Friday, 28 February 2014

4Q Interview - Meet Cara Brookins, Interesting Lady, Terrific Author.

Cara Brookins lives in Arkansas and is a senior programmer/systems analyst for City of Little Rock. She is a very fine writer. Where she finds the time to write is a mystery considering she has a family to raise, a variety of projects on the go, a motivational speaker, builds web pages, an avid reader with her own fantastic library in a home that she and her children built.  She is kind enough to share her thoughts about writing here at 4Q. Her website and blog addresses are below.

4Q: I discovered your short story – Treasure Quest – when I visited your website. I’ve always been drawn to stories of boys and their antics. The lad in the story- Cooper – finds a treasure more valuable than he was originally seeking. Tell us please how this story evolved.

CB: When my publisher requested a short story, I immediately went a little frantic. My mind simply doesn’t work that way. Stories always come to me as full blown novels. So I cheated a little by thinking of this tale as an introduction to a novel with a full blown, larger treasure hunt to take place (for pretend) after this short bit about him finding civil war artifacts as well as connecting with his great grandfather and father.

I always love writing from a boy’s point of view and especially about the outdoors. My own childhood was spent on endless outdoor adventures and treasure hunts in Wisconsin. I also love writing survival stories, so ultimately this treasure story had to have a slice of that as well. Cooper overcoming his physical limits is a great representation of what is happening on a deeper scale with his relationship with his family members. The treasure isn’t what he was expecting, and neither is the relationship with his dad. I don’t know if I will ever revisit Cooper’s story, but he was a lot of fun to hang out with!

4Q: Your TimeShifters series is a compelling account of time travel to the past, an earlier period filled with amazing characters and creatures, as well as danger for the young traveller- Jordan Booker. There are two books available in the series, Mark of the Centipede, Mark of the Serpent and the third, Mark of the Spider will be ready in the spring of this year.  Tell us about them, your inspiration for them.

CB: I had the idea for this series during a two hour work commute. I actually pulled out a pen and wrote notes under the hem of my skirt on my thigh while I was driving. (Now I use my phone’s voice recorder!) The idea that our earth’s history is significantly different than the Discovery Channel’s depictions appealed to me. Especially the colors and sizes of plants and animals because these create
wild visual effects. I stretch science a little regarding green photosynthesis and creatures that escaped the fossil record, but it’s important to stretch our idea of what is possible as well as have fun with what might have been. And since I love survival stories, having an ill equipped boy learning to survive in both rural and urban settings fit well for me. I loved incorporating everything from dinosaurs to steampunk elements in the same series. It’s difficult to fit that much variety in a single trilogy! Many of the times in my life when I read the most were to escape reality for a while, so it was important to me that this trilogy allow the reader to fully depart

from everything familiar.

4Q: Please share an amusing family or childhood anecdote.

CB: As a child I was obsessed with fairy tales, particularly any with witches. The women in my life were very kind and nurturing, so the horror of an evil female who lured children into ovens or hunted them down with flying monkeys was a mysterious terror. When I was about four, my mom and grandma took me to the grocery store after a morning filled with witch storybooks. We turned down the first aisle and three women dressed fully in their black Amish clothing turned toward me—likely with a friendly smile. I screamed and shouted, “Witches, Mommy! Run from the witches!” The small town in Wisconsin where I grew up has a large Amish population, and I was accustomed to seeing their horses tethered outside every time we went shopping. But on that particular day my imagination won and my poor mom and grandma had to suffer the consequences. Naturally, they were

mortified, and Mom steered me away from Amish for a few years.

4Q: You have two adult novels ready for publication, Little Boy Blu - a psychological thriller and Voodoo- Dolls for Justice. I’m eagerly awaiting an opportunity to read them. Can you briefly tell us about them and where they are in the publishing process?

CB: I’m actively seeking a publisher for Little Boy Blu. It’s a dark departure from the middle grade and young adult works I have out to date, though the protagonist is still a young boy. The premise is a woman who intentionally has children with a genetic abnormality that causes blue skin. These children are raised in isolation in the Appalachian Mountains. When the oldest boy, sixteen year-old Blu, uncovers family secrets, someone in the family starts trying to kill him. The craziest thing about this story is that it is based on a real genetic condition that causes blue skin, so it is wildly possible.

My women’s comedy mystery about voodoo is the first novel I’ve completed with an adult woman protagonist. I really had a blast writing this one. Annette Dupre is a divorce attorney whose law practice is floundering until she introduces voodoo dolls as a feel

good gimmick. Women line up for dolls in the likeness of their soon to be ex-spouse. Of course the dolls have to be more than feel good therapy, especially when Annette’s great aunt from New Orleans—suffering from dementia—attempts to teach her the finer points of voodoo. I would love to write an entire series from this novel, and am doing final edits now.

I’m also putting the final touches on the next TimeShifters novel, Mark of the Spider, and have a new thriller outlined. The thriller is loosely based on my kids and me building our own house from the ground up. I am billing it as fiction, because that is the only way I’ve found to tell the real truth. With a bit of luck—and an immunity to sleep—I’ll start the new novel in March!


Thank you Cara for giving us an insight into your stories. I hope your many projects never take you from your writing. Visit Cara’s website at or her blog at


Next week, March 7th, an up and coming author will share an excerpt from her new novel, The King of Swords. Connie Cook delivers a new mystery story where each chapter is titled for one of the cards from a Tarot Deck.

Are you scared of Wasps? I am. March 14, read a story about those small creatures that can terrify some people, especially Seymour Troffmock.


Dark Side of a Promise - a tantalizing tale of revenge - is available at or


Friday, 21 February 2014

Guest writer Lockie Young, Kenny-isms


Friday 21. 
Hello  Faithful Readers, welcome to this weeks edition of the South Branch Scribbler. Due to some peculiar malfunction or some compatibility problem with my laptop and Blogger, there will be no photos this week.

This is Lockie's second guest appearance here and I know you will enjoy his witty take on clich├ęs. Mr. Young has a published novel available at Morning Rain Publishing called Ryan's Legend. I wish I would've found those strange footprints when I was a boy.

Kenny-isms by L F Young    © 1998

            I live in Albert County, a mostly rural part of New Brunswick. For years this part of the world has been known for its country charm and colourful inhabitants. The people of Albert County are some of the nicest folks you'll ever run across, although some are still quite set in their ways. Change sometimes comes hardest to those who are used to the way it has always been. There are prejudices and cruelties here, but then, these sentiments abound throughout this vast planet of ours, so we aren't that different from most.
            I met a man who I think could be the poster boy for Albert County. His name is Ken, and he’s well known in these parts. Ken is a kind soul who doesn't blink to help out a neighbour or friend when they are in need. A little rough around the edges, he is definitely set in his ways and in his thinking.   Ken will always be best remembered by me as the man with a thousand sayings. Once, while I was going through a particularly gruesome week at work, I asked Ken if he'd been busy.
"Busy? I'm busier than a dog in a field full of stumps!" was his reply to me. With that he flew off to another job, and I ticked off another Kenny-ism I had never heard before.
            Now I'm not saying that all of his great pearls of wisdom are actually his own creation. I'm sure, like most people, Ken heard a lot of them over the years and adopted some as his favourite, much like the rest of us do. I dare say that you may even adopt these same sayings as your own creation, if they indeed spark your interest.
            So, what exactly is a saying anyway? My interpretation is that it's simply a short statement, often made in a derogatory way, to express a particular ideal or realism of the speaker. For example, “He was tighter than the bark on a tree!” Another Kenny-ism meaning that the person in question was very frugal with his money... to the extreme.

We've probably all heard some of these at one time or another: Happy as a clam; clean as a whistle; sharp as a tack; meaner then a junk yard dog.
            For the most part, the saying in question is usually a play on words. Sharp as a tack, for instance, doesn't mean sharp at all, but rather very smart or intelligent. And the word smart, used in a certain
way, could mean something entirely different, as in, "Well you look very sharp in that new suit."
            I'm not sure where all these pearls come from. Who was the first person, or group to say "Wow! That is so cool!" Cool; this one word has stood the test of time for decades and was most likely started in the days of flower power and the Hippie generation of the 60's and 70's. It evolved from one generation to another with the addition of other expressions tacked on to the end, like dude or man, but this one word has also changed in spelling and meaning. At some point someone decided to add their distinctive mark to this expression and spelled it “Kewl”. Its meaning is the same, and is used in the same context, but with a difference in spelling and sometimes pronunciation. Variations on this word might also be chill, cold, ice, etc. All are individual, and yet all can mean something different. If someone is getting hot around the collar you might say something like "Chill, dude!"  Hot can also mean cool, as in "she's the hottest dancer here." Confused? Well you should be. From the most eastern point of land in North America to the most western point, different people have individual terms and sayings for nearly every situation including;
Appetite: I don't know who was more stuffed, me, or the bird.
Baking: Too many cooks spoil the broth.
Cash flow: I haven't got a pot to pee in or a window to throw it out of.
Death: Yep! He bought the farm.
Energy: His get up and up and went.
Financing: If you look after the pennies then the dollars will look after themselves.
Guilt: I feel lower than a snake's belly in a wheel rut.
Honesty: His word is his seal.
Insanity: He's crazier than a bed bug. (I'm still not sure what this means)
Jubilation: I was tickled pink!
Laughter: I laughed so hard, I nearly split a gut.
Money: If you have a lot, you spend a lot. If you have a little, you spend it all!
Nature: What follows two straight days of rain? Monday!
Pregnancy: I think she has a bun in the oven.
Thirsty: I was dryer than a popcorn burp in a dust storm. (The word burp is sometimes substituted for another form of gaseous emission)
Weather: Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning. Red sky at night, sailors delight.
            Now these are but a few and nearly all have variations to the same theme. I suppose its human nature to embellish the truth so as to enhance the tale telling. Is someone actually as strong as an ox, or hungry enough to eat a horse? I'm sure nobody is actually as dumb as a post, but then, why is a post dumb? Does it mean that the person in question can't speak, as in deaf and dumb or, has the meaning, like so many sayings passed on for generations, somehow changed over the passage of time to mean something different?
            Regardless of origin all sayings have one thing in common. If they're catchy enough to get the attention of the listener, then they are probably destined to become popular and used. Through time the theme may change, the context and even the spelling and construction of the phrase may be altered, but the general idea will still be there for someone else to use and improve upon.
            So, in conclusion, if you're dressed to the nines and figure you'll kill some time at the local Slurp and Burp try not to get between a rock and a hard place with that cute bartender. Time heals all wounds and at the end of the day, there's no place like home.

Lockie's latest blog can be read at

Next week, Feb 28, 4Q Interview will host Cara Brookins, an accomplished author with several published Young Adult novels available. You can view her profile and samples of her work at

Dark Side of a Promise - a tale of revenge, heroes, murder and mayhem, love and doubt - is available at

Friday, 7 February 2014

On the Edge of Danger - the continuing Jo Naylor story

Jo Naylor's adventure began with The Shattered Figurine Feb/2013- then Near Death in Oct/2013, it continues...
On the Edge of Danger

 Inspector Murdoch Maloney feels sorry for Jo Naylor. He tries to imagine the fear she must’ve experienced with a garrotte tightening around her neck less than eight hours ago. He doesn’t need to see the red mark. The black turtleneck she wears under her jacket covers it well. He’s faced dangerous people enough times in his life to know how nerve wracking it is to come close to death. He admits to himself that the ordeal over her father last year can be overwhelming also but he didn’t get to be Inspector by being a candy ass. He just finished ragging her and her partner Adam out big time, especially Naylor. This was the second time she had ventured into a potentially dangerous situation on her own. She had just come from a check up at the hospital.

After his last remark of how close she came to dying, the small office became quiet.  The computer tower under his desk hums in the silence. The noises from the outer offices, chatter, phones ringing, chairs creaking, are mostly muffled by the closed door behind the two detectives. Adam Thorne is sitting on the left facing his superior’s desk, the chair closest to the exit. Naylor is to the right.  Thorne has his elbows on the armrests of the chair, his fingers steepled. He’s gazing at his knees, unfocused, chewing on his inner lip in concentration. He’s only been a constable detective two weeks short of a year, he knows when to keep his mouth shut. Maloney chews everybody out, a tough old bastard.

Naylor is looking her boss in the eyes; she catches the glimmer of compassion in them, contrary to the firm set in his jaw.  Hoping he sees the determination in hers, she holds his gaze until he says,

“Get outta here; go find that man that did this to you Naylor. Watch her back Thorne!”

Their chairs scrape across the hardwood floor in quick response as the two hasten from the office, faster than twelve year olds when school’s out. Through the door before the Inspector can even remind them to close it as they leave, Naylor is two steps ahead of her partner almost at a jog saying,

“What were you able to dig up on Dunsmore?”

 The admin staff and another detective are in the outer office, a cluttered area, fashioned in ‘institutional dull’. New and old desks, computer stations, a work table form islands that the pair weave amongst as they head for the front door. Thorne digs a leather bound note pad from the inside pocket of his sport coat while saying,

“He is...or in a rooming house downtown off east main. Twenty one years ago, Dunsmore worked for your father at the prison, the parting was not sweet.”

Thorne almost bumps into her as she abruptly stops to face him. Her auburn ponytail swings from her cocked head as she says,

“Is that so?”

Thorne backs off a step as she mulls this over.  

“There seems to be lot about your father you don’t know.”

“Well, certainly nothing about his work. It stayed there.”

A few seconds go by and she waves him along.

“That’s interesting Adam. You’ve been busy. Tell me the rest as we head to the rooming house you mentioned.”

Back into a trot again, Naylor heads for their car in the side parking lot as she listens to Thorne’s narrative. He’s walking as if he’s in a marathon trying to keep up, glancing at his notes, relating what he’s discovered in the last four hours. A few clouds bunch up here and there in the mainly clear sky but it’s still cool enough this spring day to lightly see his breathe. Several other cars are leaving and the air smells like exhaust.

A Crown Victoria, cop grey, waits for them at the rear of the lot. The car looks police; they don’t. Naylor’s tall for a lady, her workouts keep her buff. The women that she works with enviously nicknamed her “Shape”. The guys might think it but they know better than to say it. Her dark jeans, the black sweater, the short grey jacket fit her loosely yet define her pleasing curves.   She moves fluidly like a gymnast, she kicks like a double barrelled 12 gauge.

Thorne looks like he’s going to a photo shoot. Black slacks, open necked black dress shirt, grey sharkskin sport coat, shiny shoes, a black hankie artfully tucked into the outer breast pocket makes him trendy and serious. He’s an inch shorter than Jo, wider and just as lean, maybe a little too thin for his muscled frame. He’s wears a happy grin most of the time, seemingly pleased with his life. Eager to be a good detective, he’s attentive and works far too hard.

They’re climbing in the car as Thorne says, “He just got out of jail about six months ago after doing time for aggravated assault. He almost killed his victim he beat her so bad.”

Naylor is backing the car out from the painted lines.

“When was this, the assault?”

“It’ll be four years ago this autumn.”

While she waits for a gap in the traffic to head east, they eyeball each other, the date is significant. Naylor says what they both know,

“That’s must be just after his daughter died.”

Thorne is nodding his head. He knows she’s thinking of her father right now. “Yeah it was.”

“Who did he assault?”

“His wife.”

“Oh shit!”

Naylor sees a gap in the traffic, a kind civilian giving her the right-of-way waves her on. She does something else Maloney doesn’t like. She floors the grey whale and it tears out of the lot. The back wheels chirp for fifteen seconds as the black rubber scars the concrete driveway of the police station and a foot or so of Robinson Avenue as she speeds out into the flow of traffic. Even though they don’t have a light flashing, her haste is evident to the other motorist’s and they make room for the cop car to pass them. The rooming house is across town, maybe fifteen minutes. She can flip the siren for a few lights, so maybe ten minutes. Thorne is holding his note book in his left hand; his right holds the overhead safety strap He’s too nervous to watch the road when she’s in a hurry, so he stares at the lines of his neat script as he relays the details.

Eleven minutes later they turn off east Main onto Blueberry St. and pull up on the wrong side in front of a tall narrow house, two floors and a tall attic. The siding is wide Masonite, popular in the seventies, dark brown paint making the house overly serious. Paint peels around the edges of the dirty windows and top of the front entry. A dingy white aluminum door with a torn screen hangs open; the bottom hinge is wobbly as if only one screw holds it.

It’s the first building on the left, just after a half empty car lot called ‘Jonahs Pre-owned Autos’ where used vehicles are shuffled about by the owner and single salesperson, Gaspar Jonah, a man known for his dishonesty and wide colourful ties.

He’s in the lot now clapping some young man on the back but stops his spiel when he sees Naylor and Thorne pull up to the building next door. He knows this ‘ghost car’. He knows the coppers by reputation. He means to talk to them about the big man he saw checking out the cars last night just after he closed. He was going to go out and inquire if the man was interested but when he saw how big he was, how menacing the heavy brows were, the face shaded in the yard lights, he lost interest, was scared actually. He’ll sell this naive lad a car first, and then go talk to them.

As the detectives get out of the car Thorne is saying,

“ he trashed your old man’s office, beat up one of the office clerks. He was physically restrained and arrested. He spent three nights in jail until the charges were dropped. I didn’t have time to find out why.”

Naylor is standing on the fractured sidewalk facing the front of the house. There is a four foot uncut lawn, two cracked concrete squares for a path to the front stoop which is weathered but the two steps are new, rough cut but the wood is recent. A dirt driveway runs to the right. Her ponytail swings as she surveys the structure. Her nose is scrunched from the smell of old tires piled at the end of the driveway, cooking in the sun.

“How do you know this Adam? I never heard any of this at home.”

“Well, like you said, he never brought his work home. I bet there was always some weird crap going on in a prison. Anyway, my Dad is a regular at the curling club up on Lutz Street and George Zawacki is on the same team, has been for many years. Mr Zawacki is the...”

“Yeah, yeah I know who Zawacki is, took over the warden’s job.”

“That’s the one. It was quicker this way than through our office channels. So he let me dig through some of the files, I talked to one of the older guards, he remembered the incident.”

Naylor is not saying anything. She stares at the bent front door although it is faint and blurry in her vision. She is oddly struck with a memory of the story of the Dunsmore girl, front page of the daily. She feels a terrific hurt in her heart for the pain her father wrought. Naylor has her hands on her hips when she turns to face her partner. The dark eyes are shiny and sad. Her lips are upturned as she concentrates trying to keep her emotions in check before she speaks. She doesn’t know if she can keep doing this, maybe she’s too close. She’s suddenly scared. Her voice is tiny, just above a whisper.

“Then seventeen years later, my father kills Dunsmore’s daughter. Now Dunsmore is trying to kill me.”

To be continued...........

Next Friday is Valentines Day, read about Love in its many shapes and forms of expression.

February 21st, please be here to read a witty short story called Kennyisms from Lockie Young, his second appearance as a guest writer. Feel free to leave a comment. Thanks for visiting the South Branch Scribbler
Today only - February 11 - Dark Side of a Promise is available fo $2.99 at