I’m thrilled to be Featured Follower for the month of September on author C. Lee McKenzie’s blog, TheWriteGame! Lee, whom I met through Uncommon YA, is a widely-published author of young adult and middle grade novels. She’s also a wonderfully gracious supporter of fellow authors. Visit her site this month to learn more about me and my process, and enter for a chance to win a signed hardcover of The Namesake.
I appreciate Lee for also sharing news about my latest manuscript, The Precious Dreadful. That story follows gutsy young Teddi Alder as she tries to solve a pair of mysteries one very hot summer. Here’s a short passage to pique your interest.
In this excerpt, Teddi journals in response to a writing prompt titled “Old Friend,” inadvertently summoning memories of her childhood playmate, Corey.
COREY AT THE POND
Harsh buzz in my ears, metallic whine of insects. We pick carefully through heavy branches rimming the path. Corey points to tri-clustered greens, reminds me, “Leaves of three…”
It should feel cooler here beneath the branches, but even in shade, heat embraces me like a long-lost aunt. Sweat pastes my Scooby tank to my back, and I feel the prickly tightness of sunburn pinch my shoulder blades.
Corey leads. We’re explorers some days, sometimes the last surviving members of a secret tribe. Today he chooses: Croc Hunter and Terri. I go along, even though Terri mostly stands to the side cheering Steve on.
“We should play Croc Hunter back in the Cretaceous.”
Corey likes that. Grinning, he agrees. “Great idea, Terri.”
Prehistoric fits this place. The path’s bordered by huge ferns, twisting cones of skunk cabbage. As we hike further along, there are evil-looking red berries, a humongous spider web. Everything seems ancient, despite the ground litter. Aluminum flip top rings, cigarette butts. Chip bags.
Other things I pretend not to see. Corey calls them “hypes and condos.” He says hypes are for drugs and the other…well, he’s not sure. But his cousin told him those have something to do with S-E-X. He laughed at me for calling them “weird little milk balloons,” warned I’d catch a disease if I touched one.
I follow him, road noise shrinking, shrinking as we go deeper in. We pass Stone Loop, this area where the grass is flattened-down, burnt. Rocks, some furniture-big, ring the circle; they’re painted with initials and swear words, dirty pictures. In the middle is a jumble of smaller stones, blackened chunks of wood, melted bottles.
“Crikey, we’ve stumbled on a camp, Terri! Must be a family of Cro Magnons.”
Corey nails the Croc Hunter accent, so I don’t bother correcting him. There were no cavemen in the Cretaceous.
“Look, Steve. What do you make of this?”
It’s a picnic table; someone’s obviously dragged it here. Covered in spray paint, like the rocks, its surface is scorched, carved with strange symbols. I wonder how Corey will explain this.
“Never mind that, Terri. Over here! It’s a nesting area! I’ll bet there are some HUGE crocs around here.”
We’ve made it to the pond. Dragonflies sew patterns into the surface, dashing stitches that appear briefly, then dissolve into the scum-green skin.
Drawn by ripples, Corey spots a pair of eyes that slowly rise and dip below the water’s slimy surface. A turtle. “It’s a baby archelon, Terri.” Moving closer to the pond edge, he lifts a heavy sheet of bark, tests its weight like a baseball bat. “If I can just stun her with this, I’ll bet we can catch her.”
“I’m not sure that’s such a good idea, Steve.”
“It’s all right, Terri. I know what I’m doing.”
Raising the slab above his head, he inches across the marshy bank, closer to the water.
Ignoring my cry, Corey swings with all he’s got. The turtle submerges before the weapon can connect, the bark making a loud SMACK as it hits the mucky surface. Knocked off balance by the momentum of his forward swing, Corey falls forward. Knees splatting into the mud, his head and torso are briefly submerged in the brackish ooze.
I’m frozen, a lump in my throat, chill sweat instantly slicking my forehead, armpits.
Spluttering, Corey struggles for a moment to right himself. “Dang it, Teddi!” He sits up, swipes his face clear of green scum.
Realizing he’s okay, I bust into laughter. He looks mad for just a second, his eyebrows knit together. Then he joins me on the bank, coughing laughter and spitting out “turtle juice.”
Just as I close the journal, my phone rings.
Thanks for stopping by; check in for updates as The Precious Dreadful moves toward publication!