Friday, June 26, 2015

The Graham Quartet - Part 3

Good Morning Friday Fiction Fans,

I hope you are ready for the next part of the Graham Quartet mystery because that's what you're getting. But don't expect it to last forever. :) I only have two more parts written. I have been writing some, though not as much as I was earlier this year. Last week I reached 5k again, but then I also realized that my unfinished project list wasn't getting much shorter. Part of that is because when I near the end of one project I tend to focus only on that and push all the other ones away "until after this book is published" or "that thing if done". That's what was starting to happen and so I decided I was going to keep writing, but not as much or I'd have another book to publish before I had completed some other projects. I will be writing short stories (I have to have something to post on my blog each week), and will work on TCR-6 and the Graham Quartet as often as I can or when I get inspired. This way I will still be writing but I will also have time to complete all the many other projects that just keep sitting on my "to to" list. :)

All that being said, I'm still wanting any and all ideas you might have for either the TCR books or this Graham Quartet mystery. :) And I have some fun short stories to post before long. :)

The Graham Quartet
Part 3

    Fishing in his pocket, Matt pulled out a small flashlight. “Let’s try it with this.” In the steady beam of light, the writing on the paper was easy to see, but no one could decipher it.
    “I can’t decide if it’s some foreign language or if it’s in code,” Matt declared at last, stepping back with a sigh and snapping off the light. “I wonder if the lieutenant or Dad would be able to make sense out of it.”
    “Oh boy!” Tim exclaimed. “It just had to be our mysterious man from the boat. We know he came this direction and was around here. He probably dropped the paper and it has the secret orders for the crime ring he’s the leader of.” His eyes shone with excitement at his own imaginings. “I wish we had the F.B.I. here.” Shoving his hands in his pockets Tim moved across the room. “Elsa, you probably found a piece of valuable information. Our mystery man might not have written it, but he is probably searching frantically for that paper this very minute. Maybe he’s even on his way back here to see if he left it behind.”
    Selena shivered. The gloom of the room and Tim’s words, wild and full of his usual strong imagination though they were, combined to make a strange, almost eery feeling creep up her spine.
    “Tim, knock off that kind of talk,” Matt ordered. “I don’t think anyone’s coming here in this storm, and as soon as it’s over, we’re leaving. And besides, we don’t even know who our mystery man is. He may not be bad. Remember Elsa’s stranger this past winter.”
    With his enthusiasm dampened by his brother’s rebuke, Tim turned away and, clearing a tiny spot on one of the window panes, peered out at the whitecaps on the lake. “Um, Matt.”
    Matt turned around.
    “You might want to take a look out here. There’s a boat coming this way.”
    “What!” ejaculated Matt, springing to the window. “Tim’s right!” he declared a moment later, his eye still watching through the hole in the dirt and dust. “There is a boat. And it’s headed directly here. There’s no other place he could be going.”
    Both girls gasped. Who was it?
    “I wish Lieutenant Ashwood was here. Or Dad,” Selena whispered. No one heard her over the drumming of rain on the roof and the sigh and whistle of wind. Who would have guessed that their vacation would suddenly turn into such and adventure.

* * *

    The sunshine was bright, and the sandy beaches stretching out to the water’s edge were enticing. A breeze, blowing off the lake, made the tall grasses, growing in the sand between the house and the empty beach, sway with a soft rustle.
    “Come on,” Tim urged his siblings, pausing on the broad stairway and looking over his shoulder. “We only have a few hours before supper, and I don’t want to spend it inside.”
    A merry laugh came from one of the rooms and Elsa’s voice called back, “A moment or two longer won’t hurt you, Tim. Besides, we’ll have more than just this afternoon to spend on the beach.”
    Thirteen-year-old Tim groaned and sat down on the top step. “It’ll take them ages,” he said, addressing the empty steps below him. He leaned his elbow on one knee and rested his chin in his hand. “And after all that long trip. I want to see the lake and . . .”
    “Come on, Tim,” Matt called, giving his younger brother a nudge with his foot before bounding down the stairs.
    “Yeah, I thought you wanted to go see the lake,” Elsa said, slipping past and hurrying after Matt while Selena skipped behind. Tim scrambled to his feet and raced after the others.
    The Graham family had left their home in the woods of Minnesota for a summer vacation on the shores of Lake Michigan. Mr. Graham’s sister and her husband, James Hawkins, owned a large lake house in Wisconsin which they had opened for summer visitors. For several years Mr. and Mrs. Hawkins had urged David and Hannah Graham to come with their family and stay at the house for the summer, but things had never worked out. This summer, however, much to everyone’s delight, there was nothing to hinder the Grahams from coming.
    Having arrived only an hour or so before, the Graham Quartet were eager to explore the sandy beaches and wade in the lake’s deep blue waters. There was nothing unusual about the Quartet as they raced along the sandy path, through the tall grasses and down to the water’s edge, their bare feet making almost no noise. They all looked much alike except in size, for they ranged in age from thirteen-year-old Tim to nineteen-year-old Elsa. All had the same matching brown eyes which seemed to notice everything, rather square faces and brown hair. Their loyalty to each other was evident, for it was seldom that one was seen without at least one other sibling, except when they were in school. Full of fun, yet helpful, the Graham Quartet always seemed to stumble upon some adventure or another.
    “Look at that water!” Elsa exclaimed, staring out across the vast expanse of Lake Michigan.
    “Feel that breeze,” added Matt.
    “And the sunshine and sand and water!” Tim, who had taken off his shoes the moment they had arrived, stepped into the cool waters. “Brr, this is cold. Come feel it.”
    Quickly the three others joined Tim in the water, wading forward until the water splashed about their legs and threatening to soak the boys’ rolled up pants and the hems of the girls’ skirts. When they grew cold they retreated to the shore where the warm summer sun quickly dried and warmed their feet and legs.
    Sitting on the beach, letting handfuls of the warm, golden sand run through her fingers, Selena noticed a shadow approaching. She lifted her head and smiled at the newcomer.

Who just arrived on the beach?
And who do you think was in that boat?
What would you do if you were in the building with the Quartet?

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Graham Quartet - Part 2

Good morning Friday Fiction Fans!
It sure is wet here. I don't know about you, but we've had a lot of rain. In fact, last evening, just before supper, my dad and I set off and had an adventure in the rain. I had heard from my sister that the creek (okay, it's technically called a "drainage ditch") in the valley was flooded and over the road, so I grabbed my rain jacket, slipped on my sandals (because I didn't want to soak my shoes) and went outside. Dad decided to join me and off we set. After we decided to walk through the wet grass down the hill to the path, we were amazed by the water. It was rushing rather quickly and had spread over it's banks and in places had covered the road and the path. It was rather fun to see all the water, and after seeing cars drive through the water only to turn around after they got to the bridge, we decided to walk down there and take a look. Only we couldn't stay on the path since it was under water. We ended up making our way through the swamp that was higher than my ankles to get around it. After crossing under the bridge we saw more water. Lots of water actually, and it had covered the road even more than the other place. But, it seems that no one really cared about it and they drove through it. Crazy people. Anyway, Dad and I were both rather soaked by the time we got home. :)

We came down the hill on the far right. There is supposed to be a road in the foreground of the picture, instead it is just water. You can see the rushing current in the middle. (This was taken by a friend coming home from work.)

I know our local flooding isn't anything like it's been doing in TX and, I'm sure, other places. But I did get a new short story to write. :) You'll just have to wait until I get it finished.

Okay, I know this is later than usual, but does anyone even read it before 9:00?

Triple Creek Ranch - Set Free is coming along well. The illustrations are almost finished and my test readers are starting to get their hands on it. :) I thought you all might enjoy seeing one of the illustrations from the new book. Kate said she would. This is the first picture. One half is finished and the other shows what the drawing looked like before she painted it. What do you think? Can you guess who they are? What do you think is happening?

I really haven't been working on The Graham Quartet. Sorry. I'm trying to get another short story finished, and then I had this new idea. Besides, I want ideas and suggestions from you, dear readers.

But here you are.

Part 2

    He moved his hand towards the door which now stood so invitingly open. “I touched something, and suddenly the whole latch and lock came away from the door frame and . . .” His eyes were wide and sparkled with excitement though he kept his voice scare above a whisper. “Dare we go in?”
    With a shrug, Matt moved forward, cautiously put his head inside, and glanced around. “I don’t see anything.” He stepped through the door, his eyes darting around the room. It was bare. Only an old table stood in the center of the room.
    Obeying the motion of Matt’s hand, Tim eagerly joined him. “Wow! Elsa, come see! I wonder what this place used to be?” Slowly raising his head, Tim stared at the rafters up above, draped and festooned with cobwebs and layers of dust.
    It was Elsa’s voice that answered. “If you’d taken a moment to study the old sign above the door, you would have noticed that it said something about fish processing.”
    Several minutes passed as the three siblings moved about the room, trying not to breath, too deeply near the windows lest they stir up a whirlwind of dust. Matt examined the lock on the door but was as puzzled as his younger brother had been about it coming loose.
    Outside, sitting on the ground, Selena waited. What were the others doing? She hadn’t heard Tim’s exclamation and wondered about their growing absence. The sudden freshening of the breeze caused her to stand up quickly. Her dress whipped about her legs as she noticed the piles of dark clouds racing across the sky from the west as though they were an invading army out to conquer the forces of light. “Matt! Elsa!” Selena hurried to the side of the building. “A storm’s coming. Come on.”
    In a moment Matt came around the corner and joined her on shore. He frowned up at the darkening sky. “Where did that storm come from?” A jagged flash of light ripped through the oncoming mass of clouds,followed moments later by a rumble. “There’s no way we can reach the house before it hits. I think the best thing to do is take shelter in this building.” As the wind grew stronger he raised his voice and motioned to Elsa and Tim who were coming across the walkway. “Let’s get back inside before the rain starts.”
    Selena cringed at the sight of the water lashed up by the wind dashing against the shore with showers of spray. “Matt–”
    Without giving his sister time to think longer, Matt seized her hand and pulled her onto the walkway. “The building has a solid floor,” he assured.
    Large drops of rain were beginning to spatter about them as Matt and Selena raced around the corner of the old fish building and through the open doorway.
    Once the door was shut and firmly secured by a piece of wood braced between it and the table, the siblings looked at one another. Rain beat upon the roof and the wind whistled through a crack in the eaves. Thunder roared and crashed as flashes of lightning split the sky for brief seconds.
    “Well,” Matt began, speaking loudly to be heard, “I guess we’re stuck here for a little while. Maybe it will be a quick storm.” Dropping to the floor, he leaned against the wall and stretched out his legs. “Just listen to that storm!”
    The room was dim but dry. Elsa and Tim joined Matt on the floor but Selena remained standing, looking around. “Who swept the floor?”
    “Huh?” Tim raised his eyebrows. “No one swept. There isn’t any broom. And who would want to sweep an old place like this?”
    “Someone who wanted to stay here.” Selena’s words seemed to send a shock through her older siblings, for Matt and Elsa each reached out a hand and felt the floor.
    “She’s right!” Elsa stood up quickly.
    “How do you know the floor was swept?”
    “Think, Tim,” Matt said. “How much dust and dirt is covering the windows, and the table even? And how much dirt is on the floor?”
    Tim gave a whistle. “I never thought of that! It’s a good thing you came in, Selena. So, if someone swept the floor–”
    “It was because he was staying here–”
    “And didn’t want to be covered with dirt or people would notice.”
    “But he didn’t wash the windows for fear someone would realize this building was being occupied.”
    A long silence fell over the Graham Quartet as they looked at each other. Who was the person that had stayed in the building? Was it the man they had been following? When a loud crash of thunder sounded almost overhead, they all jumped.
    “If ‘he’ comes during this storm, we’ll never hear him,” Tim’s voice only reached his brother’s ears and Matt frowned.
    “Maybe we should look around and see if the occupant left anything behind,” suggested Elsa, as the storm seemed to abate somewhat and the room grew slightly lighter.
    “All right, let’s each take a side of the room,” directed Matt. “It will at least give us something to do while we wait out the rest of the storm.”
    It was difficult searching a bare room in the grey light of a storm, but the Quartet made a thorough job and at last were rewarded by Elsa’s cry of “I think I may have found something.”
    Everyone hurried over. She was on her knees attempting to get something out of a crack in the floor.
    “Here, try my knife.” Matt opened one of the blades on his pocket knife and handed it to his sister. In another moment Elsa was holding a piece of paper.
    “Does it say anything?” demanded Tim.
    Holding the paper as close to the window as she could, Elsa bent over it. “It has something written on it, but I can’t tell what it says. It’s awfully small print and the light is so bad, I can’t see very well.”

Ideas? Questions?
What do you think is going to happen?
Do you think the paper is anything important?

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Graham Quartet

Good morning Faithful Friday Fiction Fans,
I hope you have all had a good week. I have. Right now it's a little different than usual as my oldest niece and two youngest nephews are staying at our house for 4-5 days while their parents and other siblings run a booth at a homeschool conference. Right now I'm listening to the almost 4 year old read a kitty story to his 2-year-old brother.  So sweet! :)

This week the same blog that did the interview about me last week is doing a giveaway. If you've never read the Triple Creek Ranch books and would like to know what an 11-year-old thinks of them, or even if you have read them and still want to know, head over to Kristy's Cottage and watch the video review her daughter did about it. (Sorry, the giveaway is only open to residents of the continental United States.)

All right, here you are. The story you have been waiting for. Well, at least the first part of it. :) This is the start of the new Graham Quartet mystery, and I hope you'll help me out. I need any and all questions, ideas, suggestions, things you want to know, and anything else you can think of. Part 2 should be coming next week.


Part 1

    The air was warm and heavy. Only a faint breeze whispered through the few trees and stirred the brightly colored flowers on the slope.
    “Matt, are you sure we should keep going this way?” fourteen-year-old Selena asked, pushing back her brown hair from her hot face and glancing around at the lonely, uninhabited stretch of shoreline.
    “This is the way Joe Blow went, Selena,” Matt replied.
    “I know, but–”
    “We don’t want to lose the trail, Selena,” Tim, who was thirteen, interrupted his older sister quickly, his eyes sparkling.
    “But Matt,” Selena stopped where she was and grabbed her brother’s arm. Her voice lowered to a mere whisper, “What if we meet him?”
    There was a long pause, even the wind stopped blowing and the waves washing up against the rocky shore seemed to hush their noise. The sun, which hadn’t yet reached the center of the heavens, shone hotly down from the pale sky on the four siblings as they looked at each other.
    “Well,” Matt said at last, “I suppose we can just try to act normal. We are exploring the shore, aren’t we?”
    Elsa, the oldest of the group, nodded slowly, “But what if he’s seen us following him before?”
    A breath of air stirred the grasses, and Selena gave a start as something brushed against her leg. “And no one knows where we went this morning,” she reminded the others, scratching her leg.
    With a slight frown, Matt looked from his sisters to the slight hill before them. “Before we go back, I want to see the building that Joe stopped at. I think it’s just over this rise.”
    “Yeah,” Tim put in, eager to be off again. “He’s probably not even there since it’s morning. Come on.”
    Nodding, Elsa agreed.
    “Selena?” Matt turned to his younger sister. He knew she didn’t get scared very easily, but he didn’t want to go forward unless they were all in agreement.
    “Just to the building?” she asked.
    Matt nodded.
    “All right.”
    In moments the old building came into view. It was drab in color, and the weathered sides gave mute evidence of long years of neglect. The front faced the water, greenish-grey near the shore and deepening to a darker shade farther out. An old wooden walkway, almost like a dock, encased the building’s front and part of its sides, seeming to invite a boat to tie up for a visit.
    “That place looks old,” Tim remarked as the four young people stopped to survey the land before them.
    “Sure does,” agreed Matt. “I don’t see any sign of ‘him’. Let’s go down and take a look at the building.”
    “Do you think it’s safe?” Elsa asked.
    No one answered. There was no movement about the house or anywhere along the shore that spoke of human life. The entire place felt deserted. Beckoning to the others to follow, Matt led the way down the slope and across the grassy, flower lined shore. Every eye was open, every ear turned to the slightest change in sound, every nerve was tingling with excitement and a sense of unspoken danger.
    “You would certainly have a hard time sneaking up on this place,” Tim breathed. “Everything is open except for those few trees.”
    “Quite a change from home, huh?” Matt didn’t take his eyes off the weathered building before them.
    Reaching the walkway, they paused. Tim hurried over and pressed his face to a window, trying to peer in through the layers of dust and grime it had accumulated. “I don’t think anyone’s been here,” he said. “At least, I can’t see anything.”
    “I doubt you could see anything through that window even if there was anything to see. I’m going to try out the walkway.” And Matt started forward onto the rickety looking planking which stretched over the edge of the water.
    Looking down at the waves washing around the pilings, Selena gave a quick shiver. “Matt, be careful,” she called. “It might not be safe.”
    “Well, if it’s not, we’ll soon find out,” was the calm reply as Matt rounded the corner of the building and disappeared from sight. The sound of heavy steps was heard moments later and then Matt reappeared. “Yep, it seems pretty solid in most places. A few of the planks are loose, but I don’t think anything’s going to give under our weight unless we all jump on it at once. Come on.”
    Needing no urging, Tim quickly joined his brother while Elsa followed with slower steps. Selena remained were she was. “Selena, aren’t you coming?” Elsa paused to ask over her shoulder.
    “No, thanks. I’m going to stay here on solid ground.” She turned to smell the tall yellow flowers which were growing in profusion.
    Out on the walkway, Matt and Tim moved from window to window. “Bother!” Tim sighed. “I was wanting to go inside an look around, but the door is locked and the windows are so dirty we can’t see a thing!”
    “I know,” his brother replied. “But I guess that means our mystery man didn’t stay here.” Matt turned to gaze out over the vast expanse of Lake Michigan. “It sure is something out there today, isn’t it, Elsa? Say, where’s Selena?”
    Nodding back towards the shore, Elsa replied, “She stayed there. I don’t think she’s too keen about the idea of trusting herself to this walkway. You know she didn’t really like going out on the pier the other day and only went because Lieutenant Ashwood promised her it was safe.”
    Matt frowned. “I’d forgotten. Maybe I should go join her. I’m not sure I like–”
    His words were interrupted by an exclamation from Tim. “Matt! It opens!”
    Whirling around, Matt and Elsa saw the door of the building swinging silently open.
    “What did you do?” demanded Matt, rushing over to join his brother.
    Tim shook his head. “I don’t know. I thought something about the latch seemed strange–”

Well, what did you think?
Would you like Part 2 next week?
Any ideas, questions or anything for me?

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Old Wagon - Part 5

Good morning Friday Fiction Fans!
Summer has come. We actually turned on the air conditioning yesterday afternoon because it was so warm and muggy. I think we've only had it on once or twice this year. But this morning we are back to having the windows open. :)

It's been a good week of staying home and getting things done! After having such a crazy month of May, June has started out at a slower pace, allowing me to feel like I'm accomplishing some things.
However, I'm afraid that writing hasn't been as productive as it was earlier this year. Perhaps it's because I haven't written much last month, perhaps it's because I got a little stuck on the new "Graham Quartet" story, perhaps it's because of many other things. Anyway, it's been slower. But, I do have the start of the "Graham Quartet" mystery and I just might post the first part next Friday. :) But you'll have to give me all the help you can. I'll need questions, ideas, suggestions, more questions, and anything else you can think of. Maybe that will spur on my brain and I'll be able to get this story written. :)

This week I was also getting an interview ready for a blog. It turned out rather fun. If you want to go read it (You may learn some new things about me.), head on over to Kristy's Cottage and read it. Kristy is also going to be doing a fun giveaway of TCR-1 and my two audios later today and as soon as it's up, I'll come back and link to it on here, so stay tuned. :)

I think that's all the news I have for you now. I hope you enjoy this final part of

The Old Wagon
Part 5

    Everyone breathed a deep sigh of relief when we again reached a flatter land. The going was easier after that, until we came to a river. This one reminded me of the large one we had crossed when I was young and I dreaded it. I’m afraid I dug my wheels in the mud on purpose to avoid getting on another ferry. But it didn’t help. Erik conquered my stubbornness and made me get on board, just as he always prevailed when one of his children got in a stubborn fit and didn’t want to mind. The crossing wasn’t as bad as I had feared, but I was relieved when we reached the other side.
    At last we reached the new home. There was no place to move into right away, and my family had to spend more nights in me while the house was being built. I didn’t mind. Even if the load was still resting in my bed, I at least had the pleasure of remaining still during the day, for which my wheels were grateful.
    My family did finally move in o the newly built home and I was unloaded once more and my canvas top removed. I breathed a sigh as the rays of the warm summer sun fell on my bed, so long hidden from the light. Perhaps now my days of long traveling were over. Would this be my home until I could no longer be used?

    As the seasons passed, I watched the Mattingly children grow. I carried them to town, on Sundays for church, during the week to go shopping, and on other occasions for gatherings of various natures. It was a pleasant life to lead. Elizabeth often drove me when her husband was busy in the fields. Sometimes I even carried a load of hay to the barn, with many laughing children piled on the top. When the children grew older, the older boys would hitch up the horses to me and, after all the children had climbed in, we’d make an excursion to the pecan groves farther away and come back with baskets filled with nuts. In winter I was often driven into the barn when the fierce cold winds would sweep across the plains sometimes bringing snow to cover everything outside.

    But my tale is growing long. Perhaps that is because I have had so many years of life. The Mattingly children grew up and not one of them sought a new life away from their home. I often wondered what would have happened had any of them decided to head west. Would they have loaded me up again, or would they have taken a train? I’ve seen those steam cars many times.
    One time I remember well. I had been driven to the station by Elizabeth’s oldest son, Bern. (They had named him Bernard, but no one would ever remember to call him that.) Bern had gone to meet his younger brother Lee who was returning from somewhere. The horse driving me was a young thing, not well acquainted with trains. I’m not sure how it happened, but when the train roared in, the horse became frightened and shook its reins loose from the hitching post and raced away. There I was, bouncing along, turning every which way as though I was a young inexperienced wagon bent on mischief. It took me a little time to collect my startled thoughts, for the jarring and jolting of my wheels over the rocks was not pleasant. At last it came to me that if I were to turn over, I might stop the horse. There wasn’t much time for reflection. I spied a grassy slope ahead and suddenly I flipped over. Let me tell you it was a nail jarring crash. My wheels spun in the air faster than I had ever known they could. I had stopped the horse all right, but every board and nail in me protested.
    There was quite a commotion over me and the horse when a crowd from the station reached us. The horse was calmed down and unhitched, and, with difficulty, for I was no light spring wagon, I was turned back over onto my wheels. Much to my amazement, I had received very little damage and was able to be driven home. I doubted that anyone ever knew what a large part I had played in stopping that runaway horse that day.

    Well, the children grew up and married and had children of their own. I saw the new invention, the automobile, and, like many another wagon, wondered how long it would last. They are still around, but I’ve never met any as old as me, and I wonder if they have as long a lifespan as wagons do.
    Elizabeth kept me at the farm, for she couldn’t bear to part with me, and when the family would all gather, I was often hitched up to take the younger children for a ride. I was painted several bright colors over the years, but the weather of the changing seasons has worn most of it off.
    But all that fun and delight seem to be over. Elizabeth has been dead so many seasons, and no longer do I get to enjoy the feel of moving along the dirt road with a load of children all talking and laughing. Here I sit on a plot of grass alone and watch those young automobiles race by at speeds never dreamed of by wagons. Sometimes children come and climb up on me and pretend they are pioneers heading west. I love those times, for they bring back such pleasant memories. There have also been times when one of the long line of Elizabeth’s descendants chooses to have a family picture taken on or beside me because, “it’s a neat old thing and Great Grandma loved it.”
    I creaked my delight at being remembered, but someone only said, “Be careful climbing on that thing, Joe, it might break.”
    I could tell you more stories if you cared to listen, but not many do these days. They are always in a hurry. But thanks for stopping by.

So, what did you think?
Will you ever look at an old wagon the same way?
Are you looking forward to "The Graham Quartet"?
Did you go read the interview?