie reminded Justine of an 80’s workout video instructor. She had the frizzy blonde hair, blue eye shadow, and bright pink lips. All that was missing was the tight blue workout suit and the bright pink leg warmers. Jackie’s office was very well-organized. A large window let an ambiance of light in that felt like the light beaming through the windows of a church.

    “Justine. How are you holding up?”

    Justine looked offended by Jackie’s question. Obviously, she was alive and surviving. Instead of replying back the way she wanted to, because she was so tired of being asked that question, Justine replied, “I’m doing good.”

    “I’m glad. Listen, Justine, I’m sorry about what happened and I’m sorry about what I’m about to say. But…. Your parents. They didn’t pay for your brother’s tuition this fall before, you know…” Jackie was trying to find the words before Justine interrupted.

    “They died?”

    “Yes. I’m sorry, Justine. If Sam’s tuition isn’t paid by Labor Day, the principal will be forced to expel him.” Jackie looked as if she wanted to say something else but the look on Justine’s face stopped all thought. Justine thought that her parents’ lawyer settled everything when the wills were read and the accounts were settled.

    “How much?” Justine asked.

    “Your parents paid $1000 over the amount of tuition due last year. So, that leaves $4,200 due this year.” Jackie exclaimed.

    Justine sank into her chair for a moment. How could her parents do this to her? How could they do this to Sam? She knew Sam would be heartbroken if he didn’t get to go to his school and hang out with his friends.

    “There are programs that I can submit his application to. Although, they won’t cover the entire balance, they could help. With your permission, of course.” Jackie stated, waiting for an answer.

Justine came out of her stupor for a moment to say, “Sure. Thanks. Is there anything else?”

    “That’s all” Jackie replied.

Justine took the account statement off of Jackie’s desk and headed out the door. Sam was sitting in the chair Justine asked him to sit in, in the main office.

    “Let’s go,” Justine said as she motioned Sam out of the large automatic doors.

    “What was that all about?” Sam asked.

Trying to make up something, Justine replied, “She just wanted to check on us. It was nothing.”

    Justine called for a cab. Luckily, there was one already dropping off a student and their parents. Justine hurried to the cab and hopped in, with Sam right behind her.

    “Rockridge Apartments, please.” Justine blurted as her head reeled. Sam was quiet. Justine was quiet. Even the cab driver was quiet. Justine didn’t know what to say to Sam. She didn’t know what to think. As she stared out the window of the cab, she watched the flood of people walking down the street. The cab came slowly to a stop.

    The cab driver stated, “It’s an accident ma’am. It’s going to be a minute.”

    Justine didn’t respond. She was trying to find anything to get her mind off of the fact that she had a little over a month to come up with $4,500. As she peered out the window, she noticed two young children, a girl and a boy, with their parents. They were walking out of an ice cream shop, the one her parents had taken her and her brother to many times before. How did they do it, she thought to herself. Who knew it was such a big responsibility taking care of a 12-year-old, let alone two small children. Justine felt angry and sad all at once. She still had some money left from her parent’s estate settlement to live on, but it wasn’t enough to pay for Sam’s tuition. Eventually, she knew she would have to find a job because the estate money wouldn’t last forever. She just never thought it would be this soon and the weight of the world would fall onto her shoulders this hard.

Chapter 2

    When Justine and Sam got home that afternoon, Justine told her brother she was going to lay down for a bit. Sam went into his room and began to play his his games. Justine crawled under her covers and rested her head on her pillow. Her mind was so full that she could only stare out the window to her bedroom. She was at a loss. A few moments later, she fell asleep.

    When Justine awoke, she was on the bus with her parents. It was a bright, beautiful sunny day. The bus was packed with students and their college professors. Justine was in the very back of the bus but could see her parents a few rows up. They were laughing and joking with their students. Other students were singing road-trip songs. Out of nowhere, there was a loud bang that sent the bus careening over the bridge. As the bus fell, her parents began helping students open their windows. When the bus hit the water, it was the loudest crash Justine had ever heard. She saw her parents open the emergency escape on the bus. They began forcing students out of the escape hatch one-by-one. As Justine watched, she noticed her parents running out of air and saw panic in their eyes. As they ushered the last student out of the hatch, the student’s foot closed the emergency hatch as he launched himself to survival. Justine panicked as she watched her parents struggle to open the hatch once more. They even tried to fit out of the windows but, by this time, they were out of air. While still holding her breath, Justine saw her father reach for her mother and fade first. As Justine’s mother held onto her husband, she began to fade also. Justine let out a scream as air bubbles came from her mouth.

    “Wake up! Wake up, Justine! Breathe!” Sam said as he tried to wake his sister. “You were turning blue!”

    “Sorry. Bad dream.” Justine hinted as she sat up in the bed.

    “You think? You should get checked out. That’s the third time this week.” Sam urged.

    “I’m fine, Sam!” She looked out the window. She saw it was now evening.

    “What do you want for supper?” She asked.

    “Definitely not what you had for breakfast.” Sam joked.

    “Haha, funny. How does pizza sound?”

    “Good,” Sam replied, as he exited the room.

    Justine grabbed the local paper. There was a new pizza place just a block away that delivered. She thought she saw their number in the advertisements section, but couldn’t remember it. Looking through the ads, Justine sorted through the “Wanted” section, the “Pets” section, and finally made it to the “services” section. She knew the ad had a picture of a pizza on it. As she browsed through the ads, she noticed people offered services for many things. There was a group of guys who offered leaf-raking services at “low prices,” florists who advertised, artists, and services for walking pets. Finally, Justine found the number and made the call. They promised the lowest prices on this side of the city, which was a plus for Justine. As soon as Justine put the phone down, there was a bang on the door. Her neighbor, Wanda Garrett, was demanding to be let in. Justine’s heart fell to her stomach wondering what could be wrong with Wanda today.

    As Justine opened the door, Wanda burst through with a baseball bat in her hand.

    “Who’s in here? I won’t ask you to show yourself twice!” Wanda shouted as she looked for an intruder. Wanda was an African American middle-aged bank teller with no children. She has a southern accent and dresses like she’s always ready for a close-up. Justine always refers to her as Wanda Sykes because she looks and acts just like her. There’s never a dull moment when Wanda is around.

    “Wanda, geeze. Calm down.” Justine blurted. “There’s no one else here but Sam and myself. What are you doing?”

    “I came to whoop up on anyone that tried to hurt you babies. I heard screaming and yelling coming from above, and I knew it wasn’t the Lord because even he’s not that loud.” Wanda stated.

    “Well, thank you for your concern, but we’re fine here. It was just a bad dream.” Justine announced.

    “Well,”  Wanda mocked.  “I’m certainly glad you all are fine. Isn’t that the third time this week, sugar?”

Justine gave Wanda a look as if to say, “How do you know?”

    Wanda smiled. She’s been looking after Justine and Sam ever since they moved into the apartment above her. Justine always reiterates that they are fine, but Wanda insists. Frankly, Justine likes Wanda. It gives her someone close by that she knows and can trust. Wanda has kept an eye on Sam several times while Justine was handling their parent’s affairs. She also has made food for Justine and her brother on many occasions. Justine thinks of Wanda as the crazy aunt she never had.

    “When you live above me, there’s not much I miss. Come here, baby. Do you need to talk?” Wanda asked.

    “I’m fine.” Justine insisted.

Wanda knew she wasn’t fine. Wanda had seen this look in her eye before. She knew something was wrong but couldn’t tell what.

    “Okay. I guess I’ll waltz back down to my lonely, cold, dark apartment, eating what crumbs I had left from breakfast yesterday… until… you… tell… me…”

    “Okay!” Justine interrupted, staring at Wanda from the door of the apartment. “I’ll tell you. But Sam cannot know. Come to my room.”

    Wanda hurried back up the steps where she had just made a dramatic exit to beg for information. As they entered Justine’s room, a cool breeze blew through Justine’s window. Her hot pink curtains waved in the breeze. To the left of the room were Justine’s closet and dresser with a mirror on top. Straight ahead was her bed under her window. To the right was her night stand with a matching hot pink lamp shade. Justine and Wanda sat on her bed.

    “It was the accident, again,” Justine admitted.

    “Oh, poor baby. What was it like this time?” Wanda replied.

    “Just like all of the other ones. I was on the bus with them. The bus ran off the bridge. They helped everyone off the bus. In the end, they couldn’t help themselves.” Justine held it all in as she was just about to break. “And on top of all of that. I have to pay $4,200 to Sam’s school before Labor Day, or he will have to go to public school.”

    “You need to calm down,” Wanda said as she held Justine. “Lord knows, baby, none of us have a choice in the hand we’re dealt. But, it’s how we handle that hand that defines us, and our life.”

    “What do I do?” Justine asked. I can’t come up with that kind of money in a month unless I…”

    “Don’t even go there!” Wanda interrupted. “No one ever got ahead in the world by sacrificing their dignity. There are lots of things you can do. Are you good at anything?”

    “What kind of question is that!?” Justine sarcastically replied.

    “I mean, do you have a hobby? Is there something you can make and sell? Is there a job that pays well, that you’re qualified for?” Wanda interrogated.

    “No. I only have a high school diploma. I promised my parents I would finish college this year, but with everything that happened, I dropped out. And I’m not crafty if that’s what you mean. I had never even washed my own clothes, till..” Justine faded as she spoke.

    Wiping a tear from her eye, Wanda assured her.

    “Oh, sweetie. Just think about it tonight. Taking one day to yourself won’t hurt. I promise.” Wanda exclaimed.

Just then the doorbell rang. Justine told Wanda it was the pizza delivery. As they made their way into the kitchen, Wanda grabbed her baseball bat to take back with her to her apartment.

    “Are you sure you don’t want this?” Wanda asked.

    “I’m good. I promise.” Justine said with a giggle.

Wanda opened the door to find the delivery boy in a panic. She forgot she was holding her baseball bat in the air. She smiled and quickly hid it behind her back and slid by the delivery boy yelling goodbye to Sam and Justine. Justine paid the delivery guy for her pizza and quickly shut the door.

    “That Wanda is something else, isn’t she?” Sam stated, with his mouth full of pizza.

    Justine took a good look at her brother as he was sitting across from her. His blonde “bowl cut” reminded her of when he played pee-wee football as a child. She admired how his “baby teeth” were replaced by large adult teeth that looked too big for his mouth. His freckles and blue eyes also weren’t hard to miss. Justine was always jealous of the natural tan her brother had acquired from their father. She thought about how differently she was forced to look at her brother. Before the accident, she and Sam had the typical brother-sister relationship. She would yell at him when he messed with things in her room. He would yell at her when she would hog the television. Back then, he was this annoying brat her parents forced her to live with. Now that her parents are gone, Justine felt as though the relationship between her and Sam had become friendlier. Although they do have their arguments, it’s different now.

    “That she is. I don’t know what we would do without her, though.” Justine replied.

     “I don’t know what I would do without her cherry cobbler.” Sam grinned.

    After supper, Sam took a shower and went into his room to play his games. Then Justine took a shower, told Sam good night and crawled back into bed. After going through her head about the possible ways to earn money, Justine decided to pick up the sales paper again to see if there were any “help wanted” or “get rich quick” ads. After flipping again through the ads, she saw that office jobs were paying minimum wage. At that rate, she could have enough to match what she has saved in a few months, but that wasn’t good enough. There was an ad searching for experienced sales representatives. Justine thought to herself, If I had gone to college, as my parents advised me to, I could do this. Feeling discouraged, she swore to look at only one more page before turning off the light on her nightstand. She sifted through items that people were looking for, items people had for sale, and “buyer beware” posts. Just as she was about to set down the paper, she saw an advertisement for visitors. It read:

Manhattan Travel Escort Agency

     Have you ever wanted to visit New York City with someone who knows this city like the back of their hand? Look no further! The Manhattan Travel Escort Agency has been serving the New York City area for more than ten years. Not only do we organize an itinerary for your stay, but we also accompany you to all of your destinations! We’re like your own personal tour guide for the city. We have deluxe packages starting at $3,000 for four days. Contact us for more information at 1-800-Man-Hatn or visit our website for specific pricing and extensive details.

    Astonished, Justine dropped the paper on her lap. She thought to herself, people pay this kind of money for someone to follow them around the city? You’ve got to be kidding me. Looking for more information, Justine pulled up the site on her laptop. Part of her didn’t believe it. And another part of her hoped it was true. As she scrolled through the site, she read the reviews. There were thousands upon thousands of comments stating how much this agency helped them. Justine thought to herself again, I’ve lived here all my life. I could show some tourists around for half as much as this company offers. Excited, she pulls up the ads section online, to add her own ad. Biting her nails, nervous about if she really wanted to “put herself out there” like that, she began to type.

    If you’re visiting New York City, or want to learn more about our beloved city, make sure you have me by your side! I will set up an itinerary tailored to fit your needs and accompany you to all of your scheduled destinations. Best rates in the city! Call 842-745-8888 to schedule today, or email me at JustWilson@yahoo.com.

Justine read over her ad and contemplated submitting it. She thought, What if I’m kidnapped? What if it’s a setup and I end up dead? What if… In the tornado of thoughts that circled her mind, she quickly clicked “submit”.

Thank you for taking the time to read this excerpt from the book. Please remember, this is the final draft, but is subject to subtle changes before it is published.   

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About a Book: Escorting Mr. Colburn By Marlena Owens

I just published a book called Escorting Mr. Colburn. It is available on Amazon in paperback and eBook form. Many of my friends and family have purchased it. I can’t wait to hear what they have to say about it!

I got the idea for this book a few years ago but didn’t get the courage to finally finish it until recently. I would like to compare publishing your first book to riding home from the hospital with your first baby. You don’t know what to expect, you feel vulnerable, and you’re responsible for what you’ve created. I have always enjoyed writing but it took me gaining confidence in myself before I could share it with others.

About the book:

Justine lives in New York City with her brother, Sam. Their parents just passed tragically a few months before in a bus accident. As if life can’t get any harder, Sam’s school tuition is due in one month. With the help of her energetic and unique neighbor, Wanda, Justine explores her options. She doesn’t have any hobbies and isn’t very crafty. However, she knows the city like the back of her hand. Then she had the idea to start a personal travel agent business. Justine would accompany tourists to their destinations and be their personal tour guide. Yet, when she places her ad, she only gets one reply. Little did she know, that’s the only reply she would need!

Come on a journey with me, exploring the 3 most well-known destinations to visit in New York City!

This novel explores the process of grief and how our loved ones speak to us even after they’re gone. It also digs into living with regret after the death of a loved one. Lastly, this novel shows that one can find beauty in moving on. I hope you enjoy it.

Read the first two chapters for free via the link below!

https://madambraintrust.wordpress.com/2018/06/07/preview-the-first-two-chapters-of-my-new-book-2/

Visit my Amazon author page to purchase:

amazon.com/author/marlenaowens

As always, be sure to leave a review! I look forward to hearing from you!

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I Want To Hear From You!

Being an author makes me want to connect with other authors and writers. I want to hear from you! I’m looking for authors and writers to follow, as well. I’d love to connect with you on Twitter and Facebook too! Just comment with your username!

Facebook page: @MarlenaOwensAuthor

Twitter: @m_owens_author

Amazon author page: amazon.com/author/marlenaowens

To learn more about me:

https://wp.me/p3uv2y-817

To preview the first two chapters of my book for free:

https://madambraintrust.wordpress.com/2018/06/07/preview-the-first-two-chapters-of-my-new-book-2/

Be sure to let me know what you think! I look forward to hearing from you!

Thanks for reading,

Marlena Owens

 

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People Who Commit Suicide Are NOT Selfish! Here’s why…

A lot of people believe the misconception that those who commit suicide are selfish. I don’t know about you, but I refuse to believe that. Here’s why:

  • Bullying and believing what we tell ourselves. 

The statistics on suicide rates because of bullying are heartbreaking. These kids are internalizing what others are saying about them. With the introduction of social media, there’s no escaping the bully. People can be ruthless. Social media is available 24/7, which means, the opportunity to bully is ever-present. It has been proven that positive psychology changes the brain, in a positive way. It has also been proven that if we are stereotyped, we are more likely to live out that stereotype that we have been categorized into. Therefore, they are subconsciously and consciously accepting what people believe and say about them, including bullying.

  • They care too much.

Have you ever thought it’s possible that these people may take their lives because they care too much? I know of several people who took their own lives because they couldn’t deal with a divorce, loss of a loved one, and so on. They weren’t thinking of themselves when they chose to take their own life. Their minds were strictly on that other person. In fact, they probably weren’t even thinking about themselves. I knew a man who lost his daughter. One day, a few years later, he went missing. Later that day he was found, in his truck, parked next to her grave. He had taken his own life.

  • They think they’re a burden.

Some people have illnesses that make them feel like a burden to other people. I have also known of many people to take their own lives because of this. They didn’t want anyone to have to worry about them anymore, so they ended it all. And, once again, they weren’t thinking about themselves one bit. Some people don’t want to feel like they bother other people with their problems any longer.

  • They are in mental pain.

In this year, alone, the Law Enforcement Officer suicide rate is astonishing. Approximately 22 veterans commit suicide every day. Mental pain is a real thing. The sooner we realize that, the sooner we can start helping those who need help. Those who have never slid down the spiral of depression have never experienced how the mind can take us from the people we love. I don’t know a single person who can go through what our soldiers and police officers do and not need to talk to someone. However, because of the stigma against mental health, most of them do not get the help they deserve.

  • They are in physical pain.

Recently, near my home, a woman jumped off of a bridge, into the river below, because she couldn’t deal with her physical pain any longer. So many people are like her. They’re so caught up in the pain that they aren’t getting relief from and see no other way out. With the opoid epidemic, it is understandable why these strong narcotics aren’t readily available at every corner. However, it is leaving some people who need pain relief, without it.

Imagine being in pain all day, every day. Imagine not wanting to be a burden to anyone anymore, caring too much about the people around you and your affect on their lives, being in constant mental and physical pain with no end in sight, and having no idea what to do about it. Imagine you’re in a dark room with no way out. Instead of judging them as selfish, we should be seeing suicide for what it really is, an inability to cope. The inability to live with pain any longer. It is trying to find relief from the detrimental memories, the unending pain, and the repetitive words their mind and other people tell them. We need to remove the stigma. We need to ask the hard questions. And, we need to find better ways to manage mental health.

Tell the people you love just how much they mean to you. Have an open conversation about suicide without judgement. Let them know you enjoy the time you spend with them, whether you’re taking care of them or just checking up on them. Make sure they know it is okay to get help. It could save their lives.

Thanks for reading,

Marlena Owens

 

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Find Out a Little Bit More About Me!

So, I did an interview with the lovely Fiona from the UK! My book will be available there also! She asked some interesting questions. Check it out!

https://wp.me/p3uv2y-817

You can preview the first 2 chapters of my new book for free here:

https://madambraintrust.wordpress.com/2018/06/07/preview-the-first-two-chapters-of-my-new-book-2/

Be sure to let me know what you think! “Like” my Facebook page @MarlenaOwensAuthor and follow me on twitter @m_owens_author.

The link to my author page on Amazon is:

amazon.com/author/marlenaowens

I look forward to connecting with you!!

 

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Preview the First Two Chapters of My New Book For Free!

Be sure to let me know what you think!

Thank you for reading!

 

Escorting Mr. Colburn

Marlena Owens

 

Chapter 1

    “Taxi. Taxi,” Justine yelled as she ran along the side of the street with her 12-year-old brother, Sam, in tow. Feeling hopeless as she had already spilled her coffee, burned her forehead with her straightener, and slipped on one of Sam’s model cars, Justine was sure catching a taxi was the least of her worries.

    “Justine! We’re going to be late!” Sam reminded her, for the fifth time.

    “I know, Sam. I’m trying.” Justine’s exhausted look turned to a smile knowing that finally, a taxi had stopped. “Jump in!” She told him.

    “Where to, Miss?” The cab driver asked.

    “Prescott Middle, please,” Justine replied. She and Sam made themselves comfy for the ride.

    Justine loved the city. The smells weren’t always pleasant, but she loved the rush. The busyness of Manhattan. There was always someone going somewhere and doing something in this big city. Looking out the window, she admired the tall buildings that she had grown up around. Thinking of these buildings and her childhood made her think of her parents. She missed them. She knew Sam missed them too. She thought about the way her mother always gave her the best hugs. She thought about how her father always made sure she was up-to-par on her swing. She remembered life the way it was. A tear fell from her eye, but as fast as it fell, she wiped it away. Sam was looking out his window too. Justine supposed he was nervous.

    “Are you okay?” Justine asked.

    “I guess.”

    “Seventh grade won’t be so bad.” She reassured him.

    “I guess not. At least I get to go to my school and not a different one.”  

    “You let me worry about that, Sam. Are you excited to meet your teacher?”

    “Mr. Sizemore? He coached me in pee-wee football, don’t you remember?”

    “I’m sorry, I don’t.” She told him. But my mother would have, she thought to herself.

    “How much longer, Amir?” Justine asked the cab driver. Amir was a cab driver that Justine had ridden with many times. He is Indian, but he loves it here in The States. He immigrated from India as a young boy, with his parents. Justine loves to ride with Amir because of his accent and his stories.

    “I’d say about 10 minutes if this light would ever change, Miss Justine,” Amir replied.

    “Do you have any good stories today?” Sam asked Amir.

    “Why, sure I do. Did you ever hear about the Indian woman who ate the cow?” He joked.

    “Nope,” Sam said.

    “She became a God. That’s why we’re not allowed to eat our special cows. HA HA HA!”

    Sam and Justine didn’t understand Amir’s culture but made a slight laugh of the dry humor anyway. Their mother and father rode with Amir quite often, too. Amir knew just how to put a smile on their mother’s face.  

    “You know, a cow almost took my leg one time. I was walking the street and slipped on a pot and my leg fell into the cow’s mouth. Luckily, the cow was asleep and didn’t even wake up!” Amir giggled.

    “That was a good one, Amir,” Justine said.

    “Here you are, Miss,” Amir announced.

Justine opened the door, paid Amir, and waited for Sam to exit the car. Prescott Middle School was a large private school on the other end of Manhattan. Kids and their parents were flooding the school. Today is the day the students get to meet their teachers, receive their class schedules, and their supply lists for each class. Justine knew Sam was excited about seeing his friends again. A lot had happened over the summer. Luckily, with Sam going back to school, Justine could find a job and start bringing in income. The only thing that suffered in Justine’s life was her college experience. She dropped out when her parents passed away a few months ago. It was impossible for her to make funeral arrangements, take care of her brother, and manage her parents’ estate.

    Sam ran by Justine to greet some of his friends.

    “I’m going to find Mr. Sizemore. I’ll call you when I’m finished.” Justine told Sam. He nodded, as he was too busy to talk to his sister now. He had some much needed catching up to do with his friends.

    Justine walked through the tall automatic doors. It felt, to her, as if she was entering a mall. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. She walked into the front office to get directions from the office secretary.

    “Can I help you?” The secretary asked.

Justine looked down at the name tag on the secretary’s desk. It read Jackie Bryant.

    “Mrs. Bryant, Could you tell me where Mr. Sizemore’s office is?” Justine asked.

   “Sure. He’s in room 223, down the hall and to the right. If you reach the stairs, you’ve gone too far.” Mrs. Bryant replied.

   “Thank you,” Justine replied and set off to find Mr. Sizemore’s classroom. The halls were wide and seemed like they went on forever. Justine turned the corner and saw the stairs. Immediately to the right was Mr. Sizemore standing in the doorway to his classroom.

    “Hey, Justine. How are you? He asked.

    “Just the person I wanted to see. I’m doing great. Sam is in your class this year.”  

    “I noticed. How is he holding up?”

    “He’s okay,” Justine said. “He’s excited to get back into school. He missed his friends over the summer, which felt like an eternity.”

    “I’m sure it did.” Mr. Sizemore said. “Here is his class schedule and his supply list. I don’t require much for my students, but if you need help with anything, just let me know. I know how hard it can be to do it all on your own.”

    Justine felt as though Mr. Sizemore was referring to their “situation”. Everyone knew Sam was living with Justine in an apartment, in a complex. That was no secret. Everyone also knew that she was his legal guardian now. Justine sometimes felt like everyone was just waiting for her to fail. However, letting her brother enter the foster care system was not going to happen.

    “There is one more thing.” Mr. Sizemore interrupted. “Mrs. Bryant requests to see you in the office before you leave.”

    Justine nodded, “Thank you. Keep me updated on Sam, please.”

    “I sure will.” Mr. Sizemore stated and nodded Justine off to the front office. Sam was standing in the hall waiting for Justine when she walked out.

    “What did Mr. Sizemore say?” Sam asked.

    “Nothing. He just gave me your schedule and told me to visit the front office. Why?” Justine interrogated.

    “Everyone’s been asking about mom and dad. I just tell them there was an accident. I don’t know what else to say.” Sam said as he stopped with his back to the lockers that lined the wall.

    “You don’t have to tell them anything you don’t want to tell them, Sam.” Justine put her hand on Sam’s shoulder and looked into his eyes. She reminded him, “Everything’s going to be okay. I can feel it.” Sam nodded, and Justine gave him a tight hug. Then they made their way to the office.

    As they walked into the office, Justine looked at the secretary and said, “Mrs. Bryant” and before she could get the rest out, Mrs. Bryant interrupted her.

    “Oh, Justine. Please call me Jackie.”

Justine nodded. “Mr. Sizemore said you wanted to see me?”       

    “Yes. Please, step into my office.” Jackie said. Justine nodded and motioned for Sam to sit in one of the chairs in the front of the office. She had a feeling this was a more important matter from the look on Jackie’s sun-kissed face.       

     Jackie reminded Justine of an 80’s workout video instructor. She had the frizzy blonde hair, blue eye shadow, and bright pink lips. All that was missing was the tight blue workout suit and the bright pink leg warmers. Jackie’s office was very well-organized. A large window let an ambiance of light in that felt like the light beaming through the windows of a church.

    “Justine. How are you holding up?”

    Justine looked offended by Jackie’s question. Obviously, she was alive and surviving. Instead of replying back the way she wanted to, because she was so tired of being asked that question, Justine replied, “I’m doing good.”

    “I’m glad. Listen, Justine, I’m sorry about what happened and I’m sorry about what I’m about to say. But…. Your parents. They didn’t pay for your brother’s tuition this fall before, you know…” Jackie was trying to find the words before Justine interrupted.

    “They died?”

    “Yes. I’m sorry, Justine. If Sam’s tuition isn’t paid by Labor Day, the principal will be forced to expel him.” Jackie looked as if she wanted to say something else but the look on Justine’s face stopped all thought. Justine thought that her parents’ lawyer settled everything when the wills were read and the accounts were settled.

    “How much?” Justine asked.

    “Your parents paid $1000 over the amount of tuition due last year. So, that leaves $4,200 due this year.” Jackie exclaimed.

    Justine sank into her chair for a moment. How could her parents do this to her? How could they do this to Sam? She knew Sam would be heartbroken if he didn’t get to go to his school and hang out with his friends.

    “There are programs that I can submit his application to. Although, they won’t cover the entire balance, they could help. With your permission, of course.” Jackie stated, waiting for an answer.

Justine came out of her stupor for a moment to say, “Sure. Thanks. Is there anything else?”

    “That’s all” Jackie replied.

Justine took the account statement off of Jackie’s desk and headed out the door. Sam was sitting in the chair Justine asked him to sit in, in the main office.

    “Let’s go,” Justine said as she motioned Sam out of the large automatic doors.

    “What was that all about?” Sam asked.

Trying to make up something, Justine replied, “She just wanted to check on us. It was nothing.”

    Justine called for a cab. Luckily, there was one already dropping off a student and their parents. Justine hurried to the cab and hopped in, with Sam right behind her.

    “Rockridge Apartments, please.” Justine blurted as her head reeled. Sam was quiet. Justine was quiet. Even the cab driver was quiet. Justine didn’t know what to say to Sam. She didn’t know what to think. As she stared out the window of the cab, she watched the flood of people walking down the street. The cab came slowly to a stop.

    The cab driver stated, “It’s an accident ma’am. It’s going to be a minute.”

    Justine didn’t respond. She was trying to find anything to get her mind off of the fact that she had a little over a month to come up with $4,500. As she peered out the window, she noticed two young children, a girl and a boy, with their parents. They were walking out of an ice cream shop, the one her parents had taken her and her brother to many times before. How did they do it, she thought to herself. Who knew it was such a big responsibility taking care of a 12-year-old, let alone two small children. Justine felt angry and sad all at once. She still had some money left from her parent’s estate settlement to live on, but it wasn’t enough to pay for Sam’s tuition. Eventually, she knew she would have to find a job because the estate money wouldn’t last forever. She just never thought it would be this soon and the weight of the world would fall onto her shoulders this hard.

Chapter 2

    When Justine and Sam got home that afternoon, Justine told her brother she was going to lay down for a bit. Sam went into his room and began to play his his games. Justine crawled under her covers and rested her head on her pillow. Her mind was so full that she could only stare out the window to her bedroom. She was at a loss. A few moments later, she fell asleep.

    When Justine awoke, she was on the bus with her parents. It was a bright, beautiful sunny day. The bus was packed with students and their college professors. Justine was in the very back of the bus but could see her parents a few rows up. They were laughing and joking with their students. Other students were singing road-trip songs. Out of nowhere, there was a loud bang that sent the bus careening over the bridge. As the bus fell, her parents began helping students open their windows. When the bus hit the water, it was the loudest crash Justine had ever heard. She saw her parents open the emergency escape on the bus. They began forcing students out of the escape hatch one-by-one. As Justine watched, she noticed her parents running out of air and saw panic in their eyes. As they ushered the last student out of the hatch, the student’s foot closed the emergency hatch as he launched himself to survival. Justine panicked as she watched her parents struggle to open the hatch once more. They even tried to fit out of the windows but, by this time, they were out of air. While still holding her breath, Justine saw her father reach for her mother and fade first. As Justine’s mother held onto her husband, she began to fade also. Justine let out a scream as air bubbles came from her mouth.

    “Wake up! Wake up, Justine! Breathe!” Sam said as he tried to wake his sister. “You were turning blue!”

    “Sorry. Bad dream.” Justine hinted as she sat up in the bed.

    “You think? You should get checked out. That’s the third time this week.” Sam urged.

    “I’m fine, Sam!” She looked out the window. She saw it was now evening.

    “What do you want for supper?” She asked.

    “Definitely not what you had for breakfast.” Sam joked.

    “Haha, funny. How does pizza sound?”

    “Good,” Sam replied, as he exited the room.

    Justine grabbed the local paper. There was a new pizza place just a block away that delivered. She thought she saw their number in the advertisements section, but couldn’t remember it. Looking through the ads, Justine sorted through the “Wanted” section, the “Pets” section, and finally made it to the “services” section. She knew the ad had a picture of a pizza on it. As she browsed through the ads, she noticed people offered services for many things. There was a group of guys who offered leaf-raking services at “low prices,” florists who advertised, artists, and services for walking pets. Finally, Justine found the number and made the call. They promised the lowest prices on this side of the city, which was a plus for Justine. As soon as Justine put the phone down, there was a bang on the door. Her neighbor, Wanda Garrett, was demanding to be let in. Justine’s heart fell to her stomach wondering what could be wrong with Wanda today.

    As Justine opened the door, Wanda burst through with a baseball bat in her hand.

    “Who’s in here? I won’t ask you to show yourself twice!” Wanda shouted as she looked for an intruder. Wanda was an African American middle-aged bank teller with no children. She has a southern accent and dresses like she’s always ready for a close-up. Justine always refers to her as Wanda Sykes because she looks and acts just like her. There’s never a dull moment when Wanda is around.

    “Wanda, geeze. Calm down.” Justine blurted. “There’s no one else here but Sam and myself. What are you doing?”

    “I came to whoop up on anyone that tried to hurt you babies. I heard screaming and yelling coming from above, and I knew it wasn’t the Lord because even he’s not that loud.” Wanda stated.

    “Well, thank you for your concern, but we’re fine here. It was just a bad dream.” Justine announced.

    “Well,”  Wanda mocked.  “I’m certainly glad you all are fine. Isn’t that the third time this week, sugar?”

Justine gave Wanda a look as if to say, “How do you know?”

    Wanda smiled. She’s been looking after Justine and Sam ever since they moved into the apartment above her. Justine always reiterates that they are fine, but Wanda insists. Frankly, Justine likes Wanda. It gives her someone close by that she knows and can trust. Wanda has kept an eye on Sam several times while Justine was handling their parent’s affairs. She also has made food for Justine and her brother on many occasions. Justine thinks of Wanda as the crazy aunt she never had.

    “When you live above me, there’s not much I miss. Come here, baby. Do you need to talk?” Wanda asked.

    “I’m fine.” Justine insisted.

Wanda knew she wasn’t fine. Wanda had seen this look in her eye before. She knew something was wrong but couldn’t tell what.

    “Okay. I guess I’ll waltz back down to my lonely, cold, dark apartment, eating what crumbs I had left from breakfast yesterday… until… you… tell… me…”

    “Okay!” Justine interrupted, staring at Wanda from the door of the apartment. “I’ll tell you. But Sam cannot know. Come to my room.”

    Wanda hurried back up the steps where she had just made a dramatic exit to beg for information. As they entered Justine’s room, a cool breeze blew through Justine’s window. Her hot pink curtains waved in the breeze. To the left of the room were Justine’s closet and dresser with a mirror on top. Straight ahead was her bed under her window. To the right was her night stand with a matching hot pink lamp shade. Justine and Wanda sat on her bed.

    “It was the accident, again,” Justine admitted.

    “Oh, poor baby. What was it like this time?” Wanda replied.

    “Just like all of the other ones. I was on the bus with them. The bus ran off the bridge. They helped everyone off the bus. In the end, they couldn’t help themselves.” Justine held it all in as she was just about to break. “And on top of all of that. I have to pay $4,200 to Sam’s school before Labor Day, or he will have to go to public school.”

    “You need to calm down,” Wanda said as she held Justine. “Lord knows, baby, none of us have a choice in the hand we’re dealt. But, it’s how we handle that hand that defines us, and our life.”

    “What do I do?” Justine asked. I can’t come up with that kind of money in a month unless I…”

    “Don’t even go there!” Wanda interrupted. “No one ever got ahead in the world by sacrificing their dignity. There are lots of things you can do. Are you good at anything?”

    “What kind of question is that!?” Justine sarcastically replied.

    “I mean, do you have a hobby? Is there something you can make and sell? Is there a job that pays well, that you’re qualified for?” Wanda interrogated.

    “No. I only have a high school diploma. I promised my parents I would finish college this year, but with everything that happened, I dropped out. And I’m not crafty if that’s what you mean. I had never even washed my own clothes, till..” Justine faded as she spoke.

    Wiping a tear from her eye, Wanda assured her.

    “Oh, sweetie. Just think about it tonight. Taking one day to yourself won’t hurt. I promise.” Wanda exclaimed.

Just then the doorbell rang. Justine told Wanda it was the pizza delivery. As they made their way into the kitchen, Wanda grabbed her baseball bat to take back with her to her apartment.

    “Are you sure you don’t want this?” Wanda asked.

    “I’m good. I promise.” Justine said with a giggle.

Wanda opened the door to find the delivery boy in a panic. She forgot she was holding her baseball bat in the air. She smiled and quickly hid it behind her back and slid by the delivery boy yelling goodbye to Sam and Justine. Justine paid the delivery guy for her pizza and quickly shut the door.

    “That Wanda is something else, isn’t she?” Sam stated, with his mouth full of pizza.

    Justine took a good look at her brother as he was sitting across from her. His blonde “bowl cut” reminded her of when he played pee-wee football as a child. She admired how his “baby teeth” were replaced by large adult teeth that looked too big for his mouth. His freckles and blue eyes also weren’t hard to miss. Justine was always jealous of the natural tan her brother had acquired from their father. She thought about how differently she was forced to look at her brother. Before the accident, she and Sam had the typical brother-sister relationship. She would yell at him when he messed with things in her room. He would yell at her when she would hog the television. Back then, he was this annoying brat her parents forced her to live with. Now that her parents are gone, Justine felt as though the relationship between her and Sam had become friendlier. Although they do have their arguments, it’s different now.

    “That she is. I don’t know what we would do without her, though.” Justine replied.

     “I don’t know what I would do without her cherry cobbler.” Sam grinned.

    After supper, Sam took a shower and went into his room to play his games. Then Justine took a shower, told Sam good night and crawled back into bed. After going through her head about the possible ways to earn money, Justine decided to pick up the sales paper again to see if there were any “help wanted” or “get rich quick” ads. After flipping again through the ads, she saw that office jobs were paying minimum wage. At that rate, she could have enough to match what she has saved in a few months, but that wasn’t good enough. There was an ad searching for experienced sales representatives. Justine thought to herself, If I had gone to college, as my parents advised me to, I could do this. Feeling discouraged, she swore to look at only one more page before turning off the light on her nightstand. She sifted through items that people were looking for, items people had for sale, and “buyer beware” posts. Just as she was about to set down the paper, she saw an advertisement for visitors. It read:

Manhattan Travel Escort Agency

     Have you ever wanted to visit New York City with someone who knows this city like the back of their hand? Look no further! The Manhattan Travel Escort Agency has been serving the New York City area for more than ten years. Not only do we organize an itinerary for your stay, but we also accompany you to all of your destinations! We’re like your own personal tour guide for the city. We have deluxe packages starting at $3,000 for four days. Contact us for more information at 1-800-Man-Hatn or visit our website for specific pricing and extensive details.

    Astonished, Justine dropped the paper on her lap. She thought to herself, people pay this kind of money for someone to follow them around the city? You’ve got to be kidding me. Looking for more information, Justine pulled up the site on her laptop. Part of her didn’t believe it. And another part of her hoped it was true. As she scrolled through the site, she read the reviews. There were thousands upon thousands of comments stating how much this agency helped them. Justine thought to herself again, I’ve lived here all my life. I could show some tourists around for half as much as this company offers. Excited, she pulls up the ads section online, to add her own ad. Biting her nails, nervous about if she really wanted to “put herself out there” like that, she began to type.

    If you’re visiting New York City, or want to learn more about our beloved city, make sure you have me by your side! I will set up an itinerary tailored to fit your needs and accompany you to all of your scheduled destinations. Best rates in the city! Call 842-745-8888 to schedule today, or email me at JustWilson@yahoo.com.

Justine read over her ad and contemplated submitting it. She thought, What if I’m kidnapped? What if it’s a setup and I end up dead? What if… In the tornado of thoughts that circled her mind, she quickly clicked “submit”.

Thank you for taking the time to read this excerpt from the book. Please remember, this is the final draft, but is subject to subtle changes before it is published.   

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Featured post

Hey, Y’all! I Wrote a Book!

Hey, y’all!

Long time no see! Surprise! I wrote a book! Like my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/MarlenaOwensAuthor/

for more information, to connect with me, and to stay up to date on what I’ll be working on next!

I hope you’ll enjoy this book. It is called Escorting Mr. Colburn.

Justine is no average 26 year old. She’s a college drop out dealing with the recent death of her parents while having to care for her eleven year old brother named Sam. In a moment of desperation to pay for his school tuition, she decides to start a travel escorting business where she accompanies customers to destinations around New York City for a set fee. However, she only gets one reply. But, little does she know, this is the only reply she will need!

This book is appropriate for ages 16 and up. It relates to the younger generation (late teens to late twenties), but can be enjoyed by anyone as my characters are various ages.

I take in many influences when writing. Some of my favorite current authors include: Jodi Picoult, W. M. Paul Young, Nicholas Sparks, and James Patterson.

I also have many favorite famous “older” authors such as Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allen Poe, William Faulkner, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Nathaniel Hawthorne, among many others.

I hope you will connect with me on this journey and I hope to hear from you soon!

Escorting Mr. Colburn is available for pre-order until June 29th, 2018. After that date, it will be available for purchase!

Happy reading!

 

woman in blue striped flannel shirt holding a book indoors
Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Marlena Owens

Featured post

70+ People Have Escorting Mr.Colburn in Their Hands!!

It has been about a month and a half since releasing my first book. So far, there have been 70 copies of the book distributed! Now, mind you, a portion of these were free units. However, it is still gratifying to know 70 plus people have a copy of my book (some people have shared copies)! The experience of releasing my first book has definitely opened my eyes to possibilities I never even thought was there. I didn’t expect my first book to make it into the hands of 70 people, but I’m grateful. It also makes me really excited to release my second book in the next 2 months. My second book is comprised of more characters, more interactions, and more drama. My first book had a Hallmark feel to it, and my second adds mystery and drama to that.

Recently, I also received my 5th review for Escorting Mr. Colburn. This one is on Good Reads, check it out below:37340523_255581281889355_8318536991545229312_n.jpg

This seems to be the common theme among reviews. The book was hard to put down and it had a warm feeling throughout, which is exactly what I was going for. However, Nora From the Hollow, my second book, will have a darker feel to it. Yet, it will be just as engaging and interesting. Because I’m releasing it in the fall of the year (and I love a good thriller mystery during my favorite time of the year), it is a perfect fit when curling up next to a fire while watching the leaves fall outside. Check out the cover, which fits the book perfectly, below:

Screenshot 2018-07-10 at 7.47.50 PM

I can’t wait to see how far my second book goes. I’m confident that everyone will enjoy the second one just as much as they did the first! Both of these books were such a delight to write. When I can’t stop writing, I know it’s going to be a great book.

I hope you all are doing well. I very much enjoy hearing from many different people on their experiences of reading and writing.

’til next time,

Marlena Owens

Cover and Info on Nora From The Hollow, My Next Book

     I am SO excited to show you all the cover of Nora From The Hollow!! This book will be available Saturday, September 22nd, the first day of fall!

If you’re like me, and love fall, this book will satisfy all of your fall time cravings. There’s murder, mystery, spooky scenes, and twists and turns you’ll never expect! Heck, I didn’t even expect half of them!😂 As always, my books are comprised of elements that all ages can enjoy. So, get ready to snuggle up by the fire, sip on some hot chocolate, and follow Nora’s story as she finds out who murdered her husband, Lucius.

Here’s the brief book description:

In the fall of 1895, in the small town of Hollow Springs, there have been a string of murders. Most of these killings have happened during a fog, causing the townspeople to create superstitions around this naturally occurring event. This time, it was Nora Lusk’s husband, Lucius. Lucius wasn’t perfect. He was actually far from perfect. This leads Nora to make a list of three people who were capable of killing her husband. Lucius was known for putting counterfeit money into the church’s offering plate. Therefore, the angry Preacher Cliff is the first suspect. The second, Alice Mabe, was Lucius’ lover. She seemed like the type who would kill someone for the simple reason that if she couldn’t have them, no one could. Lastly, Silas Blanche, saw the way Lucius treated Nora and looked forward to the day when he could treat Nora better. Yet, he couldn’t do it with Lucius in the way. Ironically, when the town points their fingers at Nora, she and her beloved friends must work quickly to investigate the twists and tangles of the deep family rivalries, and the small town secrets of Hollow Springs, to clear her name! Just when you think you know what happened and why, another curve ball is thrown into the mix!

About the cover:
Once you read the book, the cover will make perfect sense. I hope you all enjoy reading it just as much as I have enjoyed writing it!!

Some great characters you’ll love:

Nora Lusk: She’s the anti-social crazy lady with a short fuse that the town fears. Yet, she has a soft side for her friends.

Dirk Ward: He’s one of the sheriff’s deputies who finds himself tasked with solving the murder of Lucius Lusk, Nora’s husband.

Amy and Amelia Ward: Sisters to Dirk and best friends/neighbors of Nora, serve as accomplices in the complicated investigation.

 

One interesting thing to note, my great grandmother’s maiden name was Nora Lusk. When searching for creepy dark names for my characters, I knew I had to use her name as the main character! Although I never got to meet her, I’m sure she would be thrilled!

 

Thank you all for reading,
Marlena Owens

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