Novels by Wm. Sharpe

Death by Lethal Affection, Justice Delayed, Uncle Joe Is Dead, and Not Forgotten are available from Amazon.com and from most other book sellers. They are all available in both print and Kindle versions.  Justice Delayed completes the MacCarty family story in Death by Lethal Affection and is the first book in the Nick Caldwell detective series. Death by Lethal Affection  is an exciting mystery story with a twist. Justice Delayed  introduces private investigator Nick Caldwell and his associates. Uncle Joe Is Dead  follows Nick Caldwell as he solves the murder of a beloved member of a well-known Chicago family. In Not Forgotten Nick and his team solve a 40-year old Saint Louis murder of a young couple and in the process uncover serial murders spread over several states. Information about his novels and other works will be shared here and on his web site.

After you have read each book it would be helpful if you would write a review. You could post them to the publishers’ sites, Goodreads, Bookpub, and other sites you use. They wouldn’t have to be long, and you don’t have to sign them on the publishers’ sites, if you would prefer not to.

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Short stories

By Bill Sharpe:  “Anton the Wizard”

By Bill Sharpe: “Why Is Nick Caldwell Smiling Tonight?”

By Bill Sharpe: “A BearhounD Thanksgiving”

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Essays

By Lara Sodon: “Did I Do That?”


WHITE ROSES AND IRON, THE GOTHIC ADVENTURES OF LILY SCHREIFF

By Barbara Neuhaus

Installment 3

-15-

 Vlad, as he preferred to be called, found many occasions to approach me or appear to me…always when I had something weighing heavy on my mind or some serious thinking to do. He guided me in ways that differed greatly from the way Eileen presented herself to me. Eileen was a gentle reminder of all things loving and kind. Vlad seemed on an unequivocal mission to teach me an entire world of healing botanicals, the remedies derived from herbs, the energy contained within a variety of crystals and the reverent focus on the changing of the seasons, which he called the Wheel of the Year. Sometimes when I was out walking alone visiting the cemetery he prompted me to listen to the wind and notice changes in the smell of the air… or when I was gathering herbs from the garden, he would often whisper which ones to use to best manifest my intentions…it was an entirely new way to observe and appreciate nature, as well as understanding my connection to the earth.

     “The modern world is hardly a recognizable place to me,” Vlad said. “What I am teaching you are the old ways, the ancient ways. Society now tries refining and improving life with clocks and buildings and fanciful notions and steam engines and such. But it can take people so very far away from how they were meant to live. Living with nature and the elements, rather than fighting against it all. You’ve all forgotten how to heal yourselves with the plants that grow in the meadows and fields. You all live separately, in your own closed-off homes… and consequently you’ve lost all sense of community. You’ve stopped looking upward at the stars and the moon. There is such majesty and beauty in the natural world and yet all folks wish to do now is create a false world. A world full of walls and artificial light….. There is abiding wisdom in the old ways. I’m saddened by this so called ‘industrial revolution’ and I hope to pass along what I know to you, Lily. Keep alive the traditions and the Divine ways. It’s important to remain close to the Creator by fully experiencing and celebrating creation.”  

     So, as time passed, I learned to be far more mindful of my surroundings. When I was restless and sleep eluded me, Vlad whispered to me that lavender under my pillow would calm my mind and help me sleep. When I felt fearful, he prompted me to carry a small piece of cedar in the pocket of my dress to bolster courage and steady my nerves. When my stomach was upset, peppermint leaves were just within reach and far more effective than the chemical tincture I had used from the town chemist.  

     He also encouraged me to notice more of Tucker’s behavior. My beloved black German shepherd was always by my side. Vlad told me that animals are extremely intuitive as a matter of survival and, as natural creatures untainted by modern advances, have not lost so much of their wild nature. This allows them to sense approaching storms by the trembling leaves and the electricity in the air. But even beyond that, a domesticated animal develops such strong attachment to their master that their senses are always on alert for danger and impending trouble. Yes, Tucker was something special and while I’d always loved him, it was Vlad who opened my eyes to how much Tucker loved and cared for me. It was then I started to wonder how old Tucker was….my parents had him the entire time I was growing up, and I sort of inherited him when they passed. It never occurred to me that Tucker had to be…no, it couldn’t be. At my age at the time of 26 and newly married, Tucker had to be over 20 years old! Yet, he looks like the strong and vital dog of my youth. As my memory was further refreshed, I recall my father talking about Tucker being HIS boyhood dog. That’s impossible, yet there it was. If Tucker never aged, it must be the result of generations of love heaped upon this wonderful dog. That love must have somehow preserved him. And after recently losing both my parents so suddenly, it was comforting to know that at least my sweet Tucker would remain healthy and strong. My ever-faithful companion. Whatever magic kept him young and strong was welcome magic, indeed, and I saw no need to understand it.  

-16-

     Liam continued working at the foundry, I continued caring for the home, livestock and gardens. Life felt full and complete, I honestly could not believe my good fortune and how blessed I had been to have my sweet husband. He truly filled empty places in my heart that could never be filled by anyone else. Regardless of any difficulties in my life, with his unconditional love and selfless patience, I felt could overcome anything.

     So then, why did I feel like the other shoe would drop? Why did I begin to think something dark and foreboding was about to threaten all that I loved? Surely, I had already endured a great deal of trauma… and based on the law of averages, I concluded that I was due for some smooth sailing. I reasoned that a person could only endure so much stress and strain, so much loss and grief. I tried to push the negative thoughts from my mind, but they persisted. Each time the fear and dread surfaced, I reminded myself that I had a wonderful husband who loved me, a faithful dog and a lovely home. Everything would be fine. But I knew I was simply whistling in the dark and my premonitions were rarely wrong.

     I’d allowed myself to spin into a state of anxiety. It seemed a good time to pay a visit to Reverend Harrison. My talks with him always provided clarity and calm. “Let’s visit the parsonage,” I looked at Tucker. His eyes bright with excitement and his wildly wagging tail taking full control of his backside. The walk itself was peaceful and the fresh air invigorated me. The parsonage was just in sight, and we increased our pace to reach the cemetery gate. Crossing the graveyard to the heavy wood door of the building. Tucker took to the back corner and laid at my parents’ graves, and curled himself between the two. I walked inside to greet Reverend Harrison. As always, warmth and kindness radiated from him, immediately putting me at ease. I settled into a seat beside him and within moments, I was shedding tears and pouring out a multitude of emotions: worry, fear, pain from old wounds and the resulting righteous indignation. In Reverend Harrison, I’d found a safe haven for all of my emotions, regardless of how society dictated my manner and appearance. He understood the complex duality of feeling blessed and fortunate right alongside melancholy or despair. Here I could share the array of crippling emotions that exhausted my soul and continued to challenge and change me irrevocably…

      “I’m still me, heaven knows how I miss her! That girl who hadn’t been taken to death and shown a glimpse of what is beyond. I have been followed and watched by spirit guides who, I must admit, have been comforting and kind in their presence, but in their absence when I am alone with my thoughts, I am inclined to question my own sanity. And yet, buried deep within me is still a shred of that scrappy kid who faced life squarely and with every confidence that I had what it took to be okay in this world.

     When you lose your health, you lose so much more…you lose everything else that makes you feel adequately armored and protected. You begin to feel weak and defenseless in a way that creates bitterness, then depression and eventually hopelessness. You lose a great deal of who you are; especially if much of your distinctiveness centered on a self-identity as a tough survivor, a fighter.”   Taking a moment to gather her thoughts, she shifted in her chair and continued,  

    “Previously, I’ve somewhat down-played what I have encountered and endured in life. From a young age, this simply became my ‘normal’…short periods of calm followed by long periods of storm. When I look back on it now, it’s clear to me that I have been nothing short of a warrior who somehow managed to keep her inner-light and believed in hopes and tomorrows. Not exactly the demure lady my behavior is expected to convey, according to the townspeople here.  

     No one I know has survived death; not once, but twice….so far! God only knows what’s next for me….I shudder to think!  And yet rather than sink into self-pity, I have embarked on a spiritual journey to find something meaningful from it all. Rather than allow anything to shatter me completely, I have always sought the lesson from it. And I go on, and on again.

     But it takes a toll, Reverend Harrison, it takes a toll!

     Good health, bad health, calamity, absence of calamity, feeling so loved by my husband and so unloved by my elusive brother, desperately missing both my parents, navigating interactions with these spirit guides….all of these things deeply affect me…and yet, are they not for the most part, unpredictable externalities that I have little to no control over?

     If I am to find any measure of peace in what is left of my time on earth, I feel as though these external circumstances must not affect me….at least not quite so profoundly.

I feel so broken….wrecked, actually.”

    Reverend Harrison listened intently to my rambling monologue that found a harbor in him. I turned my eyes toward his, saw tears in them. Pastors are only human, after all, and their faith may be solid and sure, and they are accustomed to taking on the pain of their flock, but even they can have a moment to be overcome when someone they care for is suffering or struggling. He took a long slow breath, his words were a balm for my broken heart.  

     “Lily, trust that God is always near, and perhaps it’s your ancestors who walk beside you. Today, remind yourself of who you are and find your own way of getting on with the business of reclaiming what you have lost, which is your duty and your joy.”  There was more, but those were the salient points of his response.

     Tucker and I headed toward home, my mind swirling with Reverend Harrison’s words. Crossing the field between the parsonage and home, Vlad and Eileen appeared together for the first time. Eileen spoke first, “Lily, I am the older sister of your father. You don’t remember me as I passed when you were just an infant.” Vlad interjected, “…and I am your mother’s father, I passed in her infancy.” And with that revelation, all trepidation left my body in one single moment as I crumbled on the dirt road at the field’s edge and I wept. Tucker leaned against me and I buried my face in the fur of his chest, allowing my weeping to purge every pain, every bitter thought…then Vlad spoke again, “Lily, you never walk alone.” At once, I felt the strength of generations like a mantle around my shoulders and I fed from an ancestral nourishment… the acquired and cumulative wisdom of my family, and my deep connection in kinship. Both Eileen and Vlad faded, and Tucker and I returned home, lighter in heart and in step.

-17-

“Truly the universe is full of ghosts, not sheeted churchyard spectres, but the inextinguishable elements of individual life, which having once been, can never die, though they blend and change, and change again forever.”

– H. Rider Haggard, King Solomon’s Mines