Hey everyone! It's me! I'm back from the land of the Near Dead and feeling better everyday. If you follow me on Facebook (the place where I tend to overshare the most) you've probably heard that I'm recovering from bronchitis. To say it took the wind out of my sails is an understatement. I went from walking five miles a day to unable to get out of bed for almost a week. It was terrible! I wouldn't wish that on my worst enemy, if I actually had any. But at least my spoiled cat kept me company and the Mister took good care of me. However, I waited a bit late to do a final proofread on my latest book, The Ghost of Harrington Farm so if you find a typo, please let me know. I'm sure I missed a few things. But overall, I loved telling the story and especially enjoyed the ending. It was very exciting to tell Plum Darcy's story.
It will be a few months before the next Gulf Coast Paranormal book comes out but since there are already eight in that series, I figured you wouldn't mind waiting a bit for the next one. After my informal poll last month (also on Facebook) I have decided that next year, probably in January, readers will get the crossover they've been asking for--Midas, Cassidy, Carrie Jo and Ashland will meet and of course, investigate together. Won't that be a hoot? I can't say more than that as the story is in the early stages of development . So mum's the word. But you know I can't keep a secret when it comes to my books so I'll have more information to share soon. Quick mention here, if you happen to be in the Mobile area on May 25th, come by the Renaissance Riverview. I'll be speaking at MobiCon, Mobile's version of ComicCon and I'm pretty excited about it.
And the last bit of news I want to share, my new Shabby Hearts series begins at the end of the month. The first three books in that series, A Touch of Shabby, Shabbier By the Minute and Shabby By Night will be released in rapid succession beginning at the end of May. Meet Arcadia Shabeaux, y'all. She's sassy, smart and totally shabby and so much fun to write. It's a paranormal cozy mystery with a lot of humor and hopefully good summer reading. Here's the promised first chapter. (Unedited and subject to a small amount of change.)
A Touch of Shabby
A Shabby Start
“Hey! Have you called the all clear yet?” A scrappy, female voice whispered like a freight train from the nearby open window. I didn’t have to look. I knew who it was.
“Why are you whispering from the window, Aunt Mavis? The front door is wide open.” I shuffled the paperwork around and tossed a few pages in a manila folder. Actually, I wasn’t as irritated as I pretended to be. I liked having Aunt Mavis around, even if she wasn’t quite all there. I scribbled the name Broussard on the file folder tab and immediately couldn’t read it. My handwriting was horrible and there was no guarantee that I would be able to read it when reached for the file again. This idea of mine to “get the family business organized” was for the birds. I hated this part of my job and no amount of fancying that up was going to change it.
Give me yard work any day of the week. Paperwork sucked. How ironic considering I am a business school graduate. Wasn’t I supposed to adore all types of paper shuffling?
“What about the all clear?”
Feeling generous, I glanced around my office and announced, “All clear, private. Come on inside.” Now that I actually caught a good glimpse of her, I tried not to laugh at the ridiculous sight. My great aunt sported full combat gear today, complete with an oversized camouflage jacket, a boonie hat, and a painted face. Seeing her white curls poking out from either side of her military jungle hat made her appear even sillier.
“Roger that,” she answered, disappeared and reappeared on my front porch. The screen door slammed behind her as she took the seat opposite me.
Man, she was fast for a seventy-year-old. That water skiing accident might have smacked her brain around but she was as physically fit as I was.
“I hope you aren’t going to let that woman live here, Arcadia Shabeaux. She would ruin our entire operation—she’d gum up the works, so to speak. Rumor has it,” she dropped her voice and leaned across the desk, “that woman is a spy, you know.” She slapped the desk once to emphasize her opinion before she continued with her stare down of me.
What do I do? Laugh or cry?
“I assume you’re talking about Rita Broussard? You might as well get used to seeing her face around here. Ms. Broussard is Shabby Hearts’ newest resident. So yes, she’s in. In case you haven’t noticed, we’re not exactly the Ritz Carlton, Aunt Mavis. Rita’s check cleared and we need all the paying customers we can scrounge up.”
Mavis pursed her precisely painted red lips. My decision did not meet her approval. I sighed and met her steely gaze with one of my own. “Rita has a good casino job and great credit.”
“And three dead husbands. If you ask me, that woman is a black widow and a spy. Those Russians can whip up good credentials just like that.” Mavis snapped her fingers, plopped down in the chair and leaned back with a deflated sputtering of her lips.
I smiled and did my best to lighten her mood. “She’s not Mata Hari, Aunt Mavis. And you’ve known Rita all your life, remember? She’s not a Russian. She’s as homegrown Louisiana as we are. I think you’re making a mountain out of a molehill.”
“You should listen to me on this, Arcadia Marie. I know a spy when I see one.”
Okay, this must be placebo day. She’s using both my first and middle name. If I wanted to move this conversation along I’d have to play her game.
“Fine.” I put the pen down and looked her square in the face. “Who told you Rita Broussard was a spy? I need actual proof, please.”
Mavis narrowed her eyes. “I won’t identify my informants--not even if you torture me.” She sat up in the pleather chair and popped the top on a can of cola that she pulled from somewhere.
With a smirk, I said, “I don’t think it will come to that. I’ll keep my eye out but I don’t think we have anything to worry about. And since when did the military put stock in snitches, Aunt Mavis? You need actual proof before you can accuse someone of being a spy.”
“Don’t get smart with me. Nobody likes a smartass, Arcadia. You know, you weren’t this mouthy before you hooked up with that Dubois fella. I blame this attitude on him. I didn’t raise you to be a sass-mouth.”
“Yeah, you did.” I shook my head as I tossed the file into the filing cabinet and closed the drawer.
“Speaking of that two-timer, you hear anything from Armand lately? He still hanging out with Kitty?” I flinched at hearing his name spoken out loud, especially in so close a connection to my cousin. My backstabbing, betraying cousin. I had spent all winter trying to forget about the both of them which had proven harder than I expected. Some small part of me wanted a little revenge. But how? I wouldn’t kiss Armand’s cousin with Aunt Mavis’ lips, much less mine.
“No, and if you’ll excuse me, I do have work to do, general.”
She smiled at the title I used. My change in subject worked. “Don’t rub it in. I know it’s shameful that I’m still a private. Can you believe that? I’m this old and still a private? Well, I’ve got a mission in mind that will put me on the big wigs’ radar. It’s a doozy.”
That was worrisome. “Aunt Mavis…”
“Nope. Can’t tell you nothing else but you remember what I told you. That Broussard lady isn’t to be trusted with anything important. Not even a mailbox key, if you can help it. And she’s not the only suspicious character living here.”
I didn’t ask for further details. I knew she was referring to Duval Lorette. He was Shabby Heart’s official curmudgeon and he and Aunt Mavis had tied up more than once in recent years. But then again, who hadn’t tied up with Duval? No need to mention that now. My confused aunt was already stirred up this morning. “I’ll keep that in mind, Aunt Mavis. Thanks for the heads up.”
“Always glad to pass on whatever intelligence I can to my favorite niece.”
“Thank you,” I laughed as I lazily arranged the rest of the paperwork into a kind of neat pile on my flimsy desk. I’d deal with this later; maybe tomorrow or next week. I had too much to do outside. Shabby Hearts Trailer Park and Campground needed some love and a whole lot of repairs. And I only had a few weeks to get it all done. I had potholes to fill, a garden to prepare, trailers that needed power washing and grass that needed cutting. What I needed was a twin. Or a few volunteers.
Hmm…maybe I could drum up some this afternoon. Wonder what Tiffany and Esme were up to?
“You coming to the crawfish boil this afternoon? I’m sure Gus expects you. Everyone here at Shabby Hearts will be there.”
“Anything I should know about? It’s not your birthday yet.” She pushed her hat up to scratch her head thoughtfully.
“No. It’s not my birthday but Gus thought it would be nice to have a get together before the tourist season begins.” I was exaggerating, of course. Despite my attempt at positivity, the truth was, nobody was knocking the down the door to book a spot at the Shabby Hearts Trailer Park and Campground, even after I nearly broke the bank on a horrible, low-budget radio commercial. But I had to give it a shot.
The trailer park ran year round but the campground was only opened seasonally. We had twelve fire pits, ten RV hookups and a wonderful view of Lake Dennis. Not to mention we were a bonafide Bigfoot hotspot, at least, according to the locals. Five years ago, this place was always busy but then Uncle Ray Gene died. Aunt Mavis did her best to keep things going but as wonderful as she was, she was no businesswoman. To be fair, she’d done a decent job until she tumbled head over feet last year on a water skiing dare. Now the future of the Shabeaux fortune rested on my shoulders.
No pressure at all.
“Hmm…it’s tempting but I’m enlisted now. Can’t spare the time, Arcadia. I’m working up the details on my new operation. Over and out.” She took a big slug of her soda, belched and waved before she walked outside.
Yep, this would be my first year running the Shabby Hearts Trailer Park and Campground all by myself. True, some of the trailers needed major repairs and the campground needed some tending to but I felt sure I was up to the challenge. Our property butted up against Lake Dennis and although it was a pristine lake, it was smaller than nearby preferred Lake Camberleigh. It was bigger and had more amenities, not to mention a tour boat that everyone knew was a floating, illegal-as-heck casino. Of course, the sheriff’s nephew owned it so nothing was ever done about it.
Oh well, I would make Shabby Hearts a success come hell or high water and I wouldn’t have to break the rules. A girl could go a long way with a business degree. Not to mention a pair of high heels, blue jeans and an ever-growing collection of tank tops, my preferred uniform. Unless I was working in the yard and in that case, my uniform was shorts, tanks and flip flops. Which I needed to change into now. Maybe I could get some grass cut before the crawfish boil. I really needed to focus on getting some of this yard work done. With Aunt Mavis running around like Rambo, Gus and his sons trying to catch Bigfoot every weekend and my cousin Tiffany’s ever-growing cat colony, it was becoming more challenging each day.
I closed the windows and tried for the tenth time to record a decent business voicemail. I couldn’t afford to miss any phone inquiries. After five minutes, I felt like I had at least a small win. I grabbed my purse and locked the filing cabinet. I smiled as I said goodbye to the end of my first week as the new manager of Shabby Hearts. Uncle Ray Gene would be proud, and so would Aunt Mavis if she knew what the heck was going on in the real world. At least I still had her with me. Sort of.
Today was the last day of February and it was already warm outside. My stomach grumbled in anticipation of the tasty meal Gus would kindly prepare for our Shabby Hearts’ family. I just hoped Armand didn’t stop by.
I didn’t have time for that cheating so and so. I can’t believe I wasted a whole year of my life on that loser.
If we hadn’t been so good together behind closed doors we wouldn’t have made it past the first month. He had a big mouth and even bigger arms and once I believed a big heart but I’d gotten it wrong. Completely. I sighed thinking about the whole situation. Maybe I should forgive and forget. He’d apologized about a hundred times since I busted him.
Nope. I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t act like nothing had happened. It’s not like he wiped his mouth on his t-shirt or took my parking spot, as he had a habit of doing. Yeah, I missed him, or more to the truth, missed having someone around but not enough to sacrifice my dignity and my good sense. Not twice. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice and you might get cut. Nope. He wasn’t worth jail time. I flipped off the lights and locked the door behind me.
The sun would be going down soon and even though we were located in the sticks, the place had an exciting vibe to it this evening. Almost a kind of hum.
Without much more thought about it, I headed home to shed my business clothes, pull up my hair and get ready to cut the grass by the road.
What a great way to start the season. Gosh, I can’t believe how great things were going.
I should have known better.
So what do you think? Let me know in the comments!