Ten Things Not to Do While Staying Overnight with Friends


Plan to stay with friends or family over the holidays? Check out this list of Things Not To Do by John Howell!

Originally posted on Fiction Favorites:

a overnight guest

This list has been inspired by numerous friends staying overnight and sad to say doing one or more of the things on the list. Since this week is Thanksgiving I thought it would be a good idea on posting some tips on behavior in case a visit to friends is in the cards. (Oh, I know you would never do any of these)

Ten Things Not to Do While Staying Overnight with Friends

10 If you are staying overnight with friends, do not ask “what’s for dinner?” if you do, at best you will come off as pretty a demanding guest.  At worst, your host may send you out for fast food. (by yourself)

9 If you are staying overnight with friends, do not get sick in their bed. If you do, at best the stay will be very short. At worst, you may wake up in the backyard with…

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Clemency, A Novel in Progress: Chapter 16

The following novel in progress is based on a real crime, but is largely a work of fiction.  I started this novel in 2008 and stopped after just a few chapters.  I will post those chapters here, and (hopefully) finish the remainder of the novel during NaNoWriMo.

Chapter 15 is here.


Sarah almost dropped her flashlight as a large hand came out of nowhere and clamped over her mouth. Someone’s breath was hot on her neck.  But she recognized  his voice.

“Keep quiet. Cooley’s at the back of the trailer, waiting.” Michael dropped his hand and turned Sarah around to face him. He was a dark gray ghost in the deep evening light, but she could see that he was angry.

“What the hell are you doing out here by yourself?” He kept his voice low, but Sarah was still stunned by his anger. Too stunned to tell him that his grip on her shoulders was starting to hurt.

“Cooley said to meet him here. He said he would turn over Jimmy’s arrest records to me.” Sarah swung her arms up, breaking Michael’s grip on her. Her hair had fallen when he grabbed her, and she wanted to pin it back up. She was determined to not let the sticky summer heat break her will and force her to cut her hair. Her mother had loved Sarah’s thick, long hair, brushing it for her almost every night when she was a little girl. She would never cut her hair. She pulled out the pins, coiled it on top of her head, and secured it before Michael had a chance to snort out a response.

“Woman, didn’t they teach you anything in law school? Like not coming out alone, on a moonless night, to a vacant trailer where you don’t know who or what is hell is waiting for you?”

Sarah gripped the flashlight tighter. This former Marine, this jarhead was getting on her nerves. He may be Misty’s brother, and he may really want to help his little sister, but Sarah was getting tired of how he kept turning up and interfering with her.

“I don’t need you to tell me how to run an investigation. This isn’t Iraq—“ Sarah stopped. The squeak of an aluminum frame door caught her ear, and she realized that Michael and she had raised their voices. She moved toward the sound, thinking it was Cooley. Michael grabbed her arm and pulled her to the ground on the other side of Sarah’s car just as a shot rang out. Sarah would swear later that she felt something hot just glance her shoulder as she dropped.

“It may as well be,” Michael said as he pulled out a gun. Sarah could barely make out the shape as he positioned it at the side of his head. The sweat on the back of Sarah’s neck turned icy and for a moment she wished she had worn long pants and a turtleneck instead of her linen shorts and sleeveless cotton blouse. She began to tremble.

Michael suddenly stood up, fired off a shot that ricocheted off something metallic and then dropped down again. Sarah started to move forward, but, again, Michael grabbed her, this time by the back of her shorts. She turned hot with anger.

“Get your hands off me.” She slapped at Michael’s hand, but he hung on.

“Just hold on. I only fired a warning shot. Let’s get into your car—but stay down—and get the hell out of here.” Michael gave her one hard look. “You don’t know what you got into here.”

Sarah started to retort when another shot rang out, hitting the ground just front of Sarah’s Volvo station wagon. Without another word, Michael opened the car door and pushed Sarah inside, moving in after her.

“Give me your keys. Stay down!” Sarah pulled her keys from her pocket, almost dropping them before shoving them into Michael’s open palm. Keeping his head low, he jammed the keys in and started the ignition. Sarah peeked out the passenger window in time to see a burst of light in the darkness where the trailer stood. Michael put the Volvo in reverse and slammed on the gas, spewing gravel as the car careened backward.

“Get down!” Michael yelled, pushing Sarah down away from the window. Without thinking, she flung out her arm to hit him and hit the stick instead. She thought she heard Michael laugh as he shifted the car into Drive.

“Damn it!” Sarah crouched over her bruised hand. Looking up as they passed under a street lamp, she saw a slight smile on Michael’s face.

“You can get up now,” he said in a cheery voice. “We’re out of range.” Sarah crawled back up onto the seat and glared at Michael.

“What the hell was all that?” She pulled the hair out of her eyes, giving up on trying to keep it tidy. “Why would Cooley be shooting at me?”

“We don’t know it was Cooley, although he must have something to do with it.” Michael pulled the car into the highway and drove quietly. Sarah huddled against the passenger seat. She felt exhausted, confused, and in desperate need of a bathroom.  Michael turned off the highway and went down a narrow two-lane road, heading toward the bay.

After a few minutes, Michael stopped the car alongside an old Airstream that had been set up on blocks. Sarah’s heart sank. She would probably have to pee outside.

“Are you okay?” She turned to see Michael looking at her, the porch light throwing his face into soft relief.

“Yeah, I just have to pee. I don’t imagine you have facilities in there.” She pointed to the Airstream and Michael laughed.

“Oh, that’s one thing I don’t miss about Iraq—shitting in the sand. No, I’ve got facilities in the trailer.” Sarah slipped out of the car and followed Michael into the trailer, where he promptly flipped on a switch. The bright light caught Sarah by surprise.

“You don’t think we were followed, or that anyone is going to try and track us down?” She squinted at Michael. He was gesturing toward a narrow hallway.

“The toilet’s down there, second door on your right.” He turned toward her.  “And, no, I don’t think anybody is going to bother us. They just wanted to scare you.” He walked up to her and put his hands lightly on her shoulders. “And I hope they did.”

Sarah gaped at him and then pushed him aside as she made her way down the hallway. She was trying to help his sister. That’s all she was trying to do. She couldn’t understand why he didn’t help her. She slammed the door shut and managed to get situated on the toilet before her bladder gave way.


A Word from the Author of Clemency, A Novel in Progress

Hey, everybody, I feel like I’ve been so deep in NaNoWriMo land and posting the progress of my WIP, Clemency, that you all may have forgotten what I look like.

Photo on 11-23-14 at 1.58 PM

Yes, I now have blue hair as well as pink.  In the right light, my husband says I look patriotic.  It’s just a streak of blue, but it goes well with my favorite bathrobe, don’t you think?  Oh, and this is what my hair looks like when I don’t use a flat iron.  Kind of all over the place.  Amazing how much work I have to put into my appearance just to be able to leave the house.

Okay, enough about my hair (although it is my favorite subject).  The point of this post is to let all my steadfast readers of Clemency–all five of you–know that the last chapter will be posted on December 2.  And, yes, all will be revealed for those of you who keep insisting that Mrs. Whitebread is guilty.  She’s guilty, but …  enough said.

A word of warning:  You may feel like you’ve missed something once you get to the end.  And, yes, indeed, you will have missed quite a bit because I am not posting the whole novel on my blog.  Yup, whole chapters are being left out.  Why?  Here are my excuses reasons:

  • I didn’t want this WIP to go on indefinitely. I have other things I want to write about beside the novel that threatens to go forever.
  • I’ve tried to keep the posts to 1,000 words or less, but obviously (that is, if you’ve been reading), that’s been near to impossible.
  • Even more truthfully, posting these chapters have seriously cut into my writing time, more than I thought it would.

So I went ahead and wrote the ending, put it up on the scheduler and then just filled in with what I think are the most crucial chapters.

So in the remaining chapters, if you are reading along and find yourself exclaiming, “WTF. When did that happen?,” just know that it’s not you, it’s me, it’s the work in progress.  Besides, if I posted the whole novel, would there be any reason for anyone to buy it if and when it gets published?  “But, Marie,” you cry, “you’re giving away the killer’s identity!”  Yeah, so?  Some readers (myself included) don’t mind knowing the end as long as we have fun getting there (especially if your idea of fun is reading about people being tortured and killed).

Also, after Clemency has been raked over the coals by a series of revisions and an editor or two, the writing should be much better and, who knows, the killer’s identity might even change.  It would be just like me to do something like that.

I hope you enjoy the remaining posts on Clemency.  Looking forward to seeing you all on the other side.

P.S.  I’m past the 40,000 mark in NaNoWri as of this moment. Still a ways to go but I can almost taste the sweet finish.

Clemency, A Novel in Progress: Chapter 15

The following novel in progress is based on a real crime, but is largely a work of fiction.  I started this novel in 2008 and stopped after just a few chapters.  I will post those chapters here, and (hopefully) finish the remainder of the novel during NaNoWriMo.

Chapter 14 is here.


Mrs. Whitebread followed Sarah and watched through the kitchen window as Sarah propelled her old Volvo across the gravel parking lot. She slowly shook her head and patted the small pistol that she had slipped into her dress pocket. She suddenly felt all of her seventy-two years, although she had thus been able to fool nearly everyone into thinking she was much younger. Stay out of the sun, she told anyone who would listen, and take all things in moderation.

Well, all but shoes, she thought as she gazed down at her stilettos. She’d always had a soft spot for shoes and felt that one “vice” wouldn’t send her to Hell. But ratting on Sarah and Lucas might. Read the full post »

Clemency, A Novel in Progress: Chapter 14

The following novel in progress is based on a real crime, but is largely a work of fiction.  I started this novel in 2008 and stopped after just a few chapters.  I will post those chapters here, and (hopefully) finish the remainder of the novel during NaNoWriMo.

Chapter 13 is here.


Before the sound of Mrs. Whitebread’s steps fully faded away, Sarah had tapped out a text message to Michael. She mentioned Lucas but not the black SUV that had taken off as soon as Mrs. Whitebread had turned away from the window. She dropped the phone and rubbed her face, massaging sweat into her skin. She wanted to go back to her cottage, take a long shower, and then curl into bed and sleep until the deadline for Misty’s clemency petition had passed and there would be nothing they could do for her.

What a bitch, she thought to herself, of herself. What a pathetic, scaredy-cat bitch. What kind of lawyer would I be if I run away from every hard, every dangerous case. She hadn’t studied law to work on real estate transactions or trade agreements or copyright infringements. She hadn’t studied law to make money. She wanted to make a difference in people’s lives, people who didn’t have anyone advocating for them because they were poor or the wrong color or the wrong ethnicity. She wanted to advocate for the disenfranchised, people like Misty who didn’t have the means or the savvy to obtain a good defense. People who pled guilty even they weren’t guilty. They were just scared by a system that seemed to have nothing but contempt for them.

Her phone buzzed. It wasn’t Michael returning her call. It was the same caller as before, the one she had gotten just before Mrs. Whitebread’s strange visit. This time she took the call.

She froze when she heard the voice. She could almost smell the cigar smoke.

“Miss Mansfield. This is Sheriff Cooley. I believe I have some information that might help Misty’s case.”

“What information?” Sarah managed to sit down but every sense in her body was telling her to put the phone down and run.

“Well, actually, it’s something her half-sister Melody wants to tell you. Could you drive over here now, to Oyster Point?”

“Now?” Sarah glanced outside the window. It was getting dark. The faux-19th century street lamps were slowly coming on, making the natural light darker than it would otherwise be. Still, by the time she could get to Oyster Point, it would be dark. And she didn’t have any protection. She had never liked guns. Her father had given her target lessons when she was a teen-ager, which she had hated because of the noise and the recoil that her small frame always struggled with. But he had been persistent about it especially after one of her classmates was raped and murdered in her own home while her parents were on a weekend trip. It didn’t matter to her father that it was the young girl’s boyfriend who was the murderer and that Sarah never had a boyfriend and that her parents never left her alone overnight. It didn’t matter. What mattered to her father was that she’d know how to use a gun. The problem right now was that she didn’t have one.

“Yes, ma’am. I think Melody has a confession of sorts to make. She’s in distress right now otherwise I’d put her on the phone.”

Sarah hadn’t yet met Melody but nothing she had heard about the woman made Sarah feel she could trust her anymore than she could trust Cooley. Still, Melody had been at the scene of the crime when law enforcement arrived. One of the reports said that she had had blood on her, JImmy’s blood it was presumed, although no one bothered to test it to be sure.

“Okay. It will take me a couple of hours.”

“That’s fine, Miss Mansfield. I do apologize for the inconvenience, but I believe it will be worth your while.”

Sarah ended the call and stared at her phone for a few moments. Should she text or call Michael, she wondered? But he hadn’t yet responded to her text. Maybe he was busy with his “friend.” She didn’t know why it bothered her that he might have a female friend. It would probably be strange if he didn’t. Maybe he had more than one friend. Oh, damn, why did she care? He wasn’t her type. Too muscular. Too dark, not just in coloring with his dark eyes and dark hair (at least what little bit he left unshaved) and heavily tanned skin. He was all dark nature, like someone who would spend hours hiking through a forest but not even a few minutes reading a book. He was … sensual, not cool and distant like Lucas, like her dad, like the men she had been drawn to in law school. Men who tended not to return her interest once they learned that her student loans really were needed to pay her tuition and books, not to finance a fancy lifestyle.

She threw her phone into her messenger bag and slung the heavy thing over her shoulders. She didn’t try to be quiet as she ran down the stairs, her steps making an awful racket. Enough of one that Mrs. Whitebread appeared at her doorway, grimacing from the noise and the vibration Sarah’s clomping had set about her fine bone china teacups and saucers.

“Sorry, I’m in a hurry, Mrs. Whitebread.” She rushed past the woman, only momentarily wondering if she should stop and ask for the small unloaded pistol. But she decided against false confidence. Having a gun could be more dangerous than not having one, she thought as she practically flew out the back door to her car.


Final day for the Occasional Soulmates 99 cent countdown deal!


Snooze and you lose! Today is the last day to get Kevin Brennan’s Occasional Soulmates for only 99 cents! But if you’re really savvy, you’ll buy the paperback which allows you to have the Kindle version for free. Then you can give the paperback as a gift to your best friend and keep the Kindle version for yourself. A win-win!

Originally posted on WHAT THE HELL:

Blue gorilla

That’s right. If you’ve been fence-sitting on this thing, today’s the day you have to act. Occasional Soulmates is 99 cents until midnight PST.

It’s been a successful promotion, but only thanks to EReader News Today. On its own, a Kindle Countdown Deal doesn’t attract much attention, it seems to me; you need an outside push to ensure that lots of eyeballs see it. Luckily ENT isn’t terribly expensive, like a lot of them, but it’s effective.

To ignite one last flash of interest, I’m reposting here Cinthia Ritchie’s interview with me earlier this week on her blog. Hope you like it. Tell your friends. And, as always, thanks for your support on social media throughout this promotion.


Q: How did you come up with the idea for Occasional Soulmates? Did it pop inside your head suddenly or was it a slow tease?

A: It was a pretty…

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Clemency, A Novel in Progress: Chapter 13

The following novel in progress is based on a real crime, but is largely a work of fiction.  I started this novel in 2008 and stopped after just a few chapters.  I will post those chapters here, and (hopefully) finish the remainder of the novel during NaNoWriMo.

Chapter 12 is here.


Sarah sucked in her breath. Mrs. Whitebread didn’t look a like a killer, not with that fine string of pearls around her neck and her silver hair done up in a soft French twist and her feet still looking like they wanted to party in their Manolo Blahnik stilettos. The older woman turned her hand and held out the pistol to Sarah.

“Would you know how to use this? Do you have any protection?”

Sarah didn’t know whether to laugh or punch the old woman in the face or both. Read the full post »

Clemency, A Novel in Progress: Chapter 12

The following novel in progress is based on a real crime, but is largely a work of fiction.  I started this novel in 2008 and stopped after just a few chapters.  I will post those chapters here, and (hopefully) finish the remainder of the novel during NaNoWriMo.

Chapter 11 is here.


Sarah folded herself into the hard wooden chair in her office. She had managed to get to Tully House and park her car without any further incidents. She didn’t need anything else to shake up her. She hugged her knees to her chest trying to still her shivering body. She wasn’t cold. In fact, she was sweating, using a table fan to try and dry off her skin if not exactly cool it. She had to open the window to let in some fresh, albeit heavy air; otherwise, the attic smelled of a tomb with all the dust and stillness.

If there ever was a time she really, really needed her parents, this was it. She thought she was going insane. The threatening note. Lucas and Billy James. Cooley. The black SUV. The sense that someone had been in the attic since last night when she was there with Michael. The antique shop was open when she came into the house, but Mrs. Whitebread was on the phone and so she managed to avoid her. Still, something made Sarah pause near the open door of the shop, long enough to hear Mrs. Whitebread say, “I think she took some of the records with her last night.” When Sarah leaned toward the door to hear better, she almost knocked over a tiny vase of roses sitting on a small table. The clacker of the vase threatening to fall over reverberated through the house. Before Mrs. Whitebread could say anything, Sarah stuck her head inside the room and gave the older woman a big smile. “It’s just me, Mrs. Whitebread. Being clumsy.”

Mrs. Whitebread was sitting at her desk, a cell phone pressed close to her ear. She was sitting back, her right hand holding a fountain pen and paused in the air, as if she had started to write something down. She was staring straight at Sarah. Only a slight reddening of her pale, papery cheeks gave away her surprise. Sarah glanced at the other woman’s feet, crossed and resting on a needlepointed footstool. She was wearing the Manolo Blahnik shoes and Sarah wondered if perhaps they were the only pair of fancy shoes she had. Even the dress looked very similar to the one she had worn the first day they met.

“Sorry to disturb you.” Sarah moved away before Mrs. Whitebread had a chance to respond and bounded up the stairs, making quite a racket as she did. She needed to get to the attic fast, before she totally fell apart.

Sitting alone, she wondered who Mrs. Whitebread had been talking to and whether it was about her. But she knew it had to be. Paranoia was not an unreasonable feeling; it was just something she wasn’t used to. If only her parents were alive and she could call them. If only they had lived and were now nearby as they had planned.

Her cell phone buzzed and danced a little on her desk. She picked it up but didn’t answer right away. She didn’t recognize the number but she could see it was local. She didn’t want to answer it. Let it go to voicemail, she thought as she put it back on her desk.

“Oh, Sarah, get a grip on yourself!” She stood up abruptly and stretched her body as she tried to touch the ceiling. A good lawyer wouldn’t let a couple of strange incidents interfere with her work. It could all be coincidence. That black SUV could just have been some asshole wanting to mess with her for the sake of messing with her. Just because the license plate was Franklin County, well, that was just coincidence.

Sarah tossed her messenger bag on the desk and started to organize the records she had taken the night before. Then she stopped. The unmistakeable creaking of the stairs. Someone was coming up to the attic. She glanced out the window. It was broad daylight, although late afternoon. Nothing to be afraid of. She moved toward the alcove and sniffed. No hint of cigar smoke, at least not yet. She felt her heart start to pick up pace and the sweat on her skin chilled. A slight, almost delicate knock at the door, which Sarah had, thankfully, locked. Even when Michael was with her the night before, she had locked it.

The knock recurred and a small voice said, “Sarah, this is Mrs. Whitebread. I need to talk with you.”

Sarah opened the door and the older woman stood on the landing as if waiting to be announced at a debutante’s ball. She had a string of pearls about her neck and in her right hand was a pearl-handled pistol, pointed at Sarah.


Clemency, A Novel in Progress: Chapter 11

The following novel in progress is based on a real crime, but is largely a work of fiction.  I started this novel in 2008 and stopped after just a few chapters.  I will post those chapters here, and (hopefully) finish the remainder of the novel during NaNoWriMo.

Chapter 10 is here.


Cooley hadn’t been gone long when Melody heard the crunch of gravel coming from just outside her door. The day was hot and humid and she kept her door open in the hopes that a breeze from the bay might find its way to her trailer. Sidle in and lift the dirty brown hair from her neck. She really should take a shower. It had been a couple of days but when she was feeling bad, she tended to like to stew in her own sticky sweat. It made the shower that she would ultimately take feel that much better. Like when she was a little girl and they would all go camping at Cape San Blas and the only washing she did was in the warm bay. They’d camp for a few days and coming home she and Misty would race each other for the shower. When they were really little, before she started to hate Misty, feel jealous of her for being younger and prettier, they would sometimes shower together, giggling at all the sand they would wash off their skin. Read the full post »

A Different Kind of Book Review: Occasional Soulmates by Kevin Brennan.

Dear Reader, here is another in my unplanned series of book reviews.  I hope you enjoy this commercial break.  Did you know that currently the ebook version of Occasional Soulmates by Kevin Brennan, the subject of this review, is available for just 99 cents.  If you’ve been on the fence about getting yourself a copy, well, here’s your chance to get it cheap.  And if the price alone isn’t enough to sway you, then I do hope the following “different kind of book review” will knock you right off the fence and onto Amazon’s page for Occasional Soulmates

a occasional soulmates


Sarah stuffed the manila folders into her messenger bag. She rubbed her eyes. She was tired of reading dark, gruesome material: coroner reports, Sheriff Cooley’s statement of Misty’s battered body, arrest records. She needed a break. Something that would take her away from the seedy world of small-time drugs and cheap sex. She reached back into her bag and pulled out a paperback that Michael had given her. It had seemed funny to him that the woman in the novel was named Sarah and that she was looking for love in all the wrong places. He’d tried to hide his smirk when he said this to her, and Sarah, in turn, fumed to herself. Read the full post »

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