Friday, December 27, 2013

Something to make you wonder

This week has been weird. A holiday right smack-dab in the middle of it, lots of people around who usually aren't, more trips to retail establishments than I'm accustomed to (and I mean after the Big Day, not before), and more eating out than I'd like. I haven't gotten squat done.

But on the bright side, the cover for Adventurous Me is almost done. I'll have a reveal for it before the book is launched, so keep an eye out. I'm getting ready to start work in earnest for the remakes of the Love Under Construction series covers - they're gonna be HOT! And the work on the cover of The Celtic Fan continues. The deadline for the custom art for the cover is tomorrow, and work has begun on the photos. It's getting closer all the time, so I decided I'd give you an excerpt from The Celtic Fan today. It's part excerpt and part teaser. You won't get much information, but you'll get to hear Steve's voice. Enjoy!

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     The road continued on, and a plan began to come together in my mind. There just couldn’t be another house back here, I reasoned, and the condition of the gravel road surface gave credence to my assumption. It thought it might be best to hike to the end of the road and come up the back side of the hill, as if I were truly out on a recreational jaunt. The end of the road was very near, just a few hundred feet as it turned out, and it was plain to see what it was used for: A dump. There were old washers and dryers, an abandoned truck chassis, and something that looked a great deal like hair dryers from a beauty shop. An old bedspread and some ragged, half-rotted towels were thrown around. Springs sprouted from a decomposing sofa, its long deceased partner chair baking in a sunny spot a few feet away. Fortunately, nothing had been thrown in the creek, which I personally felt would have been a shame. I was sure that somewhere farther downstream, some fish was truly grateful for the clean, clear water.
     After I’d stared at the evidence of man’s progress for a few seconds, I turned my attention to the water. Shallow spots seemed hard to find in this particular creek, but the water was clear enough to alert a wader to any underwater dangers that might exist. Finding no good place to cross, I decided to sit down and take stock for a minute before going on. I dropped my backpack and dug through it until I found a granola bar and one of the bottles of water. The breeze was stiff, and I cooled off slightly as I sat on the grass, my back against a tree trunk, staring at the creek. The rocks were deep enough to be useless for crossing, but big enough to cause the rippling effect on the surface. It was a peaceful place, calm, unlike the features office. No phones ringing, no people asking questions, just a few birds, a noisy squirrel overhead, and some clouds. A man could get used to this, I mused, remembering pictures of log cabins and the sod huts built by sod-busters on the prairies. It almost sounded attractive. Almost.
     When I finished the granola bar, I removed my shoes and socks, packing them in the top of my backpack. I rolled up the legs of my jeans as far as I could, which wasn’t very far due to the fact that I wore them too tight and knew it, and waded in.
     The water was cold, colder than I’d expected at that time of year. In just a matter of moments it was up to my knees, and I quickly realized that my jeans were going to get wet, no way around it. I looked for footing, and found I could maintain a depth of about mid-thigh high by moving from rock to rock below the surface. It took only about three minutes to cross carefully, primarily because the width of the creek had diminished somewhat at that spot. A large rock graced the bank, gray and inviting under a broad-leafed tree, and I dripped my way over to put my socks and shoes back on, but not before trying to squeeze the water out of my jeans. Pretty confident that I was alone, I took off my jeans and wrung the legs out. I found myself wishing I had on some plain cotton boxers, because I’d sure have felt foolish if someone had come along and seen me in the silly cartoon character printed boxers I’d packed for who-knows-what reason. The boulder bit into my backside as I perched on it to put the jeans back on. Their cold, clammy legs made it difficult to get my feet out, and I felt generally uncomfortable. To make matters worse, they made my socks damp. I almost forgot the excitement I’d felt when I’d seen the mailbox.
     Picking up my backpack, I ran my arms through the straps and started up an incline behind me and to my right. That seemed to be the general direction of the driveway. The hill didn’t seem too terribly steep until I was about halfway up. It was one of those gradual inclines, the kind that semi-tractor/trailer rigs struggle with in the mountains, and my legs, encased in the wet jeans, were getting heavier and heavier. To add to the problem, the tree cover was sparse, and the sun was getting hotter with each step. As I passed the halfway mark I stopped to catch my breath.
     That was when I heard it. The music. Some kind of droning, stringed instrument, unidentifiable to me. I continued upward, stopping every few steps to make sure I was still moving in the direction of the music. After a few yards, I listened again and heard something I hadn’t heard before. It was a voice, sweet and pure, not especially high, but definitely a woman’s voice, singing with the strumming of the strings. I squatted down, my hands on the ground, and looked around. About sixty feet to my left, a clump of bushes perched at the top of the rise. I moved like a sidewinder across to them, ever so slowly, and peered through the branches.
     I could see the driveway to my right, coming down the back of the hill, moving directly across my line of vision, and at its end, there was a house. It looked to be an old farmhouse, square and squat, probably built at the turn of the twentieth century. Its clapboards were a little warped, and it very nearly screamed for a coat of paint, its silvery patches gleaming in the sunlight. There was a tiny little screened-in porch on the front, and the low concrete steps sported a little calico cat, licking her paw and rubbing her face. A couple of huge trees framed the house from my vantage point. I could see sunflowers growing just to the left of the scene, and a washtub was turned upside down and leaning against the tree on the left. The music still wafted on the breeze, but the singing had stopped. Its direction was unclear, and my eyes darted back and forth until I found her. Then she began to sing again.

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