Teaser- Fresh Meat

(Note: This is from a revision of a previously-published novel. The book is no longer available.)

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Shawn came back into the arcade right after Larry left. To my astonishment, he actually had a girl with him. She was scrawny, with barely enough boobs to fill her pink bikini top, and zits peppered her face and shoulders. Her hair hung down greasy and heavy, as if she hadn’t washed it in a few days. But she was definitely a girl, and judging from the way she hung on Shawn, I figured he might actually have a shot at fulfilling his mission.

I beat my high score a few times before the nerd who worked the change counter chased us away from the game. He claimed other customers wanted to play. I looked over my shoulder as we walked out of the place. No one was anywhere near our machine.

The four of us went out to the beach. Even with the sun pounding on us, being outside was better than having the arcade nerd chasing us around. Shawn’s chick, who Shawn didn’t bother introducing to us, bought us all snow cones. I heard him calling her Cherry a couple times and wondered if it was her name or just what he planned to lose with her.

Eddie and I tried not to look when some of her snow cone dripped down between her microboobs and Shawn licked it off. There was such a thing as too perverted for public.

After a while, the two lovebirds took off to do their thing. “Shawn’s going to spend the rest of the summer bragging,” Eddie said.

“The rest of the summer’s only like three weeks,” I pointed out. “Find your own girl and you can brag too.”

“Yeah, I want to screw someone random just so I can say I did.” Sarcasm dripped from his voice. “I’m as into girls as the next guy, don’t get me wrong. I just don’t want to pick up some chick from the beach who I’ll never see again, you know?”

“Yeah.”

“What about you?”

“Huh?” I knew what he meant. I just really didn’t want a conversation about picking up chicks.

He rolled his eyes. “Girls, man. Why aren’t you out there with Shawn trying to get laid?”

I shrugged. “Why bother?”

“The old guy in the arcade seemed interested.” He made a face again. “It’s kind of nasty, you know? I mean, he kept looking at you the same way Shawn looks at girls.”

I tensed. Yeah, I would definitely never be able to tell my friends I might like guys.

Then Eddie went on. “I mean, I guess if a guy’s into guys, it’s his business. I don’t care, as long as he isn’t into me. It’s just that guy’s a lot older than us, too, and the way he looked at you gave me the creeps.”

I gave a little sigh of relief. Maybe Eddie wasn’t a prejudiced dickwad. He just had something against Larry’s age. “Can we change the subject now, please? I really don’t want to talk about creepy guys who might or might not be into me.”

He gave me a look. “Sure. What time is it?”

Seeking Help

Welcome to release week for Dolphins in the Mud!

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Needing help can be difficult to accept, especially when it’s something that people assume everyone can do, or that someone should be able to handle. Often that leads to someone being unwilling to ask, and trying to do more than they’re able. Sometimes that can have devastating results.

We live in a world where to some extent community is valued, and we’re told we can rely on our friends and family. At the same time, some things are simply not talked about. If you need help moving to a new home, you probably won’t have too much difficulty finding people. But if you need help dealing with a mental illness, or with a child’s needs, you won’t necessarily get the results you hope for.

In Dolphins in the Mud, both the main character’s mother and his new friend Noah Silver need help, and neither is able to ask for it. Chris’s mother is overwhelmed by taking care of her nine-year-old autistic daughter Cece. In the town where they previously lived, she had a support system that gave her some respite, but since they moved, she has isolated herself from neighbors and refuses to admit to anyone that she can’t quite handle Cece alone. Even her husband is unaware of how badly she needs help, and since he has a four-hour round-trip commute to his full-time job, he isn’t around to give her any assistance.

Meanwhile, Noah is coping with untreated bipolar disorder. Although he has been diagnosed, his parents won’t allow him to be put on medication. They try to keep everyone from finding out that their son has a mental illness. He does have a therapist, but the therapist only sees Noah occasionally, and Noah generally refuses to speak to him. Noah won’t admit, and sometimes doesn’t recognize, that he needs more help than his parents are giving him.

In Chris’s mother’s case, her refusal to ask for help is equal parts pride and shame. She is too proud to let on that she can’t be the perfect mother, and she’s ashamed of how ineffective she feels in dealing with Cece. After all, aren’t mothers supposed to be able to take care of their children no matter what? This refusal, though, leads to her making choices that disrupt the entire family, and ultimately abandoning her husband and children altogether.

With Noah, his inability to get the help he needs for his mental illness nearly results in tragedy. As he becomes more deeply and unhealthily entwined with Chris, his need to hold onto the one person he trusts results in his taking drastic action when his father threatens to stop letting Chris and Noah see each other.

Through all of this, Chris, too, isn’t asking for the help he needs. He doesn’t feel equipped to take care of Cece as much as his mother demands, but he won’t talk to his father or any of the neighbors about it. He knows he definitely can’t handle Noah’s clinginess or needs, but doesn’t know who to talk to about it, other than Noah’s father. And Mr. Silver has made it abundantly clear that he doesn’t want to hear about Noah’s struggles.

Ultimately, Chris is the only one who does ask for help. He speaks up for himself and Cece when their mother abandons them. Although he lashes out in anger, he does make it clear to his father and some of their neighbors that he and Cece both need more help than anyone is giving them. And as Chris and his father become closer, his father is the one Chris turns to for help in dealing with Noah’s illness and the impact it has on their friendship.

Asking for help isn’t easy, and when you’re afraid of what other people will think, it’s even more difficult. But it is important to do.

Teaser Thursday- Blue Jeans and Sweatshirts

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I definitely wasn’t up for discussing coming out anymore, so I joined Guillermo and Chastaine kneeling at the coffee table and started trying to design a card for Natalia. I wanted to do something in her favorite color, but I didn’t know what it was. I pretty much didn’t know anything about her.

I didn’t like that. If she hadn’t told me about what happened to her, I probably wouldn’t have talked to her at all. I was trying to be her friend, but it was mostly because of what she’d told me. That kind of sucked. She was a nice person, and I wished I’d talked to her more in the past. But the kids in Mr. Houseman’s class had mostly been in a separate classroom since elementary school and only joined the rest of us for things like art, gym, and lunch, and I didn’t really know any of them.

I wished I could do something about that, but right then, I had way too many other things on my mind. I knew Mr. Houseman chose a few seniors every year to mentor his students, so maybe I would talk to him about doing that next year. By then, the rest of the crap in my life might have let up a little.

When Aunt Imogen got home, Chastaine and Guillermo left. I wanted to leave too. Aunt Imogen wasn’t a big fan of company after work, especially if she’d had a stressful day. But I didn’t want to wait too long to talk to her about Chastaine and me. That would have only given me more time to get anxious about it.

She kicked off her boots at the door and sat on the armchair beside the couch. “Are you staying for supper, Holly?”

“It’s up to you.” I hesitated. Now that she was there, I had no clue how to bring up what I needed to talk about.

Evan took over, because he was Evan and that was how he did things. “I told you Holly wants to talk to you about something.”

“Yes, and that’s why I asked about supper. If you two are hungry, we can eat while we talk.”

“I’m not hungry,” I said. I kind of was. My headache was worse, I was dizzy, and my stomach kept growling. But I wasn’t sure I’d be able to eat even if I wanted to. And I wasn’t completely sure I wanted to.

“Okay, well, I am.” She leaned back. “I’m happy to help with whatever’s going on, Holly, but I’m tired and hungry, and that’s going to make me a little cranky.”

“So let’s make this fast,” Evan said. “Mom, Holly needs help figuring out how to talk to her parents about something.”

“Okay.” Aunt Imogen looked at me. “What’s going on?”

“I have a girlfriend.” There wasn’t any way to ease into that information, so blurting it out seemed like the best way to start. Even though as soon as I said it, I wished I could take it back.

Aunt Imogen’s expression didn’t change a bit. “As in you’re dating a girl?”

“Yeah.” I stared at her. Even though she accepted Evan, I’d expected her to kind of flip out on me. Or at least react somehow.

“I thought you had a boyfriend,” she said.

“They were faking it.” Evan touched a finger to his lips. “Sorry. Not my story to tell.”

I was kind of relieved he’d interrupted. “What he said. Nathan and I weren’t really going out. It was a cover.” I decided not to tell her Nathan was gay. Even though I was pissed at him for throwing me under the bus, that didn’t give me the right to out him.

“I see.” Aunt Imogen held up her hand, exactly the way Mom did when she wanted me to be quiet while she processed something. The same way I did, for that matter. “Okay. You’re dating a girl, but everyone believes you’re dating a boy.”

“Not anymore,” I said. “He got mad because people were saying I was cheating on him with my girlfriend. They didn’t know the truth, but they assumed. He kept going off about how people would think he was gay if they knew I was, so I told him to tell everyone he broke up with me. Except I guess he said I was the one who broke up with him, which is just giving everyone more reason to think my girlfriend and I are a couple. I mean, we are, but it isn’t like we wanted everyone to know.”

“Some people can’t handle their own lives,” Evan muttered.

“Do you want to tell your parents because you’re ready to, or because you’re afraid they’re going to find out from someone else?” Aunt Imogen asked.

“The second one.” I sighed. “Everyone talks to everyone in this town. You know that. Someone’s going to say something in front of their parents, and their parents will know mine, or it’ll go through a few other people first. But they’ll hear about it one way or another.”

“Parents are usually a few steps behind the grapevine, but most things get out eventually,” Evan said. “I agree with Holly. They’re going to hear about it sooner or later, so it’s probably best if they hear it from her first.”

“I agree too,” Aunt Imogen said. “Holly, first things first. I want to make sure you understand this isn’t a bad thing. No matter what anyone says. You’re who you are, and if you’re brave enough to be that person, that’s good.”

“Thanks.” I wasn’t sure I completely believed her, but it was nice to hear anyway.

Teaser Thursday- High Heels and Lipstick

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“The attorney called,” Dad said.

Mom shot him a death glare. Obviously she’d been trying to ease into that little piece of news.

My heart stopped, and oxygen didn’t seem to exist. For a few seconds, I was afraid I would vomit all over the linguine. I hadn’t even wanted to press charges against Jim. It was my word against his, and I’d had sex with him enough times that no one would believe I hadn’t wanted it. Or they wouldn’t care. Some people believed if a girl said yes once, it was a permanent yes. Girls didn’t have the right to change their minds.

I’d gone through with reporting him partly because of Maryellen. If Jim had only done it to me, I probably would have let it go. But if he’d done it to Maryellen too, he might not stop there. That possibility was what had finally pushed me into going to the police.

The way Dad was looking at me, I couldn’t guess whether the news was good or bad. I wasn’t sure I wanted to know.

“Go ahead.” I took a deep breath.

“I wanted you to eat before we talked about this.” Mom glared at Dad again, then tried to smile at me. She totally failed. “There won’t be a trial. You won’t have to sit in court and talk about yourself or anything you’ve done.”

“I shouldn’t have had to anyway. I’m not the one who did anything wrong.” I stared at the food in front of me. My stupid stomach rolled too badly for me to even think about eating. I needed more information. Not having a trial might mean they’d decided he was innocent. Or they were dropping the charges. I couldn’t get the words together to ask.

“You know how those trials go,” Mom said. “They always ask what the girl was wearing or how many people she’s slept with. They try to make it the girl’s fault. You might have had to tell everyone….”

She trailed off and clasped her hands together. Her face was red. She couldn’t say I might have had to tell people I’d had sex with Jim and other guys before. Or that the day he did it, I’d been wearing a tiny little bikini. My parents hadn’t found out about my sex life until I reported Jim. Now they tried to pretend I was still a virgin.

I didn’t want to deal with the judgment and bullshit. At least anger cleared my brain enough for me to ask the question I needed to ask. “What did they say?” I demanded. “I won’t have to testify. Why?”

“He admitted what he did,” Dad said. “Pled guilty. He hasn’t been sentenced yet, but the fact that he already has a record doesn’t look good for him, from what I was told.”

“He didn’t have a record when he did it.” I couldn’t process what Dad had said. Jim had pled guilty. Why? After all the things he’d done, he’d decided to admit to the worst thing possible. It made no sense.

Besides, one of the lawyers we’d talked to had told me the fact that Jim had been sentenced for beating up Evan Granger wouldn’t count against him when it came to what he’d done to Maryellen and me. Dad must have been wrong.

“He was on probation when you reported it,” Dad said. “I don’t have all the information, Chastaine. It was a short phone call to let us know you won’t have to go to court. They’ll call us after the judge signs off on his sentence. He’s not in jail or anything right now. They released him to his father. But he can’t come anywhere near you. The judge ordered him to stay away.”

It took a minute to sink in. I wouldn’t have to sit in court and tell people what Jim had done to me. I’d already told way too many people, so not having to go through it again wasn’t a bad thing. And Maryellen had barely been able to get a single sentence out about what he’d done to her before she completely broke down. I’d had to take her to the nurse because she started crying so hard she couldn’t breathe.

That was all I wanted to focus on. We wouldn’t have to talk about it again, at least not to strangers.

Teaser Thursday- Shoulder Pads and Flannel

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“Your mother’s brother Tomas,” he said, then stopped.

Even on edge about what Papi might say, I couldn’t help smiling a little. I loved Uncle Tomas. He was a lot younger than my mother. He’d only been about ten when I was born. When Mami had brought me to visit her parents, Uncle Tomas had always let me play in his room, even though I usually broke things.

When I was eleven, he’d moved to Las Vegas, and I’d only seen him twice since. He didn’t come back east even for holidays, and we couldn’t afford to go see him. The day he’d moved, we’d helped him load his car. He’d handed me a shoe box and told me not to open it until I got home.

I still had the seventy-dollar set of watercolor pencils he’d put in that box. They were in the corner of my room with the sketchbooks I’d bought over the past few years.

“Tomas likes men,” Papi said. “That’s why he left. His mother didn’t mind. He was her baby, so anything he did was okay with her. His father, different story.”

I nodded, staying quiet because I had no idea what to say. I’d sort of recognized Tomas was different from the rest of the men in my parents’ families, but I hadn’t caught on that he was gay. By the time he’d left, I had realized I liked boys, and now I wished I’d kept in touch with Tomas. Having someone who understood would have been awesome.

“Your grandpa didn’t want a gay son,” Papi said.

“So he made Tomas leave?” I clenched the fist Papi couldn’t see because it was under my leg. Grandpa—my mother’s parents insisted their children and grandchildren use only English around them—didn’t take much crap, but he loved his family. I couldn’t imagine him throwing someone away.

Now I had more reason than ever to make sure no one found out I was gay. Even if by some miracle Papi accepted it, Grandpa wouldn’t. And I had no idea about the rest of my family.

“He didn’t make Tomas leave exactly.” Papi sighed. He looked tired. “He made it impossible for Tomas to stay. Called him horrible names. Tomas waited until he was an adult to tell the truth because he knew how his father would react. He had work ready for him in Las Vegas, and when his father did exactly what Tomas had expected, Tomas left.”

“That sucks.” I glanced at him. He was studying the art supplies on my bookcase.

I held my breath. Liking to draw didn’t mean someone was gay. Being friends with a guy who dressed like a girl sometimes didn’t make someone gay either. But the way the conversation was going, I was afraid Papi would put pieces together and come to the right conclusion.

“Family is family, always.” It was one of Papi’s favorite sayings. “Your uncle doesn’t see his father at all. He hardly sees his mother and the rest of the family. It isn’t right. He should want his family, and they should welcome him with open arms.”

“It was partly their choice,” I said. “Grandma could have defended Tomas.”

“She did. He was her baby.”

She hadn’t done a very good job of defending him, or he wouldn’t have moved across the country. I kept that to myself. We didn’t say anything against our family, not ever. Especially not our grandparents.

“Your friend Evan’s parents don’t mind him?” Now he looked at me with a pleading expression.

Begging me not to say I wasn’t like Tomas and Evan. At least that was how I took it.

Rejection

Recently, I got a rejection on another novel. This would have been the re-release of one of my past novels, one that I rather like and would love to see get a new life with a different publisher.

Rejection happens when you’re an author. It’s a normal thing. When I first started writing, I got a bit spoiled because I pretty much never received a rejection on anything. That wasn’t so much because I was an amazing writer whose stuff blew people out of the water, though I suppose that might have been the case with some things. Mostly, however, my stuff didn’t get rejected because some of the publishers I worked with didn’t always expect great quality. If the idea was good, they accepted it.

That isn’t anything against those publishers. If it weren’t for them, I might not have started getting published in YA at all. But it is a facet of working with small, digital-first presses.

This novel was my second to be rejected by the same publisher this year. When the first one was rejected, after I’d taken time to revise it according to feedback they’d given me the first time I submitted it, it hit hard. I thought I’d done a good job, but they pinpointed some of the same problems as the first time. I almost didn’t send them anything else.

But this time, the rejection didn’t matter so much. It was partly about the story, though one of the biggest things they didn’t like was something the original publisher and some reviewers praised me for when it was published several years ago. Mostly, though, it was about the genre. This one, like the one that was rejected earlier this year, is paranormal, and the publisher wants more contemporary fiction at this point.

It’s hard to take that personally. It just means I need to work on something different for a while, and that isn’t a bad thing. I enjoy writing paranormal and urban fantasy, but I can deal with writing contemporary. Meanwhile, now I have one book I might self-publish, and another I can submit elsewhere or to an agent, once I polish it a bit more.

Teaser Thursday- Midnight Chat

A message popped up at the bottom of the screen. Quickly, I got up to read over Rob’s shoulder.

You’re in for it Monday, freak. I hope you’re ready.

Rob made a strangled sound and looked up at me, ghost-white. “See? You see, Mira? I’m never going to be safe anywhere!”

“Easy.” I touched his shoulder and hoped he wouldn’t notice my hand was shaking. “Someone’s just being a dickhead, that’s all. It’s okay. They’re just trying to scare you.”

“No. You’re wrong.” He stared at the screen again. He was trembling and breathing the way he had in the office when he found out the police were arresting Craig and Seth. “This isn’t the first one. That’s why I wanted to check.”

“What do you mean? The first what?” I read the message again. I didn’t recognize the name on it. “Who is that?”

He shrugged. “The profile is blank. I get notifications on my phone when someone messages me on here. No one ever does, but this morning, someone did. The same person as this. I deleted that one. It said something about I’d better hire a bodyguard.”

He shoved the wheeled chair away from the desk and spun to face me. “They’re out to get me. All of them. If I go to school Monday…. Hell, I probably won’t even make it to school. They’ll ambush me on the way or something. You’d better not meet me, because they’ll attack you too.”

“I’m not going to let you deal with them alone. If someone really is planning something, I’ll be with you.” My heart pounded. Despite Ms. Cramer’s warnings, I hadn’t actually believed there would be any fallout from the arrests. But it sounded as if someone planned to seriously hurt Rob. “We have to tell someone about this, Rob.”

“Who?” He narrowed his eyes. “No one’s going to care. We don’t even know who sent the message. If we tell anyone about it, they’ll say it’s someone playing a joke or something.”

“Dad wouldn’t.” I didn’t know what Dad would be able to do, but he could at least help us figure out how to handle it.

“Don’t tell your father.” He sighed. “Don’t tell anyone. There’s no point. It’s just another case of me whining, right?”

“No!” I knelt in front of him so I could look him in the eyes. “This is real. You aren’t whining. You have every reason to be worried, and I don’t want anything to happen to you.”

“You’re the only one.” He shook his head. “It doesn’t matter. I’m going to die on Monday. That’s it.”

“Stop saying that!” I sat back on my heels and looked at my laptop again. There had to be some way to help Rob. Something I could do to make people leave him alone, or something I could say to convince the school and his parents to protect him. He didn’t deserve to be this afraid all the time. I hated the people who knew about it and didn’t do a damn thing to help him.

“It is what it is.” Without looking, he reached behind him and closed the laptop. “I don’t want to think about it anymore. It doesn’t matter. None of this is going to matter.”

“It does matter. You should be able to feel safe.” His deadened tone and blank expression scared me again. Not to mention his talk about dying. He might not mean someone else would kill him. Maybe he was planning to take care of it himself.

I had to talk to Dad, even if Rob didn’t want me to. If Rob was serious about wanting to die, I needed someone to help me help him. And I couldn’t protect him by myself either.

“Don’t worry about it.” He stood. “And don’t tell your dad or anyone else. Promise. Otherwise I won’t be able to trust you, and then I won’t have anyone. I need to trust you, Mira.”

“I….” I couldn’t say much to that. He was right. I was his best friend. If I went behind his back, even if I only talked to Dad, I wouldn’t be any better than Talia. “Okay. I promise not to say anything if you promise you won’t hurt yourself.”

“I promise I won’t if I can avoid it.”

That wasn’t good enough. He might decide he couldn’t avoid it. But before I could argue with him, he opened the door. “I think I’m ready to go home now. Thanks for letting me come over.”

“I thought your stepmother was picking you up.” I couldn’t let him leave yet. I had to calm him down first.

He shrugged again. “I’ll call her on the way home. Talk to you soon.”

And then he walked away.

Teaser Thursday- Dolphins in the Mud

We started toward the point. I kept my eyes on the ground, watching out for anything I might trip over and for anything Cece might like. Even if taking her on walks and stuff wasn’t my job, I decided I should do it once in a while anyway. She loved going outside, and it would give both of us a break from the routine.

Except that she needed the routine so she didn’t flip out, so maybe that wasn’t such a great idea.

“What did you fight about?” Noah asked again.

“You don’t give up, do you?” I snapped. “It was about my sister, if you must know.”

“You’re good with her.” He didn’t seem to mind my being angry, if he’d even noticed.

“Yeah, well, my dad doesn’t seem to think so.” I shut up. Noah didn’t need to hear the whole story, and I didn’t want to tell him anyway.

“Did he say that?”

“Get a clue, would you?” I said. “I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to talk about anything to do with my family. I came out here to get away from my dad and Cece, and now you’re walking with me asking all these stupid questions. Why can’t you just stop talking for a while?”

“Sorry,” he said quietly. “Sometimes talking helps, that’s all. I’ll leave you alone.”

I didn’t know whether he meant he’d drop the subject or whether he intended to leave me alone. Even though he’d gotten on my nerves, I didn’t want him to go away. Having someone with me, someone I liked, calmed me down a little.

“Stick around,” I said. “I didn’t mean to yell at you. It’s just been a crappy morning.”

“I understand.”

We kept walking, and neither of us said anything. His hand brushed against mine. It happened a couple more times before I realized he was trying to hold hands. I’d never held hands with the guys I’d gone out with, because we were always worried about someone else seeing us. Here, on a beach near a point where half the homes were seasonal and the people who lived there year-round were probably getting ready for work or school, it didn’t seem likely that anyone would notice Noah and me.

I took his hand.

He grinned. “I like this. It’s nice being with you.”

“Yeah, same here.” I just hoped he wouldn’t get all sappy about it.

“How many boyfriends have you had before?”

Just when I thought the guy was going to act normal, he had to start a new line of interrogation. It made me not want to talk to him at all. “Don’t ask me things like that,” I said. “Does it matter?”

“I guess not. I was just curious.” He paused. “You get ticked when I ask you things.”

“Yeah, and when I ask you things, half the time you don’t answer,” I countered. “If you want to find out more about me, you should try talking more about yourself. I know we only met a week ago, but by now I should know more about you than I do.”

“What do you want to know? Ask anything.”

Of course, as soon as he said that I couldn’t think of a single question. We walked for a few more minutes before I came up with something. “Why do you and your parents move around so much?”

“I told you, it’s for my dad’s work. He has meetings and stuff in all these places.” It sounded like an answer he’d rehearsed, and it wasn’t what he’d told me before. At least, I didn’t remember that explanation. He’d just told me that they owned a lot of houses.

“What does he do for work?”

“Computers. I told you that too.” He stopped and let go of my hand. “Did you think I’d lied to you or something?”

“No, I just didn’t remember that you’d told me those things,” I replied. I still didn’t remember him telling me.

“Why should I tell you anything now if you’re going to forget?” He grinned. “Yeah, I know, my life isn’t interesting enough to remember. Ask me something else if you want to.”

This time, I decided to go with a question he probably wouldn’t answer. I wanted to see if he’d say anything at all or just brush me off. “Why does your dad seem so against the idea of you having a friend here?”

He sat down on the sand. “That’s going to take a while to answer. Have a seat.”

If the sand was anywhere near as cold as it had felt through my socks, I didn’t want to sit on it. But the possibility of getting some actual information out of Noah motivated me to plop down beside him. The sand was just as cold as I’d figured it would be.

“Thanks,” he said. “I was kind of tired of walking anyway.”

“So tell me what your dad’s problem is,” I said. “Is it just me, or does he act this way any time you have a friend?”

“I haven’t ever had friends,” he replied. “Not because of Dad. Mostly just because of the moving. I mean, we’re going to the same places every time; we’re just not usually there long enough to meet people. Mom and Dad have some friends, but they don’t have kids my age.”

That didn’t really answer my question, which didn’t surprise me. Noah had avoided my other questions about his father too. Which made me wonder even more what was going on there.

Coming Soon!

Dolphins in the Mud releases from Harmony Ink Press on August 8! And it’s already up for pre-order on their website!

I’m really looking forward to the re-release of this book. It was originally published several years ago, and has been out of print for about two years. To me, some of the content is very important. In the story, main character Chris has family stress to deal with, and believes he’s isolated from his peers, since none of them seem to want to spend time with him. He has a younger sister who’s autistic, and sometimes Chris seems to be the only one she’ll relate to. And he makes a new friend–and potentially more–who turns out to have an untreated mental illness.

I wrote the story so long ago I can’t even remember where the idea originally came from. But I’m pleased that Harmony Ink has decided to give it a second life, and I hope readers will enjoy it as well.

I would love to share the cover art, but as I type this, my website is not letting me upload any images. I’ll work on it!

 

Teaser Thursday- Where No One Knows

“You okay?”

I hadn’t even heard the waitress walk over to me. Or sensed her. If I was going to take care of myself, I had to pay more attention. I forced a smile and turned away from the window. “Yeah. Just really hungry. And thinking too much.”

“It happens.” She set down a huge glass of cola and a wrapped straw. “I figured you’d probably want this while you’re waiting for your food. So you’re stopping off the bus. Where are you heading to?”

“East.” The word popped out without me even thinking about it, and right away I knew it was the right answer. I’d already come east from home to this place. West would either take me home or to California. I couldn’t go to the first and had no interest in the second.

“You have family back east?” she asked.

“Hey, Sadie, more coffee,” one of the guys at the counter called.

I bristled a little. He could have at least been polite to her.

Sadie didn’t seem to mind. “Be right there, Jimmy. Hold your grapefruit.”

The guy laughed, and so did most of the other people at the counter. Sadie shrugged at me. “Sorry. Have to go to work. God forbid these guys don’t get their caffeine. I’ll be back in a few with your food.”

“No problem.” I was glad she’d been distracted. It saved me from figuring out how to avoid answering her question.

My stomach growled so loudly everyone else must have heard it. The little packets of jam on the table looked pretty darn good, and I picked one up. It would have been better than no food at all.

Before I could open it, Sadie set a plate in front of me and smiled, then walked away. The burger smelled way better than jam, and I had to force myself not to wolf the whole thing down.

I took my time eating, partly because I didn’t want to make myself sick by chowing down too fast and partly because the sooner I finished, the sooner I’d have to go back to the motel. My stuff was there. I’d barely been able to get it out of my mother’s house, and I wasn’t about to lose it now because of some creep with grabby hands. Before I went back, though, I had to make sure I was calm enough not to burn the place to the ground.

Sadie started toward my table a couple of times. Each time, someone at the counter or one of the other booths called to her to bring them something before she had a chance to say anything to me. The constant interruptions would have been funny if I hadn’t wondered whether I made them happen somehow. I’d done it before. Wanted someone to do something, or not to do something, so bad I could almost taste it, and then it occurred. I hoped I hadn’t really made them do anything. I didn’t want to have power over anyone. Too many people with power abused it.

I finally finished eating. When I stood up, Sadie came over. “I’ll take care of the plates and stuff, hon. You should get out of here. Your food’s covered.”

“I have money.”

“You need to go.”

I looked into her eyes to argue again, and an invisible force shoved me into her head. Suddenly I saw what she saw. Someone was hunting for me. More than one person. They weren’t close yet, but the longer I stayed in town, the more likely they’d find me. And the longer I stayed in the diner, the more likely someone would remember me and be able to tell my pursuers where I was.

My heart pounded. The people’s faces weren’t visible in the image I picked up from Sadie. I had a pretty good idea, though. Gene and his buddies must have decided on the eye-for-an-eye option after all.

They wouldn’t give up until they found me. Which meant I wouldn’t be safe anywhere. The farther I went from home, the less chance they’d succeed, but I would never be completely safe.