I’m On Vocal!

Hey, Readers. A couple of years ago, I joined a site called Vocal. It’s a place where authors can publish stories of various genres in both fiction and non-fiction. Authors also earn money when stories are read. Vocal + members can enter contests.

I published one story, but I didn’t have the time to devote to it. This weekend, I decided to join again, and I’ve already published two additional stories and entered one into a contest.

The first one, Where is Gunnar, is a flash-fiction story. You can read it by clicking here.

The second, The Great Adventure is a short story that I entered into the Tall Tale contest. Click this link to read.

Both are a little different from my usual genre, although Where is Gunnar contains an element of suspense. I’d be grateful if you’d pop over to read and share. You’ll need a Vocal log-in to comment, but there’s no cost involved for that.


The Message ~ @pursoot #IARTG #WritingCommunity #WritingPrompts #FlashFiction

Hey everyone. I haven’t participated in Soooz Burke’s weekly flash fiction challenge in a while. Today, the muse cooperated. If you don’t know about this delightful event click here to visit Soooz and learn more about it.

This week’s challenge was based on this photo promt:

My story today relates to an upcoming release, House of Sorrow, planned for late December. I don’t often write in first person, but couldn’t see writing this flash fiction piece otherwise.

The weather is cold and blustery today. Rather fitting, considering I’ve spent the last two hours reminiscing about life in Madeira. I remembered the good times and anguished over the bad ones. Especially one cold, dark February night.

I watch as my neighbor Abbey walks to her car. She’s a nice young woman—always friendly and seems to show genuine concern for my well-being. But I’ve shut her out, like everyone else in my life. It’s easier to let people believe I’m still mourning my husband’s death, even though it’s been almost thirty-seven years.

People call me eccentric. Reclusive. The woman in black. You see, I always wear dark colors. That’s okay. Let them think what they want. Most would think I’m crazy if I told them the truth of why I chose to stay in this house and isolate myself from the rest of the world.

Oh, I had a choice. There wasn’t any reason I couldn’t have remained here and stayed an active member of the community. But over the months and years following Lee’s death, I retreated into my own little world. And because of that, I’m convinced I saved other wives from a life of sorrow.

But I will not live forever. I’m eighty-two years old. My health is failing. I moved into a downstairs room a few months ago because I can no longer navigate the stairs. If only I could climb them today. My journal is still in my old bedroom.

I used to write in it often. If anyone reads it after I’m gone, they’ll find a bit of history because I didn’t limit my scribbling to personal feelings. I wrote about the times—Bobby Kennedy’s assassination, the first moon landing, things like Woodstock, the Manson murders, and the Vietnam war.

And even though times were troubled during the late 1960s, what I wouldn’t give to go back. To live that era again. To make different choices. If I had, Lee might be alive today. Or at least, his life wouldn’t have been cut short.

I need the journal. The urge to record one last entry is strong. I don’t feel I can wait any longer. But I can’t risk falling. If I was injured, Tim would remove me from this house and place me in a nursing home. No, I need to stay here as long as possible.

Write it down, Ruth.

How can I without the journal? I supposed I could wait until the housekeeper comes tomorrow.

Don’t wait. Do it today.

The sense of urgency is overwhelming. To write the things I wanted to say but never did. There’s a message I need to convey. Something I should have already done. I won’t wait. But without the journal, I’ll have to find another way.

I hope you enjoyed my contribution. Be sure to check in the following weeks to learn more about Ruth, see the book cover reveal, and the release date for House of Sorrow.

Lone Wolf ~ Fiction in a flash challenge by @pursoot #IARTG #ASMSG #WritingCommunity

Hey, everyone! Can I say that I’m loving Soooz Burke’s weekly photo prompts? They have inspired me to begin several short stories that were in the back of my mind for months (some even years). This week’s prompt spoke to me immediately. Within minutes of seeing it, a new story sprang to mind.

If you don’t know about the prompt, visit Soooz’s blog to learn more. Basically, the challenge is to write a fiction or non-fiction post 750 words or less.

My contribution this week came in just under the limit. I hope you enjoy Lone Wolf.

Image by steve felberg from Pixabay

Jake McLaughlin pulled the brim of his Stetson low on his forehead. Snow began to fall. He needed to check on the cattle before it became too heavy.

Urging Scout into a trot, he set off for the western boundary of the ranch. The livestock had been moved closer to the barns for the winter, but a few cows always tended to stray.

An hour later, Jake reached the remote pasture. It was his favorite place on the Double Diamond—an area where the wide-open range met the foothills. He often came here to be alone during the summer months. During the winter, he volunteered to check this spot, a job the other cowboys didn’t want. They preferred to stay closer to home.

At the crest of a hill, he pulled back on Scout’s reins. The Pinto halted, and Jake sat quietly, marveling at the sheer beauty of the area. Reveling in the silence of the falling snowflakes.

Every day for the past week, a solitary wolf had called out. He felt inexplicably drawn to this wild canine and began calling it Lone Wolf.

Maybe his affinity for the creature was due to the fact he was also a loner. While his bunkmates liked to carouse, play cards, and go into town every chance they got, Jake preferred a place to be alone. Preferably one where he could be in tune with nature.

After a few minutes, he heard what some would describe as a mournful howl. Jake found it comforting. Although he’d never gotten close enough to see the animal, he pictured the gray wolf standing on a rocky crevice, lifting its head as it called out.

He listened until the sound died away. Clouds were breaking to the west, the setting sun bathing the horizon in a golden hue. Satisfied there were no stray cattle in the area, he turned Scout back toward the ranch.


Jake continued his daily trek, always listening for Lone Wolf’s call. One day, there was only silence. He couldn’t help but feel disappointed. Likely it had moved to another area or joined in with a pack to hunt.

Shaking his head, he started back to the ranch.

Go back.

He nudged Scout to the area where Lone Wolf always called. As the horse drew closer, Jake heard whimpering. The animal was in trouble.

He dismounted, tied Scout’s reins to a low-hanging limb, then continued on foot. The sound grew louder, and he soon spied the wolf, its paw caught in the clutches of a trap.

Anger coursed through his veins. To Jake, setting traps was cruel and inhumane. Without help, this wolf would die.

He approached with caution. This was no pet dog but a wild animal. He knelt about ten feet away, his voice gentle.

“Hey, there. I’m here to help. Will you let me come close?”

Jake wasn’t sure how he knew the wolf sensed he meant no harm.

“Got yourself in a mess, huh?”

Once he was close enough, Jake saw the wolf’s paw wasn’t hurt. He pried the jaws of the trap apart. Once free, the wolf started to trot away. Stopped. Turned back to Jake as if to say, “Thank you.”


A week later, he was checking the area when a blizzard appeared out of nowhere. One minute there was light snowfall. The next brought howling winds and near white-out conditions.

He’d followed the trail of a stray cow into the foothills. The path in this area was treacherous on a good day, but the snowstorm made it worse. Scout was uncharacteristically skittish.

“Easy, boy. One wrong step and—”


Jake wasn’t sure how long he’d been out. He awoke, cold, alone, and in pain. It was almost dark. He’d freeze to death if he stayed here all night. Scout was nowhere around.

He pulled himself up. Pretty sure he’d broken a rib. He had to find shelter. Protection from the elements.

A gray figure appeared on the path. Lone Wolf turned and trotted back in the direction it came. Stopped every few feet as if to say, “Follow me.”

It wasn’t long until they came to a small cave. Lone Wolf waited for Jake to enter, then followed him inside. The two huddled together to stay warm.

Sunshine awakened Jake the following morning. He would be able to make it home now. The wolf licked his hand, then trotted away.

Lone Wolf had saved his life.

The House on Baker Street ~ Fiction in a Flash Challenge #IARTG #ASMSG @pursoot #WritingCommunity

Hey, everyone! I’m so excited to join Soooz Burk’s Fiction in a Flash Challenge again. Each week, she provides a photo prompt and invites readers to participate by writing a fiction or non-fiction piece of no more than 750 words. To learn more, click here.

This week’s prompt was perfect for a story I’ve had in mind for some time. And although I end on a cliffhanger, it’s another one I hope to continue one day.

The old house stood on the outskirts of town at the end of Baker Street. Long time residents called it Winslow House after the first family to live there. When Gerry Rafferty released the hit song “Baker Street” three years earlier, someone referred to the house by its location and the name stuck.

Built in the early twentieth century when the area was farming country, the place had become the source of legends. Some said it was haunted. The original owner, Harlan Winslow, died in a freak accident. Many believed his ghost haunted the place. Others said he and his wife had marital problems and claimed she killed him. Made it look like an accident. Whatever the case, Angela Winslow and her children moved away from Madison shortly after Harlan’s death, never to be heard from again.

Over the years several families occupied the house. In the early 1960s, a family by the name of Keller moved in. By all accounts, they were well-liked. Cal Keller was a respectable banker. His wife was friendly and outgoing. The children, a boy and two girls, ages thirteen, eleven and eight, were popular at school. But when the family disappeared on a late October evening, leaving all their possessions behind, the house once again became the source of much speculation.

Some said the Kellers left because of Harlan Winslow’s ghost. But people usually don’t abandon everything and leave in the middle of the night. They took the dog and left in the family automobile. A week after their disappearance, police found the car abandoned three-hundred miles away.

There was no evidence of foul play, and a later investigation yielded no clues about where they might have gone. Many suspected Ross Keller embezzled money but auditors found no evidence.

Cara Henderson heard rumors when she first moved to Madison. As an investigative reporter for the local news station, her natural curiosity had her wanting to know more.

“I want to do a story on the Keller disappearance,” she asked her station manager, Grant Evans.

“It’s been done before.”


“A year or two after it happened. Don’t know for sure but I’d guess no more than three.” Grant shrugged.

“You’re talking 1968 at the latest. This is 1981. We’re coming up on the fifteenth anniversary. Some people have never heard the story. Who knows, someone might see it and come forth with information.”

Grant rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Okay, go for it.”

Cara began interviewing people and asking questions. Cal and Edna Keller paid cash for the property. The taxes were up to date, paid from a trust fund Cal had set up years before their disappearance. When he interviewed for the position at the local bank, he had references from towns in Montana and Oregon. Those checked out. But since leaving Madison, there wasn’t a record of him having held another job. No one knew of any extended family members.

But after gathering all her information, Cara wanted something that would make the story more exciting. And there was only one thing she could think of. A visit to the scene.

It took a little persuading before Grant gave her the go-ahead, but fifteen years to the date, she and her cameraman, Jeff Armstrong, entered the house.

Over the years, it had fallen into a state of disrepair. The front door stood open. Windows were cracked and broken. Peeling wallpaper and damaged flooring were commonplace. Layers of dust covered the furniture. Plates and glasses remained on the dining room table. Clothes still hung in the upstairs closets. Toys and other personal possessions were in the bedrooms.

“This is weird,” Cara said. “What would make anyone leave in the middle of eating dinner with nothing but the clothes on their backs? Guess we’ll never know.”

“I can tell you,” Jeff said.

Cara turned in surprise. “You know what happened? How? You would have been something like twelve at the time. Besides, I didn’t know you’d lived in Madison before.”

“I was nine. And yes, I know what happened. I was here that night.”

Unwind ~ Fiction in a Flash Challenge @pursoot #IARTG #ASMSG #WritingCommunity

Hey, everyone. Once again, I’m participating in Soooz’s weekly flash fiction prompt. Each week she shares a photo and invites writers to participate by writing a fiction or non-fiction piece not exceeding 750 words. For more information on how to participate, visit Soooz by clicking here.

And now, here is this week’s prompt and my contribution.

Dylan walked onto the darkened stage. As the lights came up and a machine began emitting fog, thousands of fans started to scream. He was in his element. He’d dreamed of this life since he was four years old when his parents gave him a karaoke machine for Christmas.

He took the microphone as the band began to play. This was the final stop on his Unwind Tour, so named for his latest album. All in all, it had been a success. Sold out crowds every night. Standing ovations. The album was his biggest one to date, having sold over a million copies. What more could a rock star wish for?

Peace. Quiet. Relaxation.

No time for that in his world.

But I’m tired. Tired of touring. Tired of the screaming fans. Tired of… this lifestyle.

Dylan finished the concert. Went backstage with his band members. A month off. No touring. No rehearsing. No sessions in the recording studio. Everyone talked of their vacation plans. The drummer had booked a trip to Tahiti. The lead guitarist planned a vacation in Europe with his family. The bass player, Dave, was catching the next flight to the Virgin Islands.

Nice but he had no interest in visiting any of those places.

“What about you, Dylan? Going anywhere special?” The keyboardist asked.

He shrugged. “Not sure.”

“Are you kidding?” Dave said. “He’ll hole up in the studio or at his house writing music. We’d better enjoy the next few weeks. It’ll be a while before we get any time off again.

Had he become so predictable? Dylan had heard of workaholics. People who slaved their lives away while climbing to the top of the corporate ladder. Never having time for anyone or anything else.

Was his life as bad? Dave’s words had touched a nerve. He had planned to spend his time off writing new songs.

You need to unwind. You’re on a fast track to burnout.

But where would he go? Exotic locations held no appeal for him. But there was one place…

There he would find peace and quiet. He could relax.

“Dylan? You never told us what you planned to do,” Dave said.

“Going to a place where I can unwind. I’m going home.”