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CARVED WOODEN HEART by E. H. Newton & Starla Hartless – my review no.65

Having already enjoyed some of Elizabeth Horton-Newton’s writing (the intense thriller Riddle and her fascinating short story Old Habits in Twisted Tales), I was rather intrigued to see how she would handle the genre of romance (with elements of erotica). Starla Hartless remains a mystery to me, but this partnership might prove quite successful in this genre.

Not usually an avid reader of romance/erotica, I read the book with curiosity, comparing at first with other works by E. Horton-Newton. The writing is easy to follow and has a steady flow to it. The timeline and subplots all fit nicely as we follow Dani through her love life and professional growth, sometimes going topsy-turvy in comparison to the traditional romance ways (she both meets and loses the passionate lover in the first part of the book, but read on for more surprises). You will enjoy reading about how she grows as a person, about her friendships and family ties, and of course, the steamy bedroom scenes, if you are a fan (quite hot, though never vulgar). There is passion, lust, skin, heat, but also emotion and tenderness.

However, what I find the greatest value in this book are the characters who evolve over time, following the romance stereotype to a certain point, yet preserving a believable feel to them, which makes you root for them or against them. The contrast between the men in Dani’s life is really interesting to observe, and your preconceptions of them change throughout the book as the subplots entangle and resolve. Dani, the heroine, grows through the story, from the naive young journalist who falls head over heels for a hunk, to the responsible, strong and decisive woman. Jesse is intriguing, too, and I bet romance fans will go crazy over the wild artist that he is. Doug is such a promising man who genuinely loves Dani and saves her in her hardship (not liking the mistakes he made out of that love though;). Brandon will keep the readers’ interest in suspense (avoiding spoilers) and Dylan – he is just a treasure. My absolute favourites are the side characters – Dani’s gynaecologist, Kelly, Milagro, Kathryn, and Dani’s parents who made me smile, chuckle and even tear up by the end of the story. The authors must have had so much fun weaving their scenes into the mix.

I am absolutely certain Carved Wooden Heart will provide romance fans with all the elements they expect, and then some, including the wonderful scenery and amazing dream houses in the wilderness. Your very own jacuzzi house in the mountains, to share with the love of your life? Oh come on, who’d say no to that!?

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Isn’t it an amazing feeling when you discover a new author whose books you eagerly await every time they are announced?

Elizabeth H. Newton is one of my favourite authors, with her panache for political and psychological thrillers (View from the Sixth Floor and Riddle) and eerie horrors (check out her tales in Ghostly Writes Anthologies, Dark Awethologies, Electric Eclectic novelettes, Twisted Tales, Crooked Tales, an array of stories for the Gems collection, etc.), with a touch of sensual erotica (Carved Wooden Heart), and so on.

This prolific author has just released a spectacularly intense thriller Stolen Gypsy, which follows the unimaginably turbulent change which occurs in her life after her parents’ accident. It kept me up all night, because her characters lured me into their world and had me rooting for them all the way, my head dizzy from the plots and emotions. Movie-like action scenes and intricate relationships, with past mysteries and future hopes all resting on the cliffhanger of resolving the true identity of the main character. Nail-biting, I’m telling you.

So, naughty me, I came begging for an interview even before I’d written a so-well deserved review for this phenomenal book, and the lady agreed! So today – feast your eyes on this interview, and then run to get your copy of Stolen Gypsy (or any other book by Elizabeth Horton Newton) and make your weekend an adventure.

1.Your latest novel Stolen Gypsy is out. Has it been inspired by a real event? Can you remember which section, scene or character first came to your mind?

Stolen Gypsy was actually inspired by a dream I had about gypsies. The first scene that came to me actually turned out to be the first scene in the book. I saw the kids looking out the window of the classroom and smoke in the distance. How often do people see something like that or see an accident and not realize it’s someone they know.

I was thinking about the exact same thing – you see something like that and have no idea it’s about someone you know. Nobody ever thinks it’s about them.

2. Terza is such an unusual name, but perfect for such an unusual heroine. What gave you the idea for the name?

Terza is an entirely made up name. I researched gypsy female names and couldn’t find one that lit up for me. So I made one up. Do you like it?

Yes, I love the name Terza. What do you most love about Terza as a character?

What I love most about Terza is both her adaptability and her passion. She is one tough kid. I worried I was making her too strong. Although she cries easily she doesn’t give up.

Yes, Terza cries, and yet shows strength and stubborness. She must have been tricky to write, just on the verge of switching from teenager to woman.

3. Your novels often deal with a social issue such as domestic abuse, poverty, prejudice. This one seems to encompass so many issues on a huge number of levels. Did you have any idea the plot would develop so intricately and grow to such large scale when you started writing it?

I had no clue at all where this was going. I was fascinated with the gypsy aspect and the Witness protection program but initially wasn’t certain how they would gel. The drug cartel and the unwed mothers were only a couple of surprises for me.

4. By now, having reading your books and short stories, I have to say your collection of characters is quite something. Could you tell us what you love about some of your previous characters, and especially the ones from Stolen Gypsy?

My favorite character in Stolen Gypsy is Peter McCray. He has great instincts about people, can be tough but gentle when needed, and he has a sense of humor.

My favorite character from all of my books and stories is Gaunt Thibideaux from Old Habits. He is complex and dark but on the surface everyone loves him.

My favorite female character is Olivia Roberts from View From the Sixth Floor. She starts out as a sweet southern senior and as the story progresses she gets tougher and stronger. I think all my female characters do in a way. I believe that’s true of many women. We are ready and able to step up and do whatever is necessary to care for ourselves and those we love.

5. Has your writing changed with each novel, or better yet – what has changed and what has stayed at the core of your writing?

Hmm that’s a tough one. I think my desire to tackle serious issues while building a story that is compelling has stayed the same. I still write most of a story in my head and sort of see it before sitting down to write. I am still surprised by some of the twists my stories take. I often have those ah ha moments where I think “oh I didn’t see that coming”.

6. Stolen Gypsy has quite a few legal subplots and the criminal scene is quite tricky to write. How did you do the research?

I am a huge fan of court shows and cases. As part of my volunteer work with a local domestic violence group I’ve been to court many times. Besides I love research.

7. While researching the Gypsy and Rom differences, what details surprised you?

I had no idea there was such diversity within the gypsy cultures. It was fascinating to learn the various customs. I had to pretty much pick and choose what to add to the story without overwhelming the reader.

8. Your action scenes are movie-like. How difficult is it to write them?

The action scenes are easy. I studied film and tv production in college and I love action films. I “see” the action in my head. They are fun to write, especially if I’ve had a bad day. Lol

9. The relationship between Terza and Devlin develops from a chance meeting to an epic scale. Did you enjoy slipping in the little details which pointed them in the way they should go? (Trying to avoid spoilers in my questions;).

I had a difficult time writing those parts. I kept wanting to rush them along, take them farther. But it isn’t that kind of a story. It was one of the few times I pulled out graphic parts and rewrote them. I guess I’m too lusty for teen relationships.

10. Have you met a Nora in your life? She only seems like a side character, and then turns out to be a person deserving her own novel.

Nora could have her own book. She’s extremely complex. Like Tristan she has a big heart. But I feel she was overshadowed by her prettier younger sister. It gave her a darker side that can erupt. I don’t think everything she does is done out of kindness.

That’s what I liked about her, in my own twisted way;) – she makes stupid decisions out of pride and vanity, but deep down she is not a bad person so she spends her life trying to make up for them before she admits to them. It makes her real, human.

11. By now this may seem like a typical question, but if this book became a movie, who would you like to work with on it? From the cast to the crew, even the musical score?

Tristan is easy. It’s a toss up between Cillian Murphy or Jonathan Rhys-Myers. Music by James Newton Howard hands down. Elizabeth Moss as Nora. Peter would be either Cillian or JRM and Dakota Fanning as Terza. Andreas is the biggest challenge. I’d love Sir Anthony Hopkins but I think it’s simply because I love him.

I’d like Ron Howard to direct I think. But I’m fairly flexible there.

12. How does this novel compare to the things your previously wrote? How do you feel about it and what do initial reviews say? Would you say you have risked more?

I think Stolen is like View in some ways, the younger version of Olivia & Bill. It has action like View. And of course obnoxious FBI agents. The initial reviews are very positive. I was pleased that a male reviewer commented on the action sequence with the cartel. If I can get a man to appreciate the gun fight I’ve done something right. My biggest risk with Stolen was injecting Rom dialogue. I tried it in English but it didn’t feel right.

13. When you are a reader, how do you pick a book?

I love horror and historical stories. I also enjoy true crime. Big surprise, huh? Usually I read the blurb and decide from there. Sometimes I am attracted to a cover. Of course I have favorite authors. If I see a book by Stephen King or Joe Hill, I grab it.

14. Would you say people read less nowadays and why?

I don’t know if they read less or simply prefer short stories, magazines, and newspapers. People seem to be hurried these days. However if you give readers a good story they will read it. If they really like it, they will talk about it and others will read it too.

15. Any new surprises planned for us fans in the future from you or the Crazy Writer Couple, you and Neil (Douglas Newton)?

I’m finishing up the first draft of my next book. Blood on Murder Highway is loosely based on a highway in British Columbia where a large number of First Nations women have gone missing or been found murdered. It’s an exceptionally graphic serial killer story. As far as the Crazy Writer Couple, we’re still working on the first book in our series, Fungi Fandango. Since we have individual projects it’s difficult to find time for our joint work.

16. Thank you very much for your time, Elizabeth. I’d better go write that review for your book, or else I might become a victim in your next book.* Just kidding. Any messages for the readers?

Thank you so much for taking the time to interview me. If I may, I’d like to let readers know I have some more novelettes coming out through Electric Eclectic Books and a short story in a Stab in the Dark anthology. Also I’m planning a contest where the winner get a Kindle loaded with my books. I’m not certain when, maybe when my next book is released.

*review posted yesterday;)

Links for Elizabeth H. Newton :

Author’s Amazon Page

Author Facebook Page

Author Website

Between the Beats (Author Blog)




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Who is SHE? – Elizabeth Horton Newton

One of my favourite indie authors, a lady with an incredibly big heart and a curious knack for psychological horror and mystery, is the fabulously supportive Eluzabeth Horton Newton. She is here today to do a no-questions interview and share some of her writing news with her fans. I asked no questions; she just got some words to prompt whatever it did, be it about herself, the world or writing.

Elizabeth Horton Newton

Who me?

Dreams – I’ve always felt my dreams are somewhat precognitive. I will dream about people or places and sooner or later, somewhere down the road, I will see the place or meet the person. At first I thought I would simply have forgotten a prior incident. However, I have come to accept I have some sort of little old fortune teller living in my head. Often I will use things I dream in the stories I write, with a bit of elaboration of course.

Stress – My husband insists stress is bad for me. I disagree. I work best when I am stressed or on a time limit. I love the challenge of pushing myself harder.

Release – It’s rather embarrassing but I have always found release to be a sexual word. It brings to mind orgasms. Perhaps that’s why I did such a good job with the steamy love scenes in my book, “Carved Wooden Heart”.

Support – Bra. That’s it. You reach my age and that’s what you need.

Model – A model is something you put together a piece at a time; for instance a model of a ship. My father used to make models when I was a little girl and we would often work on them together. We did ships and movie monsters. Now you see why my stories can be somewhat gruesome.

Issue – Social issues; homelessness, domestic violence, child abuse, so many social issues that need to be addressed. I’m involved with a few social issues in my state and wish I could devote more time to working with groups.

Journey – Life is a journey; an exhilarating journey with twists and turns down winding paths. I love looking back on my life and I love hearing about the life journeys of others. We all have a lot more in common than we realize. We may come from different parts of the world but there are still things that are remarkably similar.

Relevance – This word has a legal connotation for me. What is the relevance of your information to the substance of this case? How does what you know apply to this crime? Perhaps I watch too much “Law and Order”. 

Joy – Joy is such an understatement for the unbridled ecstasy of being on the deck of a ship at sea. The ocean stretches out in all directions, meeting the sky on the horizon. It makes me conscious of how small we all are on this planet we call home. We came from the sea, crawling out as small, insignificant creatures and have developed into what we are now. We are now able to sail on the seas. It all makes my heart swell with joy.

Haven – A haven is special, secret place, safe from all outside bothers. It’s a spot where I can go to let my imagination run free.  Everyone needs and should have a haven. We all need to disconnect sometime.

I am currently working on two books; “Stolen” has been almost finished for over a year but I keep getting involved in other projects. It’s a story about a young girl who finds out she was kidnapped as a small child and raised by a Gypsy couple. As more of her story is revealed, she learns she was supposed to be in the Witness Protection Program but was “lost”. There’s romance, mystery, and action in this book. It comes complete with Gypsies, drug cartels, incompetent federal agents, and, of course, a twist at the end. The other book I’m working on is tentatively called “Murder on the Highway of Tears”. It is based on a factual place and real life events. There is a stretch of highway in northern British Columbia where a significant number of indigenous girls and women have either been murdered or disappeared. The government is just beginning to take notice. It has largely been overlooked because natives in that part of the world are viewed as unimportant. My story revolves around a native police chief who is investigating recent murders of native girls. A writer and a photographer from a travel magazine are in the area doing a story on adventure travel. They get caught up in the occurrences. As with some of my earlier works the story addresses the social issues surrounding the illegal adoption of and removal of native babies from their biological families. I’m anticipating having both books completed and available by the end of 2017.

I have a short science fiction story titled, “From Where I Come” coming out in an anthology at the end of May. The collection is called “Gems of Freedom” and all the stories revolve around female soldiers or freedom fighters. It’s the third in a series from a group called The Sisterhood. I have another short story, a detective noir, in a soon to be released collection called, “Cons, Dames, and G-Men”. My story is called “Dark at the Top of the Stairs” and is full of the flavor of 1940’s film noir.

Author Website:

Author Blog: “Between the Beats”


Amazon Author Page:

Goodreads Author Page:

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Thank you, Elizabeth. Always great to have you over and looking forward to your new thrillers!


Why authors ♡ their characters – by Elizabeth H. Newton

One of my absolute favourites among indie authors is Elizabeth Horton Newton. Not only is this lady a generous promoter of other authors and socially relevant issues, but I absolutely love everything she writes. She manages to blend chilling thriller with sizzling romance, and everyday events with shocking underlying developments, and makes you feel as if you are witnessing the events, not just reading them. Today Elizabeth takes a different view of the topic and explains why she loves her characters.

The Men I Love, The Women I Admire – by E. H. Norton

As an author I spend a significant amount of time creating my characters. I want my characters to be as real to me as I hope they will be to my readers. Of course I want my characters to relate to one another as well, whether positively or negatively.

I think I have fallen in love with the main male characters in my full length books. Bill Horton in “View From the Sixth Floor: An Oswald Tale” is an older gentleman; a neighbor who guards his privacy jealously. But he responds to Olivia Roberts. There is something exciting about cracking the exterior of a man who wants to remain aloof, but through a set of circumstances allows himself to become intimately involved with the widow next door.  He is protective, caring, mysterious, and, for an older man, he is sexy. In addition he comes to rely on Olivia, giving him an aura of fragility that would bring out the “mother” in any woman. 

In many ways, Kort Eriksen is a lot like Bill; a tragic outsider. Returning from prison to a town that has judged him guilty simply because he is “different”, he is as isolated as Bill. When he meets Grace Donahue he almost immediately sets the tone for their relationship; he offers a ride during a bad rainstorm. His protective personality is evident throughout the story. In spite of this, he has a vulnerable side which gives rise to Grace’s motherly instincts. He has all the qualities Bill has. He is protective, caring, mysterious, and very sexy. 

But it’s Jesse Wolf Carver in “Carved Wooden Heart” who completely captures my heart. Larger than life, creative and cocky, he exudes a self confidence that belies the damaged man beneath the surface. Even when other dynamic males enter the story, Jesse’s character overshadows them. He is always there even when he is not present physically. Dani Stone can neither resist his charm nor forget the emotions he unleashes in her. As the story progresses I hope the reader gets the feeling she is constantly looking back to her passionate love affair with Jesse. Jesse is definitely the male character I would fall for in a heartbeat.

All my central female characters display an inner strength that comes to the forefront when situations require it. They are feminine, kind, and independent while still exhibiting a charming vulnerability. But as I said, when they have to be tough they step up to the plate with both barrels loaded. I admire Olivia Roberts more than any other. She has grown up as a sweet southern lady, cared for by a loving husband. She raised her sons and has lived in the same house in the same town for most of her life. Always available to lend a hand to a friend, when her husband passes away she draws on all her reserves and learns to be a single woman. As the story progresses she finds an amazing strength within; following her curiosity, her hunger for truth, her concern for her friends, and eventually her heart. Once the courageous part of her is unleashed there is no turning back. Olivia is able to face the toughest dragons and even if she doesn’t slay them all she certainly wounds them severely. 

So there you have it; the men I love and the women I admire. They all have something in common. Male or female, they are able to overcome difficult situations by drawing on hidden strengths. They fight off killers, tormentors, liars, and even the government. From young girls to elderly men, they are determined and gutsy. What’s not to love?




Too flattering to resist, average as I may be:)

It is no secret that Elizabeth H. Newton is one of my favourite new authors. To appear on her reading list is an unbelievable treat in itself.

For those of you who still haven’t sampled her writing  take your pick – from the amazing short stories in several anthologies (Gems of Strength and Gems of Gratitude, the Ghostly Writes, Awethology Dark and December Awethology Dark Volume, and the fabulous contributions to Twisted Tales and Crooked Tales…) to her histfic mystery View from the 6th Floor, suspenseful thriller Riddle, and even the latest romance/erotica Carved Wooden Heart – this lady will not fail fans of the genres. My favourite – E.H.Norton uncovering the hidden evil that lies among the everyday people.

The following is a reblog from Between the Beats by E. H. Newton:)

My Top Indie Reads of 2016 –

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Meet Elizabeth H. Newton

Absolutely thrilled to be interviewing one of my favourite authors, whose villains from Riddle and Twisted Tales haunt me to this very day (in a good, book-fan way;). If you love mystery or romance, she packs it all together neatly, and her anthology contributions are gems among short stories. Her latest, Carved Wooden Heart, toys with romance and erotica, and is pure joy for fans of both genres. Her social engagement is worldwide and she is not just an author, photographer and blogger, but an amazing human force to be reckoned with.


Elizabeth Horton-Newton was born and raised in New York City. She began writing when she was a child. In elementary school she wrote an essay about her dream job—she wanted to be an author. After attending Long Island University in Brooklyn, NY and East Tennessee State University, she worked in the social work field for thirteen years. She lives in East Tennessee with her husband, author Neil Newton, and a collection of rescued dogs and cats. Her first book View From the Sixth Floor: An Oswald Tale was published in October 2014; a love story that revolves around the assassination of President John Kennedy and the ensuing conspiracy theories. This was followed in June 2015 with the release of Riddle, a romantic thriller about a Native American convicted of killing his high school girlfriend. Elizabeth’s third novel, Carved Wooden Heart is an erotic romance following one woman’s journey through love, loss, and resolution, was released in the fall of 2016. In addition she has written short stories for several anthologies.

1. Who are you in a nutshell? 

I’m a writer and photographer who loves to travel and try new things. A mother of four, grandmother of five and a third, great grandmother of one, and a wife.

2. Why do you write? 

Mostly I write because I have so many stories in my head if I don’t put them on paper they haunt me. It gets pretty crowded in my head.

3. What’s your latest project? 

I’m rewriting a book I’ve been working on for a couple of years and beginning a joint project with my husband which we expect to turn into a series.

4. What is your favourite character among the ones you created? 

That’s a tough one. I tend to fall in love with all my male protagonists. Right now I’d have to say Jesse Wolf Carver from “Carved Wooden Heart”.

5. What was the most difficult thing for you to write so far? 

The sexy parts of “Carved Wooden Heart” were a big challenge for me. I felt as though they needed to be in the book to truly capture the passion between the characters but I had to really free myself from my own inhibitions to write those parts.

6. How do you deal with criticism, promotional activities, editing/proofreading? 

I value criticism because it helps me understand what my readers want and are hoping to find in my books, You can’t please everyone but if I get several comments that are similar I can tell where I went wrong in connecting. I enjoy promotional activities. That’s probably based on my first college experiences. I HATE editing and proof reading! When I finish a book and I have to go back and read it through it drives me crazy.

7. What are your writing plans for the future? 

I don’t actually make plans for writing. When I have a story that I feel good about I start to write it. I’ll continue to write and blog but what comes next? I’m as much in the dark as my readers. 

8. Which books/authors do you admire and why?

 The book I most admire is “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee. She captured the American story in such a simple yet complex story. Beautifully written and a pleasure to read, I have re-read it multiple times. I love Stephen King for his ability to take the same simple towns and people and weave stories that are so unexpectedly horrifying he can make me gasp. 

9. What makes you happiest in the writing process? 

Two things; I am happy when I re-read my stories and find myself enjoying them. That lets me know I’ve written something pretty darned good. Of course positive and genuinely enthusiastic feedback from readers also makes me happy. It’s nice to know I’ve given someone pleasure with something I’ve done.

10. What do people usually say about your writing? 

I get the most positive reactions on my characters and how they are developed. Most readers find the characters are so realistic they relate to them and even become attached to them. That’s delightful. 

11. If you didn’t write, would you try any other arts or crafts? 

I’ve done some sketching and painting, I also dabble in photography. Something will catch my eye and I want to hold that vision so taking a good picture will take me back to the moment.

12. What was your favourite book when you were younger or a child? Why? 

My father gave my two books when I was about seven years old; The Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and a Complete Collection of the Works of Edgar Allan Poe. I read and re-read those books many times. I loved the complexity of Conan Doyle’s stories and the amazing simplicity of Poe’s. Poe’s writing was so lyrical but the point was always right there. On the other hand Conan Doyle created complex stories that made me think. 

13. If you could sit down for a chat with any famous author or character, who would it be and what would you talk about? 

I’d have to choose two, one character and one author. I’d love to sit down with Sherlock Holmes and learn how he developed such incredible powers of observation. He was the first true behavioral analyst. Then I like to have a sit down, tell all with Stephen King. Prolific but not always popular he has a wonderful mind. I don’t think he always writes to please his readers. I think he sometimes writes to keep from getting sick of the same story haunting him. 

14. Pick one of your books and explain it to us as if it were a movie, listing the cast and crew if you wish. 

Ah. View From the Sixth Floor should be a movie. Starring Gary Oldman as Bill/Lee and Meryl Streep as Olivia this is a story of discovery; self discovery and the discovery of truth. When we first meet the main characters they are both hiding. Bill is hiding from the world because he has been accused of a heinous crime that changed the course of history. Olivia is also hiding from the world as well as herself; a widow who suddenly finds she has lost the identity of the quiet southern wife and mother. She craves something new and exciting in her life as much as she is frightened by the prospect.  As the couple journey cross country they learn more about one another. Freed from the small town they live in they find strength and courage within themselves. But they are not the only characters who experience this. Olivia’s best friend Judy also changes as do Olivia’s son Jesse and paralegal Shelli. The story says when we are able to step outside our comfort zone we may find strengths we didn’t know we had. Of course there is also the truth of history and the assassination of President John Kennedy that will be exposed.

15. Do you have any special promos, charity releases, appearances or book releases you’d like to tell us about? 

“Carved Wooden Heart “will be free on Amazon Kindle the second week in December. Thank you! This is a sexy and sweet story of a young woman and her journey to maturity. I love this character and her passion and courage. It would make a great holiday gift for a reader but it is definitely for adult readers. By the beginning of January 2017 my husband Neil Douglas Newton and I will be doing a giveaway of a book of our short stories, some available in other anthologies and some new stories. This collection will be a freebie for followers of our works who sign up for our mailing list. There are already some, shall we say interesting, short stories going into this anthology. 

Thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts and works with your readers. 


Author Website:

Blog: Between the Beats

Twitter: @redqueenliz




Carved Wooden Heart:


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YouTube: (View From the Sixth Floor)

YouTube: (Riddle)

YouTube: (Carved Wooden Heart)

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CreateSpace: (View) (Riddle) (Carved)

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Elizabeth H.Newton talks of Crooked Tales

It has been a great joy and honour to have been invited into the Readers Circle of Avenue Park with another story for an anthology, a sequel for the Twisted Tales. Here to tell you more about it is the fantastic author, Elizabeth Horton Newton, who also has her own new romance coming out soon, Carved Wooden Heart.

CROOKED TALES: Deception & Revenge in 15 Short Stories (Short Story Tales Book 2) –

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(Today I am sharing a story I wrote a couple of years ago to teach my teenagers to respect and consider other people’s feelings. It worked. Stories always do. Children should be guided, rather than scolded, whenever possible.)


My name is not of huge importance for this story, so I choose to keep it to myself. Nor does it matter which city or country I come from. Consider this my small confession, my intimate secret weak spot which remains painful even to this day, although it took place so many years ago. I have always kept it hidden from sight, burried deep within, reluctant to share with anybody, somewhat afraid about seeming overly sensitive about it, yet knowing deep inside what an important place this memory would always hold for me in my life.

The incident happened back when I was just a kindergarten kid, and it caused me such pain that I still feel the sting in my heart when I think about it, regardless of the fact that I am now a grown man, with children of my own. What triggered this feeling was a question I got at a job interview the other day. The question was – what’s your worst childhood memory? The event itself may not seem important or horribly significant in this day and age, but bear with me. Everything in life has a deeper meaning than we dare to admit ourselves.

In order to make you understand, I’ll have to go back a bit. I don’t know who my birth parents are – they left me in the orphanage right after my birth. They never wanted me, so I never wanted them back. The early years of my childhood were not happy, so it’s a blessing I only vaguely remember them, but I was blessed with a nice couple who adopted me when I was four years old. I still call them parents, and always will.


After having lived happily with my adoptive parents for a year, we had a horrible car crash coming back from our summer vacation. I barely survived, my mother and father were badly injured, and nobody knew if they would live or not for days and days. They had no family, so I was taken care of by the social services during that time, and my memories from that period were filled with deep anxiety and cold loneliness.


Fortunately, my parents recovered, slowly yet steadily, and, by Christmas, we were all back together again. On the day I was brought back to them at the hospital, and we were all packed and delighted to go home as a family again, a kind nurse took our family photo there. I cherished it so much, because, for some reason, it was actually the first family photo we had ever had.


When I was well enough to go to the kindergarten again, my teachers and the other kids named me child of the year for having been so brave. I was the proudest boy ever that day! They told me to bring a family photo to the kindergarten to put on my child-of-the-year certificate which was hung proudly in front of our kindergarten room. So, naturally, I brought the hospital family photo. My face was glowing with pride and joy as they put it on the wall and framed it there. The happy recovering faces of my parents and my proud chubby cheeks next to them! I believed in the good of all, and all was well with the world again!

The following morning, as my parents and I entered the kindergarten, we were frozen on the spot by the looks of our photo – someone had drawn on it with a marker,  changing our faces in mockery. Needless to say, my tears that day were like a waterfall. It may seem like nothing to you, but to me, that picture represented everything that was good about the world.  It still would, but I don’t have it any more. It was the only copy we had, you see.


We never did find out who had done it, nor did we care much.  The deed had been done, and the pain carved into memory.

Respect is what I try to teach my children – respect for other people, their decisions, their lives, their families, their property, their feelings. No matter how small things may seem,  they always carry meaning. No matter how insignificant our deeds may seem, be they good or bad, they always carry weight. Whether we want it to or not, whatever we do has impact on somebody’s life.

A tiny, random act of vandalism is not respect, no matter how tiny or random. It is not funny and should, therefore, never be fun. Our actions can indeed change somebody’s life. It is up to us whether we cause a change for the better or worse. Pictures and words are actions as well – they can cut just as deeply into our memories as common, everyday actions. True, people can also heal, as magically and as miraculously as music is created. But an apology also takes action. An apology is what may have helped me that day. Or not. We shall never know. But it sure would have made my childhood memory feel a lot more wonderful.


Anita Kovacevic

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