Sample Saturday, A Day Late: “Yellowjack and the River Man”

Hi, everyone. Things have been a tiny bit off-schedule at my house, but we’re slowly getting back to our idea of normal. That’s why my sample is late this week. It’s from the title tale in Yellowjack and the River Man, the second book in my Pocketful of Stories series. Enjoy!

Yellowjack V2Marie Laveau had passed so many houses with yellow tags on the door that she no longer paid them any mind. The writing was irrelevant; she couldn’t read. Besides, the color of the card told her everything she needed to know; someone inside was dying of yellow fever.

Still, seeing a card on the Devereaux house drew her up short. There wasn’t a person of color in the Quarter who didn’t know about Michie Alcide’s work on their behalf. In fact, there were no small number who had gone North with his help, some with forged free papers or new identities that allowed them to pass.

Marie was one of the few who knew what they called the steamboat pilot turned lawyer on the Underground Railroad: River Man.

Marie knew the latch would be open; eventually, undertakers had to get the bodies out of fever houses. So, she wasn’t shy about opening the door. She’d gone to the house many times to fix Madame Evangeline’s hair before the poor woman passed, and knew her way around.

Both the men’s and the women’s side of the house were empty, so she went out to the courtyard. The stove in the cookhouse was still warm, although the fire was almost out. There was a stack of good wood to stoke it, should the need arise, but there was no one in the yard.

A low moan issued from another little outbuilding; Marie didn’t hesitate to walk in.

Might have known there’d be a garçonniere. Works good as a plague house, too.

She pushed the mosquito barre aside, and didn’t even bat an eye. Neither Alcide’s near-nudity nor the stench of the sickroom were a deterrent.

“Michie Alcide, it’s me, Mam’zelle Marie. I imagine you don’t know me right now, but you will.”

Want your own copy of Yellowjack and the River Man? Here are the back cover copy and buying links.

Yellow fever. Voodoo queen Marie Laveau. A long-lost relative’s homecoming. The Underground Railroad.

All of them are part of Alcide Devereaux’s (Bayou Fire) continuing story. See what adventures come his way in Yellowjack and the River Man.

The second in award-winning author Sharon E. Cathcart’s Pocketful of Stories, this edition contains a sample chapter from Bayou Fire, the book that started Alcide’s tale.

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Sample Saturday: “Pompeii Fire”

Pompeii Fire v 2Hi, everyone. Here is a scene from my current work-in-progress, Pompeii Fire. The main character, Drusilla, and her best friend Claudia are standing at a thermopolium, which was essentially a fast food stand in ancient Roman times. They’ve been talking about Claudia’s unhappy marriage when Stephanus, the fuller, joins them.

As always, since this is a draft, the final scene may change. Enjoy!

“Drusilla Gaia! Claudia Felicia Nicia! How delightful to see you.” Stephanus approached the two young women. “Surely you will let me pay for your repast today. It would be my honor. You must not refuse.”

Claudia asked for some snails, and Drusilla some duck stew. Stephanus tossed a few asses on the counter for the shopkeeper, who put the food in clay bowls and handed them off to his customers.

“Let me escort you back to the praedia,” Stephanus insisted. “We can talk for a while. Claudia, as a married woman, you will chaperone Drusilla and me.’

Drusilla cringed. Her father’s friend made her skin crawl. His thinning brown hair always needed cutting, and his breath smelled of cheap wine. “As you wish, Uncle.”

“Surely you are too old to call me Uncle now. You are a beautiful, grown woman.” Stephanus licked his lips in a way that reminded Drusilla of Invictus after he ate. “Tell me, Drusilla, what news of your father? As you know, I stood him some funds in order to open a food stand in Herculaneum. He writes seldom, and visits even less these days.”

Sample Saturday: “Les Pensées Dangereuses”

penseesHello, everyone. May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I think I’ve been pretty straightforward about some of the challenges I faced in this area, including the fact that I had a full-on breakdown in 1996 and my mom had to come and live with me for a while. So, today I’m sharing an essay from Les Pensées Dangereuses that talks about something I experienced a number of years ago. This may be hard reading for some, but I think it’s important to put an honest face on things.

So, the sleep disturbances have evidently started again.

Every time I woke up last night, I found myself thinking about work. I used my CBT techniques to stop it and kept trying to do something I’ve never successfully been able to do: build a “safe room” inside my head.

Lots of people who have been through psychotherapy probably recognize this technique. You build a room with things in it that are specific to you: things that you love, and make you feel good. The idea is that you create this space and then are able to go there whenever you need to in order to feel mentally okay.

One of the frustrations I’ve had is that I’ve never been able to create such a space. I’ve been able to briefly use real-world places where I’ve felt good, but never with the degree of success that you might hope.

I got a couple of things accomplished mentally over the wee hours: a solarium with polarized glass and an ivory damask chaise longue with dark wood accents. (Apparently, this fabric has one heckuva Scotchgard, because I want my animals in this “safe room.”) My symphonium is there too … and I can have any song disc I want, not just the ones I own.

Other than that, nothing is made or put in place. Stopping the racing thoughts and thinking about what would go in my room did help me go back to sleep twice, but when I was still awake at 4:15 after the latest odd/scary dream, it didn’t seem to make sense to try going back to sleep any longer (I arise at 5).

It’s raining outside right now. My calico cat, Abigail, is in the computer room with me, washing her pretty little face. She has spent the majority of the past 4 days on the bed with me. Seamus, my big grey tabby, is still on the bed where I left him, cuddled up next to where I had been sleeping.

I know this sounds peculiar to non-animal people, but Seamus and I have a particular connection, and I sometimes get what amount to messages from him. One day, I quite clearly received “I am afraid the ‘sad place’ is going to make you die.” The ‘sad place’ is that place I go every day and come back from sad. That would be work.

I wish I didn’t have to go to the ‘sad place’ ever again, because it seems to be getting sadder by the moment. Unfortunately, my continued search for alternate employment has been unsuccessful. So, I’ll go back to the ‘sad place’ today and do my best to get through it.

If you would like to obtain your own copy of Les Pensées Dangereuses, here are the back cover “blurb” and purchase links. Thank you for your consideration.

Part autobiography and part inspiration, Les Pensées Dangereuses (French for ”dangerous thoughts”) is a series of essays on friendship, spirituality, education, bullying, animals, clinical depression and more. Author Sharon E. Cathcart (In The Eye of The Beholder) shares her thoughts, including an unfinished autobiography, ”Unmasking My Phantoms: My Dance With Madness,” in this new book.

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Sample Saturday: “Hugs and Hisses”

Guinness World Record-holding surf dog Abbie passed away today. Abbie was adopted from Humane Society Silicon Valley, where I have been volunteering in one capacity or another for a little more than a decade. Today’s sample is in Abbie’s honor. Purchase links are below; all proceeds benefit HSSV. Thank you for reading.

In 2010, I started a journey about my life purpose work; I even wrote a book about it. I was fortunate to have life coaches around me whose tools I could use, and I looked seriously at what gave my life the most meaning.

All of the resources I used told me that we, every one of us, knows deep down what constitutes our purpose. However, many of us bury it because of discouragement from those around us or circumstances that we see as beyond our control.

When I started doing this work, it all came back to the top.

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a veterinarian. I read James Herriott’s All Creatures … novels incessantly; he chronicled his own adventures as a Yorkshire vet in those pages. My clinic would be called Hillcrest, and I would help animals.

What I didn’t know until I was an adult was that I suffered from dyscalculia: similar to dyslexia, but involving numbers. If I could see how something worked, as was the case with geometry, I could do it. Algebra and trigonometry were beyond me and, thus, so was veterinary school. I learned to type so that I could get a good job. College went on the back burner; I went back as an adult and often joke that I may finish my anthropology degree by the time I’m ninety.

Anyway, I’ve had pets whenever I could, ranging from fish and birds to cats and dogs (with aspirations toward a goat and a horse). The animals in my life were generally my best friends.

I volunteered with the SPCA in my city as an adoption counselor in the early 1990s, but when I moved away during my divorce I couldn’t work out the logistics.

I volunteered at the Josephine D. Randall Museum in San Francisco during that time as well, teaching inner city kids about the rehabilitated wildlife in the Animal Room.

I wrote articles for local animal magazines.

But that was a long time ago.

When I took Lulu for her last kitten shot, I saw Humane Society Silicon Valley for the first time. It was, and is, one of the nicest facilities I’ve ever seen. Everyone was smiling and nice, especially the young man dressed as Santa.

“Oh! A kitty,” he cooed as he held Lulu for her photo; it was the annual craft fair, unbeknownst to me when I made the appointment. Lulu was one tiny kitten among many dogs waiting to have their photos taken with “Santa Paws.”

I had been trying to find meaning from many things, including volunteering as a museum docent, doing social justice work, my writing, and returning to church with a progressive congregation.

However, the life purpose work that I did always brought me back to animals. I thought about how I had socialized our grumpy little Gigi and our shy calico, Abigail, and realized that I had something to offer the homeless cats at Lulu’s alma mater. My life purpose work did not have to be what I did to earn a living.

Want your own copy of Hugs and Hisses? Back cover copy and purchase links are below.

Award-winning author, animal communicator, and Reiki practitioner Sharon E. Cathcart shares tales from her humane education work in this new memoir. Sharing stories of both happiness and heartbreak, Cathcart brings us into the challenging world of animal rescue. All proceeds from the book will benefit Humane Society Silicon Valley.

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Sample Saturday: “Through the Opera Glass”

Hello, everyone. Today’s sample is from my award-winning short fiction collection, Through the Opera Glass. Enjoy!

From Persia to Paris
Written June 25, 2012
Clever Fiction writing prompt: Winner/Leaving/Alone

Somewhere in the Persian Desert

Erik reined his horse around to look, for one last time, in the direction of the Rosy Hours of Mazandaran. What an odd thing to call a palace of murder, torture – and yet the Shah and his Khanoum named it as such. Erik was glad to be leaving.

“Build me a torture chamber,” the Shah had demanded. Erik had done just that; he created a mirrored room that constantly reflected a tree with a noose hanging from it. This was not torture in and of itself; the room had no apparent exit, though, and could be heated to an unbearable temperature. Eventually, the Shah’s victims would see the noose as their only escape … which allowed the Shah to declare himself the winner in many a battle.

Soon enough, the Shah turned a suspicious eye on Erik. Perhaps he had been too trusting of the disfigured man, assuming his face would keep the women away from him. He’d treated Erik as though he were a eunuch; that was the real error, Erik thought wryly. Soon enough, the women of the seraglio had discovered Erik’s voice. Soon enough, some of them were far more entranced with him than they were with their over-fed husband.

And so, Erik must go. But where? Russia and Italy held no more appeal; only painful memories lived in those places.

Rouen? What would he say to his stonecutter father? Or to the mother who turned him out? No, going to the place of his birth was madness itself.

Paris. A man could hide in Paris. He could live alone there and no one would know, so long as he kept to the shadows. Paris it would be.

Author Sharon E. Cathcart took up a challenge in 2012: to write flash fiction and full length short stories based on various prompts. Each story features one or more characters from In The Eye of The Beholder: A Novel of the Phantom of the Opera or its sequel, In The Eye of The Storm.

Brimming with historical detail, the stories in this collection range in place and time from 19th Century Persia to post-World War II San Francisco.

Through the Opera Glass is the 2014 runner-up for “Best Short Story Collection” in the eFestival of Words Independent Book Awards.

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