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An Article, a Review, and a Wish

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Posted by KAREN WOJCIK BERNER

We interrupt this holiday respite for some breaking news...
A lovely article about my visit to the Buttonwood Book Club this past fall is featured in the Naperville Sun today. To read it, click here. We had a great discussion on a multitude of topics. It was really a wonderful evening. Big thanks to Karen Thomas (first row, left, next to me ) and all of the ladies. 


And, if that wasn't nice enough, Christmas Eve brought the best gift an author can receive — a five-star review on Amazon for A Bibliophile Christmas.
"Great book to put you in the Christmas spirit. I am now on a mission to read  more of Berner's books. I loved the characters and how they are introduced."
Okay, back to revelry.
Happy New Year, dear readers. May 2013 bring you great joy. I will see you on January 7th.




My Holiday Wish for You

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Posted by KAREN WOJCIK BERNER




May you be surrounded by people you love and who genuinely love you.
May you find joy in the small moments — silly laughter, a hug from a child.
May you find peace in all that was this past year and all that will be in 2013.
May you discover a great book, a fantastic piece of music, a wonderful movie.
May you be inspired to try something completely new. 
These are my wishes for you.
Thank you for spending time with me this year, dear readers. I am going to take the next two weeks off to hang out with my family. Bibliophilic Blather will return on Monday, January 7, 2013.
Happy Holidays, my friends.
Cheers, Karen



The Best of Flash Fiction Fridays

Posted by KAREN WOJCIK BERNER


For the past two years, writers of all genres from all over the world have contributed wonderful tales to Flash Fiction Fridays. As my gift to you this December, here are four stand-out pieces from previous years that definitely deserve another look.

Enjoy.


Exposed
By Katrina Byrd


Mary Lyn can sit up there on the front pew dressed in all white looking like one of God’s sweet angels all she wants. We all know that she’s hell on wheels. She owns Big Mama’s, the only restaurant in Hot Cakes, MS. My sister Lerleen works for her. Says she’s loud, cusses like a sailor and she’s cheap. Won’t even pay minimum wage.  Lerleen says that Mary Lyn even dares to have a mister on the side. That’s probably why she’s at church without her husband this morning.

The light from the warm sun filtered through the stained glass windows casting an array of colors over the small building and the well dressed “Christians” inside as Rev. Scucchi lifted his large hands upward. Who ev…

Editing for Grammarphobes: Holiday Edition

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Posted by KAREN WOJCIK BERNER





Couldn't head into this week without a friendly language reminder about something that turns me from holly jolly to the nastiest of grammar grinches.

Please do not refer to the animals that pull Santa's sleigh as "reindeers." There is no such word. Reindeer is both the singular and plural form of the word.

That is all.

You are free to begin your holiday celebrations.







P.S. Attention Kindle owners! Flash Fiction Fridays contributor Eileen Granfor's Sydney's Story, a prequel to Dicken's classic A Tale of Two Cities, is free today and tomorrow.


Tolling Bells

Posted by KAREN WOJCIK BERNER



When Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote his poem, “Christmas Bells,” his son, Charles, had been wounded in battle fighting the Civil War. Sure that Charles would die of his injuries, Longfellow penned the words that would eventually become the carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” Fortunately for Longfellow, his son survived.

The composer, Jean Baptiste Calkin, took out the lines that referred to the Civil War when adapting Longfellow’s work to music, therefore removing the poignancy of the poet’s words and the heart of the meaning.

After the slaughter of innocents on Friday in Newtown, Connecticut, this verse rings particularly true.

And in despair I bowed my head;
 “There is no peace on earth,” I said;
 “For hate is strong,
 And mocks the song
 Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
But Longfellow, like all survivors of tragedies, ends with a message of hope, which is what we all need after yet another massacre pushes the universe out of balance, as our c…

The Best of Flash Fiction Fridays

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For the past two years, writers of all genres from all over the world have contributed wonderful tales to Flash Fiction Fridays. As my gift to you this December, here are four stand-out pieces from previous years that definitely deserve another look.

Enjoy.


Mister Courtman Heads Home  
By Jack A. Urquhart

He runs in circles, a miles-long loop through town, up into the foothills, back to where he started. As always, the last two hundred meters he takes at an arse-kicking pace —panting, arms pumping, a flat-out sprint — running for his life.

Because he is.

His wife has seen to that.

“We can’t go on this way. I’ll give you a week to decide, Mister ‘C’,” she’d said.

He’d flinched, been taken off guard by Linda’s unruffled tone, by her appearance in the kitchen at an early hour.

“After fifteen years, I think that’s long enough.”

Clearly she’d been standing there a while, watching him lace up his shoes, waiting to be noticed.

“Enough time to get your priorities—‘straight’?”

Impossible to ign…

Classic Christmas Lit

Posted by KAREN WOJCIK BERNER


As you know, my series The Bibliophiles delves into the lives of suburban classics book club members. In the first two novels, they have discussed such masterpieces as Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, As You Like It, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Tales, and The Scarlet Letter.

Here are a few of favorite classic holiday reads I was reminded of when creating the Books and Baubles: Holiday Tales for Your E-reader blog with Karen Cantwell.


A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens: This quintessential holiday story is still as relevant today as it was when Dickens wrote it in 1843. Although there are many wonderful screen adaptations, nothing beats reading the novella. Besides, you would miss out on such great prose and gorgeous descriptions as the ones below.

"External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge. No warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill him. No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its p…

The Best Gift

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Posted by KAREN WOJCIK BERNER

My youngest son turns thirteen today. He is intelligent, self-driven, hilarious, and wonderful, all qualities he was born with, so I may brag about him free of any bravado or reflection upon my parenting skills. I am very lucky and privileged to be his mother.
I remember the happiness of bringing him home from the hospital. Our little family was finally complete! Feeding him by the light of the Christmas tree. Reading holiday tales as he cooed, cuddling into his blanket. Wrapping presents next to him as he sat, all cozy in his baby seat, Barbra Streisand’s Christmas album playing softly in the background.
I was never so content.
It might have been because I had finally stopping throwing up as I had done every day for the past nine months due to morning sickness, but I think it really was that I was getting to know my Danny, this child who would continually surprise me. This child to whom I go now for a different perspective when I need an opinion. This c…

The Best of Flash Fiction Fridays

Posted by KAREN WOJCIK BERNER



For the past two years, writers of all genres from all over the world have contributed wonderful tales to Flash Fiction Fridays. As my gift to you this December, here are four stand-out pieces from previous years that definitely deserve another look.

Enjoy.


Three and a Half Minutes 
By Jules Carey


Molly had run out of ideas. She kept smacking him, over and over, pounding her little son’s back. Was he turning blue? No, it hadn’t been that long. Had it? She wished for someone to be there who knew what the hell to do. Nothing she did worked.

Bang! Bang! Bang!

She had heard that the brain could only last four minutes without oxygen. How long had it been? The panic in her chest distorted time, making it difficult for her to track. Ten minutes? An hour? Couldn’t be or the paramedics would have arrived already.

Wouldn’t they?

Molly feared something would break if she kept hitting him so hard, but the desire to free his airway outweighed any other concern. She cou…

Running to Stand Still

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Posted by KAREN WOJCIK BERNER



Here is a piece I wrote for the Until My Soul Gets It Right (The Bibliophiles: Book Two) blog tour this past fall. It originally appeared on a great blog, Empty Nest. I thought it was particularly apropos for this time of year.



The other day, I was listening to U2’s masterpiece, “The Joshua Tree,” which I hadn’t heard in quite some time. Lately, most of the music in the house has belonged to my sons, but now with one off for his freshman year at college and the other back in junior high, I can once again reclaim the soundtrack of my days.

The song “Running to Stand Still” came on, and I paused to listen, struck by that simple, yet powerful phrase.

Running to stand still.

How many of us are guilty of that? Of going and going and going in hopes of someday being able to finally relax and breathe a bit?

There is always so much to do, an overwhelming list of grocery shopping, working, holidays/parties, exercising, laundry, paying the bills, cleaning, or running…

Need Holiday Gift Ideas?

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Posted by KAREN WOJCIK BERNER


Good Monday morning, everyone. Why the chipper greeting, you ask? Crazy as this may seem, it is going to be 68°F today in Chicagoland — on December 3rd! Despite a bit of early-morning fog, it should be a great day.

With the calendar turning to December this past weekend, many people have plunged into Christmas shopping. Obviously, my answer to this is simple — books. However, I am mindful that not everyone shares my bibliophilic passion.

Having been at this Christmas shopping thing for a good many years now, I am offering some gift suggestions on Karen Cantwell's and my new blog, Books and Baubles: Holiday Tales for Your E-Reader. Karen and I put our heads together and brainstormed a few unique and fun presents I'm sure everyone on your list will love. To read the post, click here.

Hope this makes your holiday shopping a little easier.

While you are there, don't forget to stop by our giveaway page. One grand prize winner will receive an amazon…

Flash Fiction Fridays: Prepare for Battle

Posted by KAREN WOJCIK BERNER


Today, we wrap up November with a fantasy piece by M.R. Mathias. Enjoy.


The Blood of Coldfrost
By M.R. Mathias

The concussive "whoomp" of an exploding oil keg brought the encampment awake. A ball of flame roiled skyward bathing the sparkling tundra of Coldfrost in an orange-yellow glow. Men were scrambling. Large mannish forms, more feral than not, darted about the shadows unchecked. The battle roar of a Breed beast cut through the frigid night as it brought an ax down into the head of a Westland Captain who was emerging from his tent. Flames danced crazily, throwing wild shadows about the chaos. The shouts of a fervent sergeant, trying to generate some sort of order among the terrified men, rang out from somewhere across the crunchy, snow covered terrain.

In the Royal Pavilion, Mikahl was trying desperately to get his king's armor fastened. They had been in Coldfrost for days, hunting and corralling the wild breed beasts that came out of the …

Editing for Grammarphobes: Verbing

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Posted by KAREN WOJCIK BERNER


Sometimes I think advertising is the bane of the English language. You might recall my rant awhile back about Chuck E. Cheese’s “Everybody say cheese is funner” lyric in its jingle. Well, here’s another linguistic abomination.

A local carpet company is now urging potential customers to “floor the house.”

Floor the house? What is that supposed to mean? One cannot wow an inanimate object. But that isn’t even what the spokesperson is talking about. The company is using it to describe the act of installing wood flooring.

What about “Beer me?”

Or “texting?” I must confess to being guilty of saying I “texted” someone when the phrase really should be “sent a text” or “received a text message.”

There have always been nouns that also can be used as verbs. Scribd.com has a great list of them here, which includes face, balance, plane, stop, transport, laugh, name, and cycle.

However, these latest examples, especially “floor the house” and “beer me,” just feel lazy,…

Cyber Monday vs. Black Friday

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Posted by KAREN WOJCIK BERNER




Are you a little slow on the uptake this morning after the long holiday weekend or have you plopped onto your desk chair with glee filled with the promise of Cyber Monday?

I have to say, I prefer Cyber Monday to Black Friday.

Even back in the stone age when I was a kid before the moniker of “Black Friday” existed, the day after Thanksgiving was the busiest shopping day of the year and was to be avoided by those who hated crowded malls and waking up early (me).

Huge brawls seem to break out every year on Black Friday. Nothing evokes the holiday spirit more than people coming to blows over some heavily discounted item.

I do understand the thrill of the hunt and can appreciate it. I, too, get a little giddy when I find something I really like at a great price, so kudos to those who are brave enough to venture out into the shopping wild.

That kind of pressure doesn’t exist on Cyber Monday. Heck, you don’t even have to take a shower or put on makeup to shop, a…

Giving Thanks

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Posted by KAREN WOJCIK BERNER

Thanksgiving is a fantastic holiday, isn’t it? Not only does it revolve around the best meal of the year (turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes —yum!), but it gives us a chance to put into perspective the things that matter most.

I’ve been so preoccupied promoting “A Bibliophile Christmas, “ I feel like I have shot right over this important day and headed straight into December.

So, without further ado, here is a list of things I am grateful for in random order, except for the first two.

My son coming home from college this week.
The men in my life: my wonderful husband and sons, and, yes, even my father.
Books.
Indoor plumbing.
Starbucks.
England, actually Scotland as well. Sorry, Wales and Ireland. Haven’t been there yet.
Downton Abbey and Masterpiece Classic.
Music.
Peter Gabriel.
Computers.
Florence + the Machine.
Wine.
Green Day.
Freedom of Speech.
Autumn.
Hot beverages.
Theater.
Electricity.
Prosciutto, Asiago cheese with rosemary, crusty Italian bread,…

Introducing Books and Baubles: Holiday Tales for Your E-Reader

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Posted by KAREN WOJCIK BERNER


I love Christmas. You can ask anyone who knows me, and he or she will attest to this. My husband and sons even call me “The Christmas Queen,” after Lucy’s role in Charlie Brown’s Christmas pageant, which I have quoted on numerous occasions throughout my life. Some may say a little too often, and my boys have remarked upon some similarities between dear Lucy and myself, but we don’t need to delve into all of that right now. That’s between me and my therapist.

Anyhow…

It is no big surprise that I would eventually pen a Christmas story, “A Bibliophile Christmas.” To celebrate this release, I have a special treat for you, dear readers.

The immensely talented, insanely funny, friend of the blog Karen Cantwell, author of the madcap Barbara Marr mysteries, and I are teaming up for a fabulous seasonal promotion on our new blog page, Books and Baubles: Holiday Tales for Your E-Reader, which features a showcase of festive stories by a variety of authors to help ge…

Flash Fiction Fridays: A Spirited Discussion

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Posted by KAREN WOJCIK BERNER



Cossack
By Cleveland W. Gibson


The meanest, most arrogant, stubborn person: I meant Kazanski, him with the twisted lip, the mad grin inherited in a knife fight.

I always knew better than to believe in him as a leader, especially the time when we nearly died in the snow. As young Russian soldiers we'd lost our horses, got cut off from the rest of the Red Army. Now we heard he wolves howling close by.

Luckily we stumbled on a deserted cottage and sheltered from the worst of the Siberian blizzard. Upstairs we found a room and tried to keep warm. We lit a fire in a bucket, shared our food and vodka too. But NEVER our women.

Kazanski said, “Keep the door shut. Keep the ghost out.”

I lost my temper on the ghost issue but he insisted an old man visited him in the night when we shared the bed to stay warm. Ghost? Old man? Wrong Kazanski! I knew the ways of the world. The ghost who visited me, on my side, drove me mad with her warm body, not an old man, like Ka…

Great News

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Posted by KAREN WOJCIK BERNER


Remember yesterday when I wrote about all that wonderful exposure "A Bibliophile Christmas" has been getting? Well, this morning, I awoke to the happy consequence of it all.

Are you ready for this?

As I write this post, "A Bibliophile Christmas" is #2 on Amazon's Hot New Releases in Short Stories List! It's also #6 on the Kindle Short Stories Best Seller List and #10 in Books, Short Stories, Single Author.


At one time last night when it started creeping up the charts, "A Bibliophile Christmas" was right above    a compilation of Ernest Hemingway's work and a few spots underneath the collected works of Edgar Allan Poe. The bibliophile in me wanted to burst! 
A big thank you to my team — cover designer Amanda Kelsey, ebook interior designer Ted Risk, and editor Lynn McNamee and her proofreaders — you all are the best!

Being a writer is such a manic-depressive existence, with the depressive moments far outweighing an…

Exposure

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Posted by KAREN WOJCIK BERNER



No, I have not begun writing erotica, although both Whisper and Until were listed under that category on Kobo for a few weeks for reasons unknown. At first I was a little miffed, but then I thought maybe it would boost sales with that Fifty Shades series doing so well. No such luck.

Anyhow. My work has been getting some decent (not indecent) exposure lately.

I am happy to be featured on the Kindle Fire Department blog today, where "A Bibliophile Christmas" is the Book of the Day. If you would like to see the post, click here.

They called it "A heartwarming tale from one of our favorite authors, Karen Wojcik Berner's 'A Bibliophile Christmas' is a story of love, family, and friendship that can make a chilly day much more pleasant."

Also, BigAl's Books and Pals recently reviewed "A Bibliophile Christmas" and gave it four stars. BigAl said, "At turns funny, frustrating (at least for the characters), and touc…

Editing for Grammarphobes: Cutting the Fat

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Posted by KAREN WOJCIK BERNER





Good Monday, everyone. In a little more than a week, the holiday season will be upon us, a time for merriment and feasting. So before we enter the season of excess, let's take a look at ways to tighten up our writing, to trim the fat, if you will.

Here are a few phrases that add unnecessary poundage to our prose.

Advanced planning: Planning by its very nature occurs in advance.

Bald-headed: Bald means to have little or no hair on the scalp, so no need to add the extra word.

Commute back and forth: If you are not going to and from something, I don’t think you are commuting.

Descend down: Since “descend” means to move down from a higher level, just use the verb.

Entirely eliminate: Eliminate means to eradicate something. The adverb is unnecessary.


Source: "200 Common Redundancies" by Richard Nordquist, http://grammar.about.com/od/words/a/redundancies.htm.


Bio


A professional writer/editor for almost 30 years, Karen Wojcik Berner's wide and varied …

Flash Fiction Fridays: The Cure?

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Posted by KAREN WOJCIK BERNER



The Butterfly Effect
By Karina Kantas


Who would volunteer their face for a scientific experiment? Well I wouldn’t. Neither would any sane member of the public, which is why inmates serving life sentences were handed over for this government project. By the time the bill passed, freedom of speech had been demolished, so there were very few demonstrations. Now famous chemist, biologists and DNA experts had one year to perfect an antidote for ugliness.

Being branded ugly put you in a new class, the lowest in society. Ugly people were shunned and segregated by the butterflies of the modem regime. Forced to live and work in the poorest parts of the country. However, even that wasn’t enough to satisfy the beautiful people. It was announced that if the wondrous treatment did not work, then drastic measures would be taken.

I swallowed the bile that rose in my throat as I barely glanced at the deformed face of what used to be Prisoner X. Taking a deep breath, I for…

'A Bibliophile Christmas' Released

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Posted by KAREN WOJCIK BERNER



I am very excited to announce the release of my holiday digital short story, "A Bibliophile Christmas," which features Sarah and Annie from A Whisper to a Scream (The Bibliophiles: Book One).

Here's the blurb.

From the author of A Whisper to a Scream (The Bibliophiles: Book One) and Until My Soul Gets It Right (The Bibliophiles: Book Two) comes a heartwarming holiday tale of friendship and family.

Sarah Anderson and Annie Jacobs have not had the best of years. And now, here come the holidays.

Great.

Sarah's husband Tom is stuck in Boston after a nor'easter dumps a foot of snow on the day he is scheduled to leave for home. 

And Annie is working hard at picking up the pieces of her life after a painful divorce. 

But, maybe with a little help from their friends, Christmas won't be a total wash after all.

This holiday season, take a break from all the hustle and bustle, pour yourself a beverage, and have “A Bibliophile Christmas.”

It is ava…

Flash Fiction Fridays: A Puzzlement

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Posted by KAREN WOJCIK BERNER


The ghosts and monsters are gone as we settle into November. I am very happy to welcome back California's new Senior Poet Laureate, Mary Langer Thompson, to Flash Fiction Fridays. 



Voices in the Corn Maze
By Mary Langer Thompson

Sometimes, as you grow older, you need to finish your bucket list alone. I live by myself in the over-fifty community of Sunset City. My daughter would like me to come live with them. But I’m not ready. Not yet. In fact, I’m not even going to tell her and my son-in-law what’s on my what-to-do-before-I-die list. They’d just laugh.

Today I’ll check off one more event. I’m going to walk through the corn maze on the farm near me.

I approach the natural puzzle, walk past the pumpkins, the gourds, and the arts and crafts, with scarecrows on sticks. There’s the bright yellow button mums. Maybe I’ll buy some on the way out.

A young man with red hair sits on a stool outside the entrance. The corn is a lot higher than I am, but then I’v…

All Hallow's Eve

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Posted by KAREN WOJCIK BERNER



All Hallow's Read Giveaway Winners

As a part of Neil Gaiman's All Hallow's Read initiative, I am happy to announce the winners of Michael Robb Mathias' The Butcher's Boy. Congratulations!

Audio Book Grand Prize Winner: R. Doug Wicker

Kindle copies: TR Larson, Lucie, Kevin Eaton and Ray


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Who's up for a little classic horror on this Halloween? Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you "The Raven," by Edgar Allan Poe.




The Raven By Edgar Allan Poe

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,  Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,  While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,  As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.  "'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door-                  Only this, and nothing more." 
Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak …

Monday Morning Business

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Posted by KAREN WOJCIK BERNER





Hello, dear readers.

I hope you had a good weekend. Here are a couple of reminders for the week.

Hurricane Sandy

First of all, to those of you on the eastern coast of the United States, I thinking of you and hoping you weather the storm. Be safe, my friends.

Giveaway

There is only one day left to enter the All Hallow's Read giveaway to win Michael Robb Mathias' The Butcher's Boy. Click here for more information. Winners will be announced on Wednesday. Good luck!

November Flash Fiction Fridays

I am looking for two more pieces for next month's Flash Fiction Fridays. If you are interested, please send your 1,000-word or less story to me at karen@karenberner.com.

Happy Eid!

Eid Mubarak to my Muslim friends as they wrap up their four-day celebration today.


A Bibliophile Christmas
My holiday digital short, "A Bibliophile Christmas," will be out November 5. It features Sarah and Annie from my first novel, A Whisper to a Scream (The Biblioph…

Flash Fiction Fridays: Bewitching

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Lover’s Brew
By Rosemary Biggio


Becca sipped her last drop of Lady Grey brew while Sebastian, her husband, in a faded University of Penn sweatshirt, labeled boxes.

 “By God, hurry up, the movers will be here any minute.”

Staring at the flakes of loose tea forming a pattern at the bottom of her cup, she found her husband’s habitual use of the expletive “by God” annoying. Three hulky men with the logo “Move Away” on their shirts loaded the truck.

Her husband shook her perching stool.

“Hey, cut it out,” she croaked.

“Got to get going,” Sebastian raised his voice above his wife’s.

“I’m exhausted. Too many late night parties with a colicky baby. You disappear into fiction and miss all the fun,” she cawed.

He didn’t believe the doctor about his wife’s postpartum depression, still he tempered his comments.

When the movers left the scene, she settled in the car while her husband squeezed their son into his car seat.

He patted his wife’s hand. “Honey, you’ll see th…