In the hay loft of a barn in an authentic old west ghost town, Nick Caden uncovers the body of Billy the Kid…and other deadly secrets! It’s all for show…right? In this middle-grade murder mystery series, award-winning author Eddie Jones takes listeners on a Wild, Wild, West ride.
Dead Man’s Hand
Narrator: Zane VanWicklyn
Length: 4 hrs and 10 mins
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)
Content Warning*: None
My name is Nick Caden. I’m fifteen and live in Savannah, Georgia. We moved to Savannah because a few months back, on Halloween night, a zombie snatched my sister. You might have read about it. It was all over the news for a while. The zombie who kidnapped my sister (not a real zombie – there’s no such thing) pinned me to a mud flat and waited for the tied to rise, but I held my breath long enough to escape.
When I am not in school or working at the boat yard near our apartment, I write for the Cool Ghoul Gazette. That’s a publication that focuses on paranormal and supernatural events. The Cool Ghoul is why I ended up solving a vampire murder, ghost town murder, and helped capture a werewolf. (Not a real werewolf, ghost, or vampire – there are no such things.) Which brings me to today’s “Breaking Noose” article.
The below news alert just arrived in my inbox.
“Hi. I am a Contract Specialist with the FDA. I am tasked with the purchase of tissues suitable for H.M. research. I would like to request a quote. Please review the Statement of Work and quote your pricing as outlined.
Statement of Work
The supplier will provide human fetal tissue with the following characteristics:
- Age range 16-24 weeks
- Liver and thymus tissue from the same donor unless liver only is requested.
- Tissue must be fresh and never frozen.
- No tissues where the mother is known to be positive for HIV or for Hepatitis A, B, or C viruses.
- No known chromosomal abnormalities.
- Testing for HIV, Hepatitis B & C will be completed on maternal blood for all tissues procured and results provided when available.
Period of Performance
Twelve months from the date of award of the contract.
In order to expedite the services required please return your quote to me by 3:00 pm Eastern Time. If you do not wish to submit a quote on this requirement, I would appreciate it if you would let me know.
Please let me know if you have any questions. Thank you.
My editor wants me to investigate this human fetal body parts smuggling ring that is using human tissue to create a new species of . . . Well, that’s where the mystery comes in. We’re not sure what the biotech company, Enhanced Bioscience Regeneration, is up to, but I’ll find out and report back. – Nick Caden
I grew up in a black neighborhood; I grew up in a white neighborhood. To the left of our house lived the Moore’s. Their small home sat on a rise overlooking the creek that separated the two properties. To the right lived Dwight, Mark, Pat and around the corner, where Mount Vernon Church Road met Six Forks, Yvonne. Four whites to the right, five blacks to the left.
The dads got together one summer and built us a bus stop at the corner of Mount Vernon and Six Forks. Walking to the bus stop became something of a parade. Today such an occurrence may be mistaken for a protest march but for us, in the mid 60s, we were simply eleven kids heading off to school.
After our stop, the bus would pick up Richard and Wilbert Dunn. The Dunns lived in a home that stood across from what is now Taylor’s Wine Shop (Taylors also sells fishing worms.) Next, also on the left side of Six Forks, we’d stop for the Holding kids. True story (as I remember it), Chester Holden was a short, muscular boy, a few years older than me. When I tried out for football in high school, Chester was already on the team. The players called him Tree Stump. Except because Chester’s legs were so short, each year when players were required to run—I forget how far it was—Chester failed to run within the time necessary to make the team. His legs moved faster than all the rest of us, but he didn’t run fast enough. Each year Coach Shirley would hold Chester back after practice and give him another shot. And each year, miraculously, Chester made the team.
During summers we would play pickup baseball in a field across from what is now New Life Camp. What was then Mount Vernon Church was a pop fly from the field. We’d arrive on bikes or foot and divide teams evenly to keep things competitive. None of us cared about the color of a boy’s skin. We simply wanted a good game of ball.
I played organized ball on Bayleaf’s Little League team. Later we became Six Forks, but changing the name did not improve our record. We were county boys playing city kids who drew from a larger pool of players. During practices Arthur Thompson would hit, catch, throw with us. Arthur was easily one of the best players at practice. His younger brother, Boo Boo, showed up at practice too, but Boo Boo was more of a cut-up and didn’t take things as serious. Given that we lost most of our games and Arthur could hit farther, run faster, and throw harder than most of the boys on the team. I once asked Dad why Arthur never played with us during real games.
Dad explained that Arthur was black. Like somehow that fact had escaped me. I asked why that mattered. I don’t remember Dad’s explanation. Only thing I recall is that whatever he said still made no sense. If you are getting trounced by K-Mart, Brentwood, Millbrook Church, the Teamster’s, St. James Church, Carter’s Seafood, New Hope Church and pretty much every other team you play, you want help. Arthur would have definitely made us a better team. But as I mentioned, he was black.
Once Mom, my sister and I were in the K-Mart at the corner of Six Forks and Old Wake Forest—the one that used to flood every time Crabtree Creek overflowed its banks. I spied Arthur and his family in the store, called to him, and Mom shushed me. Turns out it was fine to know Arthur on a baseball field but not in a store where people might see.
In first grade Eleanor Rodgers wore glasses. I wore glasses. She was black; I was white. When you’re called “four-eyes” in the first grade, you’ll be friends with anyone who keeps masking tape and Elmer’s glue in their desk. Eleanor and I were best buds.
My freshman year at Millbrook, Jeffry Harris kicked my butt outside a trailer as I was leaving English class. No kidding. He actually kicked my backside. He wanted to fight. I explained I didn’t want to fight. Had I fought Jeffry he could have not only kicked my butt, but probably broken my glasses and nose. Three years later, on the night we graduated at Memorial Auditorium in downtown Raleigh, Jeffry came over and shook my hand. We’d hardly spoken the four years at Millbrook. Only thing I could figure was, not fighting back had somehow let Jeffry know that I wasn’t his enemy.
I was not then; I am not now.
I grew up with the white privilege of having black friends — and I thank God for it.
When leading others, we are never called upon to display our doubts publicly. Doubts are best shared in private. To publicly express doubt when others need your vision is to confirm their worst fears; and their fears seldom become reality.
“Comfort” = “with strength.” When we comfort others we add our strength to those who are weak.
In comfort we can rest our eyes while wide asleep.
For those in Christ this is a gift from God.
Who needs your strength and confidence today?
March 12, 2020, I closed my laptop and walked across the Neuse River bridge to enjoy my evening walk on the greenway. Midway across the bridge the title for a story came to mind: The Day The World Sneezed. That Thursday, Raleigh and Wake County had begun to discuss imposing restrictions on business. There was talk schools might close the following week. When I got home from my walk I made a fake book cover with the words: “The Day The World Sneezed” at the top and posted it on Facebook. Done with that, I thought.
Friday during my evening walk Elmer showed up. Elmer introduced himself as the main character in “The Day The World Sneezed” and began to explain how the “crud” had disrupted his life. He talked as we walked. If you know a writer you may have witnessed them staring off into space in a daze. Odds are a character in their head is speaking and your writer friend does not want to miss a word. That night I celebrated my birthday with my wife, boys, and granddaughter. There I mentioned Elmer and how he had set out to help others but ended up making a mess of things – for a while, anyway.
Saturday morning, March 14, I began writing. Monday, March 16, our city and county began shutting down. As a writer who lives in a cave with characters no one can see, “shelter-in-place” was God’s gift to me. Finally I had an excuse to avoid all social contact: which meant I had more writing time. On April 5, Elmer finished telling me his story.
Several dear friends have mentioned that it is too soon to tell Elmer’s story: that people are dying (that’s true) and grieving (also true), but Elmer did not seem concerned about any of this when he told me his story.
“The Day The World Sneezed” is a story of hope, helping others, and finding the “light-hearted” moments in the midst of tragedy. If such a story is too soon, I’m sure Elmer will understand. He’s not the sort to force himself upon others. Maybe later, after all this “crud” business is over, you’ll consider listening to Elmer’s story. He really is, a colorful character.
State the goal of your Lead at the beginning of each scene. What does she want? What does he need? How does he plan to acquire the thing he wants? What will she give up for the thing she wants? This “want” is your Lead’s stake in the ground.
Promise pain through foreshadowing (tears, heartache, physical discomfort)
Deliver pain through action (show your Lead suffering)
Progress from goal to conflict, disaster, character development (how does she grow?)
Suspense is anticipation, so announce the reward for your Lead early in the scene
Restate your Lead’s goal as necessary (halfway through)
Never let your Lead relax for too long
Increase the risk of failure (towards the end of the scene add-to the penalties for failure)
Tension comes from unresolved conflict so leave your character’s world messy
Promise the payoff for that scene, then delay the payoff until later in the story.
Deliver a payoff, but not the thing your Lead sought
Excerpted from A Novel Idea.
From the Author
For ten years I’ve sat across the appointment table with authors who pitch me their project. When I ask:
“Who’s your main character?”
“What’s the inciting incident in Act One?”
“What is the main character’s call to action and how do they deny this call?”
I often get blank stares.
I wrote this book so authors could review their project and fix their story: or, in many cases, toss the story and begin a new novel.
I quote from successful authors and screenwriters because these individuals have mastered the craft of writing. There is nothing new in this book that you cannot find in a library full of writing books. I have simply compiled the essential elements of a novel into one book.
I teach from this book at writers conferences. Some authors say it helps them organize their novel. You decide if it helps you.