Here's a brief excerpt:
Chapter 1: Papa
Papa melted away one night, like the butter in Mama’s frying pan. At least, that’s what my brother Sam told me the following evening after Mama lit the Sabbath candles and said the blessing without Papa. Something she never did before in all my five and a half years.
"You know how butter starts to bubble?" Sam asked. "In a little while, it has no color or shape. It’s just steam rising in the air. Well, that’s what happened to Papa, and you may be next."
"Why?" I asked.
"Because you ask too many questions."
Afterwards, I couldn’t get that steam out of my mind. It was there when I carried in wood for the stove or hung wet clothes out to dry over our verandah railing or chased the geese in our yard for Mama to stuff with grain. Lying on the grass behind our house, I imagined the fringes of Papa’s hair and the tips of his fingers and toes turning slowly to liquid. His arms and legs and ears and skin and coal black eyes oozed together, until all that was left was a brown puddle. Pretty soon, the outlines of my own body began to shimmer in the bright sunlight so that I could hold my hand in front of my face and see the blue sky right through it. That made me laugh, which surprised me because all I ever wanted was for Papa to like me.
During those years right before World War I, he took care of animals in Galfalva, our village in Transylvania. He pried the old shoes off horses and served drinks in his beer and ale parlor to the men who rode them. The tavern was connected to our house by a big open courtyard and had a blacksmith’s shop attached to it. When he was in a very good mood, which might happen two or three times a year, Papa shaped a tiny bit of metal into a rough star or tree for me. I treasured these odd little pieces, stuffing them into my straw mattress for safekeeping.
Once, he had to pull a horse’s tooth. He poured liquor down the animal’s throat and drank a swig himself. When he threw his arm over the horse’s neck, the two of them looked like the best of friends. I stood in the shadows watching, and the sound of my laughter escaped into the heavy air before I could jam my fist into my mouth. Papa stared at me with a frown so deep his eyebrows cut a thick black line across his forehead, and I wondered what made him hate me so much.
Here's some information about two unpublished works that I've worked on over the last several years, along with brief excerpts from each:
The Girl Across the Street is a novella that chronicles the lives of a trio of girls whose complicated friendship evolves in the 1970s and 80s as they outgrow childhood and embrace adolescence. The opening narrative won the Columbus Literary Award in Fiction, given by the Greater Columbus Arts Council and the Thurber House, a literary center housed in James Thurber's boyhood home.
I was sitting on the porch roof just outside my bedroom window, my butt gently roasting on the warm tiles, my feet dangling over the gutter. It was a hot morning at the end of July, right after my eighth birthday, and I hadn’t even gone downstairs yet to eat my breakfast. Too much else was going on. Mr. Gorsham, who was ancient and lived two doors down from us, had gotten out again and was wandering up the block, talking to himself. Meanwhile, the Thompson’s dog, Harmony, was dragging a rotten shoe (I think) across our front lawn. Most interesting of all, though, was what was happening across the street at the Chambers’ old house. Maddie, my best friend for as long as I could remember, had lived there until a month ago when her family moved to Chicago. Now, a U-haul was parked in her driveway. A girl slid down the ramp that hung out the back of the truck. But she wasn’t small and pretty, like Maddie, who had blonde curls and a big smile. This girl had black hair that reached almost to her waist and knobby knees and arms. She looked mean.
“Go away,” I whispered, closing my eyes, hoping she’d magically turn into Maddie.
When I opened them again, that awful girl was still there. She did a couple of cartwheels across the grass and squinted up at me. Then she stuck her tongue out, spun around, skipped up the front steps, and vanished inside. Brushing away a single tear, I tried not to miss Maddie so much.
Fit to Kill is an amateur-sleuth mystery that features Annie Lawrence, a recently widowed farm wife who's marking time as a church custodian while she decides what to do next. Her life changes radically on the night she discovers the body of her boss and close friend, Reverend Harry Dixon, a man with many secrets. Using only her wits and intuition, she solves the violent murder. But before she does, she discovers just how twisted life can get in Bone, Iowa, a small placid town nestled in the heart of America, where the novel takes place. This is the first of three Annie Lawrence books.
My fingers ached in the early-winter cold, even though I was wearing heavy wool mittens. There was no moon, and clouds blanketed the stars. It was Sunday evening around 8:30, and as I headed across the dim, deserted lot behind the Campus Park Presbyterian Church in the little town of Bone, Iowa, I performed a mental checklist of my usual end-of-the-week custodial chores: sweep the Sanctuary, make sure the hymnals were stacked in place, empty the office wastebaskets, and so on. Routine tasks all. I should be finished in no time.
The building loomed large in front of me, a square dungeon with a squat roof. I had a strong sense that someone was watching me.
After running up the cement steps, I entered through the rear door, red in the daytime but pitch black tonight, and hurried down the narrow hallway, my boots squeaking along the rough tile. The closet where I kept my cleaning supplies was just a hairpin turn away. The tiny room was dark. This morning after the service was over and everyone was gone, I had flipped off all the lights. Now groping around for the switch, I realized how ridiculous that was. Wasting a few watts of electricity to make life easier for myself wasn’t going to drive the church into bankruptcy.
I shrugged off my parka, stomped my feet, and slapped my arms to take away the chill. Then I did a quick survey. My toolbox was open. Someone must have “borrowed” one of my screwdrivers. Again. I kicked the box shut, picked up my supplies, and hustled to the sanctuary, thinking only of the hot bubble bath I would take once I got home, of dipping my icy toes into cucumber-melon scented froth while I waited for the tub to fill, of steamy delicious warmth.
I glanced down at the scuffed terrazzo floor and sighed. No amount of polishing on my part would ever make it look like anything other than what it was, worn out. Empty pews stood like lines of soldiers rigidly facing forward. Streetlights shone through windows stained with miniature figures of Christ and of the Ten Commandments that sent shadows like bony fingers across the front wall. A solitary bible sat on the raised wooden pulpit..
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