Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes

For Rose Gardner, working at the DMV on a Friday afternoon is bad even before she sees a vision of herself dead. She’s had plenty of visions, usually boring ones like someone’s toilet’s overflowed, but she’s never seen one of herself before. When her overbearing momma winds up murdered on her sofa instead, two things are certain: There isn't enough hydrogen peroxide in the state of Arkansas to get that stain out, and Rose is the prime suspect.

Rose realizes she’s wasted twenty-four years of living and makes a list on the back of a Wal-Mart receipt: twenty-eight things she wants to accomplish before her vision comes true. She’s well on her way with the help of her next door neighbor Joe, who has no trouble teaching Rose the rules of drinking, but won’t help with number fifteen-- do more with a man. Joe’s new to town, but it doesn’t take a vision for Rose to realize he’s got plenty secrets of his own.

Somebody thinks Rose has something they want and they’ll do anything to get it. Her house is broken into, someone else she knows is murdered, and suddenly, dying a virgin in the Fenton County jail isn’t her biggest worry after all.

Winner of The Beacon – 2010 Unpublished Division, Mainstream Category

 

I recently had the opportunity to read Denise M. Swank's self-published debut and couldn't be more thrilled that she is sharing her story with you. Thank you for the inspiration, Denise, and the reminder that making our own dreams come true is part of the fun. 

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Next week marks the one month anniversary of the release of my book, Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes. It’s been an exhilarating experience that almost didn’t happen.

No agent wanted my book.

Several years ago, this would have been the kiss of death, but  there’s a storm brewing in the west. The publishing climate is changing.

Still, it takes guts to jump feet first into self-publishing. You don’t have an agent and publisher validating your work before it’s sent into the world to be devoured. If you’re lucky, readers will love it and sing your book’s praises. For a self-published author, positive reviews are their only validation. That and book sales.

But it all starts with a dream and belief in yourself. And belief in your story.  I believed in Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes.  It was story that didn’t fall neatly into the mystery nor romantic suspense genre, yet I felt it still had a place in the world.

In my book, the main character Rose sees a vision of her death, and while this sounds morbid, Rose decided to throw off the shackles of her life and finally live it. She embraces her life with an attitude I found inspiring and made me change the way I lived my own life. Rose inspired me to publish her story. Her story came full circle.

While Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes has some serious moments, for the most part it’s light hearted and fun. And to convince you, I’ve included this excerpt from the book:

There was another knock. My front door had seen more action in one evening than it had in the last two months. I took another deep breath and opened it, half expecting to see Joe again. Instead, I saw the Pillsbury Doughboy, or as close to what I’d ever see in real life. He was missing the chef’s hat and the kerchief, but his face was a pasty white and chubby, with big wide eyes like the Doughboy. His button-down shirt barely contained his wide, round gut, and the buttons threatened to pop. I resisted the urge to poke his belly with my finger to hear him giggle.

“Rose?” he asked, his voice shaking from fear. At least I think it was fear, from the look of pure terror on his face.

Nope, no giggling.

“Steve?” I asked, but I already knew it was him from the tie he wore and the Walmart flowers he held in his hand. Either that or he was a really generous Jehovah’s Witness. “It’s very nice to meet you.” I said, trying to sound cheerful.

He stood in silence, staring at me with his big round eyes.

“Do you want to come in?” I raised my eyebrows in a happy, questioning look.

He remained rooted to the porch. It occurred to me perhaps Joe or Mildred had applied Super Glue on the wood slats.

“I’ll just grab my purse.” I said and he thrust the flowers toward me. “Oh, are those for me? Why, thank you!” I took the flowers, leaving the door open and Steve on the porch.

“Here!” I shoved the flowers at Violet in the kitchen. “Take care of these.”

Violet’s face lit up like a kid getting cotton candy at the carnival. “He brought you flowers?”

I glared at her.

“Who brought y’all flowers? The devil next door?”

“No, Miss Mildred.” Violet said, patting Mildred’s arm. “It’s Rose’s date.”

“Date?” Mildred crowed. “After she carried on with that Yankee?”

“Don’t worry, Miss Mildred. Steve’s a good boy, good Henryetta stock. He’s Stan Morris’ grandson.”

I already regretted agreeing to this date and I hadn’t even left yet. I grabbed my purse and headed out the front door before Mildred and Violet decided to start checking Steve’s teeth. He stood exactly where I left him, wearing the same terrified expression, except he leaned to the side. I worried he would fall over trying to see something in the living room.

“Looking for something?” I asked, glancing over my shoulder.

If possible, his eyes got even bigger as he violently shook his head.

I shut the door as I realized what he was looking for—evidence of Momma’s murder. We started walking across the porch to the steps and I caught the glance he shot my direction, a look of fear. He thinks I killed Momma. There was no way I could go out with him. What I couldn't figure out is why he agreed to go out with me in the first place.

I stood next to the passenger door of Steve’s car. “Steve, I…” My words stopped on my tongue. Joe sat on his front porch, drinking a beer and watching my every move with a suspicious glint in his eye.

Crappy doodles.

Steve waited for me to finish.

I smiled up at him with my sweetest smile, which I hoped would convince him I was incapable of murdering anyone, least of all my own Momma. “I just wanted to tell you how delighted I am that you’re takin’ me out to dinner.” I said loud enough for Joe to hear. To finish it off, I raised up on my toes and kissed Steve on his pasty cheek, surprised it didn’t taste like biscuit dough. I hoped Joe didn't see Steve cringe at the contact.

I sat in the front seat, waiting for Steve to get in, smiling my fake happy smile. I was almost surprised to see him get in, half expecting him to run screaming down the street. I had to admit he had a nice car, one he probably didn't want to leave behind with a murderer. If I could murder my own Momma, I bet he could only imagine what I would do to his poor Buick.

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Denise has graciously offered up a signed copy of Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes, which you can also order in paperback here,  to one of you lucky people. You get one entry for every one of the following:

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