Saturday, February 26, 2011

#Sample Sunday We Interrupt This Date

Excerpt from a random chapter of We Interrupt This Date. Susan has just lost her job and desperately needs another.

I logged on to the Internet and started my job search with the online newspaper ads. I found only three positions to apply for, and two of those asked for legal office experience, which I did not have. The other said someone with a good phone voice was needed immediately in a vet’s office. I supposed my phone voice was as good as anyone’s. My fingers shaking, I punched in the number.
“I’m calling about the receptionist position you advertised in the Post and Courier.”
“Right, that ad is pulling a ton of responses. Before I decide if I should have you come in to fill out an application and talk to the doctor, tell me a little bit about yourself. Do you have receptionist experience?” The female voice on the other end of the line sounded like it belonged to someone who was pursing her lips between each sentence.
I glanced at my desk searching for inspiration. Once a customer had come into my office and paid in person. Another time, someone had stood in the doorway and asked if Odell was around.
“Sort of,” I replied. “In my current position I’m responsible for answering the phone and doing the billing as well as dealing with customers who drop by.” Both of them.
“Okay, you work in an office; good for you. But do you have veterinary office experience? Dr. Turnbill specializes in reptiles and he likes to hire people who are used to handling animals.”
“No, but I love animals and I learn fast.” I could even learn to love snakes and lizards if it got me a job. “My mother has two Chihuahuas,” I added, then clamped my mouth shut so I couldn’t say anything else stupid.
“I’m sorry, but I don’t see any point in letting you come in. We have a number of better qualified applicants.”
Better qualified applicants? Somehow I doubted the streets of Charleston were overrun with reptile handlers who had office experience. But unless I decided to stake out Dr. Turnbill’s office and speak to him when the dragon manning the front desk left for the day, I wasn’t going to get the job.
I sat back with a sigh. It had taken me six weeks to find this job and that was back when the paper carried three times as many ads as it did now. I could apply for the two legal office positions--assuming the gatekeepers who controlled access to the applications would let me--and hope for a miracle.
If there was only me to consider that’s what I might have done. But I couldn’t forget my son. Even with his scholarship, money from his father, and a part-time job, Christian needed my help.
I turned sideways to face the phone. I glared at it like it was my mortal enemy. When it didn’t burst into flames or melt into a wad of gooey black plastic, I gave up and dialed Veronica’s number. Her voice mail answered with a cheery, “Veronica is unavailable. Please leave a message.”
“It’s me. Susan. I, uh, had second thoughts about the job.” And third and fourth thoughts. “If you still want me, I’m ready to go ghost hunting. In fact, I guess I really need the work.” There, I’d committed, even if Veronica’s offer wasn’t my first choice.
I felt curiously employed now, even though I worried that Veronica might have offered the position to someone else. Once she makes up her mind to do something, she forges ahead like a bull on its way to a willing cow. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

#Sample Sunday: Talented Horsewoman

Talented Horsewoman is the first book in my Leigh McRae horse mystery series. 
About the book: Leigh McRae leads a quiet life in a small Florida town, surrounded by horse farms and alligators. For the sake of her daughter, she has traded her own happiness for job security and a truce with her ex-husband Kenneth, a poster boy for control freaks. But her peaceful existence is shattered when she discovers the body of her friend and fellow horsewoman, Rita Cameron. The police conclude Rita died in an accidental fall from a hayloft. Leigh is sure the death was a murder and she sets out to convince the police to investigate so her friend can rest in peace.

Meanwhile she has to deal with escalating demands from Kenneth, demands that may cost her her horses as well as her home. And on top of everything else, she has to help her cousin Sammi, who's dating a burglar. But Leigh doesn't let personal problems stop her from sleuthing, even though she admits she is not the world's greatest detective. While digging for evidence, she discovers a secret in Rita's past. Now Leigh and her daughter are in danger, and only Leigh's actions can save them.

Here's short excerpt from Chapter Two. Leigh has gone home after discovering her friend's body. 

I was in the middle of slicing a tomato when a familiar, older model, black Buick rattled up the driveway and coughed to a stop near the garage. Sammi hadn’t wasted any time.
I watched her get out of the car. Like me, Sammi had inherited her height from her father. Our fathers were brothers and we referred to them—along with my brother Chad--as the Hollister men. Sammi had three inches on me, though. She was six feet tall. I was fortunate enough to get my mother’s slender figure. But Sammi was solidly built like a Hollister man--she weighed close to two hundred pounds.
She flung herself across the yard in the direction of the house, her waist length hair flying loose behind her like a silk, golden cape. At least she hadn’t brought along Jeeves, her Old English sheepdog, known for his world class drooling and shedding.
She’d dressed as if she were ready to conduct a séance. Her loose, purple crepe top flowed down over her arms to her wrists and her matching skirt reached almost to the tops of her shoes. That much material could have made drapes for my entire house, but the outfit suited her, somehow managing to impart an air of grace that she didn’t normally have.
She let herself in through the sliding glass door into the kitchen and stopped short when she saw me. “Leigh, your eyes are as red as those tomatoes. Tension headache, right?” 
She took the knife out of my hand. “Let me do that before you cut off something important. You should be resting in bed.”
            “I can’t.” I knew by now to refrain from shaking my head and aggravating the throbbing in my temples. “Wait until we sit down and I’ll tell you about it.”
“I already heard," she said in her husky, ex-smoker’s voice. 
"You heard about Rita Cameron?"
"Lead story on the radio. I figured I better detour on over here and offer you a shoulder to lean on. They didn't identify the victim, but of course, everyone knows who it is; you know the gossip line in Del Canto. I stopped at the grocery and the head cashier—she’s Paris Winslow’s aunt--told me it was Rita and that you found her. Is it true she's dead?”
“I'm afraid so. Sorry I didn’t return your call earlier, but this has been one hell of a morning.”
“I hear ya, hon.”
Sammi finished slicing the tomato and arranged the pieces neatly on top of the salad. With a final dash of artistry, she dropped five black olives in the center of the bowl and squirted a dollop of French dressing on top.
"Lunch, Sammi?"
"I’d confuse my body if I ate this early, but you go ahead."
A queasy feeling rose suddenly in my stomach, and I knew food would only make me sick. "Let's skip it then." I waved at her to follow me down the hall. 
We settled ourselves in the living room, me draped sideways in my faithful recliner, and Sammi taking up most of the love seat. She pushed her hair out of her face two or three times and finally gave up, letting it slide down over her eyes. Sammi had a long face, a long straight nose, and almond shaped brown eyes, so with her hair parted in the middle she reminded me of an Afghan hound.
“So Rita was dead when you found her?” She sounded half out of breath.
“Isn’t that what it said on the radio?”
“Yep. Horrible, isn’t it? One minute she's tossing hay bales around and the next she's on her way to a slab at the morgue.”
Without warning Sammi hauled herself to her feet and strode over to peer out through the front curtains. As suddenly as she’d gotten up she was back in her seat, perched on the edge of the cushion and swinging the gold chain of her necklace in front of her like a tiny lasso. 
“The police are sure it was a freak accident?”
    “I think so. I mean, I wasn’t there watching in helpless fascination as she fell. Millie Destin, Rita’s neighbor, was there before I was and she didn’t see it happen, either. Then there was a guy, Jared Beaumont I think he said his name was, who got there after me, so he knows less than I do.” I didn’t mention that I had a nagging doubts about Rita’s death because Sammi would expect me to know exactly what was bothering me and I didn’t have a clue. “Are you okay, Sammi?”

Saturday, February 12, 2011

#SampleSunday The Witness Wore Blood Bay

In Talented Horsewoman, the first book of the Leigh McRae horse mystery series, main character Leigh McRae discovers a body. She also ends up solving a murder. Along the way she helps her cousin Sammi, who is dating a burglar, and she manages to get out from under the control of her overbearing ex-husband.

Now Leigh's friend Candy, a fellow horsewoman, finds herself accused of murder. Who else would she turn to for help except Leigh? After all, everyone in small town Del Canto knows Leigh has body-discovering experience. Never mind that Leigh is busy finding out who's poisoning dogs in Sammi's neighborhood and she's trying to renovate her home without going broke. Or that her ex-husband Kenneth and former ranchhand Doug Reilly have become roommates in Leigh's guest house.

There's a murder to solve. And her friend won't take no for an answer.

Short excerpt from Chapter Two:

Sammi stifled a yelp and I jumped to my feet, almost spilling what was left of my tea. Francine Swale stood in the doorway between the living room and the dining room, her hands on her curvy hips.
I couldn't help staring at what I judged to be a surgically enhanced chest. The woman could have modeled for Playboy if she were fifteen years younger, and if her face weren’t all blotchy from rage. Or from crying—I couldn’t tell which.
“Ladies, this is Francine Swale. She works with me selling cars.” Mark cleared his throat a couple of times.
Yeah, and she was also the murder victim's widow. It didn’t take a genius to figure out he’d much rather we hadn't found out she was in the house and had obviously been there the whole time, lurking out of sight and probably listening.
“Francine, ah, didn’t feel well enough to go home, so she’s been resting in the guest room. Francine, Leigh McRae and her cousin, Sammi Hollister.”
“Hello, Francine.” I didn’t bother to remind her I’d met her before and I’d seen her last night at the horse club meeting—arguing with her husband, who was now dead. “Sorry for your loss.”
Francine’s dark eyes snapped. “So am I. But the police know Candy did it and she’s going to pay one way or the other. I hope she fries like breakfast bacon.” She strode across the room and dropped onto the couch next to Mark, crossing her long legs and not bothering to tug her micro skirt down over her shapely thighs.
I pasted on the stupidest of smiles for lack of anything useful to say or do. I mean, how do you agree with a remark like that without coming across like a vigilante?
There, there, Francine. If the justice system doesn’t do its job, we’ll bring the firewood and some lighter fluid and help you take care of the problem.
And if I didn’t agree, I might send this woman into orbit. Judging by the way she’d spoken and the look in her eyes, I definitely didn’t want to be on Francine Swale’s “People Not to Like List.”
And what was up with Mark? Shock or no shock, you would have thought he'd want to defend his wife. I couldn’t help noticing that Francine’s skirt, as well as her blouse, were splotched with what I took to be blood. Brenda had said Mark had to pull her away from trying to give her husband CPR, but you would have thought she would have wanted to change into something a little less gory.
Rib nudge from Sammi. My sides were really getting a workout today and I made a mental note to look into buying a flak jacket. I nudged back to show we were on the same page—wondering if Francine really cared about her husband or if she was putting on an act. Funny how murder can bring out cynical thoughts, even in people who normally are pretty tame. But if Francine was as in love with Richard as her comments about wanting revenge would indicate, why was she sitting so close to Mark they could have been conjoined twins? If their body language meant what it said, those two had something going on. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

#SampleSunday Meet Ned and LaRue

Chihuahua Edie sitting on recliner Old Mama with blankets Candy Cane and LaRue

I name inanimate objects. Well, doesn't everyone? I mean, if you have more than one of something, such as blankets, doesn't it make sense to name them rather than having to waste a lot of time with descriptions?

Example: Me (shivering on the couch) to one of my offspring, "While you're upstairs would you please get me a blanket? I want the soft, white one I keep on the end of my bed."

Ten minutes later offspring says, "Here you go, Mom."

Me (after a brief pause to curl my lip in disgust), "No, not the little white one with the fringe. That's only for decoration. Get me the big one. It's soft and plush feeling like a teddy bear."

Offspring, looking blank, "I have no idea which blanket you mean."

Me, "Your sister gave it to me for Christmas last year."

Offspring, acting all too casual for someone whose mother is in the throes of hypothermia, "Which sister?"

Me, lips turning blue and now unable to curl successfully, "Does it matter? Fetch me the stinking blanket before I freeze, okay? It's on the end of my bed and it's big and white and plush."

Offspring, rolling eyes so far heavenward they nearly become dislocated, "OMG, will you chill?"

Me, teeth chattering, "I AM chilled and I want my blanket now, you little sadist."

Personally, I find that kind of exchange annoying and a waste of effort. How much simpler it is to simply give names to your possessions.

Example: Me, wearing a pleasant smile, "While you're upstairs will you please get Ned off the end of my bed and bring him to me."

Offspring, looking at me with fondness, "Ah, soft, fluffy Ned. He's one of your favorites, isn't he? Consider it done, Mother."

Now isn't that better?  

So if you happen to be in my neighborhood drop by for a cup of coffee brewed in Mrs. Nell. Join me at one of my computers--Lester, Delta, or Riker, your choice. Sit in my recliner, Old Mama, under one of my blankets. I have many, but may I suggest Candy Cane, Bucky, Scottie, or LaRue? If you want to enjoy some music I have a selection of iPods for your listening pleasure. Just let me know whether you prefer Thor, Sheldon, Leonard, or Archer. 

Of course I've named our cars. They are Darken Ess Red and Greenie.

My life is now simplified. Why don't you try naming stuff and see for yourself? Your family wouldn't go for it, you insist? I say, drop the defeatist attitude. 

Hey, if I was able to train my crew, then you can consider yourself the family whisperer.