THE STING by Bryan Murphy

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Photo by Awersowy – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5930841

Portugal in the 1970s. Ed Scripps, a young expatriate English businessman, has lost his wife, his business and his money. Now an evil cult, which calls itself Pangaia, has sucked his best friend, Mark, into its clutches in order to get its hands on Mark’s newly acquired wealth. Ed is determined to rescue Mark, and enlists the help of Mark’s wife Simone, and other friends, to try to do so.

Ed took a dark Sagres beer from the fridge for inspiration. He had acclimatised so thoroughly that he now drank his beer cold, even in winter: the chill at the back of his throat added to the impact of that first swig. With the night’s third bottle, inspiration started to arrive. By the time the fifth empty bottle clinked into the waste bin, he had a plan.

In the cold light of day, Ed still thought his plan was a good one. He summoned the group to a meeting that evening and laid it before them. They thought it risky, but feasible. They would do it.

The next morning, Simone went to the bank and wired a significant sum of money from a joint account to the bank’s branch in Vila Abade, for Mark to pick up in person. One of the group, Luís, then phoned Pangaia, declared himself to be a senior clerk from the bank, and asked to speak to Mark. They told him Mark was unavailable but he could leave a message. Luís explained the transfer and said that Mark could collect his money the following day.

Early the next morning, Ed, Simone and Gabriela drove up to Vila Abade in a hired car. They parked near the police station in the small town and walked towards the bank, hurrying to keep out the winter chill as well as to get in position before the bank opened. They took up their places, in sight of each other, but with only one of them visible to the guard outside the bank, should he care to look in that direction.

They were counting on Jorge being keen to get his hands on Mark’s money as fast as possible, and they were not disappointed. Minutes after the bank opened, Ed saw Mark approach it, accompanied by three heavies. Ed pulled his borrowed hat down and hurried towards the bank, taking care to disguise his limp. He was the first customer to enter the bank, and he engaged the sole clerk already on duty in a discussion of how he might open an account there, spinning out the misunderstandings by making his Portuguese more rudimentary than it had been for years. The Pangaia group came in after him and had to wait. If Mark recognised Ed, he did not show it.

A blast of cold air came in as the door opened. Gabriela strode in, looking flustered and anxious. She asked who was last in the queue and started complaining loudly about bank staff always being late for work. The guard raised his eyebrows and closed the door on them. Mark’s escorts glared daggers at the foreigner separating them from Mark’s money. When Ed could spin out his request no further, and gave it up with many thanks to the bored clerk, the Pangaia group moved forward to take his place, but Gabriela brushed past them to the counter.

“Excuse me, I’m sorry, I just can’t wait! Show a little gallantry, gentlemen!”

“Hey! Who do you think you are!”

“Get out of the way, bitch!”

“We’re next! Not you, you stupid cow!”

They did not notice Simone enter. Mark did. He rushed to embrace her. As he did so, Ed started to yell.

“Help! It’s a robbery! Help!!”

Gabriela began to scream. The clerk pressed the alarm button. The guard ran in, gun in hand, and saw the heaviest of Pangaia’s disciples with his thick arms around Mark’s neck. The guard felled him with a blow from the barrel of the gun, then pointed it at the other two heavies who scrambled to tend to their fallen companion.

“Stop where you are! You’re all under arrest!”

The above is an extract from Revolution Number One, the forthcoming novel by British author Bryan Murphy. Bryan welcomes visitors to his website at http://www.bryanmurphy.eu You can find a selection of his e-books here: viewAuthor.at/BryMu

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3 Reasons Writing LGBTQ Fiction is Mega Rewarding

 

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Like many authors, I have lots of book ideas in my head. One of the most difficult decisions I had early on was choosing which one to start first. That started The Great Debate (trademark pending). I even made spreadsheets with pros and cons of releasing each novel. OK I made that up, but I did think about it a lot.

Finally, I decided it was the right time for my LGBTQ novel. Things today are progressing, but there’s still a lot of hate and ignorance out there. So many teenagers are struggling with their sexuality and bullying. And I really wanted to give them something that attempts to be funny and poignant at the same time. I had to say “attempts” because it’s not up to me to decide if it succeeded. SEE! I’m a humble author! For reals! Hello? Is this thing on?

Anyway, since The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren was released, I’ve realized the decision to publish it first was absolutely, one million percent correct. So many wonderful things have happened as a result of the novel being LGBTQ. And I wanted to share a few! So let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we?

I had the most fun LGBTQ book launch party ever!

When planning the book launch, I racked my brains on how to make it interesting yet relevant. I had some really, really bad ideas, like doing those stupid teamwork games where everyone sits on each other’s laps in a circle. Or conducting trust falls off the top rungs of ladders.

Finally, someone suggested that, because my book is set at a pray-away-the-gay school, why not take everyone there? Consequently, I made name tags for everyone that read, “My name is X and I’m a gay”. Then, I conducted the same orientation written for Sanctuary Preparatory Academy (the homophobic school in my novel). Sanctuary is WAY over-the-top with their homophobia. There are posters depicting the stereotypical signs of gays and lesbians. They even serve food like “Cleansing Corn” and “Healing Hamburgers”. With all this in mind, I made my own posters and handed out meal coupons listing some of the food. For a half hour, everyone knew what it was like to be told they were essentially evil.

The fun part was half of the attendees were straight. So I got to pull them into my world along with everyone else. And they took it so well. I even convinced a few of them to come out. OK that’s not true.

But, in the end, it was a really fun, memorable event.

I dominated a Barnes & Noble event (Mwahahaha!)

Early this summer, I was fortunate enough to attend a young adult book event at my local Barnes & Noble. I had no idea what to expect so, the day of the event, I showed up all nervous, toting my box of books. Why was I nervous? Well, although I’m proud of my novel, I did have this little worry in the back of my head about backlash. I started concocting worst-case scenarios about prejudiced people shaming my novel or throwing giant Shakespeare books at me.

When I arrived, I was put at a table with two other local authors who immediately put me at ease. They were both friendly and approachable. However, both of them were much more established than me, so I imagined giant lines forming in front of them while I filed my nails.

Nope.

First of all, the event planners got us involved, making us compete in a spelling bee against the teenagers. It was really fun, except I was one of the first people out! You can laugh, but I was given a word from Harry Potter, like densaugeo or aparecium or broom. Who in their right mind knows how to spell those?

As embarrassing as it was – all the kids laughed and one even threw some Chocolate Frogs at me, screaming, “Spell this!” – being eliminated allowed me to chat with the teens. Their interest in my book was incredible! Virtually every teen there grabbed a copy and some talked with me about their own struggles. One teenager told me about her love of writing and interest in the LGBTQ community.  She and I have since exchanged e-mails.

Although I’m kind of bragging, don’t think this is how all my events go. I had another event where I brought 20 books and left with 19. And the only reason one was gone is because I forced someone to take it for free so it at least looked like I’d sold something. See! Humble.

I got to speak with an LGBTQ school!

Late last year, a friend connected me with a man who’d founded Pride School Atlanta in Georgia. While their students are primarily LGBTQ, the school is for anyone who wants to learn in a safe, bully-free environment.

I ended up sending him copies of my book and we’ve since become friends. Last week, he invited me to be a guest speaker to his students. It was amazing! I was expecting to jump onto Skype and see two students interested in writing. Instead, I found a room full of students and teachers all asking me questions about writing, LGBTQ issues, Pokemon Go, and everything in between.

One of my favorite parts of the chat was when I held up my book. When the students saw the word ‘Gay’ in the title, they gasped and clapped. That really touched me. Young people everywhere are clamoring for fiction they can identify with. And being able to fill that gap just a little is so rewarding.

All in all, I’ll never forget their reactions, and the reactions of everyone I’ve spoken to about the novel. It made the decision to write a novel about a gay teen and a siren one of the best I’ve ever made.

 

About the Author

Cody Wagner loves to sing, mime (not really), and create. He writes about topics ranging from superpowers to literate trees (really). His award-winning debut novel, The Gay Teen’s Guide to Defeating a Siren, recently “came out”. See what he did there? He’s handing out cookie dough to everyone who grabs a copy. Check out his writing and see more of his wackiness at www.wagner-writer.com or find him on Twitter @cfjwagner, Goodreads at www.goodreads.com/wagner_writer, and Amazon at www.amazon.com/Cody-Wagner/e/B016NYGV40.

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Mystic Moments by John B. Rosenman

Have you ever had a mystic moment? A cosmic or out-of-body experience beyond space and time? A spiritual moment of enlightenment, precognition, you-name-it?

Or perhaps you’ve had a moment not so grand and glorious. Perhaps you’re even a rational, logical sort who never tolerated such nuttiness until the day you saw a ghost or dreamed of an event before it occurred.

Let’s define the term mysticism. According to Wikipedia, “Mysticism is popularly known as becoming one with God or the Absolute, but may refer to any kind of ecstasy or altered state of consciousness which is given a religious or spiritual meaning.[web 1] It may also refer to the attainment of insight in ultimate or hidden truths, and to human transformation supported by various practices and experiences.

Becoming one with God or the Absolute. Sometimes it depends on prayer, meditation, or what you smoke. I’ve never quite broken through in that area, but I have had a few moments or experiences which I find hard to explain logically. Perhaps after I tell you about them, you’d like to comment and share some of your own.

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1. When I was very young, I could function a little in both the conscious and unconscious realms at the same time. One night my sister Mona entered my bedroom while I was dreaming about batting against Bob Feller, the ace pitcher of the Cleveland Indians. She asked me something. I replied, “Wait till I get a hit first.” She was insistent though, and I saw Bob Feller start to fade. I could hear Mona’s footsteps as she paced back and forth, and my mother moving downstairs. I didn’t want to wake up because I was enjoying my dream. Fortunately my sister left, and Bullet Bob came back into focus. I dug in at the plate and smacked the next fastball right over the center field fence.

2. One day at Norfolk State University, I was sitting in the Honors College meeting room. I reached out to the bookcase and had an odd feeling. Whatever book I take down will help me with my next novel. I don’t know where the feeling came from, but I felt certain it would come true. My hand didn’t search long. As if guided by some force, it selected an unknown book.

When my hand came back to me, I looked at what it held. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.

Of course I had to read it. The Noble Prize-winning author’s novel is about Nigeria, and the European invasion and colonization of his homeland which caused the collapse (Things Fall Apart) of its culture and traditions. I had been thinking of writing a science-fiction novel about Africa, and Things Fall Apart inspired me to create a beautiful Africa-like planet among the stars. In my story, history repeats itself as it so often does. The New Europeans come to conquer and colonize The New Africa, and to hell with the natives. I call my novel A Senseless Act of Beauty. The title comes from a bumper sticker, and it’s available at http://amzn.to/2c90IaF .

3. Finally, whenever I watch Jeopardy, I can always tell a split second in advance when a Daily Double is about to appear. I just feel it in my bones. Sadly, this talent has no practical value. In fact, it’s a curse, since I can never convince my wife I possess it. Imagine what it would be like if the answers came to me a split second early! But could I do anything with such a gift, or would it be just another curse?

I believe most people have mystic moments—or whatever you want to call them. My ability is small, and I know some of you out there possess a greater gift than me, perhaps even a prodigious one. How about it, do any of you have a Third Eye or a Sixth Sense? What experiences have you had? Please comment and let me know.

Ah, I feel someone about to respond. Don’t ask me how I know–I just do.

***

A retired English professor from Norfolk State University in Norfolk, Va., John has published three hundred stories in The Speed of Dark, Weird Tales, Whitley Strieber’s Aliens, Galaxy, The Age of Wonders, and elsewhere. He is the author of The Turtan Trilogy, the first three novels of his Scifi-Adventure series, available at http://amzn.to/2bOjbsq/

Website: http://johnrosenman.com

Blogsite: http://johnrosenman.blogspot.com

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Personal Goals by Yves Johnson

ppWe must control what we’re doing to be successful.  As we clarify our goals we are able to help steer our organizations.  It’s easy for a leader to lose her way.  The result will be disastrous.  The same can be said for the individual!

“If you don’t have personal goals, you’re controlled by those who do.” – Garrison Wynn

Imagine if we have no goals, or a list of the ‘things we want to do,’ or ‘things we want to achieve.’ Life would have absolutely no direction. That’s why goals become important — because they give our life a definite direction, force us to think about what we hope to achieve in life, and take the necessary steps to achieve the same. It helps us at several levels because while we set about achieving those goals, we also acquire numerous skills and qualities. All in all, setting goals helps in our growth as human beings.

Here are a couple of suggestions I provide participants in my seminars:

Career – What level do you want to reach in your career, or what do you want to achieve?

Financial – How much do you want to earn, by what stage? How is this related to your career goals?

Once you’ve realized what your goals are, the next step is to list them out. There are a number of ways of going about this. You can list them under categories that pertain to ‘general,’ ‘professional’ or ‘personal’ goals and then further list them out under the ‘long term’ and ‘short term’ goals. Now, you need to put some action to your goals. If you don’t, you’re not going to progress much farther.

One last question.  Are you where you want to be? How far are you away from your goals?

This is your action plan for the week. Simply write out one thing you can do to get closer to your goal. Then, complete the thing you have written down.

I hope this very brief overview can help you get started on the road towards achieving your goals. I am confident you can get there. Now, stop reading this blog and get to work on your goals. I know you can do it.

 

Yves Johnson is a Speaker an Author.  He has written two books and a varied collection of articles and blogs. He is the President of Christ Is My Savior Ministries and CEO of CornerStone Leadership Consulting.  He’s a sought out speaker and offers a wide range of leadership and development seminars for both Faith Based and non-Faith Based organizations. You can find his books at http://ow.ly/B4aGp

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Island Life: Mountain Lion – by Delinda McCann

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I find something special about living on an island. Perhaps a special energy is created when water flows around a piece of land. I’m not certain what creates the special weirdness that permeates Vashon. Perhaps the whispering of the trees create an almost audible sense of the alien. Whatever the source of the funky Vashon spirit, I love it.

Now, when I talk of a Vashon spirit or special weirdness, I don’t mean that we all express this spirit in the same manner. No. Each person expresses their own special brand of Vashon Weird.

For example, this summer we have a mountain lion living on the island. I’m fairly certain I saw it over a year ago as did one other person. Since no more sightings occurred for over a year, I didn’t pay any attention to it other than checking overhanging trees for predators when I’m out walking. This summer, we’ve had a half-dozen confirmed sightings that we track in our own little facebook group. This group has become one of my greatest joys for people watching. Islanders have divided themselves into several groups.

Naturalists post links to wildlife sites where the uninformed can learn everything they want to know about our resident pumas or mountain lions or cougars as they are called in various places. The Naturalists regularly run through their little speech about how to keep safe in the woods. Woods pretty much cover the entire island. I have about a hundred trees on my one and a half acre, so the advise is needed everywhere.

The Science Deniers respond to the Naturalists by calling them names and insisting that they don’t know anything about wild animals, and the big cat is going to eat them at any moment. Delightfully, nothing anybody says gets past the Science Denier’s fantasy of immediate Armageddon triggered by one very large cat.

Fantasy Islanders seldom leave the bars. They tend to be men of a certain age. They post daily about the cougar they met in Sporty’s Bar or at the Red Bicycle. According to them this cougar tried to pick them up. I don’t have the heart to tell them that any older women in the local bars are there for a drink not for younger men who have a questionable relationship with reality. These guys have detailed descriptions of their cougar sightings that include makeup and tight pants.

The Runners just want to go running in the woods, which is one of those activities the Naturalists say is a really bad idea. One intrepid runner who may have been a former Science Denier came across the cat one morning. He described it as much bigger than he imagined. He says he yelled at it. Neighbors say he screamed like a little girl. Whatever, the cat ran into the woods and The Runner slunk home to change his underwear.

The Cougs are graduates from Washington State University. I fall into this group. When I was in school we still had a live cougar mascot named Butch. I walked by his pen every day on my way to class. Like the other students I’d stop and say hi. I know how big Cougars are and what they sound like and how interested they are in people. Butch never acknowledged greetings or bothered to wake up when we talked to him. I suggested everybody on the island learn the WSU fight song to sing while running. This is good science since one way to avoid sighting things that might soil your underwear is to make noise. Other island WSU grads have taken the opportunity to report sightings of fellow Cougs in WSU sports paraphernalia. We are not appreciated.

The Gardeners just want to grow a few vegetables, some fruit and a lots of flowers. I’m also a member of this group although The Cougs are way more fun. Anyway, we want to enjoy the products of our gardening labor and maybe make a little money selling produce at the farmer’s market. The local deer are our enemies. They eat way more than their share. They killed the strawberry farms on the island. They’ve stolen flowers from my stand at the main intersection in Burton. They stand outside our deer fences looking for a way over, under, around, and through. Gardeners FB posts run something like, “Here kitty, kitty, kitty.” The Naturalists assure us a mountain lion eats fewer than fifty deer a year—not enough. The Naturalists are no fun either.

The Hunters were disappointed to learn that Vashon does not have a Cougar season this year. They tell us puma tastes like chicken and discuss what caliber weapon to use despite the fact that the only hunting guns allowed on the island are shotguns.

The Perpetually Terrified have been high on adrenalin ever since the first confirmed sighting of the mountain lion. This excitable group is certain this cougar, unlike every other cougar, will be attracted by their garbage or vegetable garden. This cougar lurks on roofs waiting for juicy human prey—we taste like pork, you know. The Perpetually Terrified are Science Deniers and half support the hunters, although they don’t believe in killing. They make daily calls to the Fish and Wildlife people to report the ferocious savage predator that will eat their children and pets. The poor fish and wildlife people patiently explain that it is not a problem animal, and no, they will not come and trap it and relocate it to the mountains. The Perpetually Terrified can be identified around town by the way they constantly look-over-their-shoulders, sit-with-their-backs-to-the-wall, and wear tin-foil vests—the better to confuse an attacking predator, you know.

At the end of the day when islanders of any persuasion go out to close the barn doors and bring the dog inside, we think about the bravado of our facebook posts and secretly fear the Perpetually Terrified might be right and the cougar will leap out of the dark shadows and eat us.

 

Delinda McCann is a mostly-retired social psychologist. During her professional career she worked with at risk youth and individuals with disabilities. Her research in the field of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome led her to become an advisor to several governments. To ease the stress created by working in the disabilities field, she took up gardening. Never one to do things in a small way, Delinda now runs a small farm and sells cut flowers. She writes general fiction based on her experience as a social psychologist. She has published five novels. She expresses her sense of humor in many of her short stories. She’s also published numerous professional articles on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Youth At-Risk. The professional articles are rather academic and dry, but Delinda pulls what she knows about human behavior, disabilities and youth into her fiction.

You may purchase her books at: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Delinda+McCann
You may view her flowers, gardens and personal blog at: http://delindalmccann.weebly.com/index.html

 

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I DID SURVIVE: A TRUE STORY told by Fran Lewis

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Growing up I wondered why my grandmother had trouble seeing at times, why she constantly had to check her blood levels and why she always seemed so sad and frightened. As a young child and because she was my best ally, best confidante I knew that at the age of 14 I was too young to ask her about her life as a child not of course thinking that she had something she wanted to hide. But, one day she sat me down when no one was around and explained just why my grandmother was her hero, her champion and how she came to be Mrs. Max Goldberg.

My grandmother had five sisters and all of them were in different camps during WWII. The stories she told me that I am going to relate to you as they were told to me will reopen old wounds, replay scenes from the war most would choose to forget and let everyone remember that this really did happen and we better stay on guard or it just might happen again. What was done to my grandmother was an insult to humanity and her dignity. So many suffered at the hands of a select few. Hear her voice as she relates the story behind the stone and then meet the man who did this to her as I made sure he had a stone of talc with his name written on a piece of paper pasted to the outside. It’s more than he deserves.

Here is my grandmother’s story.

My name is Katie and what I related to my granddaughter really happened to me and explains why I had so many medical issues to deal with and why she heard her Aunts and Uncles at first call me by my first name or Tante and not Mama. How the world allowed this to happen is unthinkable and the fact that I survived quite remarkable. Doctors are supposed to save lives not destroy them. I was placed in a cell that was filthy with rodents crawling from all parts, as there were so many holes inside it. No windows, no vent just a small metal opening in the door to push a food through. Food that I would never touch because just smelling it allowed me to know that it was drugged and would make me even sicker than I already was. There was a cot, a small mattress, a small pillow and a blanket with holes in it. The cell was about four feet long and 6 feet wide. The bars on the door were close together you could barely see outside but the screams and cries of the others could not be ignored. Fear entered my heart as I had no idea what they were going to do to me and why. The time period of the Third Reich and the Nazi doctors violated more than my privacy, dignity they tore at my inner core and soul. They were cruel, relentless, heartless and demanded total submission. They taunted us every chance they got and the tortures were many. One morning after trying to make me eat what was supposed to pass for oatmeal but looked like someone’s stomach contents they took me into a stark white lab and placed a burning hot sun lamp on my lower parts. They did this many times and the pain was horrific. My screams were unheard and the faces of those in the room frightening as the just smiled, laughed and wrote down what they saw.

But, this was not the worst of what I endured as they had devised a sterilization plan that led to more than 200,000 Germans being sterilized and based on The Law for the Prevention of Offspring with Hereditary Diseases. ( July 14, 1933). If successful and in my case it was the sterilization could rid the world of inferior races and create what they felt was the master race of those within it who were masterful and rid the world of those of us that were not perfect.

There were two forms of sterilization that they used: x-rays and injections. In my case it was X-rays. Fear was in my eyes but I would not allow them to see me cry nor would I give them the satisfaction of knowing that I was terrified. I tried to hide my feelings as two or three times a week I was brought in to have my ovaries irradiated with x-rays. The dosages varied. I was subjected to these experiments and at times too weak to go back to work but they did not care. I don’t know whether working in the kitchen and making their food was better than living in a state of hell within that cell. Prisoners such as myself were subjected to these experiments and the pain and burns from the radiation did not deter my tormenters. Suffering the serious burns and swelling on my genitals did not receive any medical relief.

The results of these sterilization experiments to some seemed disappointing but in my case they served what they would say was their purpose. Others were victims of surgical castration and they felt that this time more time-efficient.

The sick mastermind behind these experiments was Dr. Josef Mengele who became the chief physician of Birkenau in 1943 hoping to prove the superiority of the Nordic Race. Schumann was the man that created them where I was. But, this was not to be my final destination as they sent me to Dachau where pharmaceutical compounds were tested to supposedly fight off contagious diseases like TB, yellow fever, malaria and other infectious diseases. Sulfa drugs were invented and used on some prisoners but they refused to see that I am allergic to that drug and kept injecting me with it anyway.

These doctors were sadistic and enjoyed what they were doing and they had little or no morals, no consideration for any of use and could care less if we survived. There were some seventy medical research programs at these camps or so they were called and over 200 so called doctors. The fact that they had contacts with leading universities and medical institutions is scary.

After being here for at least two years or more I have lost track I look at myself and wonder that I really am. I can’t sleep, eat and every time they come to get me I have no idea what will happen next until a miracle occurred and God heard my pleas and my voice.

In response to the German occupation, some Poles organized one of the largest underground movements in Europe. More than 300 widely supported political and military groups. I could not believe what happened. We heard little about the outside world or the news but the guards often talked when we were even allowed in the yard for some respite of fresh air but not much.

After finally escaping I learned more about this group and why someone would come to my cell dressed as an SS officer, pretending to take me for another experiment or test and then I was taken into the woods, under tunnels and found myself somewhere else and supposedly brought to safety with many others. Air force physician Dr. Horst Schumann ran the experiments where I was at Auschwitz.

Liberated and free did not help when I was haunted by the nightmares of this horrific place and the stench that never left my body. The bugs, the smell of death and the tattoo on my arm that I hid from everyone by wearing long sleeves, hiding my shame at being a victim of these monsters as I picture the camp divided into three main areas. According to what my granddaughter learned from her research the estimated amount of innocent Jewish people killed at Auschwitz was between 2 and four million people. Those gas chambers burned the bodies in twenty minutes and starvation, showers; sleep deprivation were just some of the horrors. Freedom comes at a high price but those of us that found our way were not ever really safe within our own hearts. Although freed from the horrors we had to remain silent, safe and in close quarters in the homes of others who agreed to protect us until we could gain safe passage to America.

When I finally arrived in America my sisters Fanny, Rosie, Shandina and Tillie all who were taken to safety but had not undergone most of what I did greeted me. We never spoke of our experiences or shared our heartaches. We preferred to keep it all-private. My granddaughter will tell you some of the rest before I complete my thoughts and the reasons why I am behind this marble stone.

Fran Lewis continues the tale:

I am named after my grandmother Fanny. She had four sisters who survived the concentration camps in Poland. Two sisters and Fanny’s parents were brought to America from Poland by my grandfather. Katie and Tillie came from Poland and their parents Tzvia Bella and Joseph Mordecai Cohen as well.

Fanny, my biological grandmother, spoke five languages and instilled in her children the importance of being educated and going to school. Both Max and Fanny taught their children Irving, Kenneth, Harry, Tova and Ruth, to always strive for what they wanted and never give up until you succeed. Always working to succeed on your own with the support and guidance of your family is the only route, Max felt to being successful.

When Fanny passed away, Max was devastated. He no longer had a mother for his five children. Faced with this serious situation he decided to court and finally married the only grandmother I ever knew, Fanny’s sister Katie.

Katie did not walk into a great situation. She had a difficult time making the transition from aunt to mother. A unique and wise woman, she quickly won the love, trust and devotion she so rightly deserved from all five children. Katie and Max brought up the five children with love, understanding guiding them and supporting each one in whatever they chose to do. With a strong and firm manner my grandfather headed his family and received the respect he deserved from every member.

Katie’s story continues:

Five children that learned that I was their new mother after Fanny died and left them. It took many years before they considered me their Mama but they finally did. My grandchildren, many of who live in so many different places never learned the truth. You see, because of those monsters and what they did to me I am sterile and cannot have children. I have this awful brown liquid that comes out of me and I have to use stool softeners and enemas in order to cleanse my colon. My life is great being married to Max and my grandchildren and children are my life.

They are respectful, wonderful and my granddaughter that is telling you this story even taught me how to write my name and read. I still cannot see that well when I walk in the street I have to count the number of steps that I know to my destinations. You see I have these awful cataracts too thanks to everything they did to me plus Diabetes and other illnesses. This would get anyone down but not me you see I DID SURVIVE. The love of one man who devoted himself to me and his children and the love of my grandchildren is what kept me going for so many years. To the SS officer that did this to those and me that helped him torture so many others and they and me your voices have been silenced do not deserve to hear now or ever. This is my story. My name is Katie Goldberg and I DID SURVIVE! They tried and tried but my spirit was never broken.

Fran continues:

Although the facts are there the sequence of events might not be perfect but this is what I recorded when my grandmother told it to me. Historical events sited in this story are written and told the way my grandmother told them to me. She was brave. She was smart. She was KATIE!
Shared by Katie and Fanny’s granddaughter Fran Lewis:

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GROWING UP IN THE SHADOW OF A LONE WOLF KILLER by Unni Turrettini

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Anders Behring Breivik grew up a twenty-minute drive from my parents’ home near Oslo, Norway. We frequented the same movie theaters and cafes and no doubt crossed paths at some point. Although he didn’t look like a terrorist then or does now, he murdered seventy-seven people and wounded hundreds more five years ago, on July 22, 2011. In shock and disbelief, I asked myself how something like this could happen in my native country. How, in Norway, the second wealthiest nation in the world, with the second highest gross domestic product per capita, and its Nobel Peace Prize?

Breivik was not born a killer. In fact, the psychiatrists who observed him as a child concluded that Breivik was a docile boy, showing no signs of violent behavior. So how did he become one of the worst mass murderers in history?

Any country can produce madmen, one might argue. Unconvinced by that easy explanation, I went on a mission to discover how this seemingly normal young man could become a mass killer. I needed to know if there were any way to stop the next massacre by the next Breivik, regardless of his country.

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As I studied other lone wolves, including the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski and the Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, I discovered that the lone wolf doesn’t murder for fun, profit, or as a shortcut to suicide. This killer is so shut off and shut down from humanity that the only way for him to matter is to connect so completely with a cause that he is compelled to kill for it.

Breivik’s childhood could match that of anyone growing up in Norway in the 1980s, including mine. He was born in 1979 to economist Jens Breivik, a diplomat stationed in London and Paris, and Wenche Behring, a nurse. Soon after Breivik’s birth, the marriage fell apart, and Wenche decided to return to Norway, settling in Skøyen, an area within Oslo’s affluent West End.

So far, there was nothing exceptional about Breivik. But underneath the appearances, his childhood differed from mine. Before entering grammar school, when he was three years old, his mother began showing signs of erratic behavior. Neighbors gossiped about her smothering her son with inappropriate affection, having him sleep in her bed with her, and then suddenly turning on him with a mix of anger and fear, as if she were frightened for her own safety.

Due to exhaustion, Wenche requested help from the State Center for Child and Youth Psychiatry around the time Breivik turned four. Child Protective Services, upon hearing that she was frightened of her small son and that she was emotionally unstable, recommended that young Breivik be sent to a foster home. Breivik’s father made an attempt at obtaining custody, but the court decided in favor of Wenche, and Breivik remained in her care.

In school, Breivik’s hunger to succeed and be recognized found little nourishment. A misbehaving or openly ambitious child was quickly put in his place by the teachers and fellow students. Sticking out, even in a positive way, was unacceptable in Norwegian schools, and Breivik experienced both bullying and exclusion.

The attachment issues Breivik experienced as a young boy with an unstable mother and a distant father no doubt contributed to his difficulty in developing meaningful relationships and his rejection from every group with which he tried to connect. Breivik’s childhood was not worse than many others, but the lack of emotional nourishment was catastrophic for his development.

All the lone wolves I researched were intelligent and highly sensitive. Some psychologists refer to them orchid children, because of their fragile personalities. If neglected, orchid children wither. But if they’re nurtured, they not only survive, they flourish.

Few people recognize the killer among them when that killer is a lone wolf with no paper trail. Had I sat in a classroom beside Breivik in those early days, I doubt that I would have found him unusual, let alone dangerous. I might have even related to his need to be more than a sheep following the rest of the herd into Norwegian mediocrity. Perhaps that is one reason I wrote my book—to understand how a culture contributes to the making of a killer. More important, I wished to find a way that will allow law enforcement to identify a killer like Breivik before he strikes.

***

Norwegian born Unni Turrettini is an attorney and the author of The Mystery of the Lone Wolf Killer: Anders Behring Breivik and the Threat of Terror in Plain Sight from Pegasus Books.

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A few poetic laughs by Micki Peluso

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I)
There was an old house in Kentucky
That neighbors considered unlucky
When it kept falling apart
Its owners soon lost heart
And moved to a tent in the park

2)
An Eagle Named Eddy

There was a young eagle named Eddy
Who loved to soar by the jetty
He made a dive a little too wide
Nearly got swept by a rip-tide
Yet his dynamics kept him steady
His endurance filled Eddy with pride
Childlike, he threw caution aside
Happiness faded quickly away
As a huge trash can got in his way
Poor Eddy had a really rough ride

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3)
The Web of Lust

Tarantino the tarantula, so greedy
Felt pangs of arousal, so needy
Amorously peeked through the web
Of Tabitha, the tawny beauty
Emitting her sensual musk

“Might I enter?” He implored; bowed head
“Most certainly, my love, come test my bed.”
Tarantino’s hormones leaped for joy!
He followed Tabitha, so sweet, so coy
His eight legs(maybe nine:) trembled with lust

“So sorry, I can offer you no flies,
To please your palate, my handsome dear
But I offer other pleasures, never fear”
Tarantino thought he would surely die
Foolish male, his brain had turned to dust

Tabitha smiled a secret smile
Enticing him with all her wiles
She contemplated many eggs, his spawn
To be conceived well before dawn
Tarantino spent—fell asleep before dusk

She wrapped him tight within her silk
Proudly surveyed the tomb she’d built
By sunrise, Tarantino was quite dead
Tabitha sighed; her babies would be fed
Tarantino filled his needs at great cost

A word to male spiders everywhere
When crawling past a silken lair
Keep right on going or end up dead
One might hope his babes, well fed
Revered their father, at the very least

Sadly, this never crossed their tiny minds
In spider life, survival is all that binds
Tabitha played her part as host
Poor Tarantino lived, lusted and lost
Tabitha layed in wait for next time

4)
There was a lass named Purella
Who bedded a very odd fella
But when he refused to wed her
She locked him in his own cellar
He wished then he’d never met her

If you enjoy Micki Peluso’s humor, you can find her work on Amazon.

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The Saga of Dr. Hicks by Patrica Dusenbury

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A state line can come in handy. Dr. Thomas Hicks started out in Copper Hill, on the Tennessee side. He sold narcotic painkillers to a returned WWI veteran who turned out to be working undercover for the FBI. It was a criminal act that could also have been one of mercy. Regardless, conviction sent Dr. Hicks to federal prison and cost his license to practice medicine in Tennessee.

Upon his release, Dr. Hicks settled in McCaysville, on the Georgia side. He obtained a license to practice medicine in Georgia and re-opened his clinic, two blocks away from the old one. The Hicks Community Clinic provided basic health services to the people of McCaysville, Copper Hill, and nearby settlements. The good doctor provided free medicine to those who couldn’t pay and made house calls if people were too ill to come to the clinic. He donated money to community causes and to his church.

Dr. Hicks’ generosity was supported by the abortions he provided upstairs from the community clinic. From the 1940s through 1964 when he was arrested again (on abortion charges that were eventually dropped), this medical Robin Hood subsidized health care for poor locals by providing illegal abortions to women able to pay.

The abortion clinic was an open secret. Residents saw the limousines bringing women from Atlanta and Birmingham and Chattanooga, small planes landed on a dirt airstrip outside town, but no one told. Perhaps because Dr. Hick’s illegal activity could, once again, be viewed as merciful. Women desperate to end unwanted pregnancies were risking their lives in alleys and backrooms. Dr. Hicks offered a safe alternative. However, his story doesn’t end here.

Dr. Hicks began selling babies. He convinced some of his would-be abortion clients to carry their babies to term. Or maybe they couldn’t pay, and he offered them an alternative. Regardless, he provided these pregnant women with lodging at his farm or in town and, when they delivered, arranged “adoptions.” Thanks to a cooperative county clerk, the babies came with birth certificates that listed the purchasers as the birth parents.

Couples seeking babies came from an even larger market area than the women seeking abortions, and they paid higher fees. Dr. Hicks charged a thousand dollars for a baby and may or may not have given the mother a cut. Selling babies is tough to justify as merciful—there were alternatives, homes for unwed mothers that arranged legal adoptions—and his black market babies, now called Hicks babies, have brought him posthumous notoriety.

In 1989, an Ohio woman whose parents had told her the true circumstances of her “adoption” traveled to McCaysville, seeking information about her birth mother. Jane Blasio walked around McCaysville and Copper Hill, staring at faces, looking for someone who might be a relative. Her quest led her to Blue Ridge, the Fannin County seat, where birth records are kept. There, Ms. Blasio found an ally in a Georgia probate judge, and the web of lies began to unravel.

According to Fannin County birth records, more than 200 women from cities in Ohio and Pennsylvania, Illinois and Michigan, and as far away as Arizona came to Dr. Hicks’ clinic in the isolated little town of McCaysville to deliver their babies. This phenomenon began in 1951 and ended in 1965. Jane Blasio’s mother was one of those women. The information was all there, it had been sitting there for decades, and it was all lies.

Widespread media coverage brought forth more women who had “adopted” babies from Dr. Hicks and more adoptees who wanted information about their biological parents. It’s not an easy search. The birth records list only the purchasing parents, and no records of the birth mothers, if there ever were any, have been found. Dr. Hicks, his nurse, and the cooperative county clerk are all dead. If anyone still living knows anything, they aren’t talking.

The story continues. A confidential DNA registry has been set up for Hicks babies, Ancestry.com is providing free services, and long-time residents are being asked to contribute samples. People still come to McCaysville/Copper Hill and walk around, looking for someone who looks like family. The most recent reunion story I found was in a newspaper dated less than a year ago. The judge who helped uncover this black market in babies said it best:

”This is just too bizarre for real life,” said Judge Linda Davis of Fannin County Probate Court, who has risked the ire of people in her county to help Mrs. Blasio in her quest through county birth records. ”If I wasn’t so personally involved, I’d think they were making it all up.”

  • The New York Times, August 23, 1997

I grew up in a small town. I don’t think this could have happened there, but I don’t know. Do you think this could this have happened in your hometown?

***

Pat DusenburyBefore she became a writer, Patricia Dusenbury was an economist and the author of numerous dry publications. She is hoping to atone by writing mystery stories that people read for pleasure. Her first book, A Perfect Victim, was named 2015’s best mystery by the Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition. Book 2, Secrets, Lies & Homicide, is a finalist in the 2016 EPIC award and was a top ten finalist in the Preditors and Editors 2014 readers’ poll. Book 3, A House of Her Own, released in October 2015, completes the trilogy. It has been nominated for InD’tale’s RONE award. Pat’s newest book, Two Weeks in Geary, is a finalist for the Killer Nashville 2016 Claymore Award.

When she isn’t writing, Patricia is reading, gardening, hanging out with the grandkids, or exploring San Francisco, the fabulous city that is her new home

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