This crazy thing called blogging has allowed me to meet some of the most genuine, fascinating women ever including Denise. Initially we connected through our blogs but then I was blessed to be able to spend some time with her (and a few other bloggers) in the mountains of Tennessee in 2009.*
While I found out she liked fast cars there, little did I know she was on the fast track to being a world-famous** author. Thankfully she has allowed me to walk this journey with her by being a beta-reader. That means I'm reading an unfinished, in-progress manuscript as she writes it. Even her first book (the one she claims will never leave her hard drive) showed her talent for telling a story and making the characters real. She took that skill and made me fall in love with her next two characters - Emma and Will in her soon-to-be released novel Chosen, a fast paced paranormal thriller.
Then Denise channeled Rose's southern drawl and wrote Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes...
"It all started when I saw myself dead." 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.
One of my favorite characters in Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes is Mildred, Rose's nosy neighbor. Mildred is president of the Henryetta Garden Club, an active participant in the Neighbor Watch who has spent her entire life in Henryetta and never lets anything get by her despite being 82 years old.
I was curious to hear what she had to say about Rose, Joe and the odd things happening around town.
How did you get along with Rose's momma?
Agnes was a fine god-fearing Christian woman, God bless her soul. And although I hate to talk ill of the dead, she shoulda beat that devil out of her child of hers. I told her "Agnes, spare the rod, spoil the child" but obviously she didn't listen. And sometimes, when I'd show up without warning, I'd find a bit of dust on her baseboards. Uh,uh, uh.
Did you think Rose was possessed when she was younger?
Younger? That girl is still demon possessed. Knowing things she don't have a right to be knowing-- how do you explain that other than she's gotta demon dwelling in her? Then when I seen her carrying on with that Yankee-- more than once I might add-- there was no doubt in my mind. Fornicating right there on the front porch...uh, uh, uh.
What did you think of Joe, the new comer?
I know'd that boy was trouble the minute I laid eyes on him. A man his age, not married, moving into a house all alone. and a Yankee to boot. "That boy's trouble." I told my next door neighbor, Opal. And I was right. Why the police practically moved onto our street after he moved in.
As a member of the neighboorhood watch were you surprised about Agne's murder?Did you you fear for your own safety?
I take the safety of our neighborhood very seriously. It's my personal mission to make sure the neighborhood is safe. And to ensure that, I make it my business to know everything that's going on and make sure any sign of trouble is squashed flat as a bug the moment it starts. We live on a quiet street and I don't tolerate no nonsense.One time that ruffian who lives on the corner, the boy with the loud car, he and his friends were out late one night and I put a stop to that. So when I heard that Agnes, God rest her soul, was murdered in her own house, in her own bed--
I heard it was on her sofa...
Bed, sofa, what difference does it make? It was in the privacy of her own home. I didn't sleep a wink that night after the police left. And when I found out that Rose moved back into that house, I locked my doors and poured salt in front of my doorways to keep the devil's henchmen out. I also started carrying garlic in my pockets, just to be extra safe.
But isn't garlic used to keep vampires away?
Vampires are the devil's own. You can't be too careful.
What led you to believe a motorcycle gang was involved?
Well what else could it have been? Henryetta's a nice, quiet town. The townsfolk don't go around committing murder!! It had to be a roving band of Hell's Angels.
Then how do you explain that the real murderer was Daniel Crocker, a man who lived outside of Henryetta city limits?
Well, if he lived outside of Henryetta, that don't make him a Henryetta townsfolk, now does it? Besides, I still ain't so sure that demon didn't rise up in Rose and whack her momma in the head. I bet the reason Rose did it was because she was jealous of her momma's pie making ability. Agnes won blue ribbons with those pies and I suspect Rose didn't like it. Agnes made the best apple pies in the state.
Describe Rose's and Joe's relationship as you saw it. Uh, uh, uh. Vile, I tell you. I seen 'em. I seen 'em fornicating on her front porch that night, what with her momma still warm in her grave.
I heard it was just a kiss.
Just a kiss, you say? Just a kiss is a peck. That man attacked her in public and she sure wasn't putting up a fight. But what do you expect? A Yankee and a demon. Nothing good can come of that I tell you.
Were you relieved when the real culprits were arrested and Rose was proven innocent? Like I said, I'm still not 100% convinced that Rose didn't do it. I keep an eye on her house, just to be safe.
As for Rose's dog Muffy - neighbor hood mascot or nuisance? That dog, if you can call that hideous thing a dog, is the stinkingest creature I ever came across. That dog is gonna be nothing but trouble, you mark my words.
What potluck dish are you known for? My baked cheese grits. The secret is plenty of butter. There's no such thing as too much butter. I used to say that all the time then that woman on the food channel stole it.
So there you have it from the mind of Mildred. To read more about her opinions and Rose's adventure you can order the e-book or paperback from Barnes & Noble or Amazon.
*It's been way too long! We need a reunion already.
**Soon to be world-famous. I'm just foreseeing the future.