Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Stranger In Town - Chapter One

Stranger in Town 
Sloane Monroe Series #4
(2014 Shamus Award Finalist) 

Chapter One Sneak Peek

Pinedale, Wyoming
July 27, 2010

Six-year-old Olivia Hathaway tiptoed down the center aisle of Arbuckle’s Market, stopping once to glance over her shoulder and make sure her mother wasn’t watching.  But Mrs. Hathaway was too engrossed in selecting the right card for her sister’s birthday to notice her daughter had slipped away. 

Olivia looked left and then right before scooting one aisle over.  She peered at the products lining the shelves and then shook her head.  “Nope, not this one.” 

She frowned and moved on. 

The colors from the paint samples on the next aisle were like bright strips of candy, beckoning her to come closer.  So she did.  She loved plucking the cardstock strips from their slots and adding them to her collection at home.  She’d collected so many over the past few months, her mother had bought her a notebook to glue them all in. 

The star-shaped colors were Olivia’s favorite because they weren’t plain and ordinary like the rectangle ones, and they had fun names like “Summer Sparkle” and “Twinkle, Twinkle.”  She tapped her pointer finger on the top of each card like she was playing a game of “eeny meeny miny moe” and then selected her favorite color: green.  She’d always wanted a green room, but her mother said green was for boys and had painted Olivia’s room pink instead.  

Olivia held the green star out in front of her and twirled around and around until she collided with something hard.  

“Hello, Olivia.”

A man in a black cowboy hat and mirrored sunglasses smiled and pointed at the ground.  “You dropped something.”

Olivia froze.

“Here, let me get it for you,” he said.  

The man scooped up the star and held it out in front of her.  “Go on, take it,” he said.  “Don’t be afraid.”

Olivia didn’t know why her stomach felt like a bunch of ants were crawling around inside, but she did know the way it made her feel: scared.  She wanted to cry out for her mother, but when her mouth fell open, nothing came out. 

“Come here, sweet thing,” the man said.   

When Olivia didn’t move, the man lifted her up and set her down on his knee.  “Do you want me to take you back to your mommy?”

Olivia squeezed her eyes shut, but when she opened them, the man’s hands still wound around her tiny arms like a boa constrictor.  If he wants to help me find my mommy, why is he holding me so tight?

“How about this—give me a hug, just a little one, and we’ll look together.”  He held a finger out in front of her.  “Pinky promise.”

Olivia wanted nothing more than to be back with her mother again.  She leaned in just enough but jerked back when the mountain of stubble on the man’s chin scratched her face.  She knew her cheek wasn’t on fire, but it felt like the metal from a seat belt on a hot day. 

The man patted Olivia on the back and stood up.  “There now, take my hand.”

Olivia looked down.  Her fingers were clenched in a tight ball, the edges of her untrimmed nails digging into her soft skin.  She stuck out her tiny hand, and the man wrapped it in his.  But when they got to the end of the aisle, he didn’t turn, he kept going. 

A faint whisper echoed in the distance.  “Olivia honey, where are you?”

She wanted to cry out, “Mother, I am here!”  But the man clasped her hand so tight, she kept quiet.

Hand in hand, they walked through the front door.  The sun had just started to go down when they stepped outside, but it was just light enough for Olivia to see someone walking toward them. 

“Olivia, is that you?” the woman said. 

It was her white-haired, wrinkly-faced neighbor, Mrs. Schroeder. 

“Excuse me,” Mrs. Schroeder said to the man, “I don’t believe we’ve met.  I’m Helen Schroeder.  Are you a relative of the Hathaway family?”

The man looked down and kept walking.  He stopped next to a grey car and turned to Olivia.  “Get in.”

She did.

He shut her inside and turned around to find Mrs. Schroeder glaring up at him.     

“I really must insist you answer my question,” Mrs. Schroeder said.  “Or I’ll have no choice but to call Olivia’s parents right now.”

“Very well,” the man said.  He glanced around.  Seeing no one, he pulled a knife from his front pocket and pushed a button on the side.  The knife sprung to life. 

Before the old woman had the chance to scream, the man thrust the knife into her side.  “I’m sorry, but I must insist you stop asking questions,” he said. 

The woman collapsed.     

Olivia shielded her eyes and thrashed her head from side to side.  “It’s okay, everything’s okay.  Mommy will find me,” she whispered to herself.          

The man flung open the driver’s-side door, started the car, and backed out.  The car bounced up and down for a moment.  It reminded Olivia of the time her dad ran over the neighbor’s cat by accident.  Olivia gathered up enough courage to move one of her fingers just enough to see her neighbor through the car window.  She was on the ground, motionless.  

The man turned around and smiled.  “Mrs. Schroeder will be okay, Olivia.  She fell down, that’s all.”

Inside the store, a frantic Mrs. Hathaway ran up and down the aisles begging anyone she came in contact with to help find her missing daughter.  A few minutes later the store was locked down.  But it was too late.  Olivia was gone.    


Friday, June 15, 2012

The Promise...A Message for Father's Day

A few months back I was asked to take part in an anthology for Father's Day called Memories of Dad written by authors from the Indie Chicks Cafe

For my part, I decided to write about my grandfather.  He's been gone for about seventeen years now, and on this holiday, my thoughts always turn to him. 

Here's my part in the anthology...

The Promise

My grandfather lived on ten acres, and for a time, I was lucky enough to live on the property with him.  He was the kind of man who didn’t shy away from a good deal.  He frequented the local auctions, and sometimes even brought me back some unique finds.  Once he gave me an entire box of purple eye shadow, which was cool, except for the fact it was one hundred containers of the same color.  Another time he returned home with a box of Rubik Cube key chains.  I was very popular in school the next day.

In junior high and high school, I was in choir and my sister was in dance.  My grandfather always attended our concerts even though some of them were about as interesting as a documentary on sliced bread.  It didn’t matter.  He still came. 

My grandfather had a voice like Louis Armstrong and sang songs about three little fishes while beating me at a game of Crazy Eights.  There was something about him that was special.  Maybe it was the fact he could skate backward at the roller skating rink when the other grandpa’s couldn’t even move forward without falling down and breaking something.  Or maybe it was that he believed I could do anything, be anything.  Whatever it was, I was in total awe of him. 

When I had my daughter, I called my grandfather to share the news and he made a plan to come see his first great-granddaughter.  But one night I arrived home to find my father sitting in my living room.  I looked into his eyes and knew something wasn’t right.  My grandfather had died.

My entire family made plans to travel to the funeral, but then something strange happened: my grandmother had him cremated, almost immediately.  There would be no funeral, no chance for closure, no time to say goodbye.  In a moment he was whisked away forever.

Not long after his death, my sister had a dance concert.  I remember sitting in a metal chair in a school auditorium waiting for the program to begin.  As I looked down at the baby girl I held in my arms, I realized my grandfather would never attend another dance concert or ever hear me sing again.  And he'd never meet my daughter.

At that moment a cool breeze brushed across my face like I was outside and a gust of wind had just kicked up, only we were inside and the room was still.  No doors had been opened, and the air conditioner hadn’t kicked on.  And then I felt it again—this time more powerful, like someone had reached out and touched me, but no one was there.  Were they?

Some time later I was alone in my car listening to Tracy Chapman’s The Promise.  As soon as the song began, a cool wind drifted by my face.  I’d never really taken the time to learn the lyrics of the song, so I played it back and listened and then I did it again, and again.  For me the song was about a person making a promise; if they waited, the other person would come for them and they would be together again.  

On Father’s Day I not only think of my own father, I think of my grandfather, too.  Days like this remind me that just because we can’t see our loved ones after they’ve passed on, doesn’t mean they aren’t around in one way or another, waiting, watching and cheering us on. 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Introducing "CHAPTER ONE"


In July I will be starting something called:

What is it?

A contest for authors.

Each month I will be looking for the BEST first chapter of a novel.  The winner will receive a $20 Amazon Gift Card AND will be interviewed on both my reader and writer blogs which have had over 30,000 page views in the past year.  In addition, I will tweet about your book to my 12,000 followers and do a write up about why I chose your novel as my "chapter one" pick of the month.

For the first month, I will be accepting 50 entries.  I might change this later...I need time to write after all ;) but I will do what I can to maintain this number.


Comment on this blog post below.  If you are one of the first fifty to comment, send the first chapter of your novel to my EMAIL ADDRESS

In the subject line of your email put: CHAPTER ONE
And then please paste your chapter in the body of the email, and NOT as an attachment.

The winner will be emailed by the last week of the month, and look for their interview (and hopefully YOUR interview) the first week of the following month.  If you were not chosen, you may submit the first chapter of a different novel the next month.  Short stories are also eligible.

Why am I doing this? Those who know me already know, but if you don't, one of my favorite things to do is promote up-and-coming authors.  I received a lot of help in the early days of my journey from some amazing authors, and it's important to me to give back. 

Best of luck to everyone!


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I Have a Secret Giveaway Winners!

Thanks to everyone for participating in the giveaway for the launch of my new book, I Have a Secret.  I had lots of entries and it was a great success. 


Signed copy of I Have a Secret: Nora-Adrienne Deret

Kindle Cover: Nancy Gillespie

Amazon Gift Card: Sarah Roberts

Don't forget to stop by eBook Swag this week and enter all their fun giveaways.  They have some amazing prizes this week, and I am just one of the authors participating.

Have a great week everyone!