About the book:There are some people who, whether by accident or design, find themselves traveling left of center. Unable or unwilling to seize control over their lives, they allow fate to dictate the path they take—often with disastrous results.
Traveling Left of Center details characters in life situations for which they are emotionally or mentally unprepared. Their methods of coping range from the passive (“The Healer”) and the aggressive (“The Clock”) to the humorous (“Traveling Left of Center”) and hopeful (“Skating on Thin Ice”).
The eighteen stories in Traveling Left of Center depict those types of situations, from the close calls to the disastrous. Not all the stories have happy endings — like life, sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t.
In these stories, the characters’ choices — or non-choices — are their own. But the outcomes may not be what they anticipated or desired. Will they have time to correct their course or will they crash?
The StoriesALICE IN WONDERLAND
Alice is constrained by circumstances and unwanted obligations to live an unfulfilling life. Books are her only way to escape, serving as sustenance to feed her starving soul. But what will she do when there are no more pages left to devour?
A lonely young woman, all Annabelle wants is to love and be loved. But she’s fighting by the twin emotions of fear and guilt, unable to let go of the past and embrace the possibilities of a future.
ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN
Sometimes, what one fears most comes to pass because of those fears. If Charlotte hadn’t been so afraid, would the outcome have been the same?
For Eleanor, it was becoming increasingly more difficult to tell the difference between being awake and dreaming, reality and fantasy. The boundaries were blurring. Would she be able to see clearly again?
He wanted an escape. After all these years, he was ready to go. But could he get away before it was too late?
Anna’s recurrent dreams echo through her day, as she attempts to reconcile her inexplicable feelings of loss with what would appear to be a “perfect life.”
OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND
Despite being more than three steps over the mental health line, he’s holding fast to his belief in his own sanity. Or is the rest of the world crazy?
SKATING ON THIN ICE
Is it possible to overcome childhood trauma? And, even if you do, are you ever really “cured” or simply skating on thin ice, waiting for it to crack? Sarah is trying to skate across the thin ice. Every day, she makes a new path on the surface of her life. So far, the ice has held.
Mirror images of her life: how she wants it to be and how it is. Which one would be her true reality — and does she even have a choice?
Everyone has a breaking point. For Harold, it came one fateful evening when the clock once again stopped ticking.
Cassie didn’t ask for the gift. She didn’t want the gift. For all the good it had done other people, it was killing her. All she wanted was her own healing.
THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS
Mona was relying on the kindness of strangers to rescue her. One stranger, in particular. However, thanks to the interference of others, her plans keep going awry. But she’s not giving up yet.
THE SHOP ON THE SQUARE
His attitude of superiority had gotten him quite far in life. Until a chance stop at a small Mexican town illustrated that he had much to learn.
Connie makes up her stories as much for the children’s sake as her own. But even her stories can’t stop the pain of reality from hurting her listeners — or herself.
THE SUGAR BOWL
Although Chloe’s life story changes with every listener, each time her tale has achieved its intended purpose. Until she chooses the wrong person to tell it to.
TRAVELING LEFT OF CENTER
Her mama was forever telling her that, on the highway of life, she was always traveling left of center. She wasn’t a bad girl, mind you — just incapable of looking down the road and seeing where her actions are taking her.
WAITING FOR SARA
Her daughter Sara is gone, and while it was by her own choice, it was a decision ill-conceived and poorly executed. And so Sara’s mother waits, alone and fearful, hoping against hope that someday her daughter will return, safe and unharmed.
WATCHING FOR BILLY
Agnes was all alone until Billy came to stay. Would he bring new purpose to her life? Or take what little hope she had for companionship?
Brief excerpts from reviews for Traveling Left of CenterFor Traveling Left of Center
“As a creative writing teacher (for over 30 years)… and fiction editor for The Chaffin Journal, I have read more manuscripts than I’d like to remember. In honesty I can say that I enjoyed reading Christie’s collection of stories as much as anything I’ve read in many a year. Her style is fluid, and her use of detail really brings the stories to life. These stories need to be read by as many as possible.” -Hal Blythe, fiction editor, The Chaffin Journal
“… the stories were beautifully written, with brilliantly developed characters and settings … Nancy Christie has written my perfect summer book, short stories that I couldn't put down.” -Sylvia Bradley
For “Alice in Wonderland”
“A mere 14 pages … this story was packed with power, emotion and punch … Beautifully written, this tiny little vignette draws the reader in …” -Suzy Wilson
“I am full of admiration for Nancy Christie’s writing. In a few short pages, she created characters that I can picture and a story which drew me in, leaving me wanting more.” -Angela Thomas
“Beautifully written with a sense of exclusion and focus in the description of the relationship that existed between her parents, there are oblique references to the sexuality and eroticism of the connection without truly delving into the deeper issue of a child looking in on a situation she is far too young to understand or process. Christie has managed to open a window into a tortured soul with [Annabelle], one that is not soon forgotten.” -Gaele Hince
“Nancy Christie adroitly describes a remarkable journey through the mind of a woman lost between desire and guilt, unable to formulate a pathway through life that adequately resolves love and sexual desire. This spellbinding short story will mesmerize the reader with powerful character development and a tale sadly familiar to many women. It’s hard to imagine anyone who will not read this excellent book through on the first attempt.” -Charles S. Weinblatt
Story teasersFrom “Traveling Left of Center”
“Girl,” my mama had said to me the minute she entered my hospital room, “on the highway of life, you’re always traveling left of center.”
Mama was always saying things like that. She had a phrase for every occasion, and would pronounce them with a certainty that, in my younger days, I accepted as gospel. But that time, I didn’t pay her no mind. I just went on painting my nails “Passionate Purple,” hoping that the sexy polish would catch the doctor’s eye.
I was justifiably proud of my hands, especially since, at that particular time, they were the only part of me that was skinny. A girl’s body sure takes a beating from having a baby. It had taken me at least a year to get my shape back after Robert Nicholas, and it looked like Rebecca Nicole wouldn’t be any kinder to her mama than her big brother had been.
From “Alice in Wonderland”
“Alice! Alice! Where are you?”
Her mother’s shrill voice crept up the stairs, seeping around the corners, through the cracks and under the door like a damp chill until it found Alice, sitting cross-legged on her rumpled bed, a scratchy woolen blanket wrapped around her, holding tightly to her book.
She heard the words as though they came from a great distance, not just the floor below. But instead of responding, she kept on chewing, tearing off more bits to slip into her mouth and onto her tongue. “Cairo … Alexandria … Mozambique … Tangiers …”
“Alice! I want some tea!”—complaining, demanding, the words pulling at Alice like a rope around her neck.
“Nebet, the master awaits your presence,” said the servant, bowing before her with the respect due to one of great beauty and power.
“Tell him to wait,” Alice answered calmly. She extended one slim leg to allow the servant girl to free her delicate, high-arched foot from its sandal. “I will bathe first and then see him. Perhaps. Or, perhaps not” — the control she wielded evident in her tone, her attitude … The heat from the Sahara desert permeated the room, melting her muscles and bones into a sinuous form, curled and waiting like a cobra. The perfumed water tempted her…
“Alice! Dammit, you get down here right now!”
One last bite, one final swallow, and then Alice reluctantly set the book back on the shelf, the bangles and caftan vanishing as the cover closed … She had tarried too long and the price she paid for any delay, any deviation from the daily routine, was an endless litany of complaints and grievances, lasting until her mother was fed, bathed, and finally put to bed.
From “The Clock”
“Harold,” said Margaret, sneaking up behind him and startling him so he lost his place in the Sunday crossword, “how many times do I have to tell you to wind the clock? Do I have to do all your thinking for you?”
“Harold!” rapping the top of his head where his gray hair had thinned to expose vulnerable pink flesh. “Are you listening to me? Wind the clock!”
Harold stirred his seventy-five-year-old body from the safe depths of his easy chair and headed toward the offending timepiece. There would be no rest until the clock was wound and set ticking again.
“Yes, Margaret, I’ll wind the clock. Although,” he ventured, rummaging in the side drawer for the key, “I really think it should be repaired. It never seems to stay running very long.”
“`You think, you think’,” mimicked Margaret, her words tiny thorns unaccompanied by roses. After fifty-five years together, Harold had stopped searching for flowers. “You’re just too lazy to wind it! You don’t do anything else and now you even want to pay somebody to do this for you!”
Harold climbed onto the low footstool to reach the clock, trying with limited success to ignore her words. He had learned long ago not to argue but just to let her words engulf him. So far, they had always stopped short of drowning him, although sometimes it was awfully close. Then, when her tirade would finally subside, he would have to go outside for a breath of fresh air.
“The least you can do around here is drag your useless body out of that damned chair and wind the clock when it runs down!”
I wish you’d run down, you old bitch, thought Harold, surprised at the sudden, almost overwhelming hatred that ran through him like lifeblood.
They blamed the airplane crash on “equipment failure.” Some little cog or pin or cylinder had failed to move when it was supposed to, and so the connection was not made in time.
Mechanical misconnection. Crash. Burn.
I had purposely avoided watching any part of the televised reports because I was afraid I would dream about it. But the information could not be avoided. The news was everywhere: on the radio, in the paper, part of everyone’s conversation. And so the dreams came.
I was watching rescue workers at the scene of the plane crash. One woman, dressed in a starched white nurse’s uniform, white hose and shoes, was bringing from the wreckage small stained bundles that turned out to be dead infants.
I remember the sticky film of blood and body fluids as she unwrapped them, and I wondered why there were so many dead babies on the plane.
When I arose the next morning, I saw the bedsheet was stained with pink, and I realized my period had come—unexpectedly, but not undesired. We didn’t want any more children. We had agreed on that. That was why the IUD scraped me clean with efficient regularity.
No babies to be born, no eggs connecting to a nutrient-filled lining.
So why the dream?
From “Beautiful Dreamer”
“Eleanor, Eleanor … you look beautiful tonight.”
The words drifted into her mind, like leaves on an autumn breeze, settling softly in the forefront of her consciousness. She awoke to find the phone cradled between her cheek and the pillow, the insistent buzzing the only sound from the black receiver.
Had there been a voice on the line? Or had she only dreamed it?
She had had dreams before—the kind that would wake her like an alarm bell. Heart pounding, pulse racing, it would take her several moments to get her bearings and know where she was and that she had been dreaming.
Sometimes, her mouth would be dry and her throat sore, as though she had carried on a long conversation with someone now absent. But she always knew when she had been sleeping. However real the dreams would seem—and at times, the line between reality and dreamland was very fine indeed—she always knew the difference.
She was certain this had not been a dream … With that single phone call, everything had changed.
About the author:Traveling Left Of Center, and Two Short Story E-Books, Annabelle and Alice In Wonderland (all published by Pixel Hall Press), her short stories can be found in literary publications such as EWR: Short Stories, Hypertext, Full of Crow, Fiction365, Red Fez, Wanderings, The Chaffin Journal and Xtreme.
Her inspirational book, The Gifts of Change, (Beyond Words/Atria) encourages readers to take a closer look at how they deal with the inevitability of change and ways in which they can use change to gain a new perspective, re-evaluate their goals and reconsider their options. Christie’s essays have also appeared in Woman’s Day, Stress-Free Living, Succeed, Experience Life, Tai Chi and Writer’s Digest. She is currently working on several other book projects, including a novel and a book for writers.
A member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and Short Fiction Writers Guild (SFWG), Christie teaches workshops at writing conferences and schools across the country and hosts the monthly Monday Night Writers group in Canfield, Ohio.
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Nancy's Blogs: Finding Fran | The Writer’s Place | One on One | Make a Change
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Order Traveling Left Of Center and Other Stories now and take advantage of the pre-release special pricing! Until September 9th, the eBook version of Traveling Left of Center is available for $4.99 or less. The ebook will automatically be delivered to your eReaders on September 9th.