5 Tips to help you AFTER you have written your book.

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So you’ve written a book?

That’s awesome! Genuinely well done, that’s no easy feat!

Here are 5 tips (that we use) to help you.

  1. How to make your Book Description stand out on Amazon.
Click here to get this book

You can see that it’s easy to read, some words are in BOLD and some are a different font size etc. But it took us way longer than it should, to realise how to do it. You will know that when you’re in the KDP bookshelf page and you want to edit any part of your book, there is a section for your book description. If you simply copy and paste a book description, it will all come out the same, but….. if you use the FREE Book Description Generator, it is SO EASY to get your book description looking like the one above.

Click here to view

Then watch the video below to see how it’s done.

2. How to choose the BEST Amazon categories for your book.

When you have to pick your initial 3 categories for where you want your book to appear, it can seem daunting. Now, when you use this method, there is NO GUESSWORK!

Click here to see how it’s done

You will see categories that you did’t know existed and it will give you more of a chance to hit bestseller and for a bonus point, watch the video below to show how you can rank for up to 10 categories!

Click here to read


Being completely honest for a minute. When we wrote and released our first book ‘Meet Me At 10’ I didn’t have a clue about the 7 keywords you choose in order for Amazon for help ‘find you’ from all of the searches people type in. It was only through writing groups such as the SPF (Self Publishing Formula) group which is run by the amazing marketing guru and thriller writer Mark Dawson and 20BooksTo50k which is run by Craig Martelle (Sci Fi writer) that we knew about the importance of picking the right keywords. Before, honestly for Meet Me At 10, I was putting ‘Book, 1950s, Deep South, Kindle Book’ and can’t remember the rest. In all the thousands of searches like ‘Book’ how on earth did I expect people to land on ‘Meet Me At 10’?

But, if you click here, you will see again, how you won’t need to guess!

4. How to learn how to advertise using Amazon ads (this is FREE too!)

So you’ve written your book, done your book description, entered your book into the categories to give it the best chance of getting visibility right?.

Now you need to supercharge that visibility and get it in front of buyers – Amazon buyers who are already on the site ready to purchase.

Click here to check out this FREE Amazon ads course to help you achieve more sales.

5. See what your competition do… and do it better!

Ok, this software isn’t free, but I guarantee, you’ll always use for every single book you write! I love it! Whether it’s seeing which categories they use, how much they earn, where they are ranking etc. You NEED this software.

Watch the video first and then check it out:

Get KDP Rocket

In Summary

  1. Check out the Book Description Generator
  2. Check out how to choose the best Amazon categories for your book – Click here
  3. How to pick the Best Keywords for your book – Click here
  4. FREE Amazon ads course – Click here
  5. Get Publisher Rocket Software – You NEED this!

If you put all these together (obviously along with the basics, good editing, good front covers etc.) you will be well on your way to increased book selling success! Good luck and let me know how you get on!

Take care,

Vicky x

Click here to check out our books!


Want a FREE book? Click here

Website – hackneyandjones.com (Where you can download 2 FREE books!)

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5 Tips to help you after you have written your book!

4 Simple ways to do research for your book!

These were four ideas that I came up with that we’ve used ourselves. So I hope that they inspire you for your book.

Number 1: Read up on your subject! (And watch movies)

Might seem a really simple one. Just type in on Amazon the time period or the geographical area. When we did the Shona Jackson Series, the first book that we wrote was Meet Me At 10.

I did loads of research on the 1950s America and 1950s Deep South. It was an area that before that series I didn’t have a clue about.

I watched some movies also like Mississippi Burning, The Help and Fried Green Tomatoes in order to get more of a feel about the 1950s and or the Deep South. It will also give you an idea about any slang and dialect.

Number 2: Ask people who are from the area and use social media.

This can be physically from the area where they live or work in the area/field that you’re talking about. When we did the Shona Jackson Series, it was on my Twitter actually that I asked people if they were from Alabama and if they were, if I could get in contact with them. A couple of them then became our beta readers and they turned out to be absolutely amazing help.

They would tell us about dialect, what things were believable, what weren’t, how we could change it and how we could make it the absolute best book that it can be and where it’s really authentic.

Then with our latest series, which is the Rachel Morrison Series, we have used a retired murder detective and he’s helping us loads with our research for this series.

And again, I reached out on social media. Luckily he’s a writer, so when I had to ask him some really dodgy questions, he wasn’t shocked because it was all in the name of research! But the thing is I also know that he will be able to tell me if something that we’re doing is believable or not. A lot of the time people are only too happy to help because the worst thing is when they feel like people are writing about their field or their area and it’s completely off. So just put out a tweet or find a group on Facebook and just ask people for their help.

Number 3: Use a virtual assistant.

We’ve got a virtual assistant or they’re also known as VA’s. Ours is called Erin (Click here to check her out) She was really instrumental in some of our research for The Beach House, which is book three in the Shona Jackson Series.

We gave her a list of questions because The Beach House is set across different years in California. So we asked her to research about the news, the food, religion, fashion trends etc. You get the idea.

You can get a virtual assistant from typing into Google, asking for recommendations, you could go on Upwork, all different places.

Number 4: Use Google Images or Google Earth.

This one’s really good for the description of the landscape. If you’re setting your book in London, Liverpool or New York, just go on Google Images or Google earth and type in that destination and really get a feel for the place. What colours can you see? Is it bustling? Is it full of mountains? Can you see any flowers? Are there are a lot of cars about? It makes it more authentic for the reader. I think it was quite famous that EL James used Google Earth in order to write 50 Shades . So our book The Burying Place, is set in Cornwall so we’ve been looking up Google Images and Google Earth in order to make it more real so people can really sense that they’re in Cornwall.

Let me know what book you’re working on at the moment!

`Happy writing!

Vicky x

Top 5 books I recommend…

You’ll notice that they’re all nonfiction. I do actually prefer to read nonfiction. I like to learn about different people’s lives and experiences.

In no particular order. The first one I want to talk about is:

 Ben Fogle called Up: My Life’s Journey to the Top of Everest.

Really, really enjoyed this one. I don’t know much about Ben Fogle other than he’s a bit of an adventurer to say the least, and this was really easy to read.

So if you’re looking for an easy read where you haven’t got to think too much, I’d really recommend this one. There’s some sad parts in it due to him having a tragedy, but the way that he talks about the mental battle to get to the top of Everest is well worth reading. So definitely recommend that one.

Number two. Where would we be without Crushing It from Gary Vaynerchuk? Absolutely loved this book. In fact, I love all of his books. You should check him out on YouTube. If you’re running your own business or doing a start up, you need to be listening to this guy. He’s absolutely amazing. And what I like about Crushing It is, it’s divided into really easy to read sections. There’s some take-home tips that you can get started with straight away. You can see obviously with the reviews that he’s absolutely smashing it, and he’s got about two or three other books that I’ve read and one of those I’ll be mentioning in a little bit, but Crushing It is absolutely amazing. Well worth it. It’s sort of that book that you can dip in and out for different sections. If you’re doing YouTube, Twitter or Instagram etc, he teaches you how to DM people to get more business, so really, really recommend that.

Book number three, really enjoyed Generating Story Ideas, Tips and Techniques to Hatch Book Ideas from Scratch. If you are an author or creative writer in any way, shape, or form, I really do recommend this one. Again, you can probably tell by the pattern of books that I read is very easy to read. It’s divided into sections where you can pick up and ideas. You can learn how to create a twist on a story that’s already been done, but it’s how you can add your spin to it.

Without doubt, if you were to read this book, you will come up with lots and lots of different ideas to the point where the amazing problem will be is that you’ve got too many! And then if you watch our YouTube videos, we’ll show you how to turn that book idea into a fully blown novel.

Some of you may know that I used to be in the Royal Navy and so I’m very into military or people that have served and their different experiences. And I’m a big fan of SAS: Who Dares Wins, and one of the stars of the show is Mark Billingham, also known as Billy. He’s really inspirational. He was in the SAS and he talks about his journey of how he got into the SAS, what his upbringing was like, the problems that he faced, where he lived, and actually the selection process of getting into the SAS, which is just an absolute beast, and then how he got into the show- SAS: Who Dares Wins.

So it’s very much, again about the mental battle and I’m very into that. I like learning from inspirational people. So if you have got any books that you recommend to me from people that are really inspirational, then please comment down below.

#AskGaryVee from Gary Vaynerchuk. Again he makes an appearance. I just really love this guy. He’s just so straight to the point and there are questions that people have put to him where he answers them in very straightforward format and there’s no messing. If you watch his YouTube videos, beware, he does tend to like swearing, but it’s just his straight to the point nature. He shares his frustrations of what not to do to be starting up a business, and how to get more followers on social media for your business.

Let me know your top five books that you’ve read recently.

Would OUR books make your TOP 5?

(Click on picture to check them out!)

Click on picture to check out on Amazon!

Happy reading!

Vicky x

5 Tips to come up with book ideas!

As you can see from the title, this blog is about how to generate your book ideas because sometimes, we all know what it’s like, you can get into a bit of a slump, or this could be your first book and you really want to make a good go of it but you just don’t know where to start.


One idea is to look into your local news. I got this idea from Peter James. He is a best-selling thriller writer. I feel very lucky that he follows me on Twitter, and I asked him, because he’s so prolific. This was his top tip for how to come up with book ideas: to look into your local news.

Click here to check out Peter James’ books!

When I did, I could see what he meant, because obviously you can look at national news and you can come up with story ideas from that, but there’s something about local news. It can be storylines that might not make it into the national news, but you can put really good twists on them. So, buy a local newspaper and think of the backstory that was involved in a particular story that caught your eye.

Example of local news. What stories could YOU come up with?>


Travel. This is one of my favorites because I love traveling, and I always find that wherever I travel I always seem to come up with really creative ideas, and that could be going abroad, or in the same country. It’s just when you go somewhere that you haven’t been before, your creative brain just comes up with different scenarios. And if I see a spooky house or think of something, I think, “I wonder what happened here?” Or if I know the story of something, I think to myself, “What twist could I put on it?”

What could have taken place here?

Could it be a paranormal element? Could it be a time travel element? Could it be a romance element? So when you’re next traveling, or even just book a trip in order to come up with some book ideas, just start looking at the world a little bit differently. Look at it as if to say, “Okay, what vibe does this give me? What twists could I put on it with this? What would happen here? What would be a really, compelling storyline?”


Read books that are basically designed to help you generate book ideas.

Now, I will link some in that I’ve used myself or that I recommend, but some of these, if you look through them, you’ll end up just coming up with so many ideas. And if you literally do all of these ideas together, there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that you’re going to come up with loads and loads of storylines. And then in future blogs, I’m going to show you how to develop a book idea into a fully blown novel, so don’t worry too much if at this stage you come up with a book idea, you’re not sure how to develop it.

Click here to check it out!


Add a spin to a story you already know. Say something like the Titanic. What if it didn’t sink? What if Jack didn’t die? What if in Saving Private Ryan, they couldn’t find the surviving brother? You get the idea. Start adding “what ifs.” What if the main thing didn’t happen? Obviously make it so it’s nowhere near the original story, because you don’t want to get sued! It’s just to give you a bit of a framework. We’re not worried about editing at this stage. This is just the creative stage.


Have a look in your phone, if you’ve been out for the day or just if you were feeling particularly creative, and think to yourself when you look at the photo, what kind of vibe does it give you? When you add a filter to it, like a black and white one, does it make it a bit more spooky? If you took a picture of some flowers, who could the flowers be from, if it was to be a fictional story? If you had taken a picture of a nice view and there was a ship in the background or a boat, who could be on that boat? Who could they be visiting? Are they missing or anything like that? So just look in your phone, holiday pictures or pictures around the town. Let me know what you come up with!

Happy Writing!

Vicky x

Our books:

Click here to check them out!

Follow me on instagram: https://www.instagram.com/vickytjones/

More tips and ideas on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/hackneyandjones

Our Website: https://hackneyandjones.com/

How did we come up with the idea for the ‘Shona Jackson’ series?

The boxset (on Kindle Unlimited) is available on Amazon now

How Did We Come Up With the Idea for the Shona Jackson Series?

Basically, I’ve written stories all my life.

I’m a songwriter, I’ve got some songs on iTunes, I’ll put a link to those. If you’re into pop music, ballads, dance music, stuff like that.

Check this out on iTunes

(Click here to listen to my songs on iTunes)

If you’re into songwriting yourself, you’ll understand that basically words are expensive, you can’t waffle, you’ve got to tell a story and you’ve got two verses, three verses sometimes and a chorus to get your point across.

When you’re writing a song, there can be nothing that detracts from the main storyline. The good thing about that is that, is when it comes to writing short stories or eventually books, my aim was just to get straight to the point.

When I was writing songs, I always knew that I wanted to progress onto writing short stories, which is what I did in school and I did as part of my degree course. I did a creative writing module when I was doing my psychology and criminology degree, but then also it was on my bucket list to write a book. We always say that we’ve got a book in us.

Because it was on my bucket list, I wanted to know how to start writing a book because it felt like it was a massive mountain to climb.

What’s on your bucket list? Check this book out on Amazon.

What I did is I joined a writing group in Stanford-le-Hope, which is where I’m from. The lovely lady that runs it, Sharon Atkinson, really encouraged me and my co-author Claire Hackney to just start experimenting really, and I think that’s a lot of the problem which is with creatives is we always want to get it right straight away. We always fill up, we’re going to be judged, but the truth is just make loads of mistakes, explore different genres, explore different ideas. What Sharon did, which is I’ll be forever grateful, is she kind of made us come out of our comfort zone and each month she would set us a task to write in an area that we wouldn’t normally write in, to explore something we wouldn’t normally explore. I remember in particular that this particular month, I think it was the month of May, we had to write a short story on a vending machine. A VENDING MACHINE!!!!

Now she used to pick things that would be really uninspiring to really get our creative juices going. I was sitting there thinking, “What can I write about a vending machine that would be good enough to read, entertaining?” For ages I was trying to think, “Could it be a magic vending machine? Could it be a time traveling vending machine?” I thought that’s not really me, even though when it’s come out of my comfort zone, I thought that’s not really me. What I did was is I started to think of, “Okay, would people meet at this vending machine?” That’d be the story. Who could meet? I thought about people were having an affair and I thought, “Well, that’s kind of, that’s been done to death.” I thought, “Well, that all depends on the setting, the time, situation.”

I started to explore that a bit more, that two people in particular meeting. Why would that be a good story?

Very long story short, I thought about a controversial storyline, which is what became as Meet Me at 10 and if you’ve read Meet Me at 10, you’ll understand why it’s controversial. Especially with the time that it was written and the area it was written.

Meet Me At 10 is available on Amazon now (and is in Kindle Unlimited)

I don’t want to give too many spoilers away, but I decided to focus on the 1950s deep South because at that time, I think there were some movies out that I started to watch and I thought, “Do you know what? That really fits in well with Meet Me at 10.” Meet Me at 10 started off as a short story, but the problem was there was, I think it was a 5,000 or a 10,000 word limit on the short story for this monthly competition at Sharon’s group. I remember I was writing until three in the morning and it got to 20 or 30,000 words and I thought, “I can’t submit this to the short story competition, but what I could do is build it into a fully blown novel.”

I thought, “If I’m going to do that, I need to do a lot of research,” and I will be doing a blog on how we did our research for Meet Me at 10 and how we do our research for our books now. I read everything I could on the 1950s, watched all the movies that were around about that time, spoke to people, messaged people on Facebook and Twitter and found out about speech, slang.

Meet Me at 10 was born and the story is controversial, provocative. I don’t want you to read Meet Me at 10 and just go, “Yeah, that’s okay.” You’re going to really feel something when you read this book, and that is because it is born out of powerful stories.

If you’ve read Meet Me at 10, you know exactly what I mean with how it ends. It needed a sequel, and it got one. The Beach House.

The Beach House – available on Amazon.

Also, there is not just a sequel.

We thought because Shona Jackson, who’s the main character has got such a compelling backstory and she is quite a magnetic character, that we decided to do a prequel and that’s where Shona was born.

Start your journey here…

This tells how she ended up in the place where Meet Me at 10 starts and while she’s on the run.

I do hope that you check out the series.

Comment down below if you have read the Shona Jackson series, let us know what you think.

Also, you can sign up to our mailing list, which I will leave a link below too so you can be the first to hear as to what other products we’ve got on the go and trust me, 2020, there is loads on the go.

Thank you so much, take care,

Vicky xx

Start the series here: https://geni.us/ReadShonaNOW

Sign up to our mailing list here: https://hackneyandjones.com

Our new project…

Read The Burying Place

Are you an indie author?

So you’ve written a book or three? How’s the sales?

I really struggled to get any momentum and didn’t have a clue about advertising at first.

I belong to 2 writing groups and in each group I heard about this ‘Publisher Rocket’ thing. When you hear the same thing come up again and again, you start to thing ‘Hmmmm…. maybe this is really a good thing”

It is.

I’m one of those people who genuinely will only recommend something that I have used and IS useful. I stand by this and if it helps just 1 author stand above the crowd, then thats a good thing, right?

I had used facebook ads and got the hang of that pretty quick but Amazon ads, well, that felt like a completely new challenge.

How do you find them?

The main thing for me was coming up with 1000 keyword ideas per campaign. Brain ache or what!

I mean, you can do it, and I did it manually but it took an AGE!!! Time I wont get back.

That’s when I thought, sod it, what’ this publisher rocket all about..?

If I can sum it up in a few words it is that it saves you a sh*t load of time!! And I was saying to somebody recently, I can’t believe how cheap it is! I reckon they will hike the price as I don’t think they realise how much they could charge and get away with. I got in there before they make it a monthly subscription.

So, enough talking, what does it actually do?

Find Keywords that Readers Actually Type Into Amazon

Unlike any other software, Rocket gives you real data that shows you exactly what Amazon book buyers type into Amazon, as well as how many people search for these things every month. Using Rocket’s Keywords Feature, you will learn:

  • What keywords shoppers type into Amazon
  • Estimated number of times someone types that keyword into Amazon
  • How much money other books are making that rank for that keyword
  • How many books are competing for that keyword
Get Publisher Rocket

Discover Bestselling Book Categories in Seconds

With their Category Feature, you can quickly find pertinent and niche categories for your books, as well as find out how many books you’d need to sell that day in order to be the new #1 bestseller. With this feature you’ll discover:

  • Niche categories to choose from
  • Which categories will help you sell more books
  • How many sales that day you’d need to make in order to be the new #1 bestseller
  • How many sales you’d need to make in order to be the listed in the top 20
Get Publisher Rocket

Learn About Other Authors & Their Sales

With a click of a button, you can see your potential competitors, their information, reviews, book cover, and even their daily and monthly earnings. By understanding what works for your competitors, you can create book titles, subtitles, and descriptions that convert better, increase your Kindle rankings, and sell more books.

I call this bit the nosey bit! You can basically spy on what other authors are earning!

Get Publisher Rocket

Find Profitable AMS Keywords Fast

Rocket will help find you over 150 profitable keywords for your AMS book advertising campaign in under 10 seconds. Then, once you have your list of keywords, click export and upload it to AMS – and you’re done! Rocket collects: List of all Amazon suggested keywords, and the titles and author names for all books that show up in the search results, relevant categories and their respective Hot & New books of those categories

Also, the guy who runs it (called Dave) is lovely. I’ve emailed him to ask him questions before I bought it and he was so helpful. On the writing group, he is famous for his customer service.

So, if you’re serious about your business and let’s be honest, writing books aint easy! Then you need to invest in yourself and your business. You need to spend more time writing and this bit of software helps you to keep doing that.

Happy writing and now….HAPPY SELLING!!!

Vicky x

The Shona Jackson series is now available! – FREE Chapter excerpt!

Hey.. how are you?

Are you looking for a gripping, moving read?

Start an incredible journey with ‘Shona’ book 1 in the series.

Get the kettle on and enjoy your binge read travelling across 1950s Deep South.

“Get the goddamn hell outta here, you filthy varmint! Before I put my boot through your ass.”

It was sunset and the humid Mississippi heat was waning as Shona Jackson shrank down to her haunches behind a parked car, startled by the man’s shout. Peeking through the gap between the fender and the wheel arch, hardly daring to breathe, she watched as the screen door to the house flew open and a stocky, greasy-haired, forty-something man wearing oil-stained work pants and a grubby undershirt appeared at the top of the porch steps, his bloated face red with fury. He took a swig from his bottle of Budweiser and scratched at his unshaven chin, his eyes scanning the area below him for any signs of movement. Large magnolia trees lined the wide street as far as the eye could see, and each garden in the neighborhood was heavily fringed by shrubs just beginning to flower again in the late-March climate. Shona slowly crept out from the car and hid behind the rotting wooden slats of the fence at the side of the man’s property, taking advantage of the cover provided by the overgrown bushes.  

As the opening theme tune of This is Your Life drifted from the house, tempting him back to his TV, the man’s eyes narrowed when he noticed that at the end of his garden path, his trash can lid was lying upside down. A shadow beside it became the sole focus of his interest. He picked up a piece of grit and threw it at the can, yelling again.

“What you pitchin’ a fit for, Bob?” a shrill voice rang out from inside the house.

“That damn stray again,” Bob replied, casting his gravelly voice backward over his shoulder towards his wife.

“Well, don’t let it get your feathers ruffled. Get back in here. Ralph’s about to bring out Reverend Tucker,” she hollered.

“Comin’,” Bob grunted, taking one last look around. 

Shona ducked out of sight again. She pulled her burgundy pageboy cap down over her eyes and peeked through the slats and weeds, waiting for Bob to disappear back into his house. After making sure the coast was clear, she slung her satchel over her shoulder, crept over to next door’s trash can and lifted its lid. 

“Whoa… You gotta be kidding me,” she whispered to herself. 

In her twenty-two years of life, she’d rarely smelled anything more repugnant. She rested the lid on the ground as quietly as possible and began sifting through a heap of sweet potato peelings and fish heads. Next to them, she spotted a hunk of bread and some fresh-looking dinner scraps. After picking them out, she flicked off the bits of debris clinging to them. She slipped the food into her pocket, swept back her long blonde bangs and tucked them underneath the peak of her cap. Rolling up the sleeves of her dark brown jacket, Shona rifled deeper. 

She spotted a glint of silver on the ground. She reached down to pick it up but, in her urgency to find out the coin’s value, her boot struck the lid and sent it crashing to the sidewalk. Startled, her blue eyes widened, seeing the neighbor’s porch light illuminate. Stooping low, she swiped up the coin and scuttled back behind the fence. After a few heart-pounding moments, the light clicked off and Shona relaxed her shoulders. Remembering the coin now pressed inside her clammy palm, she unclenched her fist. With her eyes shining as brightly as the Franklin half dollar did in the dim amber glow of the streetlight, she flipped it over, then ran her fingertips along the 1955 date stamp, the Liberty Bell raised proudly on its reverse side. Shona grinned. It was brand new, minted only a year ago.

“In God we trust indeed,” she whispered to herself, tucking the coin into the top pocket of her blue denim overshirt. Scanning the quiet street, Shona stood up and stretched out, brushing the powdery dirt off her taupe khaki pants. She was already filthy from her long journey, but habit was habit. 

Following the signs towards town, hoping to find a grocery store still open, Shona began to notice in more detail the deprivation of the neighborhood she’d somehow wandered into. For the most part cars were parked neatly in driveways, but some, in various states of disrepair, had been left languishing in front yards, rusting and redundant. Clotheslines were hanging by bent metal poles and some front gates were hanging by only one hinge. It wasn’t the sort of place Shona wanted to hang around for long in and so she quickened her pace, her body beginning to shiver as the darkness of the evening started to surround her. She walked as quickly as her leaden legs could carry her, nibbling on the corners of the stale hunk of bread, with only the cold gravy pools it had previously sat in softening the crust. After a mile or so, Shona saw a large painted sign: WELCOME TO RIVERSIDE

A little further on was a crossroads where the town’s truck repair garage sprawled its vast area across one corner. The paint on the dark green weatherboarding was pristine, the concrete forecourt scrubbed spotless before the solid wooden doors had been closed for the night. Given its appearance, Shona couldn’t help but smile as she mouthed its strange, incongruous name. Wreckers? She raised an eyebrow at the irony before continuing her walk along the main road into Riverside. 

The noise emanating from Chasers, a darkly lit saloon across the road about fifty yards away, caught her attention and, as she looked over, she located the grocery store adjacent to it. 

Seeing the light go off inside, she forced her aching legs into a run, watching helplessly as the owner stepped outside to lock up for the night. Oblivious to the figure approaching quickly behind him, he placed his keys back in his pocket and began whistling as he strode away.

“Damn it,” Shona panted. Pressing one hand against the wall and the other on her growling stomach, she grimaced and clamped her eyes shut. Composing herself, she opened her eyes to assess her new surroundings. Between the grocery store and Chasers was an alleyway and, with no better idea of where to shelter for the night, Shona trudged down it. 

There wasn’t much around to make a bed, but it certainly wasn’t the worst place she’d ever slept in. Spotting a pile of flattened cardboard boxes lying on the dirty ground about halfway down next to a green dumpster, Shona traipsed towards them. Kicking the bits of broken glass and rotting vegetables off the largest piece of cardboard, she slid her back down the wall and pulled one of the flatter pieces over her legs. She wanted to stay alert but began to lose her battle, her eyelids too heavy to hold open any longer. Every few seconds, with every slight sound, she jolted back awake. Sitting bolt upright, fighting to stay vigilant, Shona wrapped the cardboard around her for warmth as effectively as she could and sat quietly, resting her head against her satchel and watching the entrance to the alleyway like a hawk, wishing she could just melt into the bricks behind her.

It had been a long time since Shona had had a restful night.

Squinting into the bright Thursday morning sunshine, Shona groaned, feeling her gritty eyes sting as she forced them open. With her backside completely numb from sitting on the cold, hard ground all night, she shuffled her legs to get the blood flowing properly again. Her thin cardboard mattress had provided little comfort to her during her almost sleepless night.

As she coughed and rubbed her face, the events of last night came flooding back to her. Finding the last of her foraged bread in her jacket pocket, she took a hungry bite, wiping crumbs off her grubby chin. Leaning back against the bricks, she heard a purring sound and looked down to see a pair of green eyes fixed on her every chew. After being kept awake for most of the night with the unnerving feeling of being watched, Shona was relieved to see only a mangy old cat there with her in the alleyway. Suppressing a smile, she swallowed down her mouthful, her expression hardening as it edged closer. 

“Don’t eyeball me like that,” she scolded, flicking her hand at the stray, but it crept closer and then nuzzled her. She stroked the cat for a moment and fed it her last few crumbs. Standing upright, she stretched out her aching back and felt for the rounded edges of the half dollar coin against the fabric of her overshirt, praying it hadn’t fallen out.

“Well, it’s been nice knowing you, kitty, but I got a hankering for some proper food,” she said, tipping her cap and slinging her satchel over her shoulder. 

Walking to the end of the alleyway, Shona, to her relief, saw the grocery store was now open. Hoping her dirty, disheveled appearance wouldn’t attract too much attention, she took a quick look through the window to see how many people were in there. The inside of the grocery store was separated by two main aisles, with a bakery counter situated at the far end. To the left of the entrance was the cash register and to the right, by the soap powder stand, three women wearing gingham check print house dresses, white gloves and cardigan sweaters were standing chatting with each other, holding boxes of Omo. A businessman in a gray sack suit and fedora was reading the headlines of the newspaper he’d picked up off the rack by the door. Talking to the owner behind the cash register was an old lady wearing a green full skirt, white blouse and pale green cardigan sweater. After heaving in a large breath to steady her nerves, Shona pushed open the door.   

The little bell above tinkled as Shona entered, causing the housewives to look over at her. They wrinkled their noses, sniffing as the scent of body odor and unwashed skin wafted over on the breeze. Trying to be as nonchalant as possible, Shona took off her cap, ruffled the back of her short, matted blonde hair and swept her hand through her long, greasy bangs. Replacing her cap, she wandered over to the far end of the store and began browsing the cakes that were sitting proudly behind the glass partition. The women tutted to each other, then carried on with their conversation. The owner kept one eye on Shona and the other on the old lady standing at his register. Half-listening to her story about the bits of gutter on her house that were falling down, he finished bagging up her items and totaled up her bill.

Shona licked her lips as she stared at the delicious-looking mud pie behind the glass, adding up in her head what the half dollar could buy her. With her common sense overriding her desire for the pie, she headed over to the bread section and, feeling many sets of eyes on her, began to pick up a few of the cheaper items she saw, including a loaf of Wonder Bread, a lump of cheddar, a couple of green apples and a Holloway’s Hi-Noon bar. As she walked over to the counter, she overheard the old lady still in full flow of her story and, after lowering her eyes, stood in line behind her.

The old lady finished her conversation and pushed her bags to the end of the counter while she put her wallet back in her purse. Shona approached and laid her goods down, sending an apple rolling across the counter until she shot out her arm to catch it. The owner stared for a moment as Shona flashed him an embarrassed smile, then he pulled out a brown paper bag from under the counter to start bagging up her items. 

“Right, that’ll be forty-eight cents then,” the owner announced.

From her top pocket, Shona pulled out the coin she’d been treasuring all night and handed it over. Nodding her thanks, she picked up her bag and turned to leave, unnerved by the stares that were fixed on her every move. Reaching for the handle of the door, her attention was caught by a Highway Patrol car cruising past the store. Feeling an innate surge of panic grip her, Shona twisted her body, her back now flat against the wall next to the door, her bag hugged closely into her chest.

“Hey,” the shop owner called out. Shona looked over, terror etched on her face. Her eyes flicked a second time to the black and white Dodge Coronet outside that had now rolled to a halt. “You forgot your change,” he continued. He held out two copper coins as Shona looked back at him. 

“Keep it,” she replied. 

As her fingers reached down for the cold steel of the handle, another customer came through the door quickly, knocking Shona’s grocery bag flying out of her arms and scattering her items on the stone floor, the paper bag shredding in her shaking hands. Shona sank to her knees to retrieve her precious food. As she did so, her cap fell off. Bending down next to her, the man who’d caused the melee reached to grab what he could to help.

“Hey, man, I’m so sorry. I didn’t even see you there.” The young man stopped mid-sentence and stared at Shona’s messy blonde hair, her high cheekbones and ocean blue eyes. “Oh, my… I’m so sorry, ma’am. But your clothes… I thought you were a guy.” He laughed nervously as Shona pocketed an apple and the candy bar, and, in her haste, left the other, bulkier items on the floor.

“Don’t sweat it,” Shona replied, replacing her cap and tucking her hair underneath the peak. Jumping to her feet, she slipped out of the grocery store and back down the alleyway. Hearing the roar of the Dodge’s engine, she ducked down behind the dumpster and peeked around, watching as the Coronet drove straight past.

“Relax. They won’t find you,”she whispered to herself over and over again until her raging heartbeat finally calmed down.

* * *

Dorothy leaned on the counter, looking at the young man who’d caused Shona’s swift exit. His keen green eyes were staring through the glass door as he ran a hand through his light brown hair.  

“You see where she went, Jonny?” 

Jonny turned around, a downcast look on his boyishly handsome face. He sank his hands into the pockets of his dark blue mechanic’s overalls and sauntered over to her. “Oh, hey, Mrs. Clark. No, she disappeared.” He placed on the counter the rest of Shona’s groceries and the newspaper he’d come in to buy.

“Well now, I reckon a young girl who dresses, and smells, like that can’t be too hard to track down now, can she?” The old woman smiled as Jonny blushed. “Bag that girl’s stuff up, will ya, Jake, there’s a good fella,” she ordered, nodding her head to the items on the counter, minus the newspaper which Jonny held out a coin for to Jake.

“Sure thing, Mrs. Clark,” Jake replied, placing the coin in the register. He wiped his hands down on his white apron and took out another brown paper bag.

Jonny looked down at his watch. “Well, you know I surely would help you with your bags, but Harry wants me to help him open up, so I’d better skedaddle. He’ll tan my hide if I’m late again…” 

“It’s fine, go,” Dorothy replied. “Just slow down. You ain’t gonna get a lick of work done for Harry if you keep running around like a headless chicken.” 

Jonny waved, forgetting to open the door before attempting to walk through it.

“How that boy’s made it to twenty-five years old I’ll never know,” Jake muttered through his bushy moustache as he handed over the bag to Dorothy. 

* * *

Dorothy walked over to the alleyway entrance. About halfway down, a pair of scuffed brown leather boots sticking out from behind a green dumpster caught her squinting eyes.

“Hey. I got the rest of your food here,” Dorothy called out. 

Receiving no reply, she rested her walking cane against the wall, then shook the brown bag. The peak of Shona’s cap emerged, then whipped back almost immediately. The old lady sighed.

“Well… I reckon I’ll just have to leave this here. I ain’t running no delivery service.” 

She leaned forward to put the bag down, her eyes still levelled at the dumpster. The peak appeared again.

“I don’t need no charity,” Shona snapped back, rubbing her shaking palm over the back of her neck.

“I ain’t offering you none,” Mrs. Clark replied flatly, standing back up straight. “You paid for these, remember? You can do what the hell you like with them. But I wouldn’t leave them too long down here, your furry little friend over here looks mighty interested. Hey fella, you want some cheese?” 

She bent over to entice the green-eyed cat. It crept closer and sniffed around her ankles. The wrinkly corners of her mouth twitched at the flurry of movement behind the boxes as Shona jumped up and flew towards her.

“No, wait…”

Shona snatched the bag up off the ground before the cat could tear his claws into it, almost dropping it again in her haste.

“Why, you’re as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs,” Mrs. Clark exclaimed. “You running from the law or something?” Her smile vanished when she saw the look that flashed briefly across Shona’s pale face. Setting her thin lips in a straight line, the old lady returned to her matter-of-fact tone. “Well, one good turn deserves another—help me load my bags onto the truck, will ya?” 

Grabbing her wooden cane, she walked back out of the alleyway to the street where her rusting blue Ford pick-up truck was parked. Shona obeyed, but as soon as she reached the sidewalk she paused, back on high alert. Mrs. Clark turned to glare at her, prompting Shona to quicken her step, fearing the wrath of the cantankerous old lady coming her way for the second time.

* * *

Across the street, two young men wearing navy blue turn-up jeans and plaid shirts laughed and jostled each other as they swaggered along the sidewalk.

“Frank, quit bein’ a son’bitch and gimme that back,” the taller, stockier of the two men complained as his gray newsboy cap was swiped off his sweaty, balding head. Tossing it up in the air, Frank’s stubbly face broke into a huge grin as he transferred it from hand to hand behind his own back. Eventually the cap was wrestled from him.

“Jeez, Chuck, what’s with the hissy fit? Can’t a guy have a little fun around here?” Frank protested, straightening his collar and running a comb through his jet-black hair.

“Yeah, but your idea of fun’s to be an asshole,” Chuck’s deep voice whined as he put his cap back on. Looking up, he caught sight of Frank’s glare. Dropping his shoulders, Chuck mumbled an apology, his thick lips quivering. He’d known Frank since they were five years old and was just as wary now of his unpredictable moods as he ever was, even though Chuck had grown to be over a foot taller. 

As Frank opened his mouth to remind Chuck who was boss, two blonde-haired women in their early twenties carrying shopping bags and chatting quietly to each other walked up behind them. Stepping aside to let them pass, Frank’s leering gaze lingered on the front of one woman’s fitted pink blouse, then traveled downwards over her pencil skirt and shapely legs. The two women continued on their way, ignoring Frank’s lame attempt at conversation.

“If only you knew where your husbands were last night,” he muttered to himself, spitting on the ground to the side of him. Chuck slapped him on the arm with the back of his hand and pointed over to the light blue Ford truck parked on other side of the street.

“Boss, look what we got here. Check out over yonder, the broad standin’ with the dotty old bag from across town. Now, that’s a fine-lookin’ specimen, don’tcha think? I mean, she’s dressed a little funny but, well, damn.” Chuck grinned.

Frank let out a low whistle of agreement. His eyes drifted up over Shona’s slender body, which was now jacketless. He watched as she bent forward to pick up a bag, exposing the curve of her bosom beneath her undershirt. 

“I ain’t seen her around here before. Reckon that’s her grandma?” Chuck asked.

“Maybe. You know what? I like to see new faces in town. You know why?” Frank raised an eyebrow at Chuck, who shrugged. “Because they don’t know my reputation around here.”

“Yet,” Chuck replied, curling his lip.

* * *

“Normally I’d get Jake in there to help me load up, but you look strong enough. Sling that wood there on the back of the truck, will ya.”

“Jeez, lady, don’t you ever say ‘please’?” Shona huffed as she threw her jacket and satchel down over the back of the truck.

“Well now. I do apologize. Please will you help me load my truck?” Mrs. Clark asked, stifling a smile.

Shona clenched her lips, trying to mask her own grin. “Alright, well… that’s a little better.” Reaching down to grab the bag of coal, she heaved it over the tailgate of the truck, then placed the string bag of kindling next to it.

“You staying with family while you’re in town?” Mrs. Clark asked.

Shona froze. “Um…” she mumbled, running a fingernail over the handle of the bag. 

The old lady watched Shona’s reaction closely. “Well,” Dorothy continued with a twinkle in her eye, “while you’re trying to think up a name for which long-lost relative it is that you’ve come here to visit, you can load up the rest of the stuff. Then come and help me into the truck. I’m a little unsteady these days.”

Mrs. Clark climbed into the driving seat with the help of her cane and Shona’s arm. Struggling to swing her stocking-covered legs over the threshold, she maneuvered her feet into the footwell. When her legs were clear, Shona slammed the door, causing the windowpane to clatter. Within seconds of the ignition being fired up, the battered old diesel engine began kicking out plumes of white smoke behind it, the morning breeze blowing it back into Shona’s face. Coughing, she wiped her face with the back of her hand.

“When did you last get this heap of junk serviced?” Shona asked, slipping her jacket back on and her satchel over her shoulder.

“It runs, don’t it,” the old lady snapped back. “Well, what are you standing there bellyaching for? Get in!”

Shona opened her mouth to argue but thought better of it. Drawing attention to herself was the last thing she needed right now. “No, I gotta get moving. I got places to be,” she replied, pulling her cap down over her eyebrows.

“What? You don’t expect me to be able to unload all’a this when I get home, do ya?” Mrs. Clark asked. “What’s your name anyways?”

“Shona,” she mumbled, climbing into the truck.

“Shona? Strange name. Shona what?” 

“Just Shona,” she replied, a little firmer than before as she scanned the horizon. 

“Alright. Well, I’m Mrs. Clark. I live just on the edge of town. What do you do for a living, Shona?”

“Um… well…” Shona began, trying to think of the quickest way out of that question too. The truck hit a pothole, bouncing Shona up in her seat and smacking her head against the roof. The black tape precariously holding the passenger side wing mirror on ripped off, sending it bouncing along the tarmac of the highway.

“Jeez,” Shona exclaimed, rubbing the bump on her head. She leaned out of the window and watched as the wing mirror smashed into pieces. “Lady, your truck’s falling to bits. You really need to get this thing seen to.”

Mrs. Clark looked in her rear-view mirror at the debris in the road and nodded. “Yeah I know, but it’s expensive taking her into the garage.” She paused as her face clouded over. “It ain’t easy, me being on my own.” 

Shona looked over at the old lady, who was turning the wheel more widely than she needed to, her arthritic fingers gripping the leather as tightly as she could manage. Her eyes were squinting as they concentrated on the road ahead. Shona remained quiet and leaned against the truck door as the world trundled past her. They weren’t moving very fast; the truck simply wouldn’t have managed it but, even at thirty-three miles per hour, the panels still felt close to disintegrating with every mile of highway the balding tires ate up.

After about a mile, the truck wheel-spinned into the front drive of a rickety old cottage and crunched on the gravel below as the tires rolled to a halt. The little cottage had whitewashed weatherboarding on the outside and green timber framed windows. Mrs. Clark pulled the gear lever up, cursing under her breath as she cranked it into place. 

Shona stepped out of the truck and took a closer look at the cottage. It had a porch swing on the veranda and a chicken pen on the far right hand side. On the top right of the roof there was a chimney. The front yard was a grassy lawn, with a gray cobblestone path parting it right up to the three steps that led up to the front door. She smiled as she took in the view of this cute little house that was in desperate need of some TLC.

“Nice place you got here,” Shona remarked, a glimmer of light shining in her tired eyes.

“Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, it’s like the damn truck. Needs a heap of work done to it. But I can’t manage all that myself now, not since…” Mrs. Clark began, her voice becoming distant as she exited the truck and disappeared around the back to let the tail down.

Shona cursed to herself. Taking her cap off, she again ran her hand through her greasy, matted hair and followed behind her.

“Hey, I didn’t mean nothing by what I said. I meant it genuine. You got a nice place, Mrs. Clark. Yeah, it could do with a coat of paint here and there, but…” Shona rambled, scrunching her cap through her hands.

“Well, I try to keep on top of everything…” She paused, then waved a wrinkled old finger casually around the yard. “But I’m sixty-eight years old now and I can’t get up ladders no more to see to those gutters.”

“That’s a shame,” Shona replied, leaning on the truck and toeing the dirt. “Look, why don’t you take the lighter bags in while I take a peek under the truck’s hood. I can’t promise I’ll be able to do much but…”

Relief spread across the old lady’s face, lighting it up. “Really? Well now, I surely would appreciate that.” She climbed up the three steps, struggling to hold a bag under each arm.

“Don’t you be lifting that coal bag, I got that one,” Shona called after her, then turned back to the truck and sized up where to start.

* * *

It was almost lunchtime when Mrs. Clark looked through the tiny window by the side of the front door to see Shona tinkering under the hood of her truck, her shape distorted by the thin crack in the pane. She tottered down the porch steps and across to a patch of grass which now looked like an operating table. Bits of engine, springs, caps and covers were strewn around, with countless old rags showing how much diesel oil the poor battered engine had bled out. Shona emerged looking like a battlefield surgeon as the old lady approached, the contents of the glass mostly surviving the journey.

“How’s it going? Am I calling the priest to give it its last rites?”

Shona shrugged. “Well, Mrs. Clark…”

The old lady waved her free hand and shook her head. “Call me Dorothy”.

“OK.” Shona smiled as she accepted the glass of tea. “Well, I think your engine’s had it. When was the last time this thing had a service?” 

Dorothy’s smile evaporated. “Oh, well… I try to get it down to Harry’s place in town to get the oil changed now and again. He tinkers with it until it runs smooth, but lately I’ve just let things around here slide a bit, I guess…” Her voice tailed off as she gazed at her house.

Shona sipped her tea and followed Dorothy’s line of sight up to the gutters. 

“Say, maybe you could take it down to Wreckers for me tomorrow? You probably know more about what it needs and what to ask for. Harry’s a good man. He’ll be fair with you.”

“Tomorrow?” Shona repeated.

“Well, I just assumed that you’d care to stay here until then? You don’t seem in a hurry to get over to your… um… family’s place.” Dorothy’s eyes glinted in the sun.

“Um, yeah… I guess I should have said before when you asked. I ain’t got no family out here,” Shona began. She drained her glass and offered it back to Dorothy who shook her head.

“Oh no. If you’re staying, you can take that glass back in the house yourself. Leave it by the sink when you get washed up. Don’t want you leaving oily handprints all over my countertops now.” Dorothy headed back up to the front door.

* * *

Shona looked around the yard, then bent down to pick up her jacket and satchel. After packing up the tools she’d borrowed from Dorothy’s shed, she then headed along the cobblestone path and up the porch steps. Turning around at the top, Shona surveyed the land around her and smiled. It’ll do for the night at least. It’ll be a nice change from a cold alleyway and a piece of cardboard to sleep on, she thought.

In the hallway, Shona placed the toolbox on the floor, mindful not to scrape it too heavily on the wooden boards. They weren’t up to much but the last job that Shona wanted to be given was to have to scrub oil patches off them. Dorothy was quite a salty old goat, but one who had offered her a warm place to sleep, and Shona was respectful enough to acknowledge that. Kindness was a rare commodity, not one she had encountered that often on her journey. The hostility she’d escaped from was more than enough for one lifetime.

Nervous, Shona stepped along the hallway, looking through the doorways to her left and right. Up ahead was a small kitchen, with a stove, tiny sink and a few worn-looking cupboards. On the right side of the hallway there was a small front room; the window looked out over the driveway. Perfect to notice visitors, Shona thought. The rickety staircase to the left of the hallway looked perilously steep, considering it led to the bedroom Dorothy must sleep in every night.

“You hungry?” a croaky voice called out from the kitchen. 

“A little bit,” Shona called back. “But, um, please don’t go to any trouble for me, ma’am,” she added.

Dorothy appeared in the doorway, her face blank. “I wasn’t going to. And until you get those paws squeaky clean, you ain’t getting a crumb.”

Shona looked at her oily hands and flashed Dorothy a lopsided grin. “Oh, sorry,” she replied, rubbing her elbow on the white doorframe to wipe off the smudge of oil she’d left.

Dorothy smiled back at Shona’s efforts. “I think that’s the least of my problems, don’t you?” She waved her hand around in the air, pointing out the bits of wood missing from the paneling and the odd bit of bannister that was missing from the staircase. “Once you’ve washed up, I’ll heat you up some stew. Made it this morning, my own special recipe. Got some biscuits too.”

Following the old lady into the kitchen, Shona located the basin and ran the faucet. Shuddering when she felt the ice-cold water splash against her grubby hands, she persisted in scrubbing them as clean as she could with the welcome help of the scourer on the drying rack. She turned and held them up to Dorothy, who barely even registered a flicker of being impressed but motioned for Shona to take a seat at the table and placed a bowl of steaming hot stew in front of her. Dorothy popped a couple of biscuits on the side and sawed off a hunk of bread.

“There you go, eat up. Get some meat on those bones o’yours. I’ll take you up to your room afterwards and you can get settled in.” Dorothy passed Shona the lump of bread and started washing the pots and pans by the sink.

“Aren’t you having anything?” Shona mumbled through a mouthful of bread.

“No. I’ll have something later,” the old lady replied, turning to face her.

Watching Shona polish off her dinner with huge hungry mouthfuls, Dorothy leaned against the counter heavily with her eyes closed for a moment. After a few moments, the old lady’s lips curled into a tight smile, her eyes narrowing slightly.

“You don’t say much, do ya?” 

“Not much to say,” Shona replied, wiping her lips and mopping up the last of her gravy with her bread.

“Everybody’s got a story,” Dorothy said, her eyes glancing up towards a framed black and white photograph of a smiling young couple with their arms around each other. The young man was wearing an army issue uniform, complete with his World War One victory medal shining proudly on his lapel.

“Yeah. Well, maybe some don’t need to be told,” Shona replied, her tone clipped.

* * *

After finally being able to clean herself up with a warm bath, Shona now felt a lot more comfortable. She was wearing her less grubby pair of jeans and undershirt she had in her satchel and her hair was combed neatly, smelling fresher than it had for a long time.

“Here y’go, you should be snug as a bug in a rug tonight,” Dorothy said as she handed Shona a pile of bedding comprised of a sheet, pillowcase and a thick wool blanket.

“Thank you,” Shona replied, grateful that the bed Dorothy was showing her looked a lot more comfortable that the pile of folded boxes she’d slept on last night. Her still-aching back was a constant reminder to her how roughly she’d slept these last few weeks on her trek from Louisiana. If it wasn’t a park bench, a storm drain or a drafty old barn, it was an alleyway with a cardboard mattress.

But as long as they didn’t find her, it didn’t matter.

“Here, let me take those. I got a pile to do tomorrow anyway.” Dorothy reached out to take Shona’s dirty clothes. “You got any more in there?” she asked, pointing down to Shona’s filthy satchel.

“No, really, don’t worry, I can do them myself,” Shona replied, clutching the clothes against her chest.

Dorothy nodded and backed off. She watched as Shona’s eyes scanned the room, fixing especially on the tiny window at the far end. The bedroom was a little cramped and cold. It was obvious from the damp air that the old lady wasn’t one for having guests very often, but somehow, despite this, the room still felt inviting. The bed was tucked away in the corner, with a small chest of drawers to the left of it and a tattered old red and green rug running alongside. 

“Well, I’ll leave you to it. I’m across the way there so just knock if you need anything, although I tend to sleep like the dead so—” 

“I’ll be fine.” Shona interrupted, then smiled. 

“Well… goodnight then. You can take the truck down to Harry first thing in the morning, if you don’t mind?” Dorothy asked. 

“Sure. Goodnight,” Shona replied.

Closing the door behind her, Dorothy headed across the landing to her bedroom and clunked her door shut. 

Once Shona had made up her bed, she climbed underneath the thick blanket and pulled it up to her chin. Shona smiled to herself. 

For the first time in a long time, she felt safe.

* * *

It was the middle of the night when Shona woke with a jump. Her eyes darted around the dark room for some clue as to where she was. Bare walls and a chest of drawers reflecting the shard of moonlight blaring through the thin drapes were her only indications of where she could possibly be. She looked over the side of the bed to see her boots untied. Across the room, her pants were folded neatly on the little wooden armchair next to the bedside table, exactly where she’d left them, along with her coat and shirt. Peeking underneath her blanket, she found herself still wearing her cotton undershirt. She reached her trembling hand lower to see if everything else was as she’d left it too. It was. 

Not like the last time she’d woken up in a panic. And the time before that. But all was well in this house. She was safe for now, it seemed.

Shona rubbed her eyes and shivered as she swung her legs out of bed. She pulled on her pants and crept to the bedroom door, jumping as she found the only floorboard between the bed and the door that squeaked without mercy.

“Goddamn it,” she blurted out, mindful not to raise her voice too much. Turning the handle, she opened the door and poked her head into the corridor. 


Seeing Dorothy’s bedroom door closed, Shona breathed a sigh of relief that she hadn’t disturbed her and tiptoed down the hallway to the bathroom. Clicking on the light, she squinted as her eyes adjusted. The bathroom was old and sparse, but it was clean. She walked up to the sink and turned on the faucet. Splashing her face with the ice-cold water, she brought herself completely into the here and now. Wiping her face with the towel that was draped over the rail, she looked at herself in the mirror.

“Jeez, girl, you really need some sleep. This ain’t no good, moving from place to place. You need to settle.”

She squeezed her eyes shut.

But they can’t find you if you keep running, she thought.

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Who is Shona Jackson?

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Your kind of thing?

Shona Jackson is new in town. Would YOU let her stay in your home?

Everyone has a secret. Hers could get her killed…

Mississippi, 1956. Shona Jackson knows two things—how to repair car engines and that her dark childhood secret must stay buried. On the run from Louisiana, she finds shelter in the home of a kindly old lady and a job as a mechanic. But a woman working a man’s job can’t avoid notice in a small town. And attention is dangerous, especially when it comes from one woman in particular…

Free-spirited Lucy is new in town too. At twenty-one years old she is only now starting college. But her heart is just not in it, and when she meets Shona, something inside her begins to awaken. The only thing standing in her way is Frank.

Frank’s life is a mess. Three years after the Korean War, his father still writes but hasn’t come home. His bar business is in danger, and he’s desperate for cash. And everyone he knows is stockpiling the sins of his past against him.

When Frank brings a raucous fair to town to stay afloat, Shona fears the added attention could shine a light on her past. If the truth comes out about her, she’ll lose everything—maybe even her life.

Can Shona outrun the perils that threaten her, and finally settle down?

Or will her new friendship with Lucy attract a different kind of danger?