Verona Vignettes -- An Online Snippet Collection

This is a collection of scenes and snippets from my Georgia Series that didn't make it into the novels for one reason or another. Some of them are actually new scenarios that are written specifically for this collection. I have no plans to make this collection into a book or e-book. I'm posting them online, mostly at Facebook, simply for my friends to enjoy.

This is the first one I posted at Facebook. Despite its being a rough draft, I got some very nice comments on it.







Child of God

Clad in a white baptismal robe, twelve-year-old Shelby Kincaid stood at the top of the steps leading down into the water and listened to the soft singing of the choir and congregation coming through the arched opening of the baptistry.
I am resolved no longer to linger,
Charmed by the world’s delight,
Things that are higher, things that are nobler,
These have allured my sight.

I am resolved to go to the Savior,
Leaving my sin and strife;
He is the true One, He is the just One,
He hath the words of life.

I am resolved to enter the kingdom
Leaving the paths of sin;
Friends may oppose me, foes may beset me,
Still will I enter in.

I am resolved, and who will go with me?
Come, friends, without delay,
Taught by the Bible, led by the Spirit,
We’ll walk the heav’nly way.

I will hasten to Him,
Hasten so glad and free;
Jesus, greatest, highest,
I will come to Thee.
When the singing ended, Shelby carefully took the steps down into the baptistry, holding onto a slanted rail along the back wall. He felt the warm water slowly envelop him. It was supposed to represent the grave -- death and burial -- subjects that were normally macabre, occasions that were usually the cause of sorrow and mourning. Today, though, the symbolism of the ritual he was about to undergo took the morbidity out of such terms. Baptism represented the death and burial not of a person, but of a life of sin, and resurrection to a new life in Christ.

When he reached the bottom step, he put his hand in the outstretched hand of Pastor Jordan, who was standing in the water waiting for him. Together they walked to the middle of the baptistry and the pastor turned to stand perpendicular to Shelby, whose eyes were fastened solemnly on the pastor's face.

"Shelby, you have been raised by Christian parents in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Now, at twelve years of age -- the same age as Our Lord when He reasoned with the elders in the Temple -- you have reached the age of accountability. You have acknowledged the need of salvation from the consequences of sin in your earthly life, and the Lord has worked repentance in your heart. Shelby, do you believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God, that He came to earth as a human being, died for our sins on the cross of Calvary, and was raised so that we might have eternal life?"

Shelby was still gazing intently and solemnly at the pastor, and concentrating on every word. "Yes, sir, I believe."

"Then upon the spoken confession of the faith in your heart, I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit."

The pastor put his left hand on Shelby's upper back, between his shoulders. In his other, he held a folded handkerchief, and he poised his hand several inches from Shelby's face. He said softly, "Do you remember what to do?"

Shelby nodded. He took the pastor's forearm in both his hands and inhaled deeply. The pastor pressed the handkerchief against Shelby's nose and mouth and tilted him back into the water until he was completely submerged. Immediately, he lifted Shelby upright, and removed the handkerchief from Shelby's face.

The new babe in Christ blinked rapidly and wiped the water dripping into his eyes. He looked up at the pastor again and smiled broadly, the solemnity giving way to gladness. The pastor smiled back and then bowed his head. Shelby and the congregation followed suit.

"Our Father in Heaven," Pastor Jordan began, "we come to Thy throne now to thank Thee for the power of the gospel of Christ to save. We know there is rejoicing in Heaven over one sinner who repents, and we believe there is rejoicing in Heaven at this moment over this, Thy child, Shelby Kincaid, who has come to Thee today. Keep him always in Thy care, Father, and may his life be joyously spent in Thy service. In the name of Thy Son and Our Savior, Jesus...Amen."

The singing began again as Shelby and Pastor Jordan made their way up the steps and into the changing rooms adjacent to the baptistry. Even back here, Shelby could faintly hear the music.
Trying to walk in the steps of the Savior,
Trying to follow our Savior and King;
Shaping our lives by His bless├Ęd example,
Happy, how happy, the songs that we bring.

Pressing more closely to Him Who is leading,
When we are tempted to turn from the way;
Trusting the arm that is strong to defend us,
Happy, how happy, our praises each day.

Walking in footsteps of gentle forbearance,
Footsteps of faithfulness, mercy, and love,
Looking to Him for the grace freely promised,
Happy, how happy, our journey above.

Trying to walk in the steps of the Savior,
Upward, still upward, we follow our Guide;
When we shall see Him, the King in His beauty,
Happy, how happy, our place at His side.

How beautiful to walk in the steps of the Savior,
Stepping in the light, stepping in the light,
How beautiful to walk in the steps of the Savior,
Led in paths of light.
He had chosen the hymns for his baptism, which was both a joyful and solemn occasion. The hymns he chose weren't usually used for baptisms. He had selected them partly because he had always liked them, even when he was so small the words had no meaning for him, and partly because they captured the power, the joy and the comfort that characterized his personal religious beliefs. Shelby had never been a gloom-and-doom believer.

There was a knock on the door of the changing room, and he heard his father's voice. "Shelby?"

"Be out in a second."

He hurriedly peeled off the wet baptismal robe, dried off, dressed quickly and spent a few moments toweling his hair. He left the robe and towels hanging on wall pegs as he'd been instructed and then stepped to the door. Except for his wet hair, he looked exactly as he did when he went in to change no more than fifteen minutes before. In fact, he was quite changed, although all the ways he was changed would take years to gradually manifest themselves as both he and his faith matured.

In a larger room that opened both to the sanctuary and to the outdoors, Kurt was waiting. He went to Shelby and gave him an emotional embrace. "You've made your mother and I very happy today, son."

There were many other hugs, handshakes and backslaps when services were over and Kurt Kincaid and his son stepped back into the sanctuary. The family gradually made their way to the exit where they would go to their car and drive to a restaurant for a special meal with Shelby. Just before exiting, Shelby caught the eye of his two best friends across the auditorium and they both gave him a discreet thumbs-up. They would get together to talk about Shelby's experience later.

==========
I Am Resolved – Palmer Hartsough – Copyright: Public Domain
Stepping in the Light – Eliza E. Hewitt – Copyright: Public Domain

Want to Read Sweet Southern Boys -- for Free?

 
For your code to download the e-book for free, in whatever format you wish, message me via Facebook messenger, or email me between now and Saturday, 5/18 at c_l_chastain@yahoo.com

Sweet Southern Boys page at Smashwords:
http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/209754

Well Pleased With His Appearance

Steamboat Gothic opens with a description of the protagonist, Clyde Batchelor, four paragraphs long, but it is woven into the beginnings of the story so it isn't cumbersome, IMO.  Oddly enough, despite the number of times I've read this novel, and despite my affinity for this character, I don't know what he looks like. At least, I don't know what his face looks like. It is never described.

Keyes pretty much describes everything else about him, though, and the reader -- at least, this one -- sees his face peripherally. It's like the Pleiades -- when you looked at the sky or stars beside them, they shine brightly and you can see them in your extremely near peripheral vision. But look right at them, they dim and fade to near nothing.

And so it is with Clyde Batchelor's face. I've attempted to find a stock photo model, or even a fashion model or actor, who looks like him, but so far, no luck.

I've also attempted to find pictures of the type of clothing that's described in these paragraphs, but the only "congress boots" has come up on Google searches.  If you know anything about post-bellum men's fashion, please weigh in. And if you can link to pictures, so much the better.

The first four paragraphs of Steamboat Gothic:
__________________________
PROLOGUE
1869
PURCHASE PRICE

The day was warm for March, and the stranger, who had been walking for nearly half an hour along the river road, took a fine embroidered handkerchief from the tail pocket of his burgundy-colored frock coat and mopped his face with it. Then he flicked the handkerchief lightly over his tight-fitting mouse-gray trousers and his shining congress boots. He had no mind to reach his destination dripping with sweat or powdered with dust.

He had been reasonably well pleased with his appearance when he had surveyed this, before starting out, in the blurred mirror of his room at the dirty little hostelry with the pretentious name of Grand Hotel Pierre Chanet. To be sure, he had fiddled for some moments with the long bow of his black silk tie before it suited him; but there had been no doubt whatever that the plain gold studs gave the finishing touch of refinement to the starched shirt bosom which the large -- and undeniably flawed -- diamonds, worn for so long, had failed to impart. Lucy had never made any comment on those flawed diamonds, or on the still larger -- and still more imperfect -- one which had formerly adorned the third finger of his left hand. But he had caught her glancing at them several times, and he had noticed the change in her expression when he substituted the gold studs and heavy gold ring whose seal duplicated the one on the charm which dangled from the chain spanning the figured waistcoat.

Well, it had taken him time to learn how to dress like a gentleman, but by slow degrees he had done it; and he could be thankful -- and was -- that he possessed the natural attributes of a fine person to set of his good clothes. If his stomach had not still been as flat as a sixteen-year-old boy's, he could have ill afforded to call attention to it by that gold chain.  The mouse-gray trousers could be worn to good advantage only if they fitted closely over narrow hips and the burgundy broadcloth would have lost its effect if it had not been cut to fit wide shoulders. In addition to the advantages which his figure gave him, his fresh color belied the belief that a man must live an active outdoor life in order to have an appearance of ruddy health, and that no amount of care would have given his reddish-blond hair its burnished look if it had not been abundant and glossy to start with.

He had run a small ivory comb along its low side parting and the wavy locks above his temples before the final adjustmen of a shining gray beaver "stovepipe" and, the last thing before leaving his hotel room, had passed his hand over his cheek and chin below his sideburns. It was less than an hour since he had shaved with a fine Swedish razor, but still he wanted to be sure ... And though the surface was smooth enough to suit him, he had frowned a little at the sight of his hand, as he saw this reflected in the mirror before which he was still standing.  It was blunt-fingered, and the back of it was haired with down, the same color as the locks he had just combed with such care. But it was softer and whiter than the hand of vigorous man ought to be.  It detracted from the fresh ruddiness of his face. He must do something about his hands. Perhaps riding about a plantation would help, getting out into the sun, handling the reins ... Well, the thing to do now was to reach his destination as soon as possible and find out what the prospects were.

(Excerpt reproduced in accordance with the fair-use requirements of
the U.S. Copyright office. http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html)
__________________________
Image credits: The Pleiades, image by NASA and in the public domain.

Clyde Batchelor -- The Definitive Romance Hero

At least, I think so....

Some time in the early to mid 1970s, I borrowed a book from the library in Monroe, Louisiana entitled Steamboat Gothic, by Frances Parkinson Keyes. My parents had moved to Louisiana from Montgomery, Alabama, and I followed them when school let out for summer.  I borrowed several books, fiction and nonfiction, to learn about their new state.

I read several other of Keyes' Louisiana novels -- Dinner at Antoine's, Crescent Carnival, The River Road, perhaps one or two others, and I enjoyed them all, despite Keyes' propensities for including everything in her stories but the kitchen sink. In fact, that was part of the reason why I read them -- their vivid and arresting portrayal of French (i.e., south) Louisiana culture in which the stories of her fascinating characters were embedded -- a land in the South but like no other part of Dixie, the exotic locale of Creoles and Cajuns and their servants -- which makes them very, very un-PC today.

But Steamboat Gothic proved to be the most memorable. I bought a paperback version with this cover, and read it at least a couple more times in the next few years, but at some point in the mid to late 1980s, I lost my copy.  I never forgot the story, though, and through the years, longed to read it again.

A few days ago, I received a used copy purchased from Amazon.com. It's been most interesting, reading the story again from a writer's viewpoint. I have known since my earliest attempts to write that my style was highly influenced by two authors -- Rex Stout and Frances Parkinson Keyes. Sounds rather odd when you realize that Stout wrote spare, fast-moving and short detective novels starring the famous Nero Wolfe and his equally famous "official gnat," Archie Goodwin -- novels set mostly in New York City that took place over a period of days or weeks --  while Keyes wrote ponderous romantic and cultural dramas that sometimes covered years, decades, generations or, in the case of Steamboat Gothic, the better part of a century. 

Over an indeterminate time period in the near-distant future, I'm going to blog about Steamboat Gothic and its author from a variety of approaches (SPOILER ALERT!), not the least of which is what makes Clyde Batchelor the most magnetic, admirable and unforgettable romance hero I've ever read.


Stay tuned!


The great house at San Francisco Plantation in Garyville, Louisiana,
the inspiration for "Cindy Lou Plantation" in Steamboat Gothic.

More on Alex Austin's story...

Tagline: Can a sweet, shy woman change a minor league catcher's notions about predatory females? 


  Cover Blurb:
Minor  league catcher Alex Austin has avoided romantic relationships since high school, disillusioned by the predatory and shallow nature of the women he encountered in college. Growing up, he had anticipated adulthood centered on a loving marriage relationship like his parents shared, but since graduation, he's is relieved that the hectic pace of minor league baseball provides him a convenient excuse for avoiding women.

Kate Simmons is the opposite of the shallow, predatory creature Alex assumes most women to be. When they meet at a Silver Mullets charity event, Alex is curious and interested. But sweet, shy Kate has her own reason for steering clear of men, much deeper than the painful high school experience she blames for her shyness.

The genuine friendship that springs up between them both masks and enables an intense romantic attraction. Will caring and love break through, or will their personal barriers deny them a future together?

I Actually Wrote Something Last Night

When you're not a born writer, it's sometimes tough to make yourself write.  Remember, I belong to the P.J. O'Rourke School of Writing (so that makes it even tougher):
"Writing is agony. I hate it. Let's put it this way. When I'm writing, I spend a lot of time thinking, 'My, doesn't the top of the fridge look dirty'. It takes for ever.... I like thinking about writing. I like having written. But actually sitting down and doing it…"
P. J. O'Rourke
to Christopher Bray
The Telegraph, 2005
I have several projects started, but I've decided to concentrate on fnishing something, not starting... I've decided to work on Little Sister and Dumb Jock -- The Alex Austin Story.            
Nevertheless, I got a scene written for Little Sister.  It's rough-draft stuff right now, but hopefully, it's polish-able and can actually be used in the novel:

At eight-thirty, Harry Talton skidded into the computer lab in the Morrisette Building and skimmed the room. Between eight and nine in the morning, the cubicles began to fill up and remained occupied until about four p.m.  Only about half were unoccupied.and breathed a sigh of relief.

"Hey, Harry!" A fellow who'd entered a step or two behind him called a greeting.  Harry turned and gave him an absent nod. The kid looked familiar, but his name didn't come readily to mind.

"Hey, what's up? How was break?"

The kid grinned. "'Bout killed me to have to come back. Say, how're you making out with that little blond Baptist?"

Harry shook his head in pretended perplexity.

"You know," the kid said. "Town girl.  Ann something."

Harry allowed recognition to dawn on his face.  "Oh, you mean Ainsley." He shrugged. "She's just somebody I tutored briefly."

Another grin, this one knowing.  "Yeah, right. Tutored her in the arts of love? Or tutored yourself in the art of getting put off?"

Harry didn't dignify that with a reply, and strode to a cubicle in the last row. He liked his privacy online, even if his surfing was usually benign.  He logged on and following established routine, typed the URL to his favorite anti-racism usenet group and skimmed the entries.

The kid's description of his nonexistent relationship with Ainsley Kincaid was closer to reality than he wanted to admit. It was extremely frustrating. She was not his type -- a straightlaced Southern Baptist churchgoer, daughter of missionaries in Central America, political and cultural conservative, a perfect fit for this cultural backwater.

Harry was from Ohio.  He had enrolled in Verona State specifically for the purpose of learning first hand about rightwingers, especially the Southern contingent, in order to circumvent their ideology. His first few months in south Georgia had been an eye-opener in more ways that one. Political conservatism, he'd learned, was directly related to the pervasiveness of religion, which brought home to him what he'd heard from other progressives, but had not witnessed until now -- that socialism's primary barrier was religion, with the traditional family a close second.

But the other eye-opener -- actually a jaw-dropping revelation -- was that these people were happy.  Oh, there were a few dissident and misfits, but not enough to change the tenor of the general population. These Southerners found fulfillment for their lives in beliefs and activities Harry sneered at, and eschewed those things Harry considered essential.

It was also a problem that he hadn't expected to be so attracted to a little Southern Baptist girl. It had taken great effort for all of last semester to make a dent in her distinterest -- partly because he had to appear as if he weren't making such an effort at all. Most of their dates had been casual --  going for sodas at McDonalds or the student center after a tutoring session. Just before break, she'd finally accepted a couple of actual dates for pizza and a movie.

Since returning to school three weeks earlier, they had dated once, and he was playing not-really-interested. In truth, he was growing mildly obsessed with her, and it was never far from his mind how he might break through her defenses.

His thoughts of Ainsley were interrupted by a usenet discussion of -- Unbelievable! A cross burning over the weekend? In this day and age?  He speed-read the thread. In Pensacola, not four hours to the south west from where he sat. Unbelievable.

That was the only item of real interest until he reached a discussion about a notice from the Southern Social Justice Group in Biloxi, Mississippi.  They would begin taking applications in March for a very limited number of summer internships as well as for several volunteers to help upgrade their files and filing system.

Harry was lost in thought for a minute.  He'd passed through the Mississippi Coast a couple of times, on trips to New Orleans.  The beach and ocean, the old houses shaded with gnarled oak trees that overlooked the Gulf, the casinos -- the mental visuals filled him with a surprising wanderlust.

He set an internal calendar for March, but he would start immediately to see about securing a couple of those intenrships for himself and Ainsley. It wouldn't do to drop the suggestion on her all at once. He'd have to build up to it gradually. But the idea of spending summer on the Mississippi seacoast with her -- the possibilities -- was too great to resist.

He started to go find her. She would be in Hobie's class in the Crenshaw Complex and would get out about the time it would take him to get there. But he thought better of it immediately. Couldn't look like he purposely tracked her down to tell her about the possibility of a summer in Mississippi together. It would be better to casually run into her in the student center at lunch, and mention it offhand.

More Southern Heroes Novels In the Works

I've decided to work on this novel (or novella) along with Little Sister rather than Walraven Manor -- because it's almost baseball season!

Dumb Jock -- The Alex Austin Story
is a novella that I had to put on the back burner over the winter. The tagline --  Can a sweet, shy woman change a minor league catcher's notions about predatory females? 


Brooks D Simpson might be interested in this, since he has shown an inordinate amount of interest in my novels -- critiquing them on his blog, though he hasn't read them. And last summer, for some reason, he actually downloaded the first working cover for Dumb Jock, though it was pretty awful -- hastily made of comp images, just so I'd have "inspiration" for writing.  

Though I know nothing about baseball to speak of, I've learned a lot online, and it has been very helpful to follow the Twitter feeds of several major and minor league players. Some of them are totally focused on baseball and rarely tweet about anything else. But others post about nearly anything and their personalities really come through.  

One of my favorite Tweeters is Bryan Peterson ("peteypipes"), an outfielder for the Miami Marlins, who had to have been a class clown in high school.  A few choice tweets from Bryan -- "Gonna try and fit in as many rightch'onder's as I can in some sentences tomorrow" ... "Have i told you how much I love breakfast burritos" ... "Nobody really goes to red lobster do they?"  But he can be inspirational, too: "We fear what we do see, when we should be hoping for what we don't see. #romans" ... "Why worry, when your foundation is the Creator."  
 

Thanks, Bryan, for helping to make baseball players real for me.

Alex Austin, like all my heroes, is a Southern man, and a Christian. As of now, he is from Tennessee (like Troy Stevenson) but that may change as the writing progresses.


  Little Sister is the third book in the Georgia Series. The tagline -- A college student interning at a social watchdog organization discovers information that could jeopardize herself and her family. This is Ainsley Kincaid's story, and was actually the first book in the Georgia Series.  Actually, when I started this story in 2006 or so, there was no series. It became one because Little Sister inspired a prequel (Sweet Southern Boys) which inspired its own prequel (Southern Man). 

I don't know whether the final cover will look like this one or an earlier one (there have been several different designs).  One of the opening scenes follows the cover --



On the last Monday in January, three weeks into the new semester, Ainsley Kincaid reached her limit in history class.

Professor Douglas Hobie, his thin face set with drooping eyes and framed with fly-away hair, put Ainsley in mind of the character actor Vincent Schiavelli. He delivered his lectures in a nasal monotone that lulled some students to near stupor. But it wasn't his delivery that bothered Ainsley; it was the content.

She took it as long as she could. Her patience ran out when he said, "Of course, the entire South is still racist, but there are pockets of racism that are immeasurably worse than the status quo, and this university is surrounded by one of them. Verona, Georgia."

Fury flashed through Ainsley head to toe and she slammed her history book closed with a loud pow that echoed through the classroom like a small explosion.  Her classmates turned startled expressions toward her as Hobie's lecture ceased mid-word and he stared at her, open-mouthed. Total silence descended upon the class.

Her face hard and her hands trembling, Ainsley scooped up her books and purse. Without speaking a syllable, without so much as a glance toward anyone, she flounced out of the room.
____________________________________
Images: iStockphoto, Dreamstime.com

Aw, How Sweet


The Wisdom of Patty Stevenson


Sweet Southern Boys Video Trailer

Finally finished and up at YouTube:


____________________

 Prologue
Verona, Georgia
January 14, 1994

The vehicle streaked westward on a dirt road through sparse woodlands, kicking up dust in its wake. Behind the wheel, Randy Stevenson, soon to turn eighteen, monitored the road ahead. Tall and broad shouldered, he was a gracefully muscled athlete. Shaggy black hair framed his face – a sensitive, enigmatic face that captivated girls at Verona High School.

Only people who knew him well – and the two boys with him knew him as well as anyone – would know how agitated he was behind his stony expression. His nostrils flared to accommodate his rapid, shallow respiration. His hands were not trembling only because they held the steering wheel in a tight grip.

A crescent moon hung in the sky ahead, glowing through a hazy cloud cover. It was eight o'clock. The temperature hovered around forty degrees and the three boys wore lightweight jackets over their jeans and shirts.

Randy's eyes darted to the rear view mirror. In the distance, a dusk-to-dawn light cast a circular glow in the darkness and shone down on the riverside cabin the boys had departed moments before. The cabin and the half dozen vehicles parked around it disappeared as trees closed in behind the car.

The two-year-old white Sable belonged to Randy's mother and the music playing softly on the radio was one of her oldies stations. On the drive to the cabin earlier, the trio had been in such high spirits, yakking and laughing nonstop, they hadn't noticed the radio was on.

Now it annoyed Randy. He turned it off and broke the ensuing silence. "John Mark?"

"Yeah," answered a subdued voice from the shadowy back seat. "I'm okay."

"Shelby." Randy glanced to his right. The dashboard lights dimly outlined his friend slumped against the door, his head tilted back, wedged between the door and the headrest, and his blonde moptop falling away from his face. His eyes were fixed on the headliner.

"I'll be arright," Shelby muttered.

The road emerged from the woods into a scrubby flatland and Randy eased up on the gas pedal. An intersection with a county blacktop road lay just ahead.

Randy braked at the stop sign and made a left turn toward town. They'd traveled no more than a few yards when Shelby lurched upright and growled, "Pull over!"

The Sable slowed and bounced as its tires hit the weedy, rutted shoulder. Shelby opened the door and hung his upper body out, retching, before the vehicle came to a complete stop.

In the dome light's glow, Randy caught John Mark's gaze in the rear view mirror.

John Mark tilted his head toward their friend. "We need to take him to the emergency room."

"No," Shelby said. He leaned out the door a few moments after his heaving stopped, spit a couple of times, and raised up, breathing heavily between parted lips. He wiped his eyes, glanced at Randy and half turned to look behind him. "No. I'm fine."

John Mark returned Shelby's glare. "Don't be stupid. If that really was LSD she gave you--"

"I didn't swallow any," Shelby insisted. "I rinsed my mouth out four, five times before we left. Besides, I ain't sure LSD makes you puke. Bein' kissed by Tiffany Bratcher is what made me puke."

Randy gave him a quick appraisal. "You done?"

"Yeah." Shelby shut the door and murmured, "Let's go."

Conversation was sparse on the twenty-minute drive to Verona. It was still early on a Friday night and the cinemas, restaurants and convenience stores were doing a brisk business.

"Guess it's time to call it a night," Randy said as the Sable rolled down busy Chilton Avenue, a brightly lighted commercial thoroughfare.

"No, I don't want to go home," Shelby said. He looked much better, sitting upright, his hands clasped around an upraised knee, but his blue-gray eyes were restless, troubled. "I feel like us sticking together a while."

"Me, too," said John Mark.

Randy nodded. "All right. Where to?"

A momentary silence fell as they considered their options.

"My house," John Mark said. "Let's stay there tonight."

"I thought your folks went to Tennessee," Shelby said.

"They did. But they won't care. I'll call their motel and let them know and y'all can call your folks and tell them where you'll be."

"Works for me," Shelby said.

The light turned green and Randy accelerated, his eyes flitting to Shelby. "I don't like it. What if you have some kinda delayed reaction to that drug?"

"If it even was a drug," Shelby replied. "You know what liars Wes and Tiffany are. I don't feel anything from it. Y'all just keep an eye on me and if I start acting weird, take me to the emergency room."

* * *

A lone observer, standing still and silent in the shadows of the cabin's rustic porch, watched the Sable streak away from the riverside party, its red taillights, clouded by the following dust, finally disappearing into the woods.

The faint smell of beer and cigarette smoke had followed him outside. Muffled conversation and laughter reached him through the cabin walls, overlying the thumping rhythm and lower frequencies of recorded music.

After a few moments, he ambled down the steps into the yard, his longish russet hair glinting in the glow of the security light. He followed a path down a slope to a boardwalk edging the inky Oostachula River.

He found a wooden bench, sat down, and pulled a flip-top cigarette box and butane lighter from his jacket pocket. The only cigarette in the box--thin, filterless and slightly crumpled--had not been made in any tobacco factory. He lit the cigarette and inhaled deeply.

His three rivals had said nothing to him when they departed; just filed past him with stony faces. But he knew from long experience that they were shaken--by now, he was an expert at shaking them up--and a corner of his mouth slanted upward.

Eight years had passed since his first run-in with these three crackers, fisticuffs that had got him detention at school and a talking-to at home. But his father's lecture had ended with a priceless observation:

"...there are other ways to fight, son."

Indeed, there were.
____________________


Writing Relay

I'm attempting to write two books simultaneously.  Rather, I'm doing the preliminary work on both so that if I get stuck working on one -- writer's block, muses on strike, whatever --  I can set it aside and work on the other.

Little Sister is the third book in the Georgia Series (following Southern Man and Sweet Southern Boys).  Walraven Manor is a stand-alone story (at least, thus far).

Here are the covers:
 And here are the taglines: 
Little Sister -- A college student interning at a social watchdog organization discovers information that could jeopardize her life and her family.

Walraven Manor -- A Midwestern woman who believes she is a reincarnated slave relocates to Alabama seeking a man who she believes is the reincarnation of her master. 
I've chosen four possible songs to serve as inspirational background music as I write.  I know that Rushen's Almost Home is definitely in.  The other three are very close runners up.  They're at YouTube.  Have a listen....

Almost Home ~ Patrice Rushen


On the Move ~ Count Basic


Off the Hook ~ Roger Smith


Bahia Funk ~ Lee Ritenour

Enjoy the music, folks!

More Fun With Video

Took time out from making the video trailer for Sweet Southern Boys to put together this trailer for Jerrye Sumrall's Intruders On Battleship Island, a YA mystery-adventure. I also did the cover for this novel, using Jerrye's existing artwork, and critiqued the manuscript. It's a great story and it's getting great reviews at Amazon.com.



There will be several titles in The Bayshore Mysteries series. The Secret Graveyard is already out and The Mystery of Wragg Swamp is on the way.

Fun With Video

I'm working on a video trailer for Sweet Southern Boys. One of the most fascinating and enjoyable things about that is the possibilities for image manipulation to get what you need. Hiring a video production company is out of the question, budget-wise, and even free or low-cost digital images can rack up the fees for graphics editing ... but not if you're doing your own.

I'm doing my own because I want the images to reflect the story and characters as closely as possible Thus, I needed a picture of a Southern river at night. The image below right is available at http://www.freestockphotos.biz/stockphoto/14088 It's identified as a lake, but who's quibbling?

I made the image on the left from it, complete with a crescent moon (almanac sez there was a crescent moon the night of January 14, 1994 and a hazy cloud cover in south Georgia -- so I made a moon in Photo Deluxe and put a haze around it and a reflection below).



All in all, I'm pleased with the result. There will be tons of images in the video that will need to be processed this way to make them "match" the story.

Someday, maybe I'll post all the individual images it took to create this composite:


Meanwhile I'm also having fun with sound effects and music -- the latter of which took me on a detour from my work for a while yesterday. I'm scoring part of the trailer with some soulful saxophone riffs off a production library disc. One section brought to mind some song of the past, but I just couldn't place it -- and I wanted to, really bad. You know how a something like that will get stuck in your head....

I hummed a few bars for my husband and sister, but it rang no bells for them -- and I don't wonder why. The little snippet of music in my head was not singin' music (even if I could sing, which I can't) -- it was playin' music.

So, wondering whether I might recognize the title if I saw it, I started searching the "top hits of 19xx" websites, starting in 1960. I didn't think it was newer than 1962 but I didn't find it, so I went backwards into the 1950s.

In1956 there was a title that looked promising, although it really didn't ring any bells, either. Honky Tonk Parts I and II, by Bill Doggett.

Off to Youtube I went to check in it out. It wasn't Honky Tonk Part I -- but with Part II, I hit paydirt! The opening riff was exactly what I'd been hearing in my head all day!

And now, for your listening pleasure....


If you can listen to this without tapping your feet, you don't have a single calorie of soul....

Honky tonk, indeed....

Photoshoppin' Fun -- More Indie Cover Art Creation

Photoshop — vb  , -shops , -shopping , -shopped
 ( tr ) to alter (a digital photograph or other image), using an image editing application, especially Adobe Photoshop
I don't own Adobe Photoshop, though I used it a little in previous jobs.  In 1999, when I gave up my Web-TV unit for a second-hand Windows 98 computer built by a small, local computer shop for use in their business, I was temporarily out of work and couldn't afford software for it, beyond the handful of utilities that had come bundled on it. (That was where I developed my affinity for writing on sweet, swift Wordpad, which is still what I write my book drafts and blog posts with today.)

The situation gave rise to investigating downloadable freebie software, and I still use a lot of freebie software today.  But one program came on disk with a scanner I bought in 2000 -- Adobe Photo Deluxe 2.0.  That is still my workhorse graphics editor to this day, and I've had to sometimes jump through hoops to make it compatible with OS system upgrades and new computers, like the XP laptop I'm typing on right now.  I sometimes use  other graphics programs -- mostly Ultimate Paint (freebie); less frequently Paint.net (freebie), Gimp (freebie), and Serif's PhotoPlus (both free and purchased versions).



Since I first started writing Sweet Southern Boys, I've been on the lookout for stock photo models to portray them on the published cover of their story -- not merely a "working" cover. This hasn't been easy, particularly because I also wanted photos to use in videos about the series, where the characters would be portrayed at different ages -- but photos of the same stock photo model from preschool  years to manhood seemed unlikely to find.  Thus, different models would be used to portray these boys at different stages of their lives in promos and videos, and they need to look at least somewhat like the fellows on the cover.  The models on the cover had to represent them at age seventeen.  The ones I finally used are likely in their early twenties.


Fortunately, the standard license use by most micro-stock (i.e., basically "affordable") sites permits "adapting" the work -- such as cutting a person, or object like an animal, building or vehicle, from the existing background and overlaying it on another. Another reason for graphics editing would be to attempt to "match" models shot under different lighting conditions.  In the original downloads above, "Randy" was shot in three-point studio lighting.  "Shelby" and "John Mark" were shot in outdoor lighting -- the former in diffused cloudy-day lighting, the latter in open sunlight that creates sharp shadows.  I did the best I could make the lighting differences not so stark.



This is a "concept" image -- it is not supposed to portray them actually standing side by side. It's rather like the original cover of S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders, which was produced by a pre-digital age (1967) cover artist. In fact, a member of an e-book forum saw an earlier rendering of my cover and advised it reminded her of Hinton's cover  She liked that book and would possibly buy my novel based on the similarity of the cover alone.

I've never read The Outsiders -- never even heard of it until that e-book forum encounter -- but it's fascinating to think it was published the year I graduated from high school, and the author was 18 at the time.  She had begun writing the story at age 15. In any case, inspired by the forum commenter's remarks and Hinton's cover, I had fun doing a ripoff, though I never intended for this to be the actual cover. It's interesting that in such a concept, shadows on the "wrong" side of faces don't seem to matter. They were drawn that way purposely for the Hinton cover by Viking's cover artist....


The Outsiders entry at Wikipedia
 
It is most fortunate that stock photo licenses permit "adapting" (editing) the image, because few of them are suitable for books covers as downloaded, although you can find a plethora of $.99 ebooks with covers that have been created that way.  Just stick a title and author name on it (often with fancy fonts, sometimes unreadable) rather like this:


I dunno. I think stock photos used for book covers need a little more attention than that. I spent a lot of time doing graphic editing on the covers of both Southern Man and Sweet Southern Boys.  There's a short look at the images that went into the previous cover for Southern Man here. (Scroll down to bottom of screen).

As for these sweet Southern boys -- they sometimes had me pulling my hair out, trying to get their "lighting" to match...rather, my graphics editor did. Sometimes to darken, lighten, turn contrast up or down, mess with the color balance, can produce unexpected result -- not always good. In fact, almost never good.  Then, there are sometimes other considerations.,,,

I'll discuss those considerations, and more, when I take a look at each character's "fun with photoshoppin'" (and yes, I use "fun" facetiously) experience individually, in future posts.

Indie Book Publishing -- Cover Art Tales

The digital revolution has made indie and self-publishing possible on a scale never before seen.  One of the blessings for indie authors and small publishing houses is the proliferation of stock photo sites selling millions of affordable images for covers, advertising banners, video trailers and such.

But as is so often the case blessings can sometimes be banes. The Smart Bitches have showcased some pretty awful romance cover art from the 1980s -- but the digital age has presented us with its own version of bad covers...  Anyone who can afford PhotoShop and some stock images can become a cover artist!

In the middle of the last decade, when I first began writing novels seriously for publication, and likely self-publication, I noted the mistakes some cover artists made, and I was determined not to repeat them.  I'm not an artist.  At least, I'm not an illustrator, but I have experience in graphics and layout going back to childhood when I made flyers, posters and such for school and for the churches where my daddy preached.  Give me the artwork, and I can do a fair-to-middling job on the final product.

My most recent effort is the cover for my just released indie/self-published novel, Sweet Southern Boys.  I began writing this novel in 2005 or so, as a prequel to Little Sister.  About two thirds of the way through, I put it on the back burner to write and publish Southern Man, which was released in 2009.  I followed with writing Storm Surge and shopping it to e-book publishers.  It was released in 2011 by Desert Breeze Publishing.

I started an author services site, Word Slinger Boutique, in 2011, as well, and that kept me away from resuming Sweet Southern Boys full time.  I wanted to release the book in March, but as you can see... this is August.  But the book is finally available, and with a cover I'm reasonably proud of.

I always make "working covers" for my stories while writing them. I read about this idea online -- said it makes the story you're writing "feel" more like a book.  I agree.  So early in my writing of SSB, I made this cover. The bayou is supposed to represent the Okefenokee Swamp, which is near the fictional town of Verona, Georgia where the story is set.  My three protagonists hunt and fish in the woods of south Georgia beginning as grade schoolers and at that early stage,  I thought it would make an appropriate cover -- at least, a working cover.

The original cover image I made was lost in one of the several hard drive crashes I've experienced since I made it.  All that survived was a thumbnail, but here's a reproduction that's very close to the original. (Thumbnail on left is original.) 
 This bayou is not in Georgia, though.  It's in Monroe, Louisiana. I would not be able to use either of these photos for the printed cover because of the image quality -- they are scans of photos made 40 years ago or so.

This cover image worked to inspire me to write until the characters solidifed in my imagination enough for me to picture them on the cover.  I wanted it to depict the three boys with a Confederate flag behind them.  Here's my first cover flat design, complete with fantasy reviews (ha!).


I knew nothing about trim sizes back then so this is all out of proportion and that enormous spine width indicates a behemoth book, maybe 400 pages long!  It is about twice the width of the actual spine image I uploaded to the printer yesterday (finished novel is 200 pages) -- but still, it was a fair representation of what I had in mind...  In fact, the final cover follows the same basic design, but with different models ... except for John Mark's model. That handsome young blond man -- perhaps from the Pacific Northwest, where his photographer works -- has been the image of my brown-haired, brown-eyed, loquacious preacher's son since I first found him online.

The model on the left looks more like Shelby Kincaid than any I've found -- his smile and jauntiness capture Shelby's personality, too.  He is available from Comstock Photos and Getty Images and, alas, he is another one too expensive for me to use.

In my off-again, on-again writing of this story, various cover ideas occurred to me.  The bayou photo had made an impression on me so I rendered it again using a beautiful stock photo from Dreamstime.com.



It even inspired me to design an entire cover flat:


When I search stock images for projects -- covers, banner ads, video trailers -- for my own work or my Word Slinger customers, I sometimes come across  images that seemed to "fit" my story, and I sometimes make mockups out of low-resolution comp images to "try them on for size."  Two particular "boys-fishing" images caught my fancy -- particularly the one with small fishermen whose hair is blond, black and brown, like my boys. The one in the middle doesn't have John Mark's long hair, but graphics editing software can fix that, if the image license allows.



But, unfortunately, while my characters did a lot of hunting and fishing together growing up, those activities do not figure prominently in the story, so I had to reluctantly pass on these photos.

Here are some mockups I like but decided not to use.


In the end, I went back to my original idea -- headshots of the three protagonists in front of a Confederate battle flag -- a powerful symbol that's also appropriate to the story. But I rendered it quite differently, with a dark background rather than white. And in the proper proportions to reflect the book's actual trim size! As an indie/self publisher, I know about stuff like that now!


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(Note: High-resolution, non-watermarked images whose license was purchased were used according to the permissions in the license.  Low-resolution comp images for preliminary working projects are copyrighted by their photographer and the stock photo sites where they are available for purchase: Dreamstime.com, I-StockPhoto.com, Fotolia.com, Virtual Images, Comstock Photos, etc.)

Finding Troy

Several years ago, during the writing of Southern Man, I found a model that was his spitn'image, a fellow who'd be perfect on the cover.  The problem, he was on Corbis stock photo site, and prohibitively expensive....**



Well.... he did have a few other drawbacks -- he was carrying a laptop, which students at the University of Alabama didn't have in 1972....and his hair was a little too light.

I could fix some of these problems with PhotoDeluxe ... but I couldn't afford the photos.

So, I started scouting some of the more affordable stock photo sites, and eventually settled on this fellow -- a light brown-haired, blue-eyed Brit who I processed to be my black-haired, dark-eyed Appalachian hero.

He did not look like Troy at all, even processed -- but he did have the advantage of costing around $12.00 for 499,999 impressions....
 

 
This fellow was my cover Troy through two cover designs.

Then, several months later, when I was noodling around on the stock photo sites looking for images for a video trailer for Storm Surge, I searched the term "hurricane" and this breathtaking image came up. Hey, it was the Troy model, at Fotolia, an affordable stock site!



But, alas, this particular image was not affordable -- nor was it appropriate for portraying a corporate executive.

But I kept my eyes pealed for this model every time I had to search the affordable micro-stock photo sites.  And soon, he started showing up.

I found several photos of this model in business attire and settings, but none that really captured the essence of my character....



Until, one day, I found these:


 

 

 
Of course, since my story was set in 1983, there could be no cell phones or laptops....

But then I found this one....made by the microstock photographer king, Yuri Arcurs



PERFECT! -- with a little help from my photo editor.....



Here's how he looked on the new cover illustration:



And here he is on the completed cover:



One day, looking for pics for Sweet Southern Boys, I came across Yuri's website.  Looking at the pics of his male models, I found my guy -- and learned his name was "Chrismo B."

Yuri's Site
 
With some Googling, I found out that he is Chrismo Botha from Cape Town, South Africa... And he's not only an international model, but a photographer in his own right. Here's his website, featuring a great photo of the photographer: Chrismo Botha
 
And here are some other great pics of this fantastic fellow as a fashion model and in some sexy poses...

ModelingAgency

And here's the latest version, Crichton-inspired....


But this one has TO BE THE CAKE TOPPER -- This IS Troy -- or, at least, as close as it gets outside of my imagination!



I wouldn't even begin to ask how much the license would be to put this photo on my cover. But that's okay. The one I have will do just fine... Still, is that not a fine looking man in a fine looking photo?



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**The images have since been removed from Corbis, but a Tin Eye search shows them available from other stock sites -- and still prohibitively expensive.

The Wisdom of Patty Stevenson


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Image: Dreamstime.com