Saturday, July 4, 2015

#3 PickleUrbaneObtuse

“Monsieur,” Mrs. Sandra Dellacourte said. She’d heard he was French.  “Please, monsieur, will you try one of my pickles? They’re good. They’re so good, they’ll make your mouth pucker and your eyes water.”

She took a crisp bite to prove it. Juice from the bite misted the man’s silk shirt. He looked surprised. Sandra Dellacourte pulled a hanky from the pocket of her morning dress and made a show of wiping the peach fuzz of liquid away. “You want it crisp just like that,” she said, using the same hanky to dab at her watering eyes. It smelled faintly of his cologne.  “And when your eyes water, you know it’s a good one.”

The man held up a hand. His nails were carefully filed. “No, no. Please excuse me, madame. I’m not so much a….” He paused to choose his words carefully. “Pickle eater.”

His accent was irresistible. Sandra Dellacourte could hardly believe she was talking to a real, breathing foreigner. From France!

“Come now.” She twittered a laugh. “Everybody likes pickles! The only people who don’t like pickles are people who haven’t tried pickles. And these pickles … these pickles….” She tried to remember how to say magnificent in French, but failed. Eighth grade had been such a long time ago. “I have a blue ribbon hanging in my great room….” She cleared her throat. “I mean, my parlor….” Parlor sounded so much more urbane. “You’ve got to try it. I insist.”

Sandra Dellacourte pulled a fresh pickle from the jar and held it under the Frenchman’s nose.

“Sandra!”  Meredith Zellinski had been misting her roses next door. Sandra had assumed she was out of earshot, but now she stood on the very boundary of their two yards, her garden hose squirting erratically. The toes of her garden shoes were technically trespassing on Sandra Dellacourte’s property. “What are you saying to Mr. Babineaux? Are you trying to tempt him with your pickles?”

Sandra withdrew the pickle and hugged the jar. “No, ma’am. Just making friends. Being neighborly.” She fluffed at her hair with her forearm. After all, it was difficult to fluff hair when you’re holding two pickles, a pickle jar, and a hanky.

“He’s my guest,” Meredith Zellinski said. “Don’t scare him off now!”

“Do I look scary to you?” Sandra Dellacourte glared across the grass at Meredith Zellinski. Sandra’s feet were beginning to sweat in her panda slippers, due to the warmth of the summer sun. Mr. Babineaux was starting to sweat, too. Beads of perspiration glistened on his forehead and above his upper lip. Sandra readied her hanky.

Out of the corner of her eye, Sandra saw Meredith Zellinski roll her eyes and go back to her roses. Sandra was fairly certain she heard the word obtuse muttered. Her lips tightened over her recently bleached teeth.

But no, now was not the time to give Meredith Zellinski a piece of her mind. There was a gentleman standing here, a gentleman whom Sandra was sure she could convert to a pickle preference, or die trying.

“How long are you in town, Monsieur Babineaux?” Sandra asked, batting her falsies.

“Ah,” he said. “I am only here for one week, for business reasons. Meredith was kind enough to offer her spare room through Airbnb dot com.”

“A dot com site!” Sandra breathed, her eyes shifting. She had to admit it was brilliant.

“Yes,” said Mr. Babineaux. “I am so far quite pleased.”

“Well, here,” Sandra said, thrusting the jar against his chest. “Take all of them. Try them at your leisure. Only … let me know how you like them.”

To her dismay, he fumbled the jar like a hot potato. “I’m afraid I have no need for pickles!”

“No need for pickles!” Sandra cried.  “But—but you can’t say you’ve really visited until you’ve tried our pickles! Cucumbers grow great around here. So does dill! And our vinegar’s cheap!”

Mr. Babineaux made an interesting sound through his nose. “Believe me, madame, I am quite well without pickles. Now please excuse me.”

He scuttled away, clutching his briefcase to his chest as though it were a shield.

Sandra watched him round the corner at the end of the road. She took another bite of her crisp, luscious, award-winning pickle, and sighed.

(Many thanks to my aunt, Sandi, who gave me the three inspirational words for this writing exercise--pickle, urbane and obtuse.) 

Friday, July 3, 2015

#2 CurmudgeonSplendidKnead

Brandi cupped the base of the man’s skull, resting her other hand on his forehead. His skin under her palms was leathery, and as much as she tried to breathe in a different direction, she couldn’t lose the strong odor of petroleum that seemed to leak from his pores. A headache was starting behind her eyes. She glanced back at the clock. Only ten minutes more.

“Harder!” The man’s voice was like a rake dragged over stones. “You think I’m paying you for some sissy massage?”

Brandi kneaded harder. Her hands strong from practice, she usually enjoyed the movement and quiet of the massage room. But today she ached simply because of the long dragging minutes, as if the hands of the clock were weighted with bricks.

“How’s that?”

The man only grunted.

She could afford to be picky, she thought.   She didn’t have to put up with this. “Say hello to the last nine minutes you’ll ever spend with Mr. Herald L. Cross.”

“What was that?” he barked.

Had she said it out loud?

“Sorry?” she said. “Did you hear something?”

“You said something. You muttered.”

“Did I?”

Music tinkled. Waves rushed in and out. Exotic birds chattered. It was all a CD. Brandi would have liked to have been on a real beach somewhere tropical. She imagined herself in a bathing suit with a sarong tied at her waist, her massage chair set under a cabana. She’d work a twelve-hour day in those conditions, no complaints. And she’d bet money that her clients would be a lot more laid back. Not like this old curmudgeon.  

“Aren’t you going to do anything else? Or are you just gonna stand there and strangle me all day?”

Brandi’s eyes darted to the clock. Eight more minutes.

“Just another minute,” she said. “Then we’ll move on to something else.”

“I don’t like this one,” he said. “And since I’m paying, I say you listen to me!”

Brandi didn’t speak, but moved her hand from his forehead, changed her grip on his neck. “You have a lot of tension, Mr. Cross….”

“Call me Herald!” he cried. “And what I want to know is where Katie went off to. I liked Katie a whole lot better than you.”

“Katie’s far away.” Even to her own ears, her voice sounded wistful. Still, in her mind, she was on the beach,  knees curled to her chest, watching waves. “Unless you’re willing to travel to San Diego for your massage, she can’t help you.”

“San Diego! Who’d ever want to live in San Diego?”

Brandi wondered who wouldn’t want to live in San Diego.

“She inherited some money when her father died. Decided she could finally afford to live her dream.”

“Of living in San Diego?” Herald seemed incredulous. “Got a few screws loose, if you ask me.”

“Have you ever been to San Diego?” Brandi asked. “I’ve heard it’s splendid.”

“No, and I never will. Fargo’s where I was born and where I’ll die.”

Brandi stifled a laugh. She covered it with a cough. Three minutes.

Lapping waves. The coarseness of beach sand. An ocean breeze. She saw all Katie’s pictures on Facebook. Katie seemed to smile a lot. Katie had a tan.

Brandi stared at her own white arm.

“They say Vitamin D is good for your body … sunshine.”

“What was that?” Herald demanded. “You muttered again.”

“Did I?” She laughed. Honestly laughed.

“What’re you laughing at? Keep your focus, woman!”

One minute left. One measly minute. Would he notice if she stopped one minute early? Probably.

She swiped down Mr. Cross’s back with her fingertips.

“There you are, Mr. Cross, all done.”

“But I wanted two hours. Two hour massage.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Cross, but I only have you down for one. I have other clients.”

He got up grumbling. He paid grumbling.

And did not leave a tip.

But at least he got up. At least he paid.

And at least he took that reek of petroleum out with him.

As soon as the bell stopped ringing on the slammed door, Brandi opened her laptop. Within moments she was gazing at Katie’s smiling Facebook profile picture.

She clicked open a message box, and typed the name.

Hi Katie,

Hope you’re well.

A shot in the dark, but … are you hiring?

(End note: In case you're wondering what I'm doing, this is writing practice, inspired by three words given to me by Brandi -- curmudgeon, splendid and knead.)

Monday, June 29, 2015

#1 SleeplessSwedenDreamer

I'm in limbo while I wait to hear back about a few projects, so I've decided to do some writing prompts to keep me in practice. Some of my Facebook peeps each gave me three words to use for inspiration. These will be super-short pieces of fiction. Not necessarily polished. Read at your own risk. 

Here's the first from Lena, inspired by the words sleepless, Sweden, and dreamer:

Sweden in January was supposed to be a beautiful experience.

It is beautiful, these fields of white.

It was supposed to stretch my mind. Something about lights, green lights, dancing in the sky. Something about an ancient ship. Viking castles.

My mind is stretched … but too far. I’ve lost it somewhere. Maybe when I sat down and couldn’t make myself get back up, that’s when I set my mind down and forgot to pick it up again.

“How cold are you?”

There is a man here. Yes, he’s been here, but I don’t know how long. He is the one talking. His lips move and sounds come out.


The man’s eyebrows crinkle. He has a nose like Harrison Ford. “I didn’t ask how old you were, I asked how cold you were. But I’m glad to find a language you know, at least.”

I assumed it was his accent that made old sound cold.

“I can’t really tell.” Are my feet even there? I look to make sure, but everything is under snow.

“Your name?”


“Pretty name.”

The sky crinkles with darkness at the edges.

“Stay with me,” says the man, patting my cheek. “Don’t be a dreamer now. Dreaming’s no good. You know, Sweden is nicer in the summer. Why’d you decide to visit now?”

Why am I here again?  “Studying.”

“Where are you from?”


“The United States, then? In the southern part?”


“Ah.” He nods. “You don’t know how to dress for winter if you’re from a warm place like Florida.”

I shake my head, and begin to speak, but the words evaporate on my tongue. Something about my mother telling me the same thing. Wear your hat, wear your mittens….

“Sleepless,” the man says. “Sleepless in Sweden. They should make a movie with a title like that. Don’t you think that’s clever?” One arm threads under my knees, the other rounds my back.  “Let’s get you to a warmer place, shall we? Wake you up.”

I nod. 

With a grunt, he lifts me, snow shoes squeaking.  

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Red Butterfly Curriculum Guide

I have exciting news for all you teachers out there. There's now a Common Core-friendly curriculum guide for Red Butterfly!

Click here to check it out!

I'm planning to add an Education Resources tab to my blog where there will be a permanent link. I hope this is helpful -- and please let me know if you have any questions.

Thanks so much to the folks at Simon & Schuster BFYR, and to Librarian Kathleen Odean for putting this together.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Book Plates!

My brilliant author-friend Kristin Rae is also a gifted designer (check out her designs HERE) and she created this lovely book plate for Red Butterfly. Thank you, Kristin!

Amy June Bates is the talented artist whose work appears throughout the book. I feel so honored that Simon & Schuster let me use her art on these bookplates. Her work is gorgeous!

If you'd be interested in receiving one of these book plates to stick in the front of your personal copy of Red Butterfly, follow directions HERE. All I need is a Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope (SASE) and I'll send you the signed book plate.

Happy reading! 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Red Butterfly Launch Party

Last week we threw a launch party for Red Butterfly at the Richland Public Library, and what a cool experience that was! 

There was delicious (and beautiful) cake!

Cute little fans!

I read a little bit. 

Answered questions. 

And signed lots of books.

Thanks to the Richland Public Library for hosting. They made the experience so easy for me--providing cupcakes, cookies, and a beautiful venue. My friend, Carrell, baked and decorated the cake. Adventures Underground, a local bookstore, sold books (and sold out in just over five minutes!). 

Red Butterfly had a wonderful debut week and I've been (happily) overwhelmed with all the well-wishes. 

Thank you, all!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Happy Book Birthday, Red Butterfly!

Today's the day!

Red Butterfly's birthday!

She's officially in stores everywhere!


Get your copy before they're all gone!

Now excuse me while I celebrate.

(And if looking at all three of these GIFs together doesn't give you a headache,
I don't know what will.)

RED BUTTERFLY, now available pretty much wherever books are sold.

Happy reading!