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This issue, our theme is "Hope Springs Eternal." As you will see, our authors take this theme in vastly different directions for your entertainment. Melodie Corrigall gives voice to aspirations found in her imagination, while Jerry McFadden shows us the darker side of eternal optimism. We hope you enjoy these offerings. 


Wait for Me

Melodie Corrigall

So many emotions rattled around Leslie’s brain—disappointment, irritation, and rejection—it was impossible to sleep. The problem was not a strange bed. Her sister had lived in the apartment  for  years and Leslie had visited and stayed the night—albeit reluctantly—more than once. 

However, on other occasions Leslie hadn’t been ripped out of her midnight musings by the neighbor’s arguments. As the old building was soundproof, she was surprised to hear at least seven voices—old, young, some with northern European accents and others who were barely articulate—bickering.

“She’s left us.”

“Maybe it’s just a holiday.”

“So why take boxes of stuff? Holidays require two suitcases at most.”

Leslie crawled out of bed, and fumbled her way to the light switch. The moment her feet hit the ground, the voices hushed as if they knew she planned to shout at them to shut up. She opened the door to the hall and peered out. All was silent.

Who had left them? They didn’t sound like children so it was improbable that a mother had walked out on her little ones. And if they were children, some father or guardian would be on hand to take things in hand.  She poured herself a glass of water, topped it up with ice cubes, and headed for the cramped living room. 

It wasn’t a comfortable space; crammed as it was with mismatched furniture that her sister had collected over the years. Each find had been paraded before Leslie with detailed commentary on why it was of particular merit: no nails so it was a genuine antique, a free castoff found on the street which could be repainted, but never was.

“Only 56 dollars and all it needs is a bit of sanding and stain.”

Another find was presented with a flourish. “They don’t make these anymore.” 
Of course not, Leslie had thought, it was a pre-modern-plumbing washstand hidden under layers of paint.

Leslie sunk into the low, spongy orange sofa and gazed around. She remembered the small coffee table as nearer the door but she had been so tired from helping her sister pack her things to move to her new condo she had hardly made it to bed. Now that Carrie was in the money, these beloved finds were to be abandoned. The U-Haul would arrive the day after next to drag them off to a better place. Her job was to let the buyers and the U-Haul men in.

She had hoped to be joining her sister in her new commodious apartment. But that was not to be. Although Leslie’s basement apartment was cramped and cold, her sister had not invited her to share her recently rented three-bedroom suite.

“You’d hate it, too modern  for  you,” Carrie had insisted. “You’re more a furry, rug and duvets sort of person.”

She shouldn’t have been surprised to be left behind.  For  years, colleagues had warned Leslie that her sister was a fair weather friend who would drop her when she was no longer needed.  But she had listened to her mother who thought Carrie was most likely to succeed, “We should support her,” her mother had advised. “When Carrie’s a star, we’ll be rich.”

Her mother had not lived long enough to see Carrie get her big break.  And now that it had happened, Leslie had been left at the starting gate cleaning up her sister’s debris and soon would return to her grungy basement apartment to follow her sister’s career on Twitter.

Leslie blamed her rejection on her sister’s new guru—a young hotshot designer who Carrie had met at a party. Seeing money to be made, he’d taken her under his thin wing and promised to make her condo worthy of her new status.  When he dropped by her apartment, her mishmash of old furniture had appalled him. After a cursory review, he concluded, “Everything must go. In your new place the furniture must be modern and flow from room to room.” Leslie had envisioned an engorged river with chairs and tables being swept along—just like the time the Clive creek near their childhood home had overflown.

Always one to give in to her sister’s demands, Leslie had agreed to be at her sister’s old apartment first thing in the morning to let the new tenants measure windows for curtains and then help move the last things out the following day. Carrie was already camping out in her new condo.

“Is this stuff all going to the dump?” Leslie had asked when she discovered that most, if not all, of her sister’s furniture was being left behind. (There might have been one or two pieces Leslie would have taken if she had somewhere to take them to.)

“You bet,” Carrie had chirped, “

But some of it’s good. Why not send it to the Thrift store? Make some money  for  charity?”

“Too much trouble to divvy it up. I asked the U-Haul guy about that but it would be two trips. I’m sure he’ll take anything worth selling and Fredrick insists we start clean.”

“But you’re rolling in money now.”

“Exactly but when that happens people suddenly spend more than they have and end up poor again.”

So now Leslie and the furniture were soul mates not fancy enough to fit in with Carrie’s new life. But what did it matter if that old coffee table went to the dump? Maybe someone would retrieve it. When she and her sister were children, her grandfather used to take them to the junkyard and find treasures. Of course, those days were gone. Now a sturdy steel fence at their local landfill prevented such recycling.

Without admitting to eavesdropping on her neighbors, which it hardly was, the following day after the new tenants had done their measuring and left, Leslie called her sister to ask her how long the people in the next apartment had lived in the building.

“Oh decades but they’re gone now. So there were two places for rent on the same floor which made mine hard to get rid of.”

“What about on the other side,” Leslie said before she remembered the other side was the corner. “I mean across the hall.”

“It’s an old guy who never leaves his bed. Only time you ever hear from that apartment is when the social worker comes.”


“It’s a cement building. You won’t hear anything unless something drops. You might think elves live up there. Why so curious?”

“Well, someone is unhappy.”

“You, I imagine. I thought you would like to get out of your basement apartment, see the sun, and enjoy a few days of luxury.” Leslie had sniggered at that. Luxury it was not.

Having taken the morning off Leslie decided to go back to bed for a top up sleep. She dozed off immediately but was woken again by her complaining neighbors.

“You do what you can, do your best, but you’re rejected.”

“I hadn’t expected it to end like this.”

“If I could get out the door, I’d be gone.”

“That could be dangerous.”

“What’s the worst that could happen? Some student would pick me up and take me home. Treat me like royalty, not expect me to do much, learn a little Spanish…”

“But maybe the police would see you, send for a truck to pick you up.”

“If only we could reach the lock, we could slip out of here.”

Leslie had frozen at the words ‘escape’ and ‘dangerous’ and the phrase ‘reach the lock’. It was unusual but the door was always locked from the inside and the lock was very high to prevent kids from getting out, Carrie had said.

The words reminded Leslie of the women who had been imprisoned for years in a man’s cellar, unable to escape even though they lived near people who should have heard their pleas. When she’d read the story, she’d wondered how he had kept them captive: why didn’t they cry out or unlock their doors from the inside? 

She wouldn’t let something like that happen on her watch: she’d unlock the front door.  Then she decided to take it one step farther and opened the door, leaving a note to the upstairs neighbor that Carrie was moving things out but that she was keeping an eye that no one came in. She announced to whoever was listening, “I’m leaving the door open this afternoon.”

Curious to see whom she’d catch sneaking by Leslie left her apartment door ajar. Not that she intended to confront anyone; she would just watch, pleased that she had helped them escape. But although she was vigilant, when nothing happened for the rest of the day she chastised herself for her stupidity. They would hardly leave in the daylight.

That night she decided to stay up past her usual bedtime to observe. It was summer, so no worry about cold breezes. From the hall, you could see into the kitchen and living room, best not to station herself there. She went into the bathroom, which overlooked the street, brought in the small stepladder and sat like a sentry.

As she tired, she slumped back against the windowsill and waited. Suddenly she jumped awake. She heard a scrapping sound and a “Keep a lid on.” And then, “Quiet you bozo.”

Things were moving along. She craned her head to see out the window, nothing on the street except a few old pieces of furniture hardly visible in the dark. Maybe it was one of the days that neighbors could leave out junk. Perhaps the city—mad for recycling—had initiated the practice, particularly popular with hard-up students willing to take anything to furnish their small rooms.

Leslie moved to the bathroom door to see if she could hear anything but there was only a soft scraping sound from the trees swirling in the wind. Luckily she had jammed the front door ajar. She moved back to her stool.

Finally she heard a door slam and hampered by a sleeping foot hobbled out to the front hall.  The wind had slammed the door closed but she was confident they had left. She had missed seeing them; she would never know their story unless she read about it on-line. That is if they reported their escape to the police. If they did, she hoped they would note that a Good Samaritan had left the door open for them.

Remembering the half bottle of wine in the fridge, Leslie decided to celebrate. At least I know what I did, she thought. The telephone was blinking. A message from her sister, “Don’t forget to be there when they come tomorrow or they’ll charge me twice.” (So rich now and yet so stingy.)

Leslie rummaged in the bottom drawer retrieving some forgotten chocolate, and with it and the wine in hand, headed for the living room. 

It was bare.  Not a stick of furniture, except a small table with one broken leg that had been hidden behind the sofa.

Had the U-Haul guy come in when she dozed off and taken everything except the bed? That was cheap help for you. Hearing a clatter over the wind outside she rushed to the front door. But there was no van, nothing but some bulky objects bumping down the road from the gale—nature as one! Knocked on the knees from behind, Leslie grabbed the door to avoid being thrust out unto the street. She turned to witness the spindly little table hurl by and roll down the street. A thin voice cried, “Wait for me,” but was quickly drowned in the howling wind.

Leslie pulled her nightgown around her shoulders, ran into the street and shouted, “What about me?”

Melodie Corrigall is an eclectic Canadian writer whose stories have appeared in  Litro UK, Foliate Art, Emerald Bolts, Earthen Journal, Still Crazy, and The Write Place at the Write Time (www.melodiecorrigall.com).

God’s Work


Jerry McFadden

Little Joanie saw them first. A flick of motion at the edge of the waterfalls. “There. There,” she shouted, pointing out the window. Thomas leaned past her to take a look. The pilot put the Cessna 172N into a tight bank, keeping the inside wing centered on the gap of cascading water that cut a swath through the jungle. Reverend Ronald Davis smiled at his two children. Of course God would act through little Joannie, he told himself, ". . . and a little child shall lead them."

Everybody craned to see out of the left side of plane, the ground below. Norma said, “I think I saw movement, too, at the top of the falls.”

The pilot took a wider arc, dropping several hundred feet. But there was nothing obvious.

“Go around again and take it down to tree level,” Reverend Ron ordered.

“No,” the pilot protested, “Too dangerous. There might be updrafts from the waterfalls. A strong gust could bounce us right into the trees.”

 “A thousand dollars more,” Reverend Ron said. “I will pay you a thousand dollars more.”

The pilot glanced at Joachim in the co-pilot’s seat and rolled his eyes at the insanity of the Norte Americano. Joachim shrugged. A thousand dollars was a thousand dollars. He would make the pilot split it with him. 

 “Open your side window,” Reverend Ron instructed, “so we can see better when we make the pass.”

The pilot popped the side window, latching it against the fuselage, then banked as if wanting to plunge the Cessna directly into the waterfalls, pulling up only as the trees came to them in a maddening rush.

There was a sudden thunk, thunk, thunk on the side of the plane.

“What the hell?” the pilot yelled.

“They’re shooting at us!” Joachim said.

Reverend Ron saw a handful of men darting in and out of the trees, aiming at the plane with bows and arrows and long slender blowpipes. The bows were as tall as the men and appeared to take great strength to draw back. The arrows floated upward, some actually plunking into the side of the plane.

The pilot said, “Oh!” surprised, then slumped lazily against the steering column. Joachim yanked him back to grab the stick, but it was too late. The plane lurched sharply skyward, stalled, then rolled over to dive head first into the vast sea of green.

 The upper branches of the canopy ripped off the wings. The thin lower limbs and infinite mass of thick vines and dangling creepers caught the fuselage, nursing it into a slight upward angle, slowing its downward descent. The lowest branches and vines tore the landing gear from the plane, further breaking its fall. It miraculously missed slamming into any of the enormous tree trunks. The stripped fuselage finally pancaked flat into the cluttered undergrowth and soft earth.

They sat in stunned silence, the engine ticking from its own heat, leaves, slivers of wood, and vines still dropping from great heights. Liquids slowly dripped from the plane onto the matted growth beneath it. The jungle was a hushed, startled witness.

Joachim was the first to move. He kicked out his door with a curse. Reverend Ron awkwardly followed him. Norma pushed past a whimpering Joannie, followed by Thomas.

 Norma straightened herself to address Joachim, “You don’t have to curse like that. We had a bad moment but we should be on our knees thanking God that we survived.”

“We had a bad moment? A bad moment? We haven’t even started to have a bad moment.” Joachim mocked. “We are in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by a hostile Indians, deadly snakes, vicious animals, malaria carrying mosquitoes, and I do not know what else. Even the ants in this jungle can kill you. And no one knows where we are because you wanted to do this trip in secret.”  He looked around and motioned towards the pilot. “And we did not all survive.”

“What happened to him?” Reverend Ron said, holding his hands palms out to calm the argument. “Did he have a heart attack?”

Joachim walked around the twisted and broken fuselage to open the pilot’s door, rudely pulling out the dead body. “No heart attack. A poison dart. In his neck. You asked him to open his window so you could see better and one of your precious Indians got in a lucky shot with a blow gun.”

Norma scoffed, “No one uses blow guns and poison darts these days.”

Joachim reached over to pull an arrow out of the fuselage. “No one uses arrows ‘these days,’ either. But we are now in ‘their days’. Now you know why they nicknamed them the flecheiros.”

“Why were they shooting at us?” Thomas asked. “We came all this way to help them. To bring them Jesus.”

Joachim snorted in derision, stepping over the dead body to climb into the pilot’s seat. He fiddled with the radio, flipping the toggle off and on, yelling into the microphone, “Mayday! Mayday! Can anyone hear me? Mayday! Mayday!”   

Silence. He slammed the microphone against the radio,. “It’s broken. Broken. Not a chance of repair.” He climbed down and walked away to sit on an enormous tree root to stare at the dense jungle around them.

Reverend Ron took charge of his family. He pulled the first aid kit from the plane to attend to their cuts and bruises, making sure no one was hurt badly, then ordered them to pull the supplies from the airplane to stack them a short distance away. He and Thomas scrounged through the cabin for anything that might be of use, such as flashlights, flares, spare bottles of water and packs of uneaten snacks.

Joachim came over to ask, “Which of these boxes have food and water in them?”

Reverend Ron glanced at Norma, “None. We assumed we would pick up food and water when we returned to the village, along with the porters that you planned to hire for us.”

“Then what are in the boxes?” Joachim asked in astonishment, kicking the cardboard cartons.

Norma replied, “Bibles. Crucifixes. Pictures of Jesus. Holy water. Hymnals. Everything we need to start an active service.”

Joachim stared at her in bewilderment.         

“You’re the hired guide. What do you think we should do?” Reverend Ron asked.

       Joachim hesitated for a long moment, then said, “Hiking back to the village is our only hope.”

“No,” Norma said, “We should go to the tribe to for help. That is why we came, to work with the tribe, and that is what we should do.”

       “They are savages,” Joachim said bitterly.

       Reverend Ron smiled at his wife, “Norma is right. We came for the tribe. And God has given us this opportunity to ask them for help. It is a good way to begin.”

“How are you going to talk to them?” Joachim asked angrily. “We have no locals. We were to hire them at the village. We do not speak Indian. We have no way to communicate.”

Norma searched though the boxes to pull out two books. “We have a Portuguese-English dictionary and a guide to native American languages. Plus you speak Portuguese, so we have a good start.”

Joachim took the books from Norma. “Just because we are in Brazil does not mean that these savages speak Portuguese. And this other book is a guide to speaking Navajo!”

       “That is all I could find. There was nothing in the bookstores in Columbus, Ohio, on Latin American Indian languages.”

Joachim threw both books on the ground. “Merda!”

       “You don’t have to swear. I may not speak Portuguese but I know what that word means.”

       Joachim repeated, “Merda!”

Reverend Ron gestured for quiet. “God will provide. We will do nothing tonight. We will give the pilot a Christian burial and rest. We will talk about our plans first thing in the morning, when we all feel better.”

He turned and clapped his hands, “I want you children to build a fire, like we do at home when we are at camp. Dig a nice hole, ring it with stones, then collect some dry brush and firewood and start the fire while we bury the pilot. But don’t go far from camp. We will then share what we have to eat and talk and maybe sing some songs before we go to sleep.”

Everyone did as directed. Reverend Ron and Joachim tore twisted metal from the plane to dig a shallow grave, while Norma gathered what little food and water they had. The men laid the body into the hole and covered it with earth. All of them, including the children, stood silently while Reverend Ron read the twenty-third psalm. Norma said “Amen,” the children repeating it.

They trooped back to the fire and took the snacks and water from Norma. No one spoke, wanting to make the meal last. Almost absent-mindedly Reverend Ron asked, “Where’s Joachim?”

“He walked into the jungle,” Thomas said. “I thought he was going to pee behind a tree.”

Reverend Ron and Norma glanced at each other but said nothing. But Thomas knew, “H-He left us, didn’t he?”

 “He went for help,” Reverend Ron replied.

“Be honest with the children,” Norma said. “He deserted us. But we’re better off without him. He was here only for the money.”

“We’ll make do without him,” Reverend Ron assured everyone.

       And they tried very hard to do without him. Reverend Davies and Norma took turns standing watch to keep the fire going while the children slept. 

The jungle turned into a matte-black void, like stepping into a foul smelling closet without lights, windows, or ventilation. But there were noises. Hundreds and hundreds of noises from things rustling and scurrying through the underbrush and overhead in the trees. Suddenly there would be a violent clash and a desperate shriek, almost human, and the jungle would again fall into absolute silence, as if hiding, waiting for the bad thing to pass. Slowly the noises would rebuild. Until the next cycle of angry clash and unearthly shriek.

Norma stared at the fire and the night beyond. She was concerned but she knew everything would turn out all right. It always did. But she was sorry for Ronald. This shouldn’t have happened to him. This adventure had already cost him so much. The church had refused to support him in this quest to bring Jesus to this last lost tribe in the Amazon.

The Brazilian government had announced that no one was to approach this newly discovered tribe until they, in consultation with noted anthropologists and psychologists from around the world, decided how best to make contact. There were to be no further flights over the area or foot incursions into the region without government approval.

Reverend Davies could not launch a fundraiser for fear of tipping off the American or Brazilian authorities, so he quit his ministry, pulled out their life savings, and sold their home, cars, and everything of value to finance this trip, even borrowing from a few trusting souls, not knowing how he would ever repay them. Norma understood. This was his destiny. He had been chosen to bring Christ to this innocent tribe while the Brazilian government muddled over the pseudo-scientific methods of integrating them into the evils of civilization.

Morning light came swiftly. The forest turned from black to underwater blue to heavily shaded light. Birds rustled in the trees. But they did not sing or warblethey screeched and screamedas  if they, too, were terrified at the hostile world around them.

 The heat and humidity became oppressive. Gnats and bugs stuck to their sweat and swirled around their eyes and lips. Reverend Ron rose stiffly to his feet and started to talk about getting organized but Thomas interrupted him. “Papa, there are people out there.” Reverend Ron turned to see Indians standing among the trees, not moving. Men only. Naked. Carrying spears, blowpipes, bows and arrows. Their bodies and faces splashed with red pigment.

“Ron?” Norma said.

But Reverend Ron motioned her to silence. He picked up his Bible and raised it over his heart.

One of the Indians reacted by puffing into a blowpipe. The dart thunked against the Bible. Reverend Davies pulled the book away to look at the embedded dart. One of the Indians dashed in to snatch the Bible, running back to show the others. All seemed amazed that the dart had not penetrated through the Bible.

“Slowly pull out the boxes of Bibles,” Reverend Davies instructed Norma.

Norma nudged the boxes forward with her foot. The Indians rushed to pull the Bibles from the boxes, each wanting his own. Some whacked others to take possession of their prize. Norma could not keep the excitement from her voice, “They love the Bibles! They really love them.”

       “Try the crucifixes now,” Reverend Ron said.

Norma found the box of crucifixes and pushed it forward.   The Indians peered in cautiously, reaching in slowly, as if the boxes were filled with snakes. One studied the artifact for a long moment before flinging it at the nearest tree. He let out a disappointed huuumph when it bounced off the tree trunk. He tried again. And again it bounced back at him. He picked it up and walked over to one of the others to strike him over the head with it. The second Indian howled and rubbed his head and held his hand out to see if there was blood. The first Indian smiled, satisfied, and tucked the crucifix into the cord around his waist.

This was a signal for the others to rush the box to fight over this second set of prizes, using the crosses quite effectively on each other’s heads. “No, No,” Norma shouted, “They’re not for fighting! Please stop! Please stop!”

The Indians stopped, but only to stare at her. The tallest of the group, who appeared to be the leader, walked up to survey Norma from head to foot. She was slightly overweight, on the softer side, with short grey hair. She was wearing a man’s shirt and blue jeans. He ran his hand across her breasts, then jammed it into her crotch and laughed, saying something to the others. Norma stumbled back in shock.

Reverend Ron said angrily, “What are you…” but was stopped in his tracks by a dozen spears pointed at his chest.

The leader stepped over to little Joannie to drag his fingers through her blond hair. He leaned forward to sniff the color. He barked a command and several men grabbed both Joannie and Norma, pulling them into the jungle. Both screamed, reaching back for Reverend Ron, but he didn’t dare move as spears were pressed tight against his body.

Thomas made an attempt to intercede the only way he knew how—he grabbed his prized bible and pulled out a beautiful reproduction of the crucifixion, showing a handsome but tortured Jesus looking down from the cross, surrounded on a hillside of other men being crucified, Roman guards with long spears standing at the foot of his cross.

Thomas held out the reproduction, jabbing at it, yelling, “Look! Look! This is why we are here! To bring Jesus to you! We are on a mission!”

One of the Indians plucked the paper away. Several peered at it as if they had never seen a piece of paper before. They flipped it over to see what was on the other side, then dangled and shook it to see if the small men would fall off. One held it up to sunlight to peer through it. In his keenness, he ripped the page, only to receive several smacks across the back of his head for his stupidity. They finally handed the page over to the leader. He looked at it and then at Reverend Ron and Thomas and made a noise that sounded like hummmph, nodding to his warriors to bring them along, too. They were beaten savagely, then tied together with crude ropes and dragged into the jungle.

At a clearing of huts and smoldering camp fires, the women and children stopped all activity to stare at the strange men being pulled into the camp. Reverend Ron saw little Joannie and Norma huddled together in one of the huts. He glanced across the clearing and was shocked to see Joachim sprawled on the ground, battered and bloody. “They must have caught him during the night,” he whispered to Thomas.

The leader stepped forward to shout something, holding out the reproduction of the crucifixion. Everyone ran forward to take a look. The chief held it overhead, turning around for all to see. He finally gestured for them to make space so he could put it on the ground, weighing it down with large stones. The crowd pushed forward to closely inspect the picture, making comments, laughing, and pushing each other merrily.

When he was satisfied that everyone had had a turn, the chief spoke sharply to his warriors and they shouted a response and brandished their spears and began dancing in a circle, which was a signal for others in the camp to begin blowing horns and banging on drums.  Let the games begin, was the only thing that Reverend Ron could think of, unable to imagine what was going to happen next.

With another shout, the leader walked over to the prostrate form of Joachim. A small gang of warriors walked into the clearing carrying two stout tree limbs. They fiddled with twine and crude tools to fashion a cross. They referred to the reproduction of the crucifixion to securely fasten Joachim’s hands and feet with twine but also drove in large splinters of thick bamboo. Joachim bellowed in pain. They lifted the contraption off the ground to stabilize it vertically. They stepped back, proud of their work. A few stepped forward to stab Joachim with their spears, enjoying the moment.

A handful of men came out of the forest carrying more stout tree limbs. Reverend Ron realized at that moment he was to be crucified for his belief in Jesus Christ.

*          *          *

      It would be six months before the Brazilian government, under the auspices of the United Nations, accompanied by several prominent anthropologists, linguists, and psychologists, protected by a platoon of soldiers, ventured into this deepest part of the jungle to make contact with the flecheiros. They were stunned to find that the warriors had tattered, weather beaten bibles dangling across their chests, held in place by fiber cords, as totems against evil. Even more stunning was the row of crosses on the edge of the tiny village that held both fresh and decaying bodies. No one was able to explain how the tradition of crucifixion of their enemies had begun with the flecheiros.

None of the government people noticed the small, filthy, unkempt girl in a tattered dress, with dirty matted blond hair, who hid behind the other Indian children, terrified of what these newcomers might do to her.

Jerry McFadden
has been writing fiction for the past several years. His stories have appeared in various fiction magazines and e-zines, such as Flash Fiction Offensive, Over My Dead Body, Eclectic Flash Fiction, and BWG Writers Roundtable. He received a Second Place Bullet Award for the best crime fiction to appear on the web in June, 2011, and has had his short stories performed aloud on the stage by the Liar’s League in London and the Liar’s League in Hong Kong. His stories have also appeared in various anthologies, including Hardboiled: Crime SceneOnce Around the SunA Christmas SamplerA Readable Feastand Let It Snow. He has also won honorable mentions in Writer’s Digest Magazine annual national fiction awards, as well as in several regional writing contests.