Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Beginning of Baby Blue Christmas

This is the beginning of the novella that will be in the Author's of Main Street 2017 Christmas box set.

Baby Blue Christmas
By Kristy Tate

Chapter One
The wind rattled the door as if asking to be let in. Sophie glanced at the dark night through the frosty windows and watched the trees shake their barren branches. Clouds shrouded the moon, but they were wispy rather than stormy, and for that she was grateful. It had taken an hour to calm and lull Jamison to sleep and she didn’t need a thunder clap to wake him.
Sofia settled into her favorite chair beside the fireplace, propped her feet on the ottoman, and pulled a quilt around her legs before reaching for her novel. She’d been living in her sister’s house for a little more than six months now and she still felt like the babysitter. Lauren told her that any major move requires an adjustment period of a year, but on dark nights such as this, Sofia wondered if she would ever feel at home in her sister’s house, filling in her sister’s life. Maybe this place, like her sister’s shoes, would always rattle around on her. A little too big. Not quite right.
The moaning changed in tone and the door shook again. Sofia put down her book and stared into the flames dancing in the fireplace. Lauren had suggested she replace her sister’s furniture with her own, but her sleek contemporary style didn’t suit the old farmhouse, and so her belongings were stored in the basement in a holding pattern. She wasn’t ready to let them go.
That was not the wind.
Bark! The door shook again.
Sophie kicked off the quilt and padded to the front window, but saw nothing but wind tossed trees and dancing leaves. After undoing the latch, she opened the door. The cold wind circled the room and the flames in the hearth jumped and flickered. A bundle of fur quivered on the front step and pleaded at her with giant brown eyes.
Sophie dropped to her knees and rested her hand on the puppy’s head, trying to ease his trembling. He whined and tried to lick her hand.
“Who are you?” she muttered, avoiding his tongue while searching for a collar or tag.
He whimpered in response.
She picked him up and nestled him against her chest, horrified by his bony rib cage and splotchy fur. “You can’t stay here,” she told him. “I’m still learning how to take care of a baby. I can’t add a puppy to my chaos, especially not a sick one.” She glanced at the dark woods surrounding her house. Lights from the Jespersen’s farm told her that they were awake, but she couldn’t see either of the aging couple traipsing through the forest that separated their properties to deliver a puppy to her doorstep.
After bringing the dog inside, she snagged the quilt off her chair, wrapped the shivering puppy in it, and headed for the kitchen. “But I can’t leave you outside. Not on a night like this. Are you hungry?”
What did puppies eat? Other than puppy chow? She couldn’t drag Jamison from his crib and into the cold to pick up dog food at the store. The closest store was the Millie’s Mini-mart, and it was seven miles away. Besides, it didn’t make sense to buy a whole package of chow for a one night stay.
Sophie smiled at the thought. While most people her age were partying and having one night stands, she was babysitting her sister’s child and rescuing puppies. She blew out a sigh, sat down in front of her computer, cradled the dog in her lap, and Googled how to make homemade puppy food.
The Internet had been her lifesaver since her sister’s death. It staved off loneliness by keeping her connected with her city friends and introducing her to Mommy blogs where millions of moms could answer any and all baby questions while she struggled to find her own parenting legs. Briefly she wondered if there were puppy blogs.
But, no. She didn’t need to connect to online puppy owners since this creature was leaving first thing in the morning. He couldn’t be a permanent fixture in her life. The puppy nestled against her, and as she surfed the web searching for chow recipes, the tiny creature fell asleep, reminding her that she also needed to sleep. Jamison kept early-bird hours.


 Luke sat the corner of Main and Olympic not quite sure where to turn. It was an odd sensation, one that he hadn’t felt since…actually, he couldn’t remember a time when his life hadn’t been planned out in an air-tight schedule. Was it his brother’s death that brought him back to his hometown in a herculean effort to create a do-over?
That had something to do with it. He glanced down Main. During the spring, summer, and even into the late fall, the streets would be teeming with surfers and beach-goers, but on this gray November day, Main Street matched his bleak mood.
His thoughts strayed to Matt, as they often did. In the force he didn’t deal with violence, as most of his work had been the cyber-sort, but he’d witnessed plenty of deaths. But none of them had shaken him like Matt’s.
Luke shook himself, glanced in his rear view mirror, and waved a half-hearted apology to the car behind him before rolling through the intersection and pulling to a stop in front of the hardware store. But as soon as he climbed from his SUV, the delicious smell of Betty’s Bakery hit like a blow to his hungry gut and lured him in like a fish on a line.
Seconds later, he emerged with a cup of coffee and a chocolate ├ęclair. In the few minutes he’d been in the bakery, the morning sun had burned off the marine layer, and Hamilton didn’t look so bleak.
“Atticus! Stop!”
Luke pushed himself against a clothing rack as a tiny bundle of fur streaked past. A woman pushing a stroller barreled after the dog.
Could it be Sophia?
She looked…good. Really good.
And the baby…that had to be Jamie.
His heart twisted.
Jamie had only been a few months old when his parents had died. Now, he would be six or seven months old, getting teeth, sitting up, and maybe even crawling.
And Sophia…He had last seen her at the funeral. She’d been livid with him, of course. Dimly, he’d been aware that she’d lost a lot of weight since high school. She’d worn a black suit worthy of Madam Hillary, and she’d thrown a lot of accusations at him.
“Atticus! Come here!” Sophia tried to sound commanding.
She hadn’t known about his position, of course, so he’d automatically forgiven her. He only hoped that now that he’d returned and hoped to settle down that she’d forgive him. He followed her into Tina’s Timeless Treasures and found her very attractive backside sticking out of a circular clothing rack. The clothes jostled as she moved. He tried not to stare.
Squatting beside the baby, Luke smiled at his nephew, searching for signs of Matt. Jamie waved a chubby fist at him. He was blond, blue-eyed, and pink-cheeked like his mom…and his aunt. Other than the curls, Jamison looked nothing like his angular, strong-jawed father.
“I heard you were back in town.”
Luke tore his gaze away from his nephew to smile up at Tina Moon, the owner of the Timeless Treasure shop. She’d been old when Luke was in high school, but like her collection of what-haves and what-evers, she hadn’t seemed to age at all in the past fifteen years.
“Bought the Jacoby’s farm, have you?”
“Just the barn,” Luke told her.
Sophia scooted out of the clothes, clutching a puppy with a red ribbon tied around his neck to her chest. She had a smear of dust across her cheek and her hair was mussed. She probably had no idea how adorable she looked.
“Luke.” She made his name sound like a cuss word.
“Hey, Sophia. How are you?”
She climbed to her feet, hugged the puppy with one hand, and pushed her hair out of her face with another. He’d heard that she’d been practicing law at a prestigious firm in San Francisco before the accident. Her baby-doll appearance had undoubtedly thrown her opponents a curve ball as soon as she opened her mouth and filleted them with her wit.
“I see you’re reacquainting yourself with Jamison.”
“Yes,” he said softly. “It’s about time,” he said before she could.
She pursed her lips, but he didn’t know how to read that or the look in her eye.
“I want to talk.” He pressed on, despite the scowl forming between her eyebrows. Straightening, he gave her his best smile. “Can I take you to lunch?”
“Now?” She shook her head. “I’ve got to pass out these fliers and after that it’ll be time for Jamison’s lunch and nap.” She appraised him before lifting her chin. “He’s on a schedule and so am I.” And there’s no wiggle room for you, her tone told him.
Luke grinned. He liked a challenge. “Well, I can help you pass out the fliers. What are you advertising?”
She handed him one. Below the words FOUND DOG was a picture of the puppy followed by her phone number and address.
“You can’t pass these out!”
She grabbed the flier from him. “Why not?”
“It has your number on it!” He swallowed. “And your address!”
“Are you still living at Matt and Chloe’s place?”
“Yes, she is,” Tina said, her voice thick with disapproval.
Luke, so wrapped up in Sophia, had nearly forgotten about Tina. Sophia’s wide eyes told him that she had also. Luke took Sophia’s wrist with one hand, and picked up the folder of fliers and placed it behind his back with the other. “Let me take you to lunch.”
“No. I told you I have to—”
“You are not passing out your name and number.” He rubbed her inner wrist with his thumb.
“You can’t stop me!” She jerked her hand away and folded her arms across her chest.
“Come on, Sophia,” he said.
“That’s Sofa to you!” she spat out.
“Oh, that’s low. Seriously, you’re going to drag out junior high stuff?”
She put the puppy in the back of the stroller, and turned to flounce away. He followed, knowing she couldn’t go very fast while pushing Jamie.
“I want to help with Jamie,” he told her backside as they walked down Main at a brisk pace. “I know you gave up your job in the city…I admire that.”
Sophia acted as if she hadn’t heard him. She paused at a lamp post, pulled a roll of tape from her jacket pocket, and reached into the stroller for the folder of fliers. Straightening, her gaze flicked between the folder in his arms and his face. “Give them back!”
He shook his head. “Be reasonable. You’re living alone on nine acres and you’re going to invite everyone who passes by this street post to come and claim the dog? I don’t think so. Not while my nephew is living with you.”
She stared at him for a moment. Her eyes narrowed. Seconds later, she shoved the puppy into his arms.
“Fine. Now he’s your problem!”
The dog, a bundle of curly fur with big brown eyes, smelled of lavender soap. But no matter how adorable it was, Luke couldn’t keep it. “Sophia! Come on, I can’t take care of a dog.”
“Yes, you made that perfectly clear six months ago.”
Luke glanced around at the nearly deserted street, hoping no one was listening. An elderly gentleman was washing the windows at the Pizza Palace. A woman browsed through the potted plants at the Finicky Florist Shop. He lowered his voice. “I couldn’t be here then, but I’m here now.”
“Thank you very much for taking care of Atticus.” Her voice caught and she stroked the puppy between the ears. “He’s just a puppy. He likes chow made with carrots. I know it sounds weird, but according to the dog-bloggers, it’s the best. If you’ll come by, I’ll give you his things and the recipe for the chow.”
He cocked an eyebrow. “His things?”
“Well, yes. He has a quilt and some toys. Actually, the toys had been Jamison’s…”
“You weren’t going to keep this dog, right?”
“Well, no, but…” she paused, then shook her head. “This isn’t going to work. Give him back.”
Luke edged away from her. “Are you going to pass out fliers with your name and phone number on them?”
“No. I’m going to keep him.” She motioned for him to hand over the dog.
“I’ll give him back on one condition.”
“What’s that?”
“If you decide you can’t keep Atticus, I get first dibs.”
“It’s a deal.”
“And you’ll meet me for dinner tonight.”
“Because I want to be a part of Jamie’s life and for that to happen, I need your cooperation.”
Sophia sucked in a deep breath. “Okay.”

Luke gently placed the dog back in her arms.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Stacked Ads--Promoting Books

Tomorrow kicks off a huge promotion push (for me) for my novel Beyond the Fortuneteller's Tent. Ereader News Today is tomorrow. They always do well for me. The next day is Bookbub, which has consistently been a hot commodity. I also have Robin Reads and Book Barbarian lined up. Throughout the next few weeks, I'll schedule a rash of freeby ads, post tweets, and pin Pinterest memes. My goal is to make the top 100 free and stay there for a month or two. At the end of April, I'll raise the price and try for another Bookbub with a different book.

Here's a peek at a few of my Pinterest memes.


And here are the tweets:
Award winning novel, Beyond the Fortuneteller's Tent, is free. #freebook #amreading #CR4U #YAlit http://amzn.to/2czakxH
Sharing stats for Amazon freebie #bookmarketing http://kristystories.blogspot.com/#CR4U #YAlit
The secret to selling books is the same secret to any success. You have to show up. #bookmarketing http://kristystories.blogspot.com/#CR4U #YAlit
It's like running. You have to put on your sneakers, regularly. #CR4U #YAlit #bookmarketing #freebook http://kristystories.blogspot.com/
Mrs. Brighton, part time English teacher and full time witch. #amreading #CR4U #YAlit #freebook http://amzn.to/2czakxH

Axe throwing is not only allowed, but encouraged. #CR4U #YAlit #amreading #freebook http://amzn.to/2czakxH

This guy would never wear a coral colored vest #CR4U #YAlit #amreading #freebook http://amzn.to/2czakxH

A 2014 I Heart Indie’s Finalist, young adult time travel #CR4U #YAlit #amreading #freebook http://amzn.to/2czakxH

Outlander for young adults, teen time travel #CR4U #YAlit #amreading #freebook http://amzn.to/2czakxH

When Petra goes into the fortuneteller’s tent expecting to leave with a date to prom. #CR4U #YAlit #amreading #freebook http://amzn.to/2czakxH

Petra is a complication that Heaven only knows he does not need #CR4U #YAlit #amreading #freebook http://amzn.to/2czakxH

As Petra slowly falls for Emory, she wonders if he really is who he seems, #CR4U #YAlit #amreading #freebook http://amzn.to/2czakxH

Monday, February 27, 2017

A collection of twenty science fiction & fantasy short stories and novellas about experiencing the Unknown.

Including my short story, Return to Cinder

A number of years ago, my friend's family was on a road trip and their car broke down somewhere between Reno and Vegas. If you're at all familiar with that area, you know that there isn't much there other than dust, cacti, and tumbleweeds. And Area 51.
A Mormon bishop welcomed them into his home and they stayed there for several days waiting for their car to be repaired. After the family returned home, my friend's dad wrote the bishop and several other members of the town thank you notes for their hospitality and kindness.
I won't tell you what happened next because I want you to read the story.
I thought about changing the bishop to "minister" or "pastor" to make the story more universal, but decided against it. The man claimed to be a Mormon bishop. Besides, there is a (sometimes naive and undeserved) trusting steak in the Mormon culture. As a people, we tend to assume if someone is a "worthy priesthood holder" that person is deserving of our trust. I confess, if my car broke down in the middle of nowhere, if given the choice, I would pick to stay with a Mormon bishop and his wife over any other set of strangers. I'm sure my friend's family, also devote Mormons, felt the same.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Sugar Fasting. How to Ween Yourself Off Sugar

Last night I went to a "favorite things"party. It's like a white elephant gift exchange, except that you're supposed to bring your favorite thing wrapped like a present. And another selects your wrapped present and you tell everyone in the crowd why it's one of your favorite things. When it was my turn to select a gift, I intentionally skipped the Sees Candies and the Sprinkles cupcake. Instead, I chose a large heavy present under the rational that it wouldn't be candy or a dessert.
It was a 5 lb. bag of chocolate chips. Probably the most sugar-laden thing in the room.

But I'm closing in my second month of my sugar fast, and honestly, sugar has little temptation for me know. Why? I really haven't lost weight, although I'm sure I would if I stopped eating empty carbs. I have gone down a pants size, but that isn't the incentive. Here it is: when I don't eat sugar, I sleep through the night. When I sleep through the night, life is good. When I eat sugar, I don't sleep through the night. When I don't sleep through the night life is BAD. That's right, all capitals BAD.

So, how do you ween yourself off sugar? Below is a blog post from three years ago. It's rather disheartening that I've been flirting with giving up sugar for more than three years, but since I've been living and eating for much longer than that, I shouldn't be surprised that sometimes, maybe even often, it takes a really long time to reset lifelong patterns. There are a few that can flip a switch and be forever changed, but I don't think most of us are wired that way. Since the New Year, I have been living with the motto, not even once. And so far, it's worked for me. But I also like to keep the teeth brushing analogy in my head, and that is this: if you skip brushing your teeth one night, you don't throw away your toothpaste and say, "well, I blew it. I guess I'm done with brushing my teeth." No, you just get back to teeth brushing. It can be the same way with healthy eating.

Here's my post on sugar fasting from three years ago:

Sugar Fasting

Day three of my sugar fast. Already, I'm sleeping through the night. (Hooray!) And I've lost a pound. I have friends that have been wildly successful with their sugar fasts.

Nancy: age 53. Lost 15 pounds
Claudia: age 75. Lost 20 pounds
Janet: age 52. Lost 50 pounds
Skeet: age 57. Lost 120 pounds

But weight loss shouldn't be the motivating factor. Each of my friends gave up sugar as a way to combat different health issues. I think it's interesting that three different health concerns were all addressed by this one (simple/ not so simple) remedy.

 Last year I went without sugar from my birthday in January until Valentine's Day, and I learned some things.

1. Going without sugar is actually easy if you can survive the first horrendous, no-good week. Why is the first week so hard? By about day three I went through withdrawal and had a massive headache, but if you can power through until about the fifth or fourth day, you should lose your craving for sugar.

Counter Attack: Plan a reward. On day 5 I'm going to buy a gizmo that will count how many calories I burn when I walk/run.

2. When I don't eat sugar, I sleep through the night. I can't tell you why I sleep better without sugar in my diet, all I know is that I do. It might be because I don't have that afternoon sugar crash around 2 or 3 p.m. where all I want to do is nap. Maybe because I don't need to nap, I sleep better at night. And I can't even begin to tell you how much better I feel after a good nights sleep.

Action Plan: Keep a journal of your sleep patterns and see if it works for you.

3. Without sugar, fruits and vegetables taste better and sweeter, and refined sweets lose their draw.

So, why did I quit my sugar fast last February? Because it was hard. Everyday something delicious comes my way. I'm confronted with birthday cakes, morning donuts, and treats at every writers' group meeting, every church social, and every get-together.

Counter Attack: I'm going to take a picture of the treat with my phone and use it as a symbol of the temptation I was able overcome--a trophy, if you will.

Is it reasonable to give up all treats, always? Probably not. But a warm peach sprinkled with cinnamon can satisfy even a raging sweet tooth.

Penny, my main character in Losing Penny, is a food blogger who struggled with weight issues her entire life, but finds life just as difficult after she loses the weight. Here's the blurb. 

A cooking show diva in hiding,
A literature professor writing genre fiction,
An admirer who wants more than the tasty morsels a cooking hostess is willing to share—
A dangerous recipe for romance in the town of Rose Arbor.

Cooking show diva, Penny Lee, loses fifty pounds, and gains a stalker. To avoid the attention of her most devoted follower, Penny concocts a plan: while pretending to take a culinary tour, traveling the world, collecting recipes and posting them on her blog, she hides at a remote beach house in Rose Arbor, Washington, where she spends the summer compiling her cookbook.

When English Literature professor Drake Islington is offered the chance to spend the summer at a remote beach house where he can write in peace he happily accepts, never dreaming that he is a pawn in a match making scheme. His encounter with Penny promises a delicious summer, until uninvited guests arrive forcing Penny and Drake to cook up a scheme of their own. When Drake’s mother, a stalker, and a donkey named Gertrude join the mix, the town of Rose Arbor sizzles with another tale of romance and suspense.

Losing Penny is free this weekend. GET YOURS HERE

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Life isn't Fair

I just wrote this poem for my current work in progress, Rewriting Rita. What do you think?

Life Isn’t Fair,
Fairs are for cows and pigs seeking the prize,
The blue go to those of the biggest size,
The heftiest cows, the piggiest pig,
The crown goes to the critters most big.
And if you’ll take a gander at the crowd gathered there,

You’ll always find a prize-winning bitch at the fair.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Being Stuck

A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to be stuck in an elevator. I say fortunate because that experience gave me the idea for one of my favorite novellas, Stuck With You. (It's free this weekend.)
Being trapped in an elevator was, at the time, terrifying. Partly because I was raised by a claustrophobic mother. In fact, I didn't ride in an elevator until I was old enough to navigate department stores on my own. So, one of my first thoughts when the elevator jammed was, My mom was right!

This wasn't my worst elevator experience, though. That happened when I was fourteen and I went to visit my dying mother in the Veteran's Hospital in Seattle. A trip to the restroom separated me from my dad so I had to ride the elevator by myself. I got off on the wrong floor. The air was blue with smoke. The people on the chairs and sofas looked frozen and immobile. For a moment, I thought maybe I had come to the place where they kept the dead. A nurse hurried over and informed me I was on the floor for the alcoholics. She directed me where I could find my mom. All these years later, I can still see the blue air of that smoke-filled room.

And just like there was a blessing (a book idea) to my unfortunate time in the stuck elevator, I think there was a blessing that came from my trip to the alcoholic ward of the VA hospital. Drinking has had zero appeal to me. Ever. Once in high school a friend asked me to come and pick up a drunk friend and drive her home. We had to stop several times for her to vomit, and all I could think was "ick." Years later at social events for my husband's work when people would drink, laugh too hard, talk too loud, and stand too close, I again would think (but never say) "ick." My husband had a boss that I liked when he was sober, but when he'd been drinking he would put his face just inches from mine and talk to me with his reeking breath.

My point is this: sometimes being stuck can be a good thing. Just as long as you learn something and move on.

Here's an old post about my experience in the elevator. Following that is the first chapter of my novella, Stuck With You--Free this weekend.

 Do you ever feel stuck?

I listened to a great Ted talk the other day by a doctor who was paralyzed and went on to do great things despite his condition. The takeaway message for me was: we're all paralyzed at one time or another.

Which made me think. Not only are we sometimes paralyzed--there are probably whole areas of our lives where we're paralyzed. There are places we won't go. Things we won't do. Foods we won't eat. People we won't speak to. Ideas we won't consider. And sometimes this is wise and sometimes it's stupid.

The other day I was stuck in an elevator. I accidentally leaned against the alarm button and the elevator froze. I tried to pull the button that said, pull in case of an emergency. I tried to call the number on the elevator wall, but I didn't have cell service. I tried not to go insane while the alarm wailed.

I kicked the door. I beat against the wall with a teapot. (Who knew teapots could be useful for something other than making tea?) I pulled on the emergency knob until my hand turned blue (really, I bruised my hands.) Finally someone found me. And then they told me it would take 40 minutes for the elevator person to come to my rescue.

After 45 minutes, I decided I couldn't wait any longer, and I broke a pair of wire-rimmed glasses and used the arm to wedge under the emergency button. Using all my weight, I popped off the button and the elevator doors slid open.

While in the elevator, listening to the screaming alarm, I was fine. It wasn't until I was in my car and headed for home that I began shaking. It took a long time for me to feel "normal." (Whatever that is.)

The next day I received an email from a friend recounting her grandson's experience in the monster storm that devastated the Philippines. It made me stop and think about how I handled my adventure in the elevator and how this young missionary survived a deadly storm.

It made me think about fear and faith and patience. It gave me a great idea for a story.

What do you do when you feel stuck? Are there areas of your life where you refuse to budge? Old ideas that you refuse to let go? Relationships stuck in a rut? Habits and routines that could use some shaking up?


Click. Click. Click.
Stainless steel and glistening marble. No family pictures or personal mementos. Emotionally dead. Like a zombie.
Andie pushed open the walk-in closet and tweaked her assessment. A zombie wearing Armani. She snapped a few photos of the shoes lined up like soldiers on the shelves and the shirts hung with every collar facing north. Tempted to grab a fistful of the pinpoint Oxford shirts and wrinkle the heavily starched fabric, she controlled herself and instead searched the floor and dark corners, hoping to find a stray jock-strap or a Twinkie wrapper—anything incriminating. But Grayson Dodd was too good. Or, more likely, he hired someone to make him look good. He probably had someone come in to keep the contents of his medicine cabinet in alphabetical order and his sock drawer color coordinated.
She snapped a few more shots of the bedroom before heading to the balcony. In a few more minutes, she would be rewarded with a view of Catalina lying in a blue, sparkling sea. The Newport shots required patience and perfect timing. The morning marine layer often wouldn’t burn off until noon, and by four p.m. it generally returned. This meant that she usually ate her lunch in a fast food parking lot, napkins carefully protecting her work uniform—a black linen skirt and creamy lace top.
Andie sat at the bistro table with the chairs strategically placed so that the balcony rail wouldn’t interfere with the view, and waited for the sun to work its magic. Far below her, the cars moved along the crowded parkway. Clients and sellers wanted to see Catalina Island—not Southern Orange County’s busy streets.
Andie scrolled through the photos on her camera, assuring herself that as soon as she had the ocean shots, she would have the bones of a decent flier. She let the sun warm her shoulders and closed her eyes, imagining Grayson Dodd’s reaction to her work… She knew it wasn’t fair to dislike him just because he was marrying her cousin, Kayla. Sure, he had an apartment with all the warmth and appeal of a Modani showroom, but maybe he was a decent guy. She had only met him a few times. It was nice of him to give her mom the listing.
Andie stood and rolled her shoulders. She knew that Kayla and Grayson were a set match. Everyone said so. And even if they had their flaws—Grayson’s million dollar view was perfect. When the sun finally overcame the fog, she snapped the photos, said goodbye to Catalina, tucked her camera into her case, locked all the doors, and headed for the elevator.
Verbiage ran through her head while she waited. Location, location, location! Ocean views from this cozy (aka small) Newport Coast charmer (aka last century condo.) Typically, she loved her job…well, she didn’t hate it…at least she was a photographer…but now as the elevator slid between floors, a funk she didn’t know how, or didn’t want to acknowledge, settled over her as heavy and dense as the Newport fog. She couldn’t look at it too closely because she knew if she did, she’d find the cause of her bad mood…Jeremy Zimmerman. And she didn’t want to find Jeremy Zimmerman anywhere, especially not inside her head. It was bad enough knowing that she would have to face him at Kayla’s wedding.
The doors slid open. Andie looked up from her camera’s display screen and saw Grayson Dodd leaning against the back wall, wearing a pair of khaki shorts, a Camp Pendleton Mud Run T-shirt and a pair of leather flip flops. Where were the pinpoint Oxford shirt and wingtip shoes? She nodded at him and pushed the elevator button.
“Hey,” he said as the doors closed.
“Hi.” She smiled and hoped it looked sincere and not as forced as it felt. “I just shot your condo.”
“That seems harsh.” He grinned. “Did it bleed?”
“Huh, no. Do you want to see? I got some pretty good shots of Catalina.”
“So—you’re not only a condo killer, but an island assassin.”
“I have a camera. I know how to use it.” She tried to read him.  His light gray eyes stared back at her from behind wire-rimmed glasses. She didn’t know this Grayson. He was different—and the difference extended beyond his wardrobe. “I can shoot you, too. Right here. Right now.”
He shuddered. “Scary.”
She shrugged and grinned. “I can plaster you all over Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I even do LinkedIn.” Her voice caught as the elevator hiccupped and bounced. Andie stopped thinking of shooting Grayson when the elevator shuddered a mechanical sigh and stopped. The lights flickered and died.
“What the—?” Andie reached for the control panel and ran her fingers over the buttons. She blinked at them. Maybe her eyes would adjust to the perfect dark. But maybe not. She fumbled in her purse and pulled out her phone.
No service.
It provided a faint, milky light, and she used it to inspect the control panel. A red plaque had the words In case of an emergency, please call:1-800-555-help.
“Good to know,” Grayson said, as he pulled out his phone. “Assuming you had service.”
Andie spotted a large red button and pushed it. Almost immediately, an alarm wailed. It echoed through the tiny space and filled Andie’s head.
“Someone will come now right?” She had to yell to be heard over the alarm. “The alarm will tell someone that we’re stuck.”
But no one came. Time grounded to a halt.
 “Why don’t I lift you up?” Grayson suggested. “Maybe you can crawl through the roof.”
“And then what? I’m not Laura Croft. This isn’t an action movie.”
He laughed again, a soft sound, barely audible above the alarm. “I’m not looking for action.”
“Oh!” she harrumphed. She actually harrumphed. Little old ladies like Grammy Dean harrumphed and now she was harrumphing too. Next thing—knitting, canasta, and Bonanza reruns. “You are not picking me up.” She winced at the double entendre.
“Well, I would suggest you pick me up, but I don’t think you could…at least, not in the literal sense.”
Was he flirting with her? Eew. She tried to ignore him. Leaning against the far wall, as far as possible from Grayson, she was hypersensitive to him. He didn’t say anything, but she still felt him. She really couldn’t hear anything above the noise of the alarm, but she could swear she felt him breathe. His nearness crackled like electricity. Her skin prickled. He smelled like soap. A really nice, lavender sort of soap. Which made her wonder if males should use lavender soap. Maybe it was Kayla’s soap.
Which made her think of bathing, which led to bathrooms, and the absence of such an important necessity…Panic fluttered in Andie’s belly. She pounded on the door until her hands throbbed. She sat on the floor and used both of her feet to kick the door. Her screaming barely rose above the wailing alarm. Grayson remained in his corner, silent…other than the breathing.
 “Hello?” A voice from the outside. “Is someone in there?”
Finally! Andie gave a sigh of relief that all of her banging and yelling had actually been useful. “Yes!” she screamed.
“Are you hurt?” the voice asked.
“Only my feelings,” Grayson said.
“I’ll go and get security,” the voice said.
“It won’t be long now,” Grayson told her.
Andie harrumphed again. She was getting good at it.
Time stretched and slowed until it stood still.
“Security here,” said a new, deeper voice. “Are you still there?”
“Where did you think we would go?” Andie rolled her eyes for the benefit of no one. Eye rolling and harrumphing had become her fallback positions.
“Pull the emergency button!” the voice instructed.
“I did that!” Andie yelled.
A light flickered as Grayson used his phone to located the red knob. He tried pulling it. “It’s stuck,” he confirmed.
“Call the fire department!” Andie yelled.
“What are they going to do?” Grayson asked. “Use the jaws of life?”
“Why is that stupid?”
“Did I say it was stupid?”
“No, but you said it like you thought it was stupid.”
 Andie wasn’t sure, because she couldn’t hear or see him, but she thought Grayson rolled his eyes.
“Hello?” Andie pressed her nose against the heavy metal doors and tried calling through them.
“Hello,” Grayson said.
She rested her forehead on the doors. They felt smooth, cold and solid. “I’m not talking to you!”
“Too bad. We’ve been in here for almost a half hour, and I’m getting bored.”
They sat in silence for hours, or maybe a few minutes. Andie wasn’t sure which.
“Okay!” The security voice returned. “Just called the elevator guy. He can be here in forty minutes.”
“Forty minutes!” Andie and Grayson both said at the same time.
“I can’t stay here for another 40 minutes,” Andie complained.
“What’s the worst thing that can happen?”
She knew exactly what the worst thing that could happen was. She would have to designate a pee corner, and she would have to squat and pee in front of Grayson Dodd.
She fumbled in her purse for…anything. She pulled out her keys and tried wedging the skinniest one under the red knob. It didn’t budge. Using her phone for a light, she studied the control panel. It had four tiny holes probably for a screw driver. Knowing she didn’t have anything the right size, she swung the light at Grayson.
He blinked at her behind wire rimmed glasses.
Without thinking twice, she ripped the glasses off his face and broke off an arm.
“Do you want to stay in here?” Andie pointed the broken glasses at him with a shaky hand. “Do you want to pee in a corner?”
“Huh, no.”
“Me neither.” She tried poking the broken arm of the glasses into one of the tiny holes. Nothing.
“Here, give it to me.” Grayson held out his hand.
Sighing, she handed it over.
Grayson bent it to form a loop and eased it under the knob. Holding onto the broken eyeglass arm, he leaned back, using all of his weight. Nothing.
He turned to her. “Help me?”
Andie opened her mouth to complain, but quickly realized his plan and complied. She put her arms around his waist and tried to not stand too close.
“Better idea. Switch places.” He placed his hand on her shoulder and guided her so that she stood in front of him. Taking the newly created wire loop, he wrapped it beneath the red knob and held it tightly. “Lean against me,” he said.
She leaned.
Nothing. Well, something, but it was more an internal, zipping blood thing than a mechanical, fix the elevator sort of thing.
“On the count of three, jump backwards,” Grayson said. “Don’t be afraid to hurt me.”
Andie nodded. She felt dizzy standing in the circle of Grayson’s arms.
“One. Two. Three.”
The knob popped as they jumped away. Grayson tumbled to the floor, and Andie landed on top of him. The light sputtered on, and the alarm fell silent. The elevator lurched once before starting and grinding to a stop. The doors slid open.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Melange is Almost Here

I love this one so much…I had actually finished it before Thanksgiving. Because it was my first time placing a book on pre-order, I didn’t realize that the release date was pretty much set in stone. I knew that the Amazon frowned on being late publishing the book, but I hadn’t known that I also wasn’t able to publish earlier than the designated release date. So, I was stuck with February 15th. Which is fine. I’m not 100% sure what the pre-release orders will do for me, but I figured that it will capture those that first read Menagerie and want to read the sequel. Remember how we had to wait a year for the next installment of Harry Porter and the Hunger Games? So glad those days are over…
By Kristy Tate
Copyright 2017
Lizbet and Declan are on the brink of their lives. After graduation, Declan plans on leaving for college, but his world is turned upside down when his grandfather is attacked by wolves. Lizbet draws upon her ability to communicate with animals to try and find the wolves responsible, but she soon discovers the wolves have terrifying abilities of their own, capable of destroying not only Lizbet and Declan’s plans for their future but also their hearts.

Coyote is always out there waiting, and Coyote is always hungry. – Navajo

On the sort of spring evening that lasts forever, when the sun’s fading into blackness stretches for hours, Declan tried to convince himself that time really could be harnessed, and the simple pleasure he found walking beside Lizbet and listening to her laugh would last as long as they both lived. And yet his errand reminded him that bits and pieces of life could be fleeting, that nothing lasts forever, and things could change as quickly as the weather. But fortunately, at that moment, the finicky Pacific Northwest sky sported a few wispy clouds and a promise of a cool, clear night.
“Are you sure you want to wait?” Declan asked.
“What else am I going to do?” Lizbet asked. “Besides, hanging in a bookstore is one of my favorite things to do.”
“I feel weird having you walk me to my grandfather’s house.” He skated a glance at her, wondering what his grandfather would think of Lizbet’s curly hair, elfin features, tiny build, and bright green eyes. His mom called Lizbet a wild child, which was, given her strange upbringing, an apt description. “It’s supposed to go the other way, right?”
“What do you mean?” Lizbet turned to him.
He wanted to kiss her, but after a quick peek at his grandfather’s imposing brick mansion on the other side of the long stretch of lawn beyond the wrought-iron gate, he tucked his hands into his pockets to stop himself from reaching out to her. “I’m the guy,” he said. “I’m supposed to walk you home.”
“But neither of us are going home. I’m going to the bookstore, and you’re stalling.”
“I’m not stalling.”
She placed her hands on his chest to keep him away. “Yes, you are. We’ve been walking down this street at turtle speed…”
He wrapped his hands around her wrists, holding her close. “He’s going to think I’m hitting him up for money.”
“Why do you say that?”
Declan sucked in a breath. “He’s going to ask about college, so I’ll have to tell him about Duke, and that will lead to a conversation about money.”
“If I were you, I’d rather talk about money than your stepfather.”
“True that.” Declan didn’t like to think of, let alone speak about, his stepfather. Fortunately for him, although unfortunately for his stepfather’s business, Gaylord Godwin had been missing for weeks.
“But you’re not your stepfather, and you don’t have to talk about money. You can steer the conversation in any direction you wish.”
A rustling in the bushes caught Declan’s attention. The giant rhododendrons bordering the lawn shivered before falling still.
Lizbet followed his gaze, her expression curious and baffled.
“Probably a cat,” Declan said.
Lizbet shook herself and tucked her hands into her sweater pockets. “I don’t think so… It would have been a really big cat.”
“A dog then,” Declan said, dismissing it. “Are you going to be okay walking to the bookstore?”
Lizbet smirked. “I don’t know… This is a pretty sketchy neighborhood.” She waved at the turn-of-the-last-century mansions, tree-lined street, and manicured lawns before taking his hand in hers and squeezing it. “Visiting your grandfather is the kind thing to do. Remember, this is for him, not you. I’ll be fine and so will you. And more importantly, so will your grandfather.”
But Declan knew that wasn’t true. The whole reason he stood on the street outside his grandfather’s house was because the old man wasn’t fine. His days were numbered. According to his nurse, Frank Forsythe only continued to live because he was too ornery to die.
“He scares me,” Declan admitted.
“I think you could take him on,” Lizbet said with a grin.
“Physically, but probably not intellectually.”
“If he tries to play chess, just run.” Lizbet put her hands on Declan’s shoulders and turned him so he faced the front gate.
“That would be cowardly…” Declan shuffled his feet.
Lizbet gave his back a gentle push.
The bushes shook again and this time Declan caught sight of an enormous gray tail beating the bright red flowers before disappearing into the shrubs. “That’s a huge dog.”
“I’m not scared of a dog,” Lizbet assured him.
“What if my grandfather gets talking and I can’t get away before the bookstore closes? I can’t leave you in the dark by yourself while a giant dog runs loose, terrorizing the neighborhood.” Declan balked at the black wrought-iron gate that separated his grandfather’s house from the rest of the world.
“For one thing, no one is terrorized. And another, this is the Pacific Northwest. It’s June, the longest day of the year is only a few weeks away. We have another two hours, at least, of daylight. And if your grandfather gets extra chatty, I’ll take a bus home.” She reached around him and pushed open the gate. “Now, march up to that door and act chummy. He’s old, he’s sick, and he wants to meet you.”
Declan nodded, and after a quick backward glance at Lizbet, the girl who had become the center of his world, headed up the walkway.
As much as the bookstore tempted Lizbet, curiosity made her pause at the edge of Frank Forsythe’s property near the now-still rhododendrons. Cocking her head, she listened for the dog that belonged to the great furry tail she’d spotted earlier. She shot Declan a quick peep. He stood on the porch with his hands shoved into his pockets, his back to her.
“Hello?” Lizbet whispered into the bushes. Silence. She scanned the trees lining the property, expecting to catch the attention of a squirrel or even a bird, but couldn’t find a creature in sight. A chill crawled down her back. “Hello?” she called a smidge louder.
The bushes rustled again and Lizbet searched for the cause. A rabbit, a chipmunk, even a skunk—there had to be an animal around. Why wasn’t anyone responding? She gave the house another glance, but Declan had disappeared from the porch.
She hadn’t heard the front door open, but that must have been what had happened. The nurse, Teddy, had been expecting him. Lizbet let out a little sigh of relief, pulled her sweater a bit tighter, and headed for the Blarney Bookstore.
The University District was an eclectic mix of shops catering to the UW’s students, and the historic homes of the professors and Seattle’s business professionals. Lizbet’s sandals made a flopping sound as she walked and she told herself that the eerie echo wasn’t in any way sinister. But goosebumps rose on her skin as she scanned the yards, trees, and shrubbery for signs of life.
Where was everyone? The only reason she knew for the animals to desert an area was a forest fire, and the warm humidity held only a spark of the imagination. Unfortunately, Lizbet’s imagination was running wild. She tried to rein it in as she headed for the bookstore.
When only silence answered the door, Declan had stepped off the porch to peek in the window. He’d never been inside his grandfather’s house so he didn’t know what to expect. The Oriental rugs, wingback chairs, and pastoral paintings didn’t surprise him. The overturned table, shattered vase, and flowers strewn across the wood floor did. He rapped on the window. Just like when he’d knocked on the door, no one answered.
He cast another look around for Lizbet and spotted her at the intersection at the end of the street. Should he call out to her? What if someone had broken into his grandfather’s home? What if that someone was still in the house? The farther away Lizbet was, the safer she was. Squaring his shoulders and refusing to jump to conclusions, Declan jogged toward the back of the house. A shoulder-high brick wall enclosed the backyard. When he couldn’t find a gate, he scrambled over the wall and landed hard on his feet. His breathing accelerated as he picked up his pace. A quick peek in the windows told him the living and dining room were both empty. A motion–sensor light flicked on when he reached the patio. Everything in the backyard screamed quiet and peaceful elegance. It was hard to imagine his grandfather had met any violence. The windows were intact, but the back door hung ajar.
Declan reached into his pocket and fingered his phone, debating whether he should call the police. He poked his head through the door. The kitchen with its tall white cabinetry, scrubbed oak table, and gleaming stainless-steel appliances looked like it belonged in a magazine. But a large butcher knife lay on the floor, surrounded by a smattering of… What was that?
Declan pushed inside for a better look, then, with trembling fingers, he called his mom.
Lizbet finally spotted an owl perched on a branch of a giant maple tree. It was early for an owl, but that was only one of the things out of place on this strange evening. Lizbet glanced up and down the street, making sure that she and the owl were alone. “Where is everyone?” she asked.
The owl swiveled his head in her direction and blinked at her. “The wolves have returned,” he said with a hoot as if this should answer all her questions.
“The wolves? In the University District?” Her mind tripped back to the large gray tail she’d spotted in Frank Forsythe’s rhododendrons. Why would there be wolves close to the city center? Wolves belonged in the woods or near pastures where the slow and easy prey lived.
The owl blinked again and nodded.
“All the animals have disappeared because of the wolves?” Lizbet pressed.
“I suggest you do the same.”
“Why are you here?”
“I am a sentinel. We owls have always been so.”
“Admirable,” Lizbet murmured. She pressed her mouth closed when an elderly couple walking a Standard Poodle appeared at the end of the street. She watched as the poodle sat down and refused to budge. The woman tugged on the leash and reprimanded the stubborn dog. After a moment, the man took the lead, but the dog remained obstinate. The man pulled, but the poodle sat on his haunches while his collar threatened to pop off his furry head.
She turned back to the owl. “Do you know where the wolves are now?”
The owl lifted one wing and pointed at the Forsythe house.
Lizbet ran and her sandals slapped the sidewalk.
She stopped short when a giant gray wolf appeared on the sidewalk. His solid muscles rippled beneath silvery fur. His broad shoulders were powerful and his flanks sturdy. He lowered his head and emitted a low growl. “What…who are you?” she asked the wolf.
He didn’t answer but stared at her with blazing green eyes. It occurred to Lizbet that he was trying to scare her. She balled her fists and planted them on her hips. “Answer me!” She raised her voice and tried to infuse it with authority. “Who are you and what do you want?”
The creature flicked his tail before turning and sauntering into the shadowy twilight. She stared after him for half a second before opening the wrought-iron gate, rushing down the walkway, climbing the steps to the front porch, and rapping on the door.
Declan answered, his face pale. Silently, he widened the door to let her in. “I thought you were the police.” His voice wavered.
“Why? What happened?”
Declan nodded over his shoulder. A newscaster’s voice floated through an open door and light flickered from a TV screen in a room off the hall.
Lizbet started for it, but Declan put a warning hand on her arm, stopping her. “Don’t,” he said.
“Well, for one thing, I vomited in there. And another…”
“Your grandfather?”
“And Teddy, his nurse.”
“Are they dead?” Lizbet whispered, although she didn’t know why.

Lizbet put her fingers to her lips, because she knew it wasn’t grizzly—not like a bear—but wolfish, like a giant gray wolf.