THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED
My love of reading is at odds with my love of writing, which is always at odds with my love of play. For example, it’s a bright and sunny day outside, what should I do?
A) Go play outside! Skip! Smell the flowers! Weed the garden! Go to the water park!
B) Read just one more chapter of this very interesting book (the one I just can’t seem to put down)
C) Write three thousand words for my current story (how hard can that be)?
What to do?
What to do?
It all goes back to my childhood (don’t all stories and habits start out that way?). Always an advanced and adventurous reader, I had read through my public library (granted, it was a small library). Luckily, once summer, my family was at a party at one of my distant relative’s house. Playing in the basement, I saw all these wonderful books and and comic books neatly placed on makeshift shelves. My cousins were older and no longer read those type of books or the comics, so they boxed them up for me and my siblings sent my family home with ten boxfuls of reading material. I read the entire Nancy Drew, Dana Sisters, and Hardy Boys series, with other series of action, adventure, and science fiction. Long, lazy afternoons going through Superman, The Fantastic Four, The Avengers, The Green Lantern, The Green Hornet, Batman, SpiderMan, The Hulk, Justice League, Brenda Starr, The Archies, along with some lesser known mystery comics. The trend was clear—these characters could save the world and hold down a job with no one the wiser. Crisis averted, work deadlines were made, and of course, our heroes and heroines were dressed as fashion plates. Although it was just fantasy, that is where I got my warped sense of I can do it all.
My foray into graphic novels ended before it began. Bad stick people evidently don’t sell unless you are The Oatmeal. That left writing. The childhood novel I wrote (and I still have—bound and all!) was a romantic comedy and with an adventurous and athletic protagonist. Every once it’s pulled out to remember the joy of writing. As an adult, I like a little bit of romance, but it shouldn’t get in the way of the story, action, or saving the world. I got into the writing bug again after reading *gasp!* fanfiction. It was fun reading and writing a few stories, but nothing in the way of serious writing. Then I met Shira Anthony. She had written a high seas m/f romances (she just loves the water, ships, mermen, and pirates), and after convincing her that we could write about two men – romance or thriller, we were hooked! The two books co-authored with Shira was the balance of the worlds: Prelude, a romance, and The Trust, action-thriller-action-mystery-action.
My answer to what to do: I wander over hill and dale (running, leaping, and exploring) for inspiration, read before bed (and well into the night), and joined a writers’s sprint (sounds action-packed!) during breaks at work. See—doing it all.
Now for you—do you prefer romance or action? Where is your favorite place to read? Outside, at the gym, in bed? Name your favorite genre and place to read, and have a chance to win a $15 Dreamspinner Press e-gift certificate. Good luck, and see you at GRL!
The Hitman is Hit
I’m falling down a spiral, destination unknown,
I can’t get no connection, can’t get through, where are you…
—“Twilight Zone” by Golden Earring
SHIT. Shit, shit, shit!
Blood gushed from his leg, and for just an instant, he watched it with growing anger. Watched it, that was, until the adrenaline kick-started his brain and he realized he would die if he kept bleeding like this.
Gotta stop the bleeding, he thought with desperation.
He dragged himself to the women’s bathroom, pushed hard on the door, and stumbled in. Between the sound of the door slamming against the wall and the sight of all the blood, the startled women inside screamed and ran out.
Blood coated everything he touched. He leaned against a stall door, and it swung open under his weight. One hand applying pressure to the gunshot wound, he elbowed the toilet-paper holder. He fell to the floor and the roll sprang free. He placed the cheap one-ply paper over the wound and pressed down hard—it only took a minute before the roll was a deep crimson.
He tapped the microphone on his chest and shouted, “Agent down! I need an extraction, now!”
“Who’s down?” came the calm, even voice in his earpiece.
“I am. Sandoval fucking ambushed me. Caught me in the leg. Hit an artery.”
“Anders, where are you?”
“I—” He broke off, looking up to see a slender man leaning casually against the stall door, grinning at him. The Silver Fox, Jason Sandoval. Sandoval wasn’t Jake’s target, but it seemed as though Jake was his. Jake had always detested Sandoval. Now he knew why.
“So… there you are. Thanks for leaving me a trail of bloody breadcrumbs to follow.”
“Agent Anders, where are you?” the voice in his ear persisted. He ignored it.
“Looks like ya got a bleeder there, Anders.”
They had never been friends, but they had been colleagues. Now, Jake wanted nothing more than to blow the smirk off the other man’s face.
“I’ve had worse,” Jake lied. If Sandoval wanted him dead, he’d probably only have to wait a few minutes for him to bleed out. But that wasn’t Sandoval’s style—he had never been a patient man, and Jake knew it.
“Not sure that’s true, but I admire your bravado.”
Again, the voice in his ear. “Agent Anders, who’s there with you?”
“What do you want, Sandoval?” Jake asked. He’d pretty much always suspected Jason Sandoval was insane. Now he was sure of it.
Who the hell is he working for? Foreign government? Private concern?
They had come here as a team, their mission to intercept a scientist who was in town for a conference. But things had gone horribly wrong. It had been a setup, the entire scenario. Three of their own agents had turned their guns against him and his backup team. But why?
Fucking traitors. All of them.
“Well, I could watch you bleed to death. Or I suppose I could just end it for you now. Seems a shame, though. You really were a first-class ops guy, Jake. Now your life is fading away, and I get to witness it.”
Jake slowly reached inside his pants.
“Now, now, Jake,” drawled Sandoval, “no cheatin’. Take that hand out of your pocket.”
“I’m trying to stem the bleeding at the pressure point.”
Jake withdrew his hand and flicked his wrist faster than the other man could follow, impaling him in the right eye with a knife. Sandoval staggered backward and out of the stall without uttering a word. Jake reached for his gun, but it was missing. When had he lost it? He needed to finish Sandoval off before he was the one lying on the floor with his brains blown out.
He heard the distinctive muffled “pflnk” of a silencer. With the last scrap of his energy, Jake pushed the stall door open in time to see Sandoval fall backward, hitting the tile wall and sliding onto the floor. He was dead.
“Jake,” came a familiar baritone voice. “Reduce your heart rate, just as I taught you. It will slow the bleeding.”
Jake closed his eyes. In spite of the ice that flowed through his veins and the drowsiness that threatened to pull him under, he forced himself to meditate. He envisioned the frantic beating of his heart slowing down, imagined the damaged artery closing, the blood clotting, and the wound beginning to heal. The thundering rush of blood in his ears began to ebb. The dizziness subsided. He slowed his breathing, and his heart steadied.
“Good work, Jake,” he heard the soothing voice say. “It isn’t your time to be with me. Not yet.”
“Agent Anders! Agent Anders!” He wanted to swat the earpiece away, but he didn’t have the strength.
He blinked, trying to focus his uncooperative eyes on the figure that stood before him. “Trace?” he whispered as he passed out.
“FUCKING traitor Sandoval,” Ryan Roberts growled from nearby.
“If Jake hadn’t killed him, I’d’ve gladly done it myself.” John Carson—Jake recognized the voice.
“He’s a damn lucky bastard.” Ryan’s voice again.
“Un-fucking-believable. Got that tourniquet on and still had the presence of mind to write the time on his leg,” added Carson.
“I gotta hand it to ’im—got Sandoval once in the eye, then turned around and shot ’im to make sure he was dead—all while he’s fuckin’ bleeding to death.”
“Gentleman, Agent Anders needs to rest.” A woman’s voice this time: soothing, no-nonsense, and familiar.
“Sorry, Dr. Carroll.” Carson sounded embarrassed, but Jake could hear the note of concern in his gruff voice. “We just wanted to be here when Jake wakes up.”
“He will regain consciousness when his body’s ready. He’s lost a lot of blood, and he’s been in surgery.”
“We’ll wait,” Ryan replied. Jake almost smiled to hear the stubbornness in Ryan’s voice.
“Agent Roberts, Agent Carson, the director has called a meeting, and you both need to be in attendance.” Stephanie Carroll’s voice was now commanding.
Jake felt a strong hand squeeze his shoulder. “You better get your lazy ass outta here, Anders, or I’m gonna have to beat the crap outta ya.” The sounds of chairs scraping the floor and fading footsteps followed Ryan’s words.
“It’s all right, Agent Anders. They’re gone,” Jake heard a few minutes later.
The dim light of the room was too bright. Jake squinted, blinked several times, and slowly opened his eyes. He had a splitting headache.
“Welcome back to the world of the living, Jake.”
Jake attempted to smile back at the gentle-voiced doctor, but it came out more like a grimace.
“Are you in pain?”
“My head feels like it’s gonna explode.”
“I’ll give you something.”
Jake watched as the tiny woman took a syringe and injected it into the IV in his arm. He felt warmth radiate from the site of the line as his muscles relaxed and the pounding in his head began to lessen.
“Thanks. I think I feel less ‘vincible’ now,” he said, managing a lopsided grin.
She smiled at him. “Jake, I really can’t tell you how impressed I am with the skills you exhibited under the extreme pressure of the situation.”
“I had help.”
“The Trace Sim. He told me to slow down my breathing and meditate. I imagined my artery knitting itself back together.”
“Impressive. I didn’t think the simulation microchips were so detailed in their programming.”
Jake shrugged. “Neither did I. It’s like he was right there in front of me.”
“When our bodies are under acute stress, we often imagine things,” she replied in a kind but patronizing tone.
Jake guessed that she’d heard the recording of his call for help and had wondered why he’d spoken Trace Michelson’s name.
“He seemed so real. Not like the usual Sim.”
Her answer was what he’d expected and hoped for: reassuring and kind. “The brain is an amazing organ. In times of severe stress, it can be a powerful tool to ensure survival.”
The tension in his shoulders abated with her words.
She’s right. It was probably a combination of the Sim and my own imagination. Either way, it worked, right?
She offered him a sympathetic smile. “You need to rest.” She checked the IV and made a notation on the chart at the foot of his bed.
She turned to leave, then paused as if considering something. “You know, Jake,” she said with a contemplative hand to her chin, “applying a tourniquet made from the toilet roll spindle and your torn shirt was quite remarkable, given the extent of your injury. But you didn’t really need it—the artery had already begun to heal on its own. It appears Dr. Michelson’s techniques are more effective than we originally thought. Quite fascinating.”
“Tourniquet?” It was the second time someone had mentioned it since he’d regained consciousness. But he didn’t remember a tourniquet, let alone applying one to himself in the heat of the moment.
“The one you placed on your leg before you lost consciousness.”
“I don’t remember that. The last thing I remember is Trace.”
“Writing the time you placed the tourniquet on your leg required true presence of mind, Jake,” she continued, undaunted. “We were able to quickly ascertain how long the circulation had been compromised.”
“I don’t remember that either.” He frowned.
She gave him another reassuring smile. “You really must get some rest now. I’ll be back to check on you later. Would you like something to drink?”
“Something more than ice chips?” he asked with a hopeful expression.
“I’ll see that you get some water.”
“Thanks.” He closed his eyes. He heard her walk out of the room and close the door behind her.
Tourniquet? Writing the time on my leg? And who killed Sandoval? I couldn’t have shot him; I didn’t have my gun….
It made no sense. An image of the man with dark hair and slate-blue eyes filled Jake’s mind. He’d seen that face many times while training with his Sim. He had known the real man himself years before—Trace Michelson had recruited Jake into the Trust. But for years, it had been only a virtual Trace who had inhabited his mind, training him, sharing his knowledge with his host as all Sims did.
This was different. He was so… real.
He forced his eyes open again and stared up at the ceiling. The gray acoustic tiles provided him with no answers.
“Idiot,” he muttered as he fought the overwhelming urge to sleep. “Of course he wasn’t there. He’s been dead for nearly five years.”
David Somers had a headache. He’d hoped it would pass, but it had only gotten worse in the past fifteen minutes. He waited stage left as the orchestra finished tuning.
The concertmaster sat back down—the signal for David to walk onto the stage of Orchestra Hall. His hall. His orchestra. He breathed in slowly before schooling his expression and walking onto the stage, utterly focused. He knew he looked the part of the confident performer: his Armani tux was perfectly pressed, his posture faultless, and his stride confident. The orchestra stood as he entered. The hall, filled to capacity, rang with polite applause. But David’s disinterested poise was merely a sham. He was irritated to the extreme. Only his strong sense of duty had brought him back to the stage tonight for the second half of the program. That, and his modern music series’s potential sponsors, who he knew sat in the center box seats—the box that had been owned by Somers Investments for more than sixty years. He glanced stage left to where the soloist waited to make his entrance. David had seen him for the first time only moments before, and he’d been left with the distinct impression of a street thug. The man was tattooed, for heaven’s sake. There was no place for such a thing in the refined world of classical music. True, the soloist wore the traditional tails of an artist making a solo appearance with the Chicago Symphony, one of the finest symphony orchestras in the world. But that was de rigueur, expected of him, regardless of his personal tastes. No, it was the telltale ink visible at the other man’s throat as he buttoned up his shirt that had taken David by surprise.
“Lastislav Voitavich is ill,” his personal assistant, James Roland, had told him as he arrived at the back entrance to Symphony Center that afternoon, “but we’ve managed to find a replacement.” David hadn’t been concerned. Such last-minute substitutions were rare but not unheard of. He knew there were plenty of violinists who would give their eyeteeth to take the stage under his baton and with such a prestigious orchestra. There were few conductors on the classical music scene with his reputation, let alone as young as he. “Has the replacement performed the piece before?” “Of course, Maestro,” James assured him. “Several times, I’m told.” “That will be sufficient.” It would be just that—sufficient—nothing more and nothing less. That was the way with all last-minute substitutions. The evening would not be a memorable one, but David would make sure his audience did not leave disappointed. The orchestra’s performance would be outstanding. “There is one thing you should know, though,” James added in a quavering voice. They’d worked together for nearly five years, but David knew he’d never been an easy man to please. Then again, one didn’t get a reputation like his by having lax standards. He glared at James. He didn’t appreciate being troubled with such nonsense before a performance—he needed time to prepare, to focus on the music and review the score. “What do you wish to tell me?” “Th-the… the soloist… he… ah—” “I don’t care who he is as long as he can play the Sibelius.” David ran a hand through his hair in frustration. “He… he can, of course.” Beads of sweat appeared on James’s forehead. Five minutes before he took the stage for the second half of the concert, when he read through the bio James had handed him, David realized what a mistake he’d made by not pressing the issue further.
It’s a concert.
There will be time to kowtow in apology to the Symphony Association tomorrow, if need be. He detested kowtowing, but he also knew he did it well. David rarely made any sort of public speech, let alone an announcement in the middle of a concert. He despised public speaking, but there was nothing to do for it—the substitution had been too eleventh hour to print something to add into the programs.
“Good evening,” he began with a practiced smile. “There has been a slight change in tonight’s program. Our featured soloist, Lastislav Voitavich, has taken ill.” There were murmurs from the audience, so David waited until the hall was silent before continuing, “Alexander Bishop has graciously agreed to perform the Sibelius.” Instead of voicing their disappointment, the audience applauded with surprising enthusiasm. “Thank you.”
David was unsure what to make of the response. He nodded toward the wings. There was renewed applause as the violinist took to the stage. Alex Bishop. A rock star masquerading as a classical violinist. Tattoos and groupies. David didn’t doubt Bishop was competent—his assistant was young, not stupid. Still, David loathed this “new breed” of musician who all too often graced the covers of magazines like Time and, more recently, Rolling Stone. Tattoos, indeed. The term “crossover artist” was a mere marketing tool intended to exploit an artist’s good looks and increase sales. He’d heard so-called crossover artists perform before, and he hadn’t been impressed. He signaled for the concertmaster to provide the soloist with an opportunity to tune before turning to face the orchestra, his back to the audience.
The Sibelius Violin Concerto was a challenging but not overly taxing piece, and he’d rehearsed his orchestra well. The orchestra will shine, despite any deficit in the quality of the fiddle playing. He raised his baton and did his best to ignore the auburn hair tied at the nape of the soloist’s neck. Alex Bishop was attractive enough. Tall and muscular—taller than David himself. David was surprised he noticed, but there was something about Bishop that commanded attention. Still, in spite of his apparent ease in front of the large crowd and his undeniable stage presence, Bishop was no more than a pretender to the world of classical music. All hype and no substance—a creation of Hollywood agents and a second-rate player, no doubt. Bishop glanced over to David, his instrument tucked under his chin. Their eyes met for a brief moment. Bishop’s dark-brown eyes simmered with passion and focus. David raised his baton higher, the signal to the orchestra for the downbeat. One deft flick of the baton later, the orchestra began the first measures of the Sibelius Violin Concerto in D Minor. As a conductor, David had always preferred the less emotional modern repertoire to the sweeping romanticism of Brahms, Mahler, or Sibelius. Tonight’s program—and the Sibelius concerto in particular—was a nod to the wealthy patrons who kept the orchestra’s finances in the black. Its soaring and plaintive melodies failed to move him, although he knew his audience would respond with enthusiasm. It was a tedious thing, to be required to accommodate the common musical tastes of his benefactors, but David tolerated it, since he’d included a less tonal, more challenging piece later in the symphony’s performance schedule. David glanced over at Bishop. Their eyes met again as Bishop began the first few notes of the solo line and the heady tones of his violin filled the concert hall. With effort, David returned his focus to the score that sat on the podium in front of him. He didn’t need to read the music to conduct the piece—he had committed every measure to memory—but he sought the distraction. He’s better than I expected. Far better, really, although David would hardly admit it to himself. Bishop finished the opening phrase of the movement with obvious ease. David found himself taken aback by the intensity of the other man’s playing, as well as the natural musicality and the warm tone he coaxed from the fiddle.
The violin Bishop played was serviceable. It was no Stradivarius or Guarneri, but the instrument sounded nearly as resonant as the finest instruments he had heard through the years. “A good instrument can make the performer,” his old friend and predecessor, John Fuchs, had once told him. “But without talent, it is only an instrument.” As the evening progressed, Bishop began the second movement: a slow and sensual adagio.
Once more, David found himself transported by the artistry with which Bishop conveyed the depth of the composition, and again David found himself struggling to maintain his focus and not lose himself in the music. After the third and final movement, the crowd jumped to its feet. Amidst the enthusiastic applause were resounding calls of “Bravo!” from some of the patrons, including, David noted with pleasure, the two men and one woman seated in the Somers’s box. The audience was satisfied with no fewer than four bows, each time calling back both soloist and conductor to the stage with more cheers and applause. As they walked back and forth across the stage for each bow, David watched with interest, half expecting Bishop to react as a rock star might and toss an article of clothing to his adoring fans. He did nothing of the sort, but bowed with surprising grace and maintained the decorum expected from a soloist performing with a world-renowned symphony orchestra. Rather than basking in the glow of the audience’s response, Bishop appeared slightly ill at ease with the adulation, although he smiled personably.
After the final bow, David followed Bishop offstage. He had intended to retreat to his dressing room, but several fans already crowded the wings, blocking the way. Irritated by the lack of security, David attempted to walk around the gathering crowd by taking a path through the wings instead of directly out to the corridor. Several orchestra members milled about, clearly anxious to congratulate Bishop on his performance. Seeing David, they nodded in a formal manner—they had long since learned that he did not wish to be disturbed after a performance. David returned each gesture with a curt nod, sidestepping the approaching fans before slipping out the door and into the hallway.
He closed the door behind him and looked up into a pair of dark eyes. Bishop, it appeared, had also sought to avoid the backstage chaos. He smiled at David. “Maestro,” he said. After transferring his violin and bow to his left hand, he offered his right hand to David. The casual warmth of the gesture took David aback—he was used to being the one to initiate such contact with the orchestra’s guest artists. They shook hands in silence. David hesitated a moment before withdrawing his hand and saying, “We appreciate your willingness to fill in at the last minute.” “It was my pleasure,” the violinist murmured. He watched David as if unsure what to make of him. “I’ve played the concerto a few times, although never with such a skillful conductor.” Accustomed to compliments, David was unmoved. “Thank you.” Bishop shifted inelegantly on his feet. “Listen,” he said, “we’re having a little party at my place. Just a few friends, a couple of beers, that sort of thing. Nothin’ fancy. Would you like to join us?” “I appreciate the invitation, but I’m expected at a donors’ party in a few minutes.” “No problem.” Bishop smiled and nodded. “I understand.” Was that disappointment David saw in the other man’s face? Unlikely. He’s relieved. Besides, can you see yourself at a party with a few friends and a “couple of beers”? He’s just trying to be kind. Then, realizing that his response had been rude, David said, “Perhaps another ti—” His words were cut short by shouts and giggles as two teenage girls launched themselves at Bishop, nearly knocking his violin from his hand. David stepped backward to avoid the onslaught and almost collided with a woman with long blond hair who swooped in to protect Bishop from the girls. The girlfriend, no doubt. Time to leave. He turned and strode quickly down the hallway to his dressing room, closed the door, and took a deep breath on the other side. Alex bent down and managed to catch his instrument before it hit the ground, but when he stood up again, David had vanished. Alex managed a self-conscious smile as another woman planted a wet kiss on his cheek, missing his lips by a hair’s breadth.
That was strange. He was sorry to see that David had disappeared. There was something appealing about David Somers, not the least of which was his command of the orchestra and his unique musical voice. Alex had heard David conduct before, of course, but performing under his baton had been a refreshing experience. “Thanks for the rescue, Mar,” he said after he’d signed the girls’ programs. “You looked like you needed it.” Marla laughed as the girls headed off toward the exit. He took his roommate’s arm and led her down the hallway to the green room, where he’d left his coat and case. Marla waited as he wiped the rosin from the strings, fingerboard, and bridge of his violin with a small white cloth. Satisfied with his handiwork, he gently laid the instrument in its case, loosened the hair of his bow, and locked it into place in the lid. He clicked the case closed and picked up his coat without a word. “You’re quiet tonight.” Marla watched him with obvious interest. “Disappointed with the performance?” “Nah. It was one of the best concerts I’ve played.” “Sounded pretty good to me too, but then I’m no musician.” She pressed a pensive finger to her lips and, cocking her head to the side, asked, “So, how was he?” “He?” “The maestro.” She laughed. “David Somers. You said it yourself, he’s probably the best young conductor on the classical music scene. Did he live up to his reputation?” “He….” Alex hesitated. He wasn’t sure how to describe David. “He’s certainly a difficult man to approach. Still….” Marla’s musical laughter filled the room. “I wasn’t talking about his personality, silly boy, I was talking about his musical ability.” She eyed him with suspicion before adding, “But it seems as though he might have made more than just a musical impression on you.” Despite Alex’s best efforts, his jaw tightened. “You’re playing matchmaker again.” “Can’t blame a girl for wanting a Michigan Avenue apartment of her own, can you?” “You couldn’t afford it without a roommate.” She sighed and shook her head. “No, probably not.” Alex paid the rent and utilities on the condo they shared—he insisted on it now that he was making good money performing. The advance on his last recording hadn’t hurt, either. “Besides,” he added with a smile, “I’ve got a least a few more years’ rent to pay you back before we’re even.” “Eh, you’re right.” She waved her hand in the air as she often did when he let her win. “I figure I’ve got about a year left before I’m out on the street. So how about the maestro?” “Don’t think he’s my type.” Alex emphasized the word and glared at her, shaking his head. “You never know.” Her expression held an open challenge he chose to ignore. Instead, he opened the door to the green room and picked up the violin case. With her arm firmly wrapped around his waist, they walked back into the crowded hallway.
He signed a few more autographs until Marla began to push through the crowd, leading him to the stage door. The fans, assuming Marla was his girlfriend, looked irritated, some openly hostile. He ignored this. He was used to it. Besides, Marla was adept at fending off the women she affectionately called “simpering spineless sluts.” As they walked out of the Adams Street entrance, Alex spotted a limousine waiting a few yards away. The driver held the door open and a lone figure walked quickly over, avoiding any contact with the public. David Somers, dressed in a dark coat with a white scarf flung about his neck, ducked into the limo. As he sat down, he glanced back to where Alex stood. Their eyes met for an instant before the driver closed the door. Marla eyed Alex with suspicion. “What?” He shot her a look of mock irritation. “Nothing.” She grinned at him. “Nothing at all.” They crossed the street and headed the half block to Michigan Avenue for the shortcut through Millennium Park to their apartment.
Venona Keyes is currently writing a sequel to The Trust, and a has a few action novellas in the works. She is a GRL supporting author.
Venona Keyes is a modern woman who believes in doing it all; if doing it all is only in her head. She amazes people that she can be wholly unorganized yet pack a perfect carryon suitcase for a ten day trip to Paris. Ms. Keyes is a believer in the just in time theory, and can be seen sprinting to the airport gate before the plane door closes.
Venona has experienced love and loss at the deepest level, and is thankful for writing and daydreaming, for it kept, and still keeps her sane. Writing also introduced her to some of the most supportive and wonderful people, to which she will always be grateful.
Venona is a voracious reader, loves her feline boy, volunteers at an animal shelter, cooks everything in her CSA boxes, is an accomplished speaker, enjoys swimming, biking, skipping, and her beloved over-grown garden.
You can find Venona Keyes: