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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Philip Dolly Affair

College Leadership Crisis: The Philip Dolly Affair

By Jann M. Contento & Jeffrey Ross

Jann and Jeffrey, thanks for coming to my blog.  If you could travel in a Time Machine would you go back to the past or into the future? Why?

Jeff- I would go back to the past and try to repair a few of my mistakes (there are so many!). I really don’t want to see the future. I would also like to meet myself with a full head of hair again. Hah!

Jann- I would return to Argentina in early 1963 in hopes of capturing the essence of PDA’s Celeste’s beauty.

If you could invite any 5 people to dinner who would you choose?

Jeff- I probably would invite 5 people I have never met. But the invitees, I’m afraid, won’t be available. The group would include Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edward Abbey, Virginia Woolf, Frank Norris, and William Blake.

Jann- Likewise, individuals invited to dinner would be those I’ve never met. The likes of which would include poets, authors, philosophers, and enduring idealists.

What is one book everyone should read?

 Jeff - Thoreau’s Walden. (But it should be read in the Context of Thoreau’s 19th century philosophical understanding.) Individuality has been commoditized by the 21st century. Owning a Cadillac, I’m afraid, does not express individualism or non-conformity.

 Jann- Book of Wisdom and Augustine’s Confessions, oh, that’s two, ACH!

What inspired you to want to become a writer?

Jeff - I have always enjoyed writing poems and short papers. I see writing –fiction writing—as a means to create separation— “differeance’”—I would hope to be known as an artist, not a craftsman.

Jann – I have attempted, hopefully in meaningful ways, to express through written words what is often disallowed in daily verbal discourse.

Tell us about your work. My coauthor and I, in the Phil Dolly Affair novel, have used fiction to articulate many of the issues we have brought up in opinion pieces and articles on higher education websites. We have worked at community colleges, together, for about 40 years, and have carefully observed what we believe is a negative change in college culture. By creating a fictive campus, and populating it with all kinds of self-centered (and confused) faculty and staff, we hope to get our “message” out to our readers. The message is that community colleges have lost their way—their ability to truly serve constituents—in the 21st century—often because of the misplaced personal career ambitions of their staff. Our novel is satirical—but most of our characters can be found on any community college campus.

In many ways, we believe words—illusions- pretenses— have displaced true productivity, true leadership, and honest human feeling….

And of course, our novel contains romances—scripted, failed, tawdry, and redemptive. People get married to move their careers along. Marriage and romance in PDA create the machinery that helps couples achieve career and materialistic ambitions. In our objective correlative [we think] view, romance, true love, dedicated long-term supportive relationships, only exists in novels or movies. That is probably why romance novels and Hollywood are so popular.  [By the way, early every staff member’s wife in PDA receives a visit from the local bug man two or three times a week. There must be quite a few pest problems in the Copperfield District!]

Would you share your links with us?

One of our co-authored academic articles, Lets Reform the American Community College,  can be found at

Jeffrey Ross’ Blog on “Open Salon”

The short story upon which our novel is based—Call Me Phil– published on back in 2008--

This Ross article—My Awakening—How I Came to See The Text—illustrates many of our underlying concerns with scripted American life--

Our Facebook Info Page—with links to reviews and excerpts—

And of course, our publisher, Rogue Phoenix Press at

We'd love to read an excerpt. 

 In this excerpt, the Scottish militant-socialist bartender McDougal is meeting with the Copperfield Community College Dean of Instruction, Dr. Paxton. The Dean is explaining to McDougal why the college won’t allow a Socialist Students group on campus…

Dean Preston and Henry McDougal Meeting

"Why yes, Mr. McDougal, I am happy to meet with you concerning the rejection of your application to hold a socialist party rally here at CCC. It's easy to explain--we don't think socialism [or Marxism or communism] or any of such stuff is appropriate on our campus. We don't want our students to get the, uh, wrong idea about CCC."

"Certainly I gathered that, Principal Preston. But I read in your college's mission statement, which I believe describes the heart and soul of your college, that ye celebrate diversity of opinion."

"Why yes, so we do. By the way, I am the Dean, not a Principal. Principals work at K-12 schools. Let me read to you our definition of diversity from the CCC policy manual. I think this will help clarify matters to you."

CCC Definition of Diversity

We celebrate diversity and divergence by scrutinizing how people are different. CCC relishes the importance of complete and systematic inclusion of the tired, the lonely, and the poor. CCC ignores differences, usually glorifying wretchedness while questioning male dominance. Diversity includes biometrics related to global issues, mp3 downloads, food abuse, suspicious dual enrollment programs, ethnicity, cell phone colors, anything which will help us get funding, most any conformity factors influencing life, church attendance, veterans status, abilities and disabilities [though as a learn-ed college we don't really think there are any disabilities--only opportunities to excel], challenges, beliefs, mannerisms, syndromes, work habits, gender orientation [though we do believe southerners and Californians probably represent true diversity of thought], personal identity, age, income status, language and communication style, nearness to poverty, red heads, intelligences, and life styles.

"I might add, Mr. McDougal, we encourage thinking outside the box, collaboration, networking, critical thinking, and respect for all genders and walks of life" [Even for Crazy Scotsmen, he thought to himself].

McDougal listened attentively and then said, "So, yah don't think socialism is a legitimate point of discussion on a college campus? Is it not a global issue? A work habit? Thinking? Ach! What do ye mean by diversity? Don't you know socialism and Marxism are legitimate areas of subject matter study and research--and influence academic focus--at universities? It's political science, economics, justice studies, communication, and civics. Doan' you think socialism is worthy of inclusion--as ye discuss it in your diversity definition?"

"We are not a university, Mr. McDougal, and unlike universities, we are in touch with our community, our stakeholders. They do not want to hear about socialism or communists. The universities fear us. Inclusion is one thing--socialism is another. Community colleges follow best practice theory--socialism is not a best practice."

"But, Mr. Preston, your own President, Mr. Dolly, has said on numerous occasions, that Copperfield Community College is a Higher Education Leader and wants to grant BA and MA degrees someday. How can you be an academic leader if you are afraid to study and interact with economic theories related to socialism and Marxism?"

"That's Dr. Preston, Mr. McDougal. And yes, we are a higher education leader, we are just not communists. We know what is best in terms of diversity for our students."

"Oh, tell me, Doctor Preston--who was Karl Marx?" asked McDougal as if he did not know.

"Ah, well, let me think, he was, uh, yass, he was premier of the Soviet Union in the 1950's," said a reddening Dr. Preston.

"And do you know, Mr. Dean Preston, who is Hugo Chavez?"

"Hmm. I believe he is president of Southern El Paso Community College--or at least somewhere over in Texas. Yass."

"Dr. Preston, what do ye think of collective bargaining?" queried the enlightened McDougal.

"Oh, Barb and I don't haggle over prices at garage sales," said the cheery Dean.

"I see. And just what is your doctorate in, Dean Preston?"

A beet faced Preston replied, "What do you mean, what is my doctorate in?"

"Ach, you know, lad--is it a PhD in history, economics, philosophy, or political science?

Ya seem to know a great deal about history," declared the Scotsman in an admiring tone.

"Oh, no. I have an EdD in Educational Leadership."

"What did you study in school lad? What subjects?"  asked the now-investigative highlander.

The dean seemed surprised. "What? Well, we studied, uh, diversity, networking, uh, email etiquette, operating PDA's and smart phones, salary negotiations, student organizations, dancing, program review, quality management, higher education leadership, TQM, collaboration, team development---you know, an in depth look at management processes and dialogue--oh, and best practice theory."

"Ach, well, you've convinced me of the foolishness of my plan, Dr. Dean Preston. A knowledgeable man such as yarself has a much better understanding of the dogmatic dangers of socialism than I do. I won't be back to Copperfield. Good day to ye, Mister Preston."

He walked out the office door, smiled at Secretary Nina [ach, she's a looker!], and thought, Good Lord--and they call this a college! I need a pint bad. Ach! At least the Unionists be marching in Madison!

Nina looked up from the vampire novel she was reading on her Snook when he walked by, smiled absently, and turned the page. She wiped a tear from her eye.

Quite satisfied with the outcome of the meeting, Dean Preston leaned back in his chair, smiled to himself, and thought, well, that crazy old Scotsman won't be back in here again. I showed the old commie. I wonder if Elena is free for lunch today. Maybe we can catch the Moondoggs matinee concert at the Coin…

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday

Today's excerpt comes from The Welcome Inn.  Here's a blurb about the book.

Julianna can’t stand Buck Abercrombie!  He’s rude, chauvinistic, and exasperating, and he’s her new boss.  Why couldn’t the bank see that she’s done a good job cleaning up The Welcome Inn?  Why wouldn’t they loan her the money to buy the Inn?  Now Buck comes along and reaps the benefits of all her hard work.  Oh, and don’t forget his nasty, criminal brother Travis.  He works for Buck, and her friend Melanie has a crush on him!

And now for the sentences.

His voice lowered and became huskier. "No wonder poor Tim wanted to kiss you. I’ve wanted to taste those lips from the first time I saw you. So kiss me, Julianna. I’m sick of fighting it. It’s torture to be in the same room with you and not kiss you."

Available at or at

Sweet Saturday Sample

Thanks for stopping by!  Today's sample comes from A New Dream which is available at the following websites.

Violet tried to scramble to her feet, but Matt held her close.  “Be still,” he ordered. “If you’d stop acting all offended you’d like the way it feels to sit on my lap.”

“Aren’t you afraid of scaring me now?” Violet accused in as sarcastic a tone as she could muster. “You’re bullying me, Matt, and I don’t like it.”

“You like everything about me,” Matt muttered as he pulled her head down and kissed her again.

Yes, she did. Violet momentarily resisted, but her defenses crumbled, and she returned Matt’s kiss with enthusiasm.

“I love you, Violet,” he whispered, tearing his lips from hers as if reluctant to end the kiss. “I want to marry you on the twenty third. Forget about Stacey. She’s the past.”

Friday, February 24, 2012

Fashionista Friday

For the next couple of weeks I’ll be showing some pretty spring dresses for you to look at.  Easter isn’t far away, and some of these dresses would be perfect.  Let’s start with this little lovely.  It’s found at Go to the site and look at the fabric close up.  Wonderful!  I couldn’t find the price, but it’s 70% off!

Now for a pair of shoes.  Do you like these?  They're pale gray and can be found at at for $110.49.

Now, we need a purse.  I like this one.  Get it at  for $795. I think it's the color of the flowers in the dress, but with monitors being as they are, I can't guarantee it.

I love earrings, so how about we add these 1928's to the mix. You can buy them at for 11 British pounds which I think is around $22.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Welcome Anna Maclean!

Welcome to my blog!  Today's guest is Anna Maclean.  Anna is the author of several novels:  The Sweet By and By (St. Martin’s Press), Dreams of Empire (Kensington Books), The Queen’s War (St. Martin’s Press), and The Frenchwoman (St. Martin’s Press).   She has published short fiction and creative nonfiction in several journals and periodicals including  American Letters and Commentary and SNReview. She is also the author of the Cornell Book of Herbs and Edible Flowers (Cornell University publications)  and co-editor of  The Norton Book of Love (W.W. Norton),  and wrote art columns for newspapers as well as feature articles for several arts magazines.  She was the recipient of a creative writing fellowship from the American Antiquarian Society and her journalism has won awards from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, in Washington, D.C.  She teaches creative writing at Goddard College in Vermont, has taught or conducted workshops in Pennsylvania, Hawaii and New York and has traveled extensively in Europe.  She lives with her husband, Steve Poleskie,  in upstate New York.


Book Link:,,9781101506141,00.html?Louisa_and_the_Missing_Heiress_Anna_Maclean

Anna, thank you so much for including us in your blog tour.  If you could travel in a Time Machine would you go back to the past or into the future? Why?

 Absolutely!  I would love to, say, sit in on a twelfth century Court of Love in the south of France, and debate how long  a knight must be willing wait before receiving a kiss.  Or view a ceremony at Versailles when Marie Antoinette wore linen instead of silk (scandal!) and dressed her hair so high they had to take out the roof of her carriage.  Or participate in one of the nineteenth century American ‘amusements’ when people first dabbled in hypnotism and gathered in large crowds to view P.T. Barnum’s oddities from all over the world.  More seriously, I would like to sit at Gandhi’s feet and listen to him speak or spend an afternoon with Siddhartha.

If you could invite any 5 people to dinner who would you choose?

 What a fun question. First. Benjamin Franklin.  I know history makes him sound a little stodgy, all that founding father stuff, but if you read his writings and his biographies you get the sense that this working-class philosopher really knew how to party.  He had great wit.  I’d invite Eleanor of  Aquitaine to sit opposite him and they could debate which was the wittier sex – male or female.   I’d invite Walt Whitman and Oscar Wilde – they were great fans of each other and Walt could dazzle us with his gorgeous language and Oscar could  make us roll with laughter at his caustic jokes.  And finally,  I’d invite a fictional character, Lady Bracknell from Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being  Earnest  and she could roll her eyes at us, protest at our manners, and show us how to use a fish fork.

Hey, there's nothing stodgy about Franklin.  You're right about the partying.What is one book everyone should read?

Just one?  I’d have to go with the collected plays of Shakespeare.  They have every plot, every character, every emotion and outcome possible.  If you read them out loud, you fall in love with language all over again.

Good choice.  What inspired you to want to become a writer?

The fantasy of it, the way it allows me to live different lives and be many people.  Every time I research  a new place and time it’s like acquiring a new lifetime.  Stories are my lifeblood.  Whenever I meet a new person I want to say “Telll me your story!”  That could get pretty rude, so I invent stories.  For me, the world is made of language, even more so than images or pictures, and my imagination requires that the world constantly be made again in new stories with telling language.

 Well said!  Tell us about your work.

My most recent mystery, Louisa and the Crystal Gazer, has just been re—released by NAL; the previous two, Louisa and the Missing Heiress and Louisa and the Country Bachelor, are also available.  The mysteries feature Louisa May Alcott (yes, the author of  Little Women!) as an amateur detective, solving crimes in mid-nineteenth century New England.  Louisa was a great character to work with, to spend time with.  She was intelligent and independent and also very loving, very loyal to her family.  She knew hard times and financial worries and had a heartbreak or two, I’m sure. 

For the mysteries, I created plots and settings that might actually have occurred – dramas the real Louisa might have heard of, or been familiar with:  daughters eloping with the ‘wrong’ man,  husbands disappearing on various battlefields, working girls abused and abandoned by the upper classes.  The murders in the mysteries – and all three are murder mysteries –- personalize the history and culture of mid-nineteenth century America.  And Louisa gets to have a bit of fun, as well, during the investigations.  She has a sense of humor.

 I’ve been writing and publishing historical fiction for some years now, beginning with a story set in the French Revolution ( The Frenchwoman) moving back in time to medieval France (The Queen’s War) then jumping forward again into the Napoleonic era, when Napoleon went to Egypt (Dreams of Empire.)   I wrote a novel about nineteenth century American spiritualism and the famous Fox sisters (The Sweet By and By) and am working on an Elizabethan novel.

So cool!  Alcott was my favorite author when I was a kid.  Would you share your links with us?

We'd love to read an excerpt

Thanks so much for hosting me!  Hope you enjoy the excerpt from Louisa and the Crystal Gazer.

Thank you for coming.  Readers, I've ready the excerpt and it's great.

Gentle Reader,

               In December of 1855 I found myself in Boston, temporarily separated from my beloved family in Walpole, New Hampshire, and facing a Christmas, that most wonderful of seasons, without the comfort of my loved ones.

               But drudge a living I must, for I was not yet the rich and famous author I later became.  My stories, when they sold, earned little, and so I had sought employment and received an offer from Reverend Ezra Gannett, who wished me to complete an order or a dozen winter shirts for him, all to be finely seamed, buttonholed,  and finished with pleats and embroidery.

               I was an unenthused seamstress at best, but his payment would allow me to purchase Christmas presents for my family, so I accepted his offer.

               My dear friend Sylvia Shattuck was also in residence in Boston…Sylvia, however, was in a strange frame of mind, one that set into motion a course of events that would involve us in murder, faithless lovers, and sad deeds of a dark past.  Beware of boredom, gentle reader. It can lead down dangerous paths.

               “I miss Father,”  she sighed one  morning as we took our walk along the harbor.  It was a misty, cold day, and the harbor waves were tipped with frosty white.

               “Unfortunately, you father passed away when you were a child,” I answered gently “You barely knew that long-enduring man, so how do you now claim to miss him?”

               I t was unlike Sylvia to yearn for any family member, dead or alive, and I had a vague presentiment that she was to introduce yet another faddish custom into my life.  Sylvia lived in vogues, and had just relinquished Confucianism, which had brought the enlightenment she sought.  No use to explain to her that philosophers spent years at that task; Sylvia tended to give three months and then move on.

               “My point exactly,”  my companion responded, turning upon me bright eyes filled with a passionate melancholy. “I feel the need for a masculine presence in my life, and would like to converse with my father. I will, with the assistance of Mrs. Agatha Percy. Please come with me to one of sittings!”

               Ship rigging creaked in the wind and bells chimed the start of a new watch, and I pondered Sylvia’s statement.

               Mrs. Agatha D. Percy was the newest fad in Boston, one of the recently risen members of that questionable group of individuals known as ‘spiritists’ or  mediums. One must feel a heavy burden of ennui to wish to spend time at that dubious amusement, I thought.

               “Oh, it will be such fun, Louisa! All of  Boston goes!” Sylvia persisted.

               “Then it must be quite crowded,” I rejoined, walking at a faster pace to try to dissuade Sylvia from this topic…”I am unconvinced that ‘fun’ is the correct word to describe an hour of sitting in the dark, pretending to speak with the dead.”

               “Spirits,” corrected   Sylvia. “The dead don’t l like to be called dead. Such a harsh word.”

               Neither of us was yet aware of exactly how harsh that séance would become.

Readers, Anna is giving away a gift basket to one randomly drawn commenter, so follow her tour and comment often.  For the tour schedule go to

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday

Hi.  Welcome to my blog.  Today's six come from my soon to be released novel The Sentence.  In this excerpt my heroine tries once more to deny her attraction to my hero.

Attracted?  Rachel Amos attracted to a…a… drunken….nobody?  Rachel had to remind herself to breathe.    It probably wasn’t a real attraction.  She didn’t know anyone like him so she was curious about him.  That’s all it was. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Sweet Saturday Sample

Welcome to Sweet Saturday Sample.  thank you so much for stopping by.  I hope you enjoy today's excerpt from A New Dream.  In this excerpt, my hero Matt and his brother have a conversation after Matt's first date with my heroine Violet.

Matt didn’t quite get his bedroom door closed before Chris showed up. He poked his head around the corner and demanded, “Did you kiss her?”

Matt scowled at him as he pulled his shirt off and tossed it in a basket at the foot of his bed. “Chris, that’s none of your business,” he protested, feeling warmth spread up his face.

“You did kiss her,” Chris declared, satisfaction oozing from his voice. He moved into the room and threw himself down on the bottom of Matt’s bed. “If you hadn’t kissed her, you’d oh so virtuously tell me so.”


“Is she the first since Stacey?”


“She must be the first. Way to go, bro. It’s about time you woke up and realized your life isn’t over.”


Chris picked up Matt’s Super Bowl ring that lay on the night stand beside the bed and slipped it on his finger. “That includes women too, Matt. Violet looked at you like you walk on water. Do you think you could be serious about her?”

Matt grabbed the ring and tossed it into a small wooden box on his dresser. “Chris…”

“I hope you won’t think I’m out of line, Matt, but I don’t think Violet’s the same kind of woman as Stacey.”


“I mean, Stacey didn’t have a problem sleeping with you, but I think Violet would. Pam’s family knows Violet’s family, and she said Violet’s father is real strict. He raised the girls to have high
moral standards.”


“You should think about getting married. You’re old enough, and you have a good job. If you got married you could move out of here. Just think about that.”


“But the best part of it would be that you’d have a woman to cuddle with at night. Don’t you miss female companionship?”

Matt sighed and sank down on the bed beside Chris. “Yes, but…”

“But nothing. You think about it, Matt. Violet’s beautiful, and you need a wife. You could do worse.”


“I’ve got to go to bed, Matt. I enjoyed our talk.”

Chris slammed the door behind him, leaving Matt with a smile on his face and a heart overflowing with laughter. “I enjoyed it too, Chris.”

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

KJ Dahlen and the Greatest Prize Ever

Welcome to my blog.  My guest today is Kim Dahlen.  Kim lives in a small town (population495) in Wisconsin. From her deck she can see the Mississippi River on one side and the bluffs, where eagles live and nest on the other side. She lives with her husband Dave and dog Sammy. Her two children are grown and two grandchildren and for that fact she feels blessed. She loves to watch people and that has helped her with her writing. She loves to create characters and put them in a troubling situation and just sit back and let them do all the work. They surprise even her at times. They take on a life of their own and the twists and turns become a story. She found she liked mystery/thrillers the best. She likes to keep her readers guessing until the very end of the book.

 Her next book coming out is in March 2012, titled Fall from Grace. 

BLURB :When a threat against America comes to the surface, retired  Homeland Security agent Lincoln Hawks is brought back to help put down the threat. He finds the group he's after is  the same group that murdered his wife and daughter five  years ago. Can Lincoln stop The Ghost Crew before they  destroy America?

 This book is being published by Bucks County Publishing. She is also published by Rogue Phoeniz Press, Solstice,  and Avalon.


1.Kim, tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am a woman with a story to tell. I live in a small town in Wisconsin and I love to create unique situations and people to capture my reader’s interest and take them on a journey where only they know the ending. My characters become almost real and the situations they find themselves in are situations we all can relate too. 
 2.What event triggered you to become a writer? 
 I learned to read when I was a child and that love of reading has carried through to my adult years. When I pick up a book I want to be transported to another world, or taken on an adventure until I close the book. I wanted to be able to transport my readers to that kind of excitement and adventure. It wasn’t just one event but a whole bunch of them.
Any major inspirations?

I took a little bit of everyone that I liked to read and tried to instill it in my writing.  I tried a few different genres until I found the one that worked for me. I love the solving the crime genre more so than the crime itself or the horror of the crime. Most of the books I write involve a killer of some kind and the men and women who stop him. I love the psychological angle of thinking like a killer in order to stop him. I make my characters just a little smarter than the killer and give them what they need to stop him. At some point in all my books the characters take over and take the story in a different direction than what I had planned but that’s ok. It adds the twists and turns my readers have come to expect from my work and each story is different and unique.
3.How many manuscripts did you submit before you were published? 
Quite a few, I began writing short stories and got some positive comments but I didn’t sell anything. Then I began to really look at some of the comments and they began to make sense. I took what other writers were saying and turned it around and rewrote the stories. I still didn’t sell anything but the comments showed me my stories were getting better. That gave me hope that someday I would write something that would sell.  I knew what wasn’t working then I had to find out what would work.
  How did you feel when you got “the call”?
I remember very well. When I got the email telling me someone wanted to publish my book I yelled out loud, “Hot Diggity Damn.” My husband came running into the office and asked me what was wrong.  I was stunned and every time I get another email telling me that someone is interested in publishing my story the feeling is the same.
4.What’s the very best thing about being an author?
The best thing I can think of is that somebody out there likes the way I write. I may not be making much money right now but I’m hoping that someday one of my books will hit the right audience and turn that around.
5.Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Keep doing what you are doing and never give up on your dream of being an author.  Learn from your mistakes and listen to what other writers are telling you.  Don’t take a critique as a personal attack. Not everyone is going to like what you write, instead take it as a way to improve your story.  Every story is someone baby and even though we don’t want to hear what’s wrong with it we have to understand there might be a better way out there to tell our story. Learn to listen with an open heart. And keep writing!!!

6.Would you share your links with us so we can find you on the web?
My books can be found at:; or any of my publishers websites.;;; and They can also be found on Amazon.
7.We’d love to read an excerpt from Bones. 


            Max squatted near the opening in the rocky outcrop and took off his sunglasses. He was hot and tired and had just about given up finding this place. He wasn’t eager to go inside since the inside of the opening was dark and uninviting. But Max knew he had to go in there. The small hole in the side of the cliff was barely big enough for a child to scramble into let alone a full size man, but he knew he didn’t have a choice. God, I hate small places, he thought as he crawled inside. The hole was small and cramped and Max had to bend over to get through. I really hate small places, he emphasized as he struggled to get through the cramped opening. The hole in the cliff had been harder to find than he expected. The directions given to him by two young boys hadn’t been all that clear.
            The boys said the opening was straight up from the dam below and a little left of the big oak tree. What they failed to tell him was which big oak tree. The whole hill was littered with oak trees right up to the base of the cliff.
            His hands and face were scratched up from pushing brambles and brush out of his way. The thought had also occurred to him that the seldom visited, rocky part of the side of a cliff just a little ways north of the town Max was sheriff of, might be just the spot to run into a snoozing wolf or worse yet a rattlesnake. He heard something scramble out of his way a couple of times, but he hadn’t heard the symbolic rattle of the snake so whatever remained hidden from his sight wasn’t a snake. He’d tried to make enough noise to ward off unexpected company and hoped he hadn’t sounded like a complete idiot in the process. If anyone had spotted him, they would have thought he was drunk in the middle of the morning and that would never do for a sheriff.
            The flashlight he held in his hand did little to penetrate the utter darkness that surrounded him. The cave walls and floor were slimy with what Max didn’t even want to hazard a guess and it smelled even worse. It smelled like something crawled in this narrow opening and died. The boys who found the cave might think this little venture was "neat", but Max didn’t. He’d lost his sense of adventure for little games like this a long time ago. He couldn’t believe he was here now.
            He braced his hand on the cave wall but it slipped and he almost fell on his face. Swearing, he crawled through the last few feet of the small crawl space. The boys told him that the crawl space opened up into a much bigger cavern…at least he hoped it did. When he reached the larger cavern, he was able to stand up. He took a moment to stretch his back and glance at the scene. He had worked up quite a sweat and he could feel the salty sting on each and every little scratch on his hands and arms. As he shined his flashlight, Max could hear the sound of scampering rodents. Rats. He should have expected that.
            Max closed his eyes. He hated rats. They made his skin crawl. Ever since high school when a bully locked him in the janitor’s closet and dumped in a box of rats, he’d hated them. The fact that the cave had rats only made it worse, but at least this place was bigger than a janitor’s closet. He supposed rats wouldn’t be the worst thing he could have encountered in here. He tried not to think about the fact that the cave could also have bats. Bats, in his opinion, were nothing more than rats with wings.
            Opening his eyes again he shined his light on the floor of the cave. At last he found what he was searching for. In the dust were the boy’s footprints. The prints went into yet another room of the cavern. Squatting down he surveyed the scene before him. He tipped his hat to the back of his head.
            Human skeletons, in varying degrees of decomposition, littered the cave floor. The light from his flashlight cast an eerie shadow as it danced across the bones. The scene gave Max a heavy feeling in the pit of his stomach. It was a feeling he’d hoped he’d never have again. Some of the skeletons still had fragments of clothing draped around their bones and from where he was, Max could see insects and rats crawling through the menagerie of bones. The sight and smell of decomposing human flesh was worse than the crawl-through cave. He took his hat off his head and wiped the bead of sweat from his brow. It was all he could do not to vomit. He swallowed the bile in his throat and tried to steel himself against the overwhelming need to run away from the horror in front of him. He had a job to do. He could understand why the boys found this fascinating. Their imaginations would have been blown away by the sheer number of possibilities of what this place could be. He doubted they even realized these bones were once human beings. He hoped they wouldn’t realize this place was not a treasure trove but a cavern of horrors.
            He’d only seen this sort of carnage one other time back in Dallas when he was with the FBI. He’d been a rookie in police work back then but that case had been similar to this one. Twenty years ago in Dallas they found a number of skeletons in an out-of-the-way place such as this.
            Max still had nightmares from that case. He had a hard time accepting that some people kill just for sport. Now, gazing at the scene in front of him, he knew this wasn’t an Indian grave site; it was a crime scene. This, he was afraid, was the handiwork of a serial killer.

Kim, thank you so much for coming.  I think your book sounds wonderful.  I can't wait to read it.  Readers, Kim is giving away a a $10 Amazon gift certificate plus the chance to help her with her new book--the winner will get to write a short blurb and K.J. will write the book based on it.  Do follow the tour and comment often.  The more you comment, the better your chances of winning. The tour dates can be found here: