Member Spotlight

June Member Spotlight: Jessica Ontiveros

Member Spotlight: Jessica Ontiveros


15871898_10154001010861396_3273813506491432816_nJessica Ontiveros writes Historical Fiction. She’s currently an “invisible” member (folks who for one reason or another can’t make meetings, but are still a participating member) who spends her days taking care of four children.

She has been known to kick off her shoes at any given moment, and then not be able to find them later. She’s auntie to thirteen nieces and nephews, a singer on the worship team for her church, and is a designer for KEEP Collective jewelry.

Jessica is a big fan of Twenty-One Pilots and keeps the road hot between Fort Stockton and wherever their next concert is happening.



Spotlight Feature Article by Jessica Ontiveros

~ Excerpt from The Storm in Her Eyes ~ Chapter One

The crashing of the waves at the bottom of the cliff did nothing to deter the young woman hovering over the edge.

The wind raged strong enough to blow her over, but still she stood, taking no notice. She stared below as if to see something other than the ocean.

Not long past girlhood, her face once shone with enticing beauty and an ever present expression of joy. All of this now clouded with a shadow of anguish.

Her black hair hung loose and wisped about her shoulders in the wind. A wild look stormed in her dark green eyes nearly as fierce as the one brewing above her head.

Suddenly she closed her eyes, and with a determined look she opened her arms out wide and took a deep breath.

“You won’t find him down there, Mrs. Strong”.

The woman blew out her breath and opened one eye to look for the voice that interrupted her.


     “Leave me alone, Ian,” she said to the tall figure beside her.

She silently cursed her senses for betraying her; she hadn’t even heard him approach.

“It is true, though,” he said.

“He’s in there somewhere and I must go to him.”

Ian sat down on a pile of rocks and began rolling a cigarette.

“You know what he would say to that?”

She didn’t answer.

     “He would say that while the water may contain his body, his soul is definitely elsewhere.” Ian tried to strike a match on a rock. “And if there’s anyone capable of making it to heaven, I firmly believe it’s Grant.”

     Mrs. Strong softened at the sound of her husband’s name. She lowered her arms to her side and placed them instead on her hips.

     “Confounded wind,” Ian muttered when he was unsuccessful in lighting the match.

     “Of course he is in heaven,” she whispered. “Yet the water is so inviting. How am I to live without him?”

     “Inviting?” Ian laughed. “Certainly, if you fancy freezing to death, but no, you’d die before you ever touched the water.”


     “You’d likely hit your head on one of those jagged rocks first.”

     Ian looked up from his useless cigarette, his brown eyes trying to assess what effect, if any, his words had on her.

     “I could make a run for it from a few yards back, if I jump as hard as I can I could miss the rocks altogether.”


     “Well I don’t really care what happens, I have to go to him,” and with that she spread her arms out again and took a step forward.

     “Audra!” Ian jumped up, startling her to a halt. The sound of her name on his lips was enough to cause her to pause; he’d never called her by her first name in all the years she’d known him.

     She stared at him for a moment and was surprised at the almost desperate look of concern on his face. She even thought she saw his chest rising and falling faster than it should have.

     “What difference does it make to you, Mr. Eldin, you’ve never cared an inch what happens to me.” The foreign look on his face disappeared as quickly as it came.

     “And I don’t now, but I know someone who does.”

     He again tried striking the match on a rock, then his trousers.

     Audra knew he was talking about her mother-in-law. She had been trying to put the kind woman out of her mind when making the decision to jump.

     “Ellie would understand my grief, she’s lost a husband.”

     Ian tossed the match on the ground and pulled out another.

     “And now a son, you would cause her to also suffer the loss of someone she considers a daughter?”

     Audra let this thought simmer for a minute before Ian spoke again.

     “And then there’s the matter of the promise I made to Grant, to protect you should anything ever happen to him.”

     Audra’s heartache became visible in her eyes, but she was careful not to let the tears fall in front of Ian Eldin.

     “I can’t fulfill my promise if you make this cowardly choice.”

     “Very well then, you win,” she said with a sniff.

     Ian moved the match down to his boot where a flame finally ignited. He quickly touched it to the cigarette, just as a fierce gust of wind blew over them.

     “Blast!” He cried as the flame was extinguished.

     Audra turned on her heels, picked up her skirts and began her journey away from the edge of the cliff.

     Ian sat down on the rocks and watched her disappear, just as the clouds above him finally released their threatened raindrops.


Member Spotlight

April Newsletter Member Spotlight: Renee Gaylor

Member Spotlight: Renee Gaylor


53360242_10156848672210450_7795804742516473856_nRenee is the “invisible” member of Critique Cafe. When she’s not making coffee or serving coffee, she can usually be found working on some piece of technology gone awry somewhere in town. She is usually drinking coffee while doing it.

Renee was born somewhere, and raised somewhere, and then “life stuff” happened here and there, as stuff is wont to do. Schools and colleges were attended, but the important stuff started happening when she finally found her way to Fort Stockton in 1998, where she and her husband Brian raised 6 gorgeous daughters. Renee was the Director of the public library until 2006, when she decided that having 6 teenage girls at home merited a bit more attention than she was offering. That lasted less than a year, because having 6 teenage girls at home was a nightmare and she needed a job to keep her sanity. So she became a systems engineer for an oil and gas company, and retired in 2014 to open a family business with her husband and two of their daughters. Now she, and they, pour all of their time and energy (and money!) into running a family-friendly coffee shop and music/ event venue, where Renee has added “tour manager”, “booking agent”, “sound engineer”, “special event coordinator” and “coffee mechanic” to her already too-large collection of hats. If you ask her, she will just say she “works at The Garage”.

Although a prolific writer in her 20s and 30s, she found she wrote less over the years, and worked more. Then she discovered NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month) in 2007, and takes great joy in November of each year when she actually completes a writing project. She enjoys critiquing, and takes an undue amount of pleasure in wielding a red pen.

When not working, Renee enjoys reading and music. She plays saxophone, but ensures us no one wants to hear her play it. She loves all things tech, and is usually the first person to try out new gadgets. She’s involved in various community and business organizations, including the Chamber of Commerce and Rotary International.


Spotlight Feature Article

Dinner Time, a novel by R Gaylor

Excerpt—Chapter 1

Steam momentarily blocked David’s face as he poured the pot of pasta over the colander, but Stephanie knew he was still glaring at her. As the steam dissipated, David slammed the pot down, placing his hands on the counter on either side of it, giving Stephanie the most angry look he could muster. An act he found more difficult than he anticipated with the heat of the steaming pasta making his eyes sting. He squared his shoulders – he wouldn’t back down, not this time. After a few seconds of stare-down, Stephanie finally sighed, rolled her eyes, and turned to leave the kitchen.

“At least think about it!” David yelled at her retreating backside. She lifted a hand dismissively as the swinging kitchen doors closed behind her.

“Dammit “ David growled as he slammed his palm on the marble counter, then looked around at the people in the kitchen watching him intently. “What the hell are you looking at it? Get that sauce off the burner and start plating.“

The waitress that had been standing in the corner gave Chris, the sous chef, a knowing look and left through the swinging doors as Chris stirred the sauce one more time. Not taking his eyes off the sauce, he spoke, “Why do you keep pushing her? You have this argument with her every year.”

“That attitude is why you will always be a sous chef, Chris, and never a chef. This restaurant will never be anything more than it is now without getting some sort of recognition.”

Chris took the plate that David had arranged the ravioli on and began to drizzle the sauce carefully over them. “The restaurant, or you?”, he muttered under his breath.

David glared at Chris but didn’t mention his comment. “Just get the bread onto these plates and get them to Carla.” He looked around then bellowed “where the hell is Carla?” Chris shook his head. It was going to be a very long week at the Fairview Cafe.

Carla came back through the swinging door. “Are you done with your tantrum yet?” she said with a smirk.

David picked up the two plates of ravioli and held them out to her. “Just do your damn job and get these out to the customers before they get cold.”

Carla bowed theatrically to David. “Yes, your highness, anything you say, your highness.“ She giggled and took both plates from him then backed out the door grinning as David’s face reddened even more.

He turned back to Chris. “Last straw, Chris. That little punk has to GO.”

Chris shrugged and turned to the resting cabinet to pull out the meatloaf. “Not your call, man. Stephanie hasn’t had a single problem with her. It’s only been a month and she caught on quick. Might be the best waitress we’ve had.”


snorted. “Best?? She’s a snotty immature brat with no respect. I don’t know why Emma had to go and quit on us.”

Chris laughed as he cut thick generous slices of the meatloaf. “Damn man, she was 73, give her a break! The day Emma turned 70 she told us she was going to retire and move to Oklahoma to be near her GREAT grandkids. We all sat out there in that dining room eating strawberry pie and drinking champagne to celebrate her birthday AND her getting to move close to family. The only reason she stayed so long after that was because you kept running off all the new waitresses.“

“Yeah yeah, I remember. But I still don’t know WHY she has to retire.” He punctuated ‘retire’ with his fingers making air quotes. “She can still run circles around these kids.”


“Not everyone’s lives revolve around their work, man. Some of us have other things that are important to us, too.”

“More important than your career? And that there is yet another reason why you will always be a SOUS chef, Chris. You have no drive. No ambition.”

“You always say that like it’s an insult. Have you never once thought to yourself ‘hey, I wonder why Chris never takes any of my advice. I wonder why he doesn’t get upset when I call him ‘only’ a sous chef?’. You haven’t, have you? Has it never crossed your mind that all I ever WANTED to be was a sous chef? Hmm?”

David shook his head in bewilderment. “You’re talking nonsense. No one ever goes to culinary school with the goal of being a sous chef, it’s just a stepping stone to being CHEF.” He threw the colander into the sink with more force than he meant to, caus
ing a huge clang to reverberate across the kitchen. “Then again, not that any of that matters HERE. HERE we aren’t chefs. HERE we might as well be prepping for a hot dog eating contest, because 90% of our menu …”

“OH,” Chris cut him off and ran back to the stove, “thanks for reminding me, man! Don’t want to burn our chili!”

Member Spotlight

March Newsletter Member Spotlight: Sarah Shuttleworth

Member Spotlight: Sarah Shuttleworth



In November of 2010 Sarah saw someone post on facebook about a writing challenge they were participating in called NaNoWriMo. On a whim she looked up the site, made an account, and unknowingly started a journey that would change her life. That year she started writing with no plot and no idea how to even write a novel. She met up with friends in Fort Stockton who were also participating. They had a great time that first November but once it was done they missed those writing sessions and wanted to do something to progress their writing all year round. Critique Cafe was born from that.

Sarah participates in Critique Cafe all year long but November is one of her favorite times of the year. She is a Municipal Liaison for National Novel Writing Month and loves when she gets to help encourage others to write their own novels during the challenge. She loves the NaNoWriMo organization and how much they do to encourage young story tellers.

When she isn’t writing she may be found participating in her other hobbies which include painting, reading, and tabletop gaming. That is when she isn’t busy chasing down her two little boys and shuttling them to various activities of their own!


Spotlight Feature Article by Sarah Shuttleworth

It was a dark and stormy night. Of course it was, that’s how all of these things seem to start isn’t it. I was waiting at the bus stop, wrapped up in my jacket, huddling underneath the small covering when I saw her. A flash of lightning lit up the street and there she was, walking with no umbrella. I watched her walking in the darkness for a moment wondering why someone would be out in weather like this with no umbrella.

Another flash of lightning lit the sky and I noticed a person following a good distance behind her. He had a large hat on and a trench coat with the collar up. The woman crossed the street at the cross walk and turned towards the bus stop. I tried to nonchalantly look around, trying to keep an eye on the man. He was leaning in a doorway watching the woman. Lightning flashed. I tried to try to get a better look at him but even with the lightning, darkness seemed to cling to him, completely covering his face so I couldn’t make out a single detail. His head followed her as she walked into the bus stop. She sat on the other end of the bench, closed her eyes, and leaned against the dirty plexiglass. She had short blonde hair plastered to her face and her red jacket was dripping it was so soaked. Should I say something about the man?

“Hey.” I managed to say.

“Oh, uh hello.” She said with a nervous glance. The smell of vanilla and brown sugar tickled my nose.

“Crazy weather huh”

“Yeah, I didn’t know it was going to rain, otherwise I’d have grabbed an umbrella.”

“Here, take mine.” I held out my umbrella.

“Oh I couldn’t. You need it, besides I’m already soaked anyway.”

“I’ll just be jumping on and off the bus. I don’t need it. I insist.” I gave her a smile. She returned one as she grabbed the umbrella.

“Thanks.” She said.

I chanced a look across the street to see if the man was still there. He was staring at her. An 18 wheeler passed in front of me and when it was gone, so was he. I quickly looked around but there was no trace of him. Maybe I was imagining things. I looked back over to her and saw that the man was now on our side of the street and walking this way. I could feel my heart pounding faster and my mouth going dry. I could see him blurred beyond the plexiglass. I didn’t know what to do. My palms were getting sweaty. I had an intense feeling that something terrible was about to happen. I opened and closed my mouth several times but no words seemed to come out. I swallowed the lump in my throat and refused to take my eyes off the menacing man. Thankfully the bus pulled in. Safety was a few steps away. I jumped to my feet.

“Ladies first” I said as I gestured to the door, hoping she would enter quickly so we could leav

e. She smiled as she half opened the umbrella and darted onto the bus. She stood on the top step as she closed the umbrella. I went to step onto the bus when a hand grasped my arm.

“Don’t get on the bus.” It was the man from across the street. I tried to pull away but he was remarkably strong.

“Let me go!” I pulled and pulled, but his grip never slackened.

“Trust me. You don’t want to get on that bus.” I looked him in the face. He was an old man, covered with scars.

“Don’t get on that bus.” He emphasized each of those last words.

“Why not?” I asked.

“I’m trying to help you kid.”

“Doesn’t seem that way” I tugged my arm again.

“Look at her again.” He whispered, his lips barely moving.

I looked up onto the bus and saw the woman staring at us. She had a pleading look on her face and held out her hand like she wanted me to join her. The man suddenly pulled something out of his coat with his other hand and held it up to her. Her face immediately changed from a sweet, demure, young woman to a raging snarl. I stepped backwards and he let me go. The door of the bus closed as she was still snarling at him. The bus began to pull away and I looked at the old man.

“Did I just see what I think I saw?”

“What did you see?” He asked as he tucked the item away.

“Did she have fangs?”

He chuckled.

“You thought I was the threat didn’t you.” He said with a wry smile.

“You’re not answering the question. What’s going on?”

He looked me over.

“Come with me and I’ll tell you everything you want to know.” He stepped out into the rain and began walking away.

What should I do? It’d be crazy to follow him, right? Confused, a little scared, and without an umbrella, I jogged into the night to follow him and unknowingly start a
crazy journey that would change everything about my life and what I knew.

Member Spotlight

January Newsletter Member Spotlight: Vea Anna Hooker

Member Spotlight: Vea Anna Hooker 49603470_2188089601279973_722740505112215552_n

As a very shy child, growing up in a neighborhood comprised mainly of boys, Vea Anna Hooker learned the joy of good books at a very young age.

She always dreamed of writing “one day”, but life intruded on those dreams. Approaching 50, she finally realized that if she didn’t start now, when would she. About that time, the Critique Cafe, sponsored by the Fort Stockton Public Library, held a writing competition. She entered on a whim and was shocked to learn she had won. She attended the Critique Cafe meeting only to pick up her prize. Several years later, she still attends every possible meeting.

Life has changed greatly since her first meeting. After the passing of her mother, her blind father and handicapped brother moved in. Less than a year later, she and her husband, Wallis, sold their business and moved to Andrews. The thought of giving up this group of amazing and encouraging writers was too hard to contemplate, so she and her father currently make the four hour round trip twice monthly.

Vea Anna enjoys many genres, but Fantasy is probably her favorite. She comes from a family of writers as her father, older brother, an uncle and a granddaughter all write also. She is a wife, mother of three, and grandmother of five who never met a hobby she didn’t like.

Spotlight Feature Article: Vea Anna Hooker ~ Marshal the Forces

Boot camp had been torture, but Crystal and her friends finally made it through. Tonight, they were going to have some fun. It was a long walk from the barracks to the ice cream shop; good thing boot camp had strengthened those muscles!

They walked in a group, as they always did when they weren’t in formation. Crystal marveled that a few weeks ago, they didn’t know each other. Now, they were the closest of friends, family for life.

Crispin took her hand, holding her back as the others moved forward. Puzzled, she looked at him and arched an eyebrow.

“You looked so serious; I wondered what was going on in that brain of yours.”

Her laugh sounded of silver bells. “It was nothing earth shattering. I was thinking, I can scarcely remember when we weren’t together.”

Crispin leaned in, the lids of his eyes lowered. She pulled away, with a blush. “We better catch up to the rest. They’re getting awfully far ahead of us.”

He looked disappointed, but took her hand again, as they double-timed it and soon caught up to the others. Lumi asked, “Well, what have you two been up to? We missed you.” He waggled his eyebrows.

Crystal’s cheeks, already pink from the cold, turned even redder, but she stayed silent. As they arrived at the ice cream shop, her best friend Holly quickly changed the subject.

“What’s everyone having?”

Answers came too quickly to distinguish who was speaking.

“Vanilla cone.”


“Klondike Bar for me.”

“Fudgsicle, please.”

Then a gravelly voice stood out, “Hot fudge sundae.”

Every person in the shop gasped in horror. The voice was so distinctive, several of their group turned to Eira, shushing him.

As they got their ice cream and hurried out, others in the shop gave them dirty looks. The group crossed the roadway to the city park to finish their treat, a little shaken from the hostility of the other patrons.

Neve shoved Eira with the hand not holding his Creamsicle. “You’re an idiot. You know that, right. Don’t you remember Captain Frost telling us not to draw attention to ourselves? He says the locals already distrust us.”

Lumi chimed in, “Yes, a lot of them think we shouldn’t be here, training for maneuvers.”

“Geez guys, it was just a simple request. I didn’t know everyone was going to lose their minds.” Eira’s gravelly voice sounded sincere, so Crystal decided he’d had enough.

“Okay guys, he’s sorry. Let’s finish and head back.”

The group scattered into conversational groups of two or three. Crystal found herself appropriated by Crispin and led to the far side of the clearing. She tried to avoid a repeat of earlier by concentrating on her cone. While pretending not to see the gleam in his eyes, she overheard some people talking on a walking path running behind them.

“I’ve heard they’ll be shipping out soon,” said an unknown voice.

Another chimed in, “Good riddance, I say. There’s a lot of turmoil when they’re around.”

“Do you know where they go when they leave,” asked the first voice.

Crystal closed her eyes so she could focus her sense of hearing on the answer. The pair was moving away, so were getting harder to hear.

“No, all I know is they never come back.”

Crystal shivered. It sounded ominous.

Back at base, Captain Frost was waiting for them. “Hope you enjoyed your time off, we’re shipping out. Get into formation and load up.”

Eyes wide, the recruits did as directed. After they were in the transport, Crystal shared what she’d overheard. Her friends were still trying to process the information, when Captain Frost entered from the cockpit. He glanced around, noting every face.

A voice spoke from behind him, “Better get the troops ready, Jack. We’re nearly in position.”

“You heard the man, paratroopers, line up.”

Crispin grabbed Crystal’s hand. “If those guys you overheard are correct and we don’t survive this mission, I want you to know…you must know…I love you.”

Crystal turned pink, but didn’t turn her head when he kissed her. She put a hand to his face. “I hoped you did, I love you too.”

Captain Frost cleared his throat. Holly flashed Crystal a “thumbs up”.

“Line up. Go, go, go.”

When it was Crystal’s turn, she jumped, still holding Crispin’s hand. She felt exhilarated, falling.


In the aircraft, Captain Jack Frost took his seat.

“Another successful mission, Captain,” said the pilot.

“Yes,” replied Jack, “I’m going to miss this batch though. They were special.”


On Earth, the Christmas shoppers gazed at the falling snowflakes with delight.

“Mommy,” a little girl said, as a double snowflake hit her nose, “this is the most special snow I’ve ever seen.

Member Spotlight

December Newsletter Member Spotlight: Emily Davis

Member Spotlight: EMILY DAVIS19225002_1439553449435532_936992127432589442_n


Emily Walter – Is a 25 year old stay-at-home mom who lives in Fort Stockton but, is originally from Plains, TX. She grew up as a third generation farmer’s daughter. One of her hobbies is baking. She also loves writing, crocheting and, reading. She started writing at the age of 15, while still in high school. One day she picked up a pencil and a flood gate opened. Emily joined Critique Cafe in 2016, and writes mostly teen romance and sci-fi.


Spotlight Feature Article: Emily Davis—Christmas Eve

The crackle of a dying fire mixes with a light smell of pine. A hint of peppermint tickles my tongue as I take a sip of hot chocolate, the warmth spreading through me. The soft fleece blanket nestled across my lap carries the vibration of a purring cat. The moving tree branches draw my attention.

“Brandy, quit messing with the ornaments, I don’t want to find another one in my shoe like I did this morning.” I chuckled, causing the cat in my lap to shift. Brandy wandered off and I got back to petting Sabrina. The smell of vanilla wafts through the house as a timer goes off. Gently I nudge the cat off my lap and head to the kitchen trying to avoid stepping on Bran- dy as she bolts ahead. I pull the sugar cookies out of the oven, setting them on the table as Brandy and Kirk jump up to investigate.

“No, get down, these are not for you.” I shoo them off with a swat of my oven mitt. Set- ting down a bowl of milk, I head into the bedroom. I gather up my gifts for the family and place them under the tree, then turn to fill the cats little stockings with a few treats and toys. Heading back to the kitchen I pack up the cookies for the trip to my parents tomorrow, before settling back on the couch. Soon the three cats curl up with me. The fire crackles and the Christmas music that drifts softly from the television follows us to sleep on our first Christmas Eve together.