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Thursday, April 23, 2015

CHARLI: Excerpt #2

The clouds split apart and Charli stumbled, momentarily blinded by the angled shaft of moonlight in her face. Her foot twisted and she threw herself backwards, grabbing at tree branches. Turning her head, she froze, seeing the sudden drop-off only inches away from her boot toes. Sweat broke out on her forehead, upper lip, and down her back, and her stomach twisted in nausea. Despite knowing better, she looked down. The ground was only twenty feet away, but for a few seconds as her vision blurred and twisted, it could have been twenty stories. Breathing slowly, deeply, she forced herself to find a spot to focus on, even with her eyes, and fought the vertigo that tried to steal her balance.

Not. Going. To. Fall.

When her legs felt a little more solid and the ground stopped spinning, she moved her left foot back, sliding it along the ground until her heel hit a root. Then she moved her right foot.

The voices suddenly got louder, and lights streaked across the ground below her. They reflected off the slope below her feet, reducing the steepness. She grinned, despite the sweat still chilling her skin, and knew that if she had fallen she would have slid down instead of fallen. Not that she would have wanted to bang up against the rocks and fallen trees littering the slope, but playing dodgem was always better than falling.

She had been wrong in her estimate -- five men. Well, maybe only four had been talking. Two carried big flashlights like nightsticks, casting strong beams far ahead of them. They stopped in the clearing below her and put down the flashlights, stabbing them into the ground so they illuminated the men and whatever they were doing. The third man hauled a long bag larger than a duffel, slung across his back. Charli took another step back and then sank down to rest on her haunches, watching them, trying to fold into as small a shape as possible. That bag looked like it held rifles. These men were definitely not here with permission. If they were poachers, they wouldn’t be happy to know she was watching them right that moment. The smartest thing she could do was hold still and wait for them to walk far away before moving.

Monday, April 20, 2015

CHARLI: Excerpt #1

The cloud cover brought on night sooner in the day than expected. Charli turned off her flashlight and slowed her steps when she thought she heard voices ahead of her. The cave and growing station were still more than an hour of walking away. She and her mother knew all the rangers assigned to this area, who in turn knew the Carsons had permission to be in the forest. Any strangers she encountered either had no business being in the wildlife preserve at all, or they had gone out of the area they were allowed to be in through accident or arrogance. No matter the reason, she didn’t want to run into anyone and have to explain what she was doing out here, so far from a ranger station or an access road, so late in the day. Nobody knew about the cave that had been set up and equipped as a secondary camp or the meadow in front of the cave and rock face that would soon be set up with the growing trays. Charli preferred to keep it that way.

Letting her ears guide her, she made her way up the slope, feeling her way among the trees with her feet as well as an arm stretched out in front of her. There was little moonlight to see by, and what little penetrated the cloud cover was murky. She caught glimpses of flashlights below her and turned further uphill in response.        
The voices got louder. She estimated at least four men. They sounded a little too happy-loud. With her luck, they were campers who had violated the guidelines and hauled in several cases of beer, right under the noses of the park rangers. It wasn’t that alcohol wasn’t allowed in the wildlife preserve, but rather the bottles or cans it came in. Too many campers tossed their trash and expected it to vanish among the underbrush, instead of packing and hauling it out per the wildlife preserve rules.

Friday, April 17, 2015

COMING: The next Quarry Hall novel: CHARLI

Coming in May from Desert Breeze Publishing:

CHARLI

Charli Carson and her mother live in a wildlife preserve, where her mother, Dr. Rachel Carson, works on breeding plants to recreate medicinal plants lost through the destruction of the rainforests. Charli likes their isolated life, because she is still fighting the nightmares from more than ten years ago when her father was killed and her leg was shattered.

Joan comes from Quarry Hall in search of hope for a cure for her father, who lives under a death sentence from a genetically engineered illness. As she makes friends with the Carsons, enemy forces are gathering to make another try at stealing the research that killed Charli's father.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

COOKING UP TROUBLE

COOKING UP TROUBLE takes us back to Homespun Theater.

Audrey is someone we've met before, a member of the ensemble at Homespun. She has two loves -- theater, and cooking. She went to culinary school. As chief baker for Stay-a-While, she's perfectly happy. Her bosses are great, and she gets along with most of her co-workers. Her dream, though, is to be involved in dinner theater, combining both her loves.

Steve Vincente comes back to Tabor, after helping out during the crisis featured in BEHIND THE SCENES. He decided he liked working in live theater, and the Randolphs have agreed to let him come back and work at Homespun. More important, he wants to get to know his newly discovered half-sister Max -- and help her survive the fuss and publicity and paparazzi troubles that come with being the daughter of a Hollywood legend.

Steve and Audrey are cast as Romeo and Juliette, and then they are partnered to head up Homespun's experiment with dinner theater. More important, they work together to help protect Max and Tony as the time for their wedding approaches and the paparazzi get more insistent and tricky. Partnership turns to friendship, but will it turn to something more when they both have secrets and hidden fears that sometimes make it hard to see what's really going on in the person who has become very important to them?

Monday, March 30, 2015

BWU STORIES -- Excerpt #19

Audrey left her alone with the children, after providing damp paper towels to wipe the frosting off their fingers and mouths. Kat helped herself to a crown-shaped cookie. The cookie was good enough by itself. What did it need all that frosting for? Of course, she wasn't one who would refuse thick, sweet, creamy frosting under a delicate shell that crinkled when she bit into it. Maybe the cookies would be more recognizable if Audrey didn't slather them from edge to edge with frosting, but just used those gel tubes they sold in the grocery store to draw the details, like jewels on the crowns or pleats on the skirts of the princess's dress. She made a mental note to mention that, and paused to pull her notepad and pen out of the tiny purse she had brought with her today.

"Are you getting married, too?" Tiffany asked, going up on her toes to try to see over the edge of the notepad as Kat wrote.

"No. Why?" She smiled at the little girl, with her moustache of yellow frosting from biting the head off the princess cookie.

"Nikki was always making notes for her wedding. It was yesterday."

"Well, Nikki is just smart and organized. You can make notes for things besides weddings. For instance, I'm a writer, like my dad, and I carry a notepad with me all the time so I can write down ideas for scripts before I forget them."

"Who's your dad?" one of the boys asked. The two boys looked so much alike, Kat speculated they were brothers.

"Dr. Morgan."

"You're lucky. He comes over our house a lot to talk with Dad Holwood for school stuff. We like him a lot."

"Yeah, well, so do I."

That seemed to strike both boys as hilarious, and they laughed as Kat put her notepad away and continued the tour. She laughed with them, although she lost her breath for a moment later in the tour when Tiffany caught hold of one hand, and then the boy who hadn't spoken grabbed onto the other. She grinned down at them, swinging her arms out of synch, as they walked down the stairs from the balcony.

Friday, March 27, 2015

BWU STORIES -- Excerpt #18

"This way," Audrey said, gesturing at the door between the scene shop and the back door of the house, which opened onto the stairs down into the basement of the theater. "We'll start with the kitchen. Maybe if their hands and mouths are full, they won't wreak too much havoc on the rest of the tour. Plus, I have to get back to setting up."

She led the way down the steep cement stairs. Kat was still amazed at how much had changed since the last time she had worked at Homespun. The dividing walls in the basement had been pushed back and part of the costume shop rearranged, storage moved elsewhere, to expand the kitchen to cater for the dinner guests once the dinner theater experiment got fully underway. Everything gleamed with stainless steel and scrubbed linoleum. The big old black cast iron stove in the corner nearly sparkled, as if it had been given a fresh coat of paint and then varnished for good measure.

"I always say, life is too short, so we should eat dessert first," Audrey announced, as she crossed the kitchen to the new worktable and uncovered a long aluminum tray, with frosted green and gold and blue cookies on them. "Help yourself -- take whatever you want." Something in her eyes made Kat think there was more than just getting rid of experimental cooking behind bringing them down here.

"Uh… okay, is that supposed to be a princess?" she guessed, pointing at one vaguely human-shaped cookie. That spiky thing on top of the head was probably a crown.

"And this is supposed to be a pea," Audrey said, nodding, and pointing to a three-inch-wide round cookie. "They'd be more believable if they were decorated to bring out the details. Something I didn't take into consideration when I ordered the cookie cutters. The wretched things don't come with design instructions or stencils or anything, to help with decorating. The klutz field sets in when I try fancy decorating. I leave that to the experts." Then she laughed as she looked down and saw that the children had taken her at her word. They had a cookie in each hand, and already had green frosting smeared around their mouths. Tiffany, for all that she dressed like a little princess herself with her flouncy skirts and lace edging on her little socks and patent leather shoes, was just as messy an eater as the boys.

"Morgan is giving credit to anybody who gets involved in the summer productions," Kat offered. "Maybe somebody in the class has some art training and would do this for you. I'll ask on Monday -- that's the first day of class."

"You are an answer to prayer."


Kat's heart did a funny flip. She should have realized that practically anybody who hung around at Homespun probably thought the same way that the Randolphs and Bekka and her parents did, adding God to the mix in every part of their lives. Sometimes she wished it were so easy and natural for her.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

BWU STORIES -- Excerpt #17

Most of the ensemble from Homespun had come to the party, friends from church, and fellow professors from BWU. Kat was surprised to realize she knew most of the people, and then pleased. She hated parties where she felt like people were staring at her back, wondering why she had been invited or flat out wondering who she was. She wasn't the youngest person at the party, as she had feared. Dr. Holwood and his wife were foster-parents, and they had brought their current crop of children. When all three asked, nearly in unison, if they could see inside the theater, Kat volunteered to give the children a tour. It would keep them out of the traffic during the last-minute fussing and scurrying around to set up the party, and take pressure off Emily, who had been the target of the big-eyed pleas.

"You're a God-send," Emily said. "Thank you."

"Anywhere I should avoid?" Kat asked, as the little girl, Tiffany, caught hold of her hand and the two boys -- who hadn't introduced themselves yet -- raced for the door into the scene shop. Obviously they had been here often enough to at least know what was the entrance to the house and what let them into the theater proper.

"The costume shop is chaos, and I'd ask permission from Audrey before going into her kitchen --"

"Nothing dangerous," Audrey called from under the tent, where she was setting a gray bus pan full of crushed ice into a larger, covered bin. "In fact, I could use some help getting rid of some experiments." She wiped her hand on the towel tucked into the waistband of her shorts and hurried over to them. "You have to promise me it won't spoil your appetites, though."

Kat noticed she looked at Mrs. Holwood as she made that condition, eyes widening, clearly asking permission. The diminutive black woman muffled laughter and nodded, silently giving permission while the two boys let out cheers.

"The scene shop is still fairly safe. No equipment plugged in or half-finished scenery sitting out and ready to collapse on anyone," Emily added. She made a shooing gesture at the scene shop door. "Why don't you finish the tour with the fireman's pole?"