Cover mockups for my WIPs

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Southern Man, of course, is completed and available on  The others are all in progress. Sweet Southern Boys is about 75% complete. Little Sister is about 1/3 complete, and The Candidate (working title; it will be changed) is just getting started.

I am writing them as one undertaking for the sake of continuity. Fourtunately, nothing in Southern Man is impacting the sequels (thus far), perhaps because the first two were begun as prequels to the third. 

Yes, my original project was Little Sister. In the writing of Ainsley Kincaid's story, big brother Shelby and his two best buddies, Randy Stevenson and John Mark Jordan, wanted their story told.  So, I temporarily shelved LS to work on SSB. And, as it was reaching completion, I couldn't ignore the story of Randy's father taking shape in my mind.  So, I stopped SSB to write Southern Man.

The Candidate didn't exist even as an idea during that process. It's a very late addition, but I'm enthusiastic about it -- see the excerpt at the end of this post.  So now I'm writing all these stories in tandem.

Isn't it funny how this prequel/sequel thing works?

The Candidate

Chapter One
"My friend," said Shelby Kincaid as he poured a mug of steaming coffee. "I don't know whether your testicles just got real big or your brain got real small."

He carried his cup across the break room, set it down on a table and took a chair. Beneath unruly blond hair, his blue-gray eyes fastened on the man seated across from him.

Randy Stevenson's dark eyes returned Shelby's gaze. His sensitive, enigmatic face, surrounded with shaggy black hair, betrayed not a hint of mirth. "Dickson's more than a tax-and-spend liberal. He's a leftist, a socialist. Somebody's got to challenge him."

"Not you." Shelby took a careful slurp of coffee. "His political machine will tear you to pieces. And the public at large will help 'em."

Randy shrugged. "I got real thick skin."

"No, what you've got is crap for brains. Now, listen. You're one of the Verona Three. They'll dig up everything they can about that--about your daddy, too, just to smear you by association. You've seen how politics works--the whole story doesn't come out until after the damage is done. You're also a Southern Baptist. That makes you a sexist, a racist and a homophobe."

Shelby went completely still as realization flitted into his eyes, followed by alarm. "And it's horrifying, what they'd do to Susan and the kids. Have you thought about that?"

The back door opened, briefly letting in the sound of morning traffic. John Mark Jordan stepped inside and traded greetings with the other two as he got coffee for himself and brought it to the table, his netbook under his arm. With his remarkably handsome face and stylish apparel, he was often mistaken for a client of a nearby modeling agency.

"What's going on?" The question was rhetorical because he didn't wait for an answer before opening the netbook to skim the business section of the Jacksonville Post Herald.

Shelby aimed a thumb across the table. "Brilliant here says he's thinking of running for Congress."

John Mark's head snapped up. His brown eyes, wide with astonishment, fastened on Randy. "Have you gone crazy?"

Randy lifted his chin. "How many times have we sat at this table handwringin' about the future our children will have to live in? How many times have we said something has to be done? Well, I'm gonna do something. I don't know if it'll help, whether it'll be too little too late--but I have to try."

John Mark remained incredulous, his netbook forgotten. "You'll get slaughtered. There's a bazillion things they'll attack you for. Without mercy."

"Don't try to tell him anything," Shelby muttered. "I've already tried. He says his skin's thick."

Randy raked a thumbnail across his lips and considered the other two. Their opinions and advice were crucial to him. They were not only his business partners; they were also his best friends, going back to grade school. For over two decades, the three of them had been closer than brothers.

"I know what's in my life better than they do. Whatever they attack me with, I'll have a carefully crafted defense or a counter-attack prepared well in advance. I've already started that. The message will go out on a dynamite website, press releases and online videos so powerful they'll go viral. The three of us could pull it off. Turn it all to my advantage. I know we could."

Silence filled the room as his friends stared at him, the import of his words sinking in.

John Mark murmured, "How does Susan feel about this?"

"Totally supportive. We've talked about it a lot, imagined worst-case scenarios, up to and including violence against us, although we aren't paranoid enough to assume it would come to that. She has realistic expectations and she's looking forward to the challenge. But her main concern is the kids and the kind of world they'll have to live in if the country doesn't change where it's headed."

The men's expressions grew pensive. They'd discussed numerous times the grim world that awaited their children--all children--in the foreseeable future. Now they were looking at an opportunity to do something about it on a national scale--or, at least, to try--and it was both sobering and exhilarating.

Randy gave his companions an appraising look. Their demeanor had gradually changed as he spoke, and he could see their resistance weakening.

"You realize that both of you will be drug through the mud, too, especially if you help with the campaign. And you have your own families to think of."

John Mark grunted. "Are you kidding? You do this, Ainsley'll be your biggest cheerleader."

Randy's eyes crinkled in an almost smile, but only for a moment. He wanted all considerations out in the open. "One other thing. A political campaign will take us away from the company for months."

"That's not an insurmountable problem." Shelby pushed his mug aside and leaned back. "We can take care of it."

Another silence fell. This time, an undercurrent of excitement vibrated through the air.

"I'm driving down to Saint Augustine after work to talk to Missy and Tommy," Randy said. "Saturday, I'll take the family to Verona to discuss it with Mama and Daddy. If nobody can give me a powerfully good reason for not doing it, I'll register my candidacy within the month."

 He looked at each of his friends for a couple of seconds. "I want you two with me in this."

John Mark gave his earlobe a tug. "Well, you know we can't let you do this by yourself, so you've got us."

Shelby nodded. "Unless we can talk you out of it."

Mirth finally sparked in Randy's eyes. "You got three weeks."

Exponential Nostalgia

Thanks to my sis for that great phrase.  She and I are hip-deep in a vintage music craze at YouTube. It started with TV theme songs from the Sixties (Route 66, Mr. Lucky, Peter Gunn, etc.) and grew from there.  I now have five playlists at YouTube where I can go and listen to my faves in various categories -- Mid Century Swank Instrumentals; Mid Century Country; Rock From Back In the Day; Mid Century Vocals and Eighties Goodies.

One of the songs I found was a popular tune from the late 1950s, The Wayward Wind by Gogi Grant. I really liked that song, though I was a grade schooler when it was popular. We had a 45 RPM version (and it's probably still around my house somewhere). I can't play my old vinyl singles and albums, as we have no working phonograph anymore. How wonderful to find it on YouTube!

If you want to hear it, click this link:  What a voice! What a classy song!  But here's the topper.  Grant performed this song in 2004 when she was approaching eighty years old -- and was still performing in 2010 in Palm Springs, California.  Enjoy the 2004 performance: