JENNY’S VOICE, Redheads & Ranchers Book 1 is out and doing great! And I’m nearly 30k words into the second book in the series, HUNTER’S PRIDE.
The other day, a wild hare struck and I started a new project that has nothing to do with ranchers. It does feature a redhead, because, have we met?!
Take a little sneak peek at the (unedited) first chapter of what I’m tentatively calling Desperate Times.
Two pink lines.
Behind the locked bathroom door, Charley stared in disbelief at the plastic stick in her hands. Her heart pounded, and she felt tiny beads of sweat forming on her upper lip.
This is really happening, she thought. Holy shit!
(six months earlier)
At the tinkling of the bell over the door, Charley Weatherly looked up from the well-worn Charlotte Bronte novel she’d been perusing behind the counter at Once Upon a Bookshop, the dream into which she’d poured her heart and soul and most of her 401k.
“Hi there, Charley!” Reggie Baxter had been walking the same mail route since before Charley was born. The space currently occupied by the bookstore had had numerous incarnations during that time, including a bar and a dry cleaner, among other things.
“Hi, Reggie! What’s the good news?” She smiled at the old man.
“The good news is, next Friday is my last day. I’m retiring.”
“That’s great, Reggie, congratulations!” Charley accepted the stack of mail he proffered. “What are your plans?”
“Oh…” With a far-off look in his eye, he leaned back on his heels, shifting the mailbag that was slung over his shoulder. “First off, I’m going fishing in Florida. After that, who knows?”
Charley grinned good-naturedly. “Do you really have to go all the way to Florida to go fishing?”
The letter carrier shrugged. “Never did like the Pacific too much. Florida fishing is a lot more relaxing. California’s too uptight.”
Charley had to laugh. “I’ve never been fishing either place, so I’ll have to take your word for it.”
Grinning, Reggie opened the door and paused. “How’s your grandmother doing?”
Consciously forcing back a grimace, she smiled. “She’s doing well, thanks.”
“Tell her I said hello.”
“I will, Reggie.” She waved as he walked out the door, headed past the front windows of the shop, and passed out of sight.
Enveloped in silence once again, Charley breathed a deep sigh. Her grandmother hadn’t been doing well for months now. But that wasn’t something she wanted to talk about. Talking about things made them more real somehow. And she wasn’t ready to face what was happening to her grandmother.
Anymore than she was ready to face the stack of bills Reggie had dropped off. If she flipped through the pile of envelopes, she’d see ‘Final Notice’ stamped across the fronts of most of them. But that would ignite the pain in the pit of her stomach, so she opted to sweep them into a drawer beneath the counter, the better to deal with them later.
She gazed around the shop recalling the day three years earlier when she’d first seen the space. It had been empty for some time, abandoned when a psychic palm reader had gone out of business.
But in the empty and crumbling space, Charley had envisioned shelves full of her favorite books. She’d majored in English literature at Cal State and following graduation had landed a job as a copywriter with a marketing firm.
Which she’d hated. But it had afforded her to save up enough money to walk away three years later and start her dream business, a small boutique bookstore.
She’d created a cozy space with a comfortable seating area near the front windows, places for book lovers like herself to relax and try before they buy. She’d even scheduled live readings and a few book signings, too, all to try to drum up more business.
But unfortunately, downtown Modesto wasn’t exactly a mecca for the literati. Those who did like to read tended to head to the Barnes & Noble out on Highway 219. Or to order their books online.
Which Charley couldn’t fathom. Walking around the counter, she wandered down the 19th-century romance aisle, dreamily dragging her fingers across the spines of the stories she knew by heart, including a full complement from her namesake Bronte sister, Charlotte.
How could you tell whether you wanted to read a book without touching it, hefting its weight, flipping the pages to release that divine fresh-paper scent?
And ebooks? Charley snorted. Please! Talk about the Big Macs of the literary world.
Apparently, though, not everyone saw it the way she did. Foot traffic in the downtown area wasn’t sufficient to bring in the hoards of customers she desperately needed. She had her regulars, but the reality was that she’d lost money every quarter since she’d been open. Her savings had gone to the purchase and renovation of the storefront, and now her 401k was seriously depleted. The bills Reggie had brought were all long past due.
Reluctantly, Charley realized it might be time to let go of her dream. Nana wasn’t getting any better. It had started with little things, misplaced reading glasses and socks put away in the refrigerator. Now, there were times when she didn’t recognize Charley, or she mistook Charley for her mother, calling her Denise.
Gently, Charley would remind her. “No, Nana, remember, Mama died a long time ago.”
The old woman’s face would crumple and she’d break down in tears. “Why didn’t anyone tell me?”
“You were there at the funeral, Nana. Remember? That’s when I came to live with you.”
“Oh, yes, that’s right. You’re Charley, Denise’s girl.”
“That’s right, Nana.”
She was grateful that the next door neighbor had agreed to check in on her grandmother during the day while Charley was at work. But that was not a sustainable arrangement. Charley had done some checking into an assisted living facility with a memory care program. And while it wasn’t cheap, the portion of her 401k she’d squirreled away, along with Nana’s social security, should be enough to get her in. But to stay long-term?
She rolled her eyes. That would require Charley to sell the business and go back to work for a company that paid an actual salary and benefits.
Sighing heavily, she turned around and headed back to the counter. If it stayed quiet for the rest of the day, maybe she’d tweak her resume and upload it to one of those job websites.DESPERATE TIMES (working title) by Pandora Spocks
There’s no timetable for the release of Desperate Times. I’m still busy working to finish HUNTER’S PRIDE and the third Redheads & Ranchers book, HANNAH’S HEART.