Friday, April 22, 2011

Jamie OIiver's Food Revolution

I Love Jamie Oliver and his Food Revolution. What isn't there to love? Here is a guy who wants to really help our kids be healthy. He isn't even from the USA. He just loves kids and people and good food. God bless this guy! We have a country filled with people who have major health issues caused from poor eating habits. Our children are getting deadly diseases like diabetes, they have high blood pressure, and they are growing up perpetuating the fast food nation. SCARY!

The opposition that Jamie is facing with the LA School district is appalling to me. These are our educators? Isn't raising and educating our children a top priority? If it is (which apparently it isn't) then don't we want to raise a healthy America? This stuff gets so under my skin. I am fortunate to have healthy eating kids. That comes from the way both my husband and I were raised. My dad always had a garden growing up and I was never forced but always encouraged to try vegetables and fruits. I love my veggies.  When my kids were babies I made sure that the first foods I started them on were veggies. I did this for quite some time so that they acquired a taste for the green stuff, then I moved on to fruits. All three of my kids ranging in ages 10-19 now love their fruits and vegetables. They love salad, broccoli, and green beans. I rarely have ever allowed them to eat school cafeteria food because I was aware of what was available to them and I didn't like it at all. It's not always easy packing a healthy lunch because it does seem to take a little more time. Now the kids help me and that helps ease the time factor, but their eating habits are important to me. And it isn't just my kids I feel this way about. I want all kids to have the opportunity to eat healthy foods that help them grow and think effectively. Sugar, fried, foods and crap filled with preservatives won't help our kids. Jamie Oliver wants to help our kids! I suggest you check out his site and sign his petition today. Watch his show. Give this Food Revolution some real support. Our kids' health depends on it. Get involved and make a change for the better in this country. http://www.jamieoliver.com/foundation/jamies-food-revolution/

I have loved Jamie Oliver for years. I have his cookbooks and one of my favorite recipes that would make a delicous Easter meal is his Roasted Chicken Stuffed with Fragrant Couscous and cooked on Sweet Potato Stovie. Delicious! http://www.penguin.co.uk/static/cs/uk/0/minisites/jamieoliver/jamieskitchen_recipes_chicken.html

Have a great weekend.

Cheers,
Michele

P.S. Check out my new site at http://www.michelescott.com/

Friday, April 15, 2011

Vlog on Writing

Happy Friday! I thought I would try something new and do a vlog (I think that is what it would be called). It's my blog via video. This is an interview that I did recently about writing and why I write....blah, blah, blah. I hope you enjoy!

Have a wonderful, wonderful weekend.

Cheers,
Michele

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Brotherman: A Coming of Age Story

This is a little something I wrote a while ago (about 10 years ago). It's a novella that I couldn't place genre-wise. I think it would be considered a coming-of-age story, but it definitely isn't YA. It is told from the point of view of a 12 year old boy. If enough readers seem to enjoy it, I will happily post chapters of the novella over the course of the next month. Let me know what you think. :)

Cheers,
Michele

Brotherman
by
Michele Scott


Chapter One (2002)




The entire neighborhood watches as the man and woman move into the corner Spanish style home, with crimson bougainvillea framing the front archway. Liz Strangel watches from behind the Pottery Barn curtains she hangs from inside her feng shui-organized living room.

Mr. Dick watches while mowing his lawn, like he does every Saturday morning. He intermittently stops, wipes the perspiration from his forehead and rubs his head, which is suffering from the intake of two bottles of wine--ones he drank alone-- the previous evening.

Jane Evans watches from her porch, peering up on occasion over her Bible to witness the move-in across the street, wondering to herself how she could go about “saving” the new neighbors. For the end is near, that much she is certain, and the rest of the neighborhood doesn’t have a prayer. That, too, is certain.

Jay and William watch as they bathe their two matching poodles, Picasso and Monet.

“Oh God, that poor man,” Jay says.

“No joke, he has no clue where he’s moved to,” William replies.

“That’s obvious.”

Even Trudy Signorelli watches in her own weird way as she walks her imaginary cat, talking to people on the sidewalk that are not really there. “Do you like my pussy? Isn’t she pretty? Do you want to pet her?” Trudy does, however, understand that today no one seems to be watching her. They are all watching the man on the street corner.

And, of course, the boys watch from the tire swing on the big tree out in front of Tad’s house. “What do you think is wrong with him?” Connor asks. Connor is the youngest of the group and by far the most naïve.

Tad, his older brother by three years at twelve, rolls his eyes.

“Duh, stupid. He’s a retard,” Pete says. Pete is the largest of the clan.

“Hey, don’t call my brother stupid. I’m the only one allowed to do that,” Tad tells Pete.

“Well, he is. Anyone can see that dude’s a retard. Even my own dumb ass little brother can see that, can’t you, Joey?”

“Uh, huh.”

Tad knows it’s wrong to make fun of the man sitting on the street corner. Occasionally the man gets up and tries to help the movers by taking something from the truck to put inside. The woman with him says, “Sit down, Brother Man.”

“Please, Sister Girl. Please let me help.”

“No. Now sit down,” she says.

“And what’s up with that Brother Man crap,” Pete says a little too loudly.

“Why don’t you leave it alone? My mom already came out once and told us to quit staring.” Tad gives Pete his best dirty look. The one, that always seems to wind him up in his room when he pulls it on his mom.

“So. Dude’s a retard. He’s funny to watch. Look at him over there drooling and throwing rocks.”

“You know Pete, I feel really sorry for you that your life is so mundane that you have to insult those who appear to have less intellect than yourself. However, I’m certain even with the spit spewing from his mouth, that man over there is far more intelligent than you could ever hope to be,” Tad says feeling quite smug at his own intellect to come up with such a put-down. He loves insulting Pete who is famous around the neighborhood for using his fists to get his way. But Tad’s brainpower never ceases to put the other kids to shame.

“Are you making fun of me, Tad? 'Cause if you are, I’m gonna kick your ass.”

“Well, Tad, I’ll let you decipher whether or not I am, in fact, insulting you. And as far as kicking my ass, I’m afraid to inform you that I don’t have one.”

“Huh?” Pete’s mouth drops open.

“But I do think my uncle in Washington does.”

“What the heck is he saying?”

“Donkey. He means donkey,” Connor tells him.

Tad smiles at his little brother who is usually a bit slow on the uptake.

“Hey, is your mom making cookies?” Joey asks.

“No, brownies,” Connor replies.

With the topic changing to food, Pete quickly forgets the man across the street and Tad’s insults. “Let’s go get some.”

Tad follows the other boys into the house. Sting’s voice blares over the stereo in the family room. The boys enter the kitchen. It smells like a bakery. Tad’s stomach growls at the buttery, chocolaty smell. Raquel Andrews turns around with baby Hope on her hip. Flour is spread across both their mom’s and Hope’s faces. The dishes from breakfast are stacked up high, and the place is pretty much a disaster, as is Tad and Connor’s mom. But, God, Tad loves his mom. She is the best.

Sure, she can be totally annoying, and she is a little kooky to say the least, but he loves her all the same and knows that their lives couldn’t function without her. She is what Tad refers to as "the glue." She keeps them all together, and maybe it is because she’s a total nut.

Baby Hope giggles at the sight of her brothers and their friends. Mom smiles. “Hi guys. Want some brownies?” Thank God, that Mom has obviously already had her Prozac, otherwise the offer for brownies wouldn’t have been remotely possible, and she could’ve been crying over all the dishes she has yet to wash. Yes, Tad does love mom.

“So, the new neighbors about moved in?” Mom asks.

“Guess so,” Tad answers, acting as if they hadn’t been watching the activities from across the street all morning.

Hope reaches up and pulls their mom’s hair. “Ouch, no no, baby.” As she pries the baby’s fingers from her hair, she accidentally knocks the mixing bowl off the table. “Oh shit.” The boys laugh. “Oh God, okay guys get your brownies and go back outside.”

“I think she pooped Mom.”

“Thanks Connor, now go, go!”

The boys grab more than a handful of brownies each and head back outside. Tad feels kind of guilty about all his mom does for him, Connor and their buddies. He is the leader of the neighborhood boys, kind of like a real life Harry Potter without the magic. But he’s sure he could convince these knuckleheads if he wanted that he was capable of performing any amount of magic tricks.

He did at one point have them believing that he’d put a spell on Mr. Dick next door, and that was why the dude never seemed happy. It was all just crap, but hey, when you’re dealing with guys who are lacking in the brain department you do certain things just for the kick of it.

On any given day after school, and all day on the weekends there could be anywhere from four to ten boys tramping in and out of Tad’s house. His mom does her best to supply them with goodies and keep her sanity as his ten- month-old sister screams constantly for her attention. Tad can see his mom struggle during these times. She tries really hard to put on a happy face and assure the neighbors that, “It’s really okay their kids are all over playing, screwing up her house, so that Tad’s step-dad Austen can freak out on her and all of them. Which is something Austen does on an every other day basis. Tad does feel bad about that. He doesn’t like to hear Austen carry on at his mom.

But the facts are his house is the best and his mom is the coolest in the neighborhood. No one else’s mom let’s them jump on the beds. Well, neither does Tad’s mom. It’s just when she gets mad, it’s not totally believable.

However, having the coolest mom in town does have some drawbacks, like she does way too much yoga--so much so that his friends stand at the window and watch her. “Quit checking out my mom,” he finds himself yelling, ready to go ninja on them if he needs to.

She also gets pretty frustrated at times with all the kids and when she does she usually yells at Tad, opens a bottle of Merlot and puts some crappy eighties music on and dances around their family room, with Hope giggling and doing her version of dancing, too.

But Tad does understand his mom--kind of. He used to understand her better, but since she married Austen she’s a little more psycho and a lot stricter. Tad thinks of the good old days often with fond memories of when he could easily manipulate his mom into getting pretty much anything he wanted. That was because mom felt guilty about leaving their dad. But Tad doesn’t blame her. He’s figured out his dad’s deal. He’s thirty-nine, going on twenty. A blonde with big boobs is always at his side and Tad and Connor are a convenience when he wants to impress one of these brain-dead, blonde, fake boobed women that he is a family man.

Now mom is married to Austen. And, with all of Austen’s quirks, Tad does know that his step-dad is a family man. Some days Tad thinks that Austen is a real pain in the butt, because if Tad could have it his way he’d be the boss of the household. But Tad has learned over the last few years that isn’t possible. He’s continually reminded of his status as a twelve-year-old boy.

Austen is the all American pie guy who digs sports, watches football religiously on Sundays, and plays golf for fun. He’s not always at home because he’s a pilot and that can be cool because Mom’s not so strict when Austen isn’t around.

Austen was raised military style and mom is so not military, that their biggest fights are always about the way the house should be run. Tad thinks mom always seems to win these squirmishes because her points make the most sense. Tad knows that Austen is a better dad, because Mom has made him one. And, if truth were told, Mom is a better mom because of Austen. Tad has recently been considering calling him Dad. Especially since he did the coolest thing last week.

Connor came home filled with excitement over selling wrapping paper for his school. He could earn some gay Digimon thing, and begged Tad to go around with him. “I’ll let you have my Playstation time, if you go with me.”

Tad agreed because Playstation is as close to being God as possible.

The first door they knocked on was Mr. Dick’s. Before, Connor even got the words out; Mr. Dick slammed the door on their faces. It wasn’t like a “No thank you,” or an even, “I’m not interested.” It was open the door look down at Tad and Connor who looks like a freaking commercial kid and Mr. Dick says, “What?”

And before the boys can explain what they’re doing he slams the door in their faces. Tad says, “What a jerk.” And Connor busts out in tears. Austen was home; Mom was at some art class. So Austen walked over carrying Hope. Connor and Tad followed and hid behind Mr. Dick’s front bushes. Austen knocked on the door. “Mrs. Dick answered this time. She’s hot—blonde, long legs, blue, blue eyes. The boys in the neighborhood can’t decide who they like better--Mrs. Dick or Tad’s mom.

“Hi Stella, is your husband here?” Austen said.

“Sure,” she said smiling. Tad thinks Stella likes Austen, but Tad knows that Austen only likes--no loves Mom.

“Richard, Austen is here to see you.”

Mr. Dick came to the door still dressed in his button down and tie.

“Hey Richard, how’s it going?”

“Fine.”

Tad thought that Mr. Dick looked irritated.

“Good, hey look my boys just came home and my youngest was crying. I’m sure it’s all a big mistake, you know, he’s a little sensitive. Anyway I was wondering did you yell at the kids and slam the door in their face?”

“I guess I did.”

“Don’t you think that was kind of rude? They are only kids. They were trying to sell something for school, granted you didn’t need to buy anything but a simple “no thank you,” would’ve really been the right thing to do.”

“Let me tell you something, Austen, my wife and I have lived here a lot longer than you and your bratty kids. Every fucking Saturday and Sunday, in fact, every day for that matter those kids of yours scream and holler and run around this neighborhood like banjees. They drive me up the fucking wall. And your crazy ass wife makes too much goddamned noise, as well. I can hear her playing her music and singing out loud like she thinks she’s fucking Madonna or something. And that baby of yours, well pal, it might be nice of you tried getting her to shut up too, once in awhile. Maybe you should try and control that brood of yours a little better.”

Tad had never seen blood rise so quickly from anyone. One minute Austen was his normal color and the next he was purple. “Tad come here, please,” he said, his voice shaking.

Tad came out of the bushes. “Take your sister please.” Austen handed Hope to Tad. “Now go back to the house. I’ll be right there.” Fat chance of that. Tad wasn’t going anywhere. He took Hope and stood back behind the bushes and watched while his little sister pulled his hair and laughed as his step-dad cold-clocked Mr. Dick right in the face.

“Ooh, that hurt, that definitely hurt,” Connor said bringing his hand up to his own face. Mr. Dick fell over backwards and scrambled to get on his feet. Mrs. Dick yelled, blood spewed all over coming from Mr. Dick’s mouth. Tad tried not to laugh but that was impossible. Mr. Dick yelled something about calling the cops and Austen yelled back, “Next time buy some magazines from my kids!”

He plucked Hope out of Tad’s arms and said, “Come on boys.”

“It was wrapping paper, Austen,” Connor said.

“What?” Austen asked.

“I was selling wrapping paper, not magazines.”

“Whatever.”

“That was so cool, Dad,” Tad said. “I can’t wait to tell the guys!”

Austen looked down at him, a smile spread across his face, “That was pretty cool, huh?”

“Yeah, you like totally kicked his butt.”

Austen ruffled Tad’s hair. Connor hugged him, and said, “Thanks. No one has ever stuck up for me.”

“That’s what I’m here for buddy,” Austen said.

The cops showed up at the house half-hour later, just as Mom walked through the door, covered in paint. “What’s going on?”

“Tad fill your mother in, and Rocky, I’m going to need you to pay my bail.”

“What?”

Tad told his mom everything as the cops drove Austen away. Tad was shocked that Austen had been so calm the whole time the cops were there. He was nice and explained why he’d done it. Tad could see that the cops even had empathy. They were family men, too.

Tad knew his mom was upset, but also got the feeling that she was proud of Austen. Mr. Dick was a dick and everyone knew it. Except now his parents had received some papers saying the Dicks were suing them.

Mom has started turning up her eighties music even louder and encouraging the boys to wrestle on the side-lawn facing the Dicks. Austen is trying hard to remain cool, allowing the boys to play rougher than normal. He has achieved the status of hero amongst the boys in the neighborhood, and with that seems to have come a more tolerant step-dad.

As the boys hoop and holler, swinging each other back and forth on the tire swing, Tad notices Mr. Dick watching the man across the street. He hopes Mr. Dick doesn’t turn his anger towards the poor man and berate him like he does to all the kids. He hopes he’ll leave the man alone. But looking at him right now and seeing the sneer on Mr. Dick’s face, Tad feels certain that Mr. Dick will not be leaving the man alone.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Writing a Wine Lover’s Mystery Takes Some Real Tough Research

Being the Wine Lover’s Mystery author is really tough. The research alone is nearly unbearable. Oh, please. If you know me you are aware that I am being a real smart ass here. Come on, how tough can sipping on some decent wine be? Can you believe I even wrote “sipping,” there? Again, if you know me, you’re probably laughing, and if you don’t, you’re either thinking that I am crazy, or a lush, or both. I’m not. Well, I don’t think I’m a lush. I could be crazy, though. I do write murder mysteries, and my husband has to remind me on occasion that my characters are not real people. I’m not entirely convinced of that.

Writing the Nikki Sands mysteries (the other name for The Wine Lover’s) is a lot of fun--not just because I get to drink wine and figure out what the wine tasting notes are for the parts in the books where I’ve included recipes and wine pairings. But mostly what I enjoy about this series is growing the characters. When I started out the series with Murder Uncorked, Nikki Sands was an actress and a waitress in the evenings who was kind of a Renaissance woman who prided herself on being a student of life—and that included learning everything possible about wines. Her know-all paid off when she impressed the dashing Derek Malveaux (owner of Malveaux Estate Wines) with her extensive knowledge. Now in the 6th book in the series, Nikki has come a long way, except she still seems to have the bad luck of discovering dead bodies wherever she goes.

For this week’s recipe, I decided to post a delicious dessert that I enjoy making (and eating). Hope you will give it a try, and let me know what you think.

Cheers,
Michele
http://www.michelescott.com/

Peach Galette

Dough

2 cups unbleached

¾ teaspoon salt

½ cup (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

7 tablespoons cold solid vegetable shortening, cut into small pieces

¼ cup ice water


1 ½ pounds peaches

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 egg yolk whisked with 1 teaspoon of water

1 tablespoon coarse sugar

¾ pound aged Gouda or Gruyère

To make the dough: In a food processor, combine the flour and salt. Pulse three or four times to blend. Add the butter and pulse a few times, just until evenly distributed and coated with flour. Add the shortening and pulse a few times, until coated with flour. Transfer mixture to a bowl. Drizzle with the ice water while tossing with a fork, just until dough begins to come together in clumps, then knead dough to get it to hold together. Shape into thick round patty, then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Peel and slice peaches. Set aside.

Put dough on a lightly floured work surface, top with a fresh sheet of plastic wrap, and let stand for ten minutes to warm slightly. Roll dough into a 15-inch circle. Transfer dough to rimless baking sheet. Trim edges as needed to make 15-inch circle, reserving the trimmings. About two inches from the edge of the dough, arrange the peach slices in a neat ring, overlapping the slices slightly. Fill in center with peaches. Sprinkle with granulated sugar.

Gently fold the edge of the dough over the peaches to make a wide border. Make sure there aren’t any cracks. Use trimmed dough if needed to patch.

Brush the border with a little egg wash, then sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake until crust is golden, about 50 minutes. Cool slightly. Serve warm with cheese and wine.

Friday, April 8, 2011

New Mystery Series Sneak Preview

I am busy writing the next book and thought I would give you a sneak preview. Hope you enjoy! Here is the book trailer and the first chapter of the first in my new mystery series Dead Celebs out with Zova Books in November!

CHAPTER ONE




My name is Evie Duncan and I hang out with dead rock stars, and occasionally a dead movie star or two might suddenly waltz across the living room. I know, weird, huh? Trust me. I think so too. One night I actually watched Fred Astaire lift Ginger Rogers off her feet right in the middle of the kitchen, and I went to grab my coffee cup, because I was sure Ginger was going to knock it off the center aisle. Ah but as luck would have it, her pretty little shoe went right through the cup. I’ve discovered that ghosts can walk right through you or any object for that matter—just like in the movies. That part is true from what we all “think” we know about ghosts, but I’ve learned quite a bit more about them over the past few months.

I know it sounds completely insane. Right? Like commit me insane. But honestly, I am not crazy. Okay, maybe a little bit, and believe me, the first time I saw Bob Marley in my place (technically not my place, not even close to being my place, but I’ll get to that) in Hollywood Hills getting high and singing “Buffalo Soldier,” I thought I was either dreaming, hallucinating off bad food from Denny’s, or—yes, that I’d gone completely mad. None of that was the case. Bob was and is a very real dead guy who likes to hang in my place, along with a handful of other deceased famous rockers, as well as some who never quite hit the charts. It is one of those guys who almost made it to the top but didn’t that I happen to have—sort of—fallen for. So, not only do I hang out with dead rock stars, but I also think that I am in love with one of them or at least I have a severe case of lust, which makes me totally screwed up. But I still stand by the fact that I am not crazy.

Before I go any farther with how this me being able to see the famous deceased phenomenon started, I need to go back a few months to the day after my twenty-eighth birthday. Raised in Brady, Texas: population about 8,000 people. The signs were everywhere. Signs that is—to get the hell out of dodge.

I was at Mrs. Betty LaRue’s quaint craftsman, which smelled of fresh laundry, home cooking and mothballs. She was comforting me over the dismal turnout of the Mary Kay presentation that she’d hosted for me—my latest attempt at becoming an entrepreneur.

We were drinking apple cranberry tea, her lhasa apso Princess curled in a ball under her chair and my dog (of indeterminable breed. Am thinking she is part coyote, part lab, possibly some border collie in there) Mama Cass lay over my feet. I loved that Betty always let me bring Mama Cass in the house. Cass went everywhere with me, but not everyone happens to be as gracious as Betty.

“I really thought this would go so much better,” I said, bringing the warm brew to my lips.

Betty smiled, the fine lines in her eighty-something-year-old face creasing deeper into her skin, “Oh honey, I don’t know what happened to my girls today. I am so sorry. I thought there’d be at least ten of us. They all love my snickerdoodle cookies. I don’t understand. But you know how some of us old gals get; we forget things.” She twirled a wisp of curliqued hair on the side of her face around her finger. The rest of her hair was pulled up into a yellowish white bun (or chignon as Mama calls it) on top of her head. She’d obviously been in to see my mother that morning for her weekly hair appointment.

I nodded. “It’s okay, Betty. Thanks for hosting it anyway, and the cookies were delicious. Three isn’t such a bad turnout.” Thing was, only Betty bought anything, and her friends Margaret and Hazel only came for the cookies. “And I made about ten dollars, so that will at least buy me a couple of meals. You’ll love that anti-wrinkle cream.”

Betty ran a hand over her face and laughed in her sweet, southern, gentile manner—something I had failed to learn, as my father always reminded me. “Child, there is nothing gonna work on this here face. I’m proud of them. I earned these lines.”

I laughed back. “So you only bought the cream from me because you felt sorry for me?” Mama Cass’s ears perked up and she lifted her head, which I bent over and scratched.

Betty sighed. “Evie Duncan, I have known you since you started kicking up a fuss in your mama’s belly, and I have watched you try so hard to be exactly what your mama and daddy wanted you to be, especially after all that bad business.” She nodded and brought her tea cup to her lips, her hand shaking ever so slightly. I sighed, knowing exactly what bad business she was referring to, but both of us didn’t want to expand on it. Betty waved her free hand carelessly in the air as if to brush any painful thoughts away. “But a good southern girl who would marry a good southern boy and have babies and run a family like your folks did is what I know you wanted to be for them. However, dear girl, then you got real lucky now, didn’t you?”

“What do you mean?”

“You got a God-given talent.” She tried to set the tea cup down on the side table. I reached over and took it from her, setting it down for her. “Thank you, honey.”

I looked down at my dog, now licking my toes that stuck out of the one pair of high-heeled sandals I’d had for the past five years. “No I don’t, Betty. I know I’m good, but there’re a lot of good musicians out there. Great musicians.” Now I was twirling the ends of my hair, but there was no way my mama or even myself would ever put it up into a chignon. My hair was stick straight, long—past my shoulders, dark brown and thinner than I would have liked it to be, but a silky thin, which was good, I suppose, the silky part anyway. The closest anyone would ever get to pinning my hair up would be a ponytail.

Betty waved a hand. “Nonsense.” Placing her hands on the sides of the chair, she pushed herself up and ambled over to the white-bricked mantle, took an envelope off of it, brought it back and handed it to me.

“What’s this?”

“Your birthday was yesterday, wasn’t it?”

“You remembered?”

She frowned. “I may be old but I don’t forget my favorite people’s birthdays.”

“I’m one of your favorite people?” I mused.

“Honey, you know you are. You got spunk. Had it since you came out ass backward, showing the world what you thought of it,” she said, referring to the fact I’d been born breech.

“Thank you. I think.” I couldn’t help smiling. Betty was the only one I knew who spoke the truth without holding back. She didn’t tip toe around a thing. Very different from my family. Tip toeing was what we did best.

“Open it. I don’t have all day. It’s about time for my nap.”

I tore open the envelope and in it was a check for five thousand dollars made out to me. I gasped. “Betty! What…” Mama Cass jumped up, her huge ears pricked forward, tail wagging and watching me like a hawk. “It’s okay, girl.” She lay back down.

“I was twenty-eight once too, you know, and I had dreams, big dreams.” Her blue eyes glazed over for a moment. “I wanted to be a movie star, and I could have too. I was damn good, like you are at what you do. But then my folks, like yours, had other ideas for my life and I decided to play by their rules. Now I don’t regret it . . . maybe I do a little, but I’ve had a good life. Thing is, Evie, you can sing like a nightingale and you can play the guitar like nobody’s business. And you need to get the hell out of this podunk town before you wind up like every other girl here—knocked up, changing dirty nappies and cleaning up after everyone else every day for the rest of your life.”

I frowned. I’d already seen almost every girl from my high school graduating class living out the life Betty had just described to a tee already. The lucky ones had skipped town and gone on to college. I hadn’t been quite that lucky for a variety of reasons. I could have. I had the grades and the desire, but life had other ideas… On the positive side though, which is where I liked to go to (also for a variety for reasons) I at least had not had the misfortune to be married to some guy who didn’t appreciate me, expected his dinner on the table when he got home from his shift at the local textile factory, and wanted his wife and children to obey, just because he said so.

“It’s amazing it hasn’t happened to you already,” she continued. “My guess is you were either smart enough to use birth control, smart enough to not date one of the goof-offs in this town, or scared to death by your daddy’s hell, brimstone and fire sermons.”

“Pretty much all of the above, but still, what is this for? I can’t accept this.” I waved the check in the air.

“Yes you can, and you will. You gotta go live your life, Evie Duncan. Pack up that van of yours, your guitar, and Mama Cass and head west. You sing your heart out in every bar, every café, every church—I don’t care where you go and sing your heart out at, but go and sing. I know one thing: you have what it takes to be a star. Forget all about that Avon you’re trying to pawn…”

“Mary Kay,” I interrupted.

She frowned and waved a hand at me. “Just forget it no matter what, because you and I both know that won’t get you nowhere. That kind of thing is for people like Shirley Swan up the road trying to make an extra buck to take care of those for rotten kids of hers. Not for you. Take the money, cut your losses and run. Go live your dream, child. You gotta stop living for your mama and daddy. You didn’t cause what happened and you can’t ever change it. You didn’t cause it. Now you’re parents, they have to at some point get on with their lives, honey, and if they don’t, I hate to see you waste yours. So go on and live life. Do it for me. Go live my dream. Humor an old woman. Please?” Her blue eyes watered and the creases around them crinkled up as she choked back emotion and waved her hand at Evie again. “You go do this for Betty La Rue.” Betty now shook a bent finger at her.

How could I refuse after a plea like that? “But my daddy—?”

Betty dabbed at her eyes with a kerchief. “He’ll get over it. And your mama is gonna secretly be cheering you on. It’ll be hard on them, but this’ll be the best thing for all of you.” She sighed heavily. “Especially you, Evie. Especially you. Trust me. ”

So I did. I trusted Betty LaRue.

The next day I did exactly what she’d insisted upon. I packed up my 1974 VW van, a suitcase of clothes, my Rosewood Gibson acoustic guitar and Mama Cass. I pulled out of my parents’ driveway with Daddy’s arms waving wildly in the air and him yelling, “You’re gonna ruin your life out there. Los Angeles ain’t the city of angels. It’s a city of heathens and devils!”

I knew he was just scared. My leaving was breaking his heart. I’m pretty sure if I looked closer that I’d be able to see the tears in his eyes and then my heart would break, too. God, I felt so heartless, so cruel, but…I knew that Betty was right. This was something that had to be done.

I could see the tears for sure in my mother’s big hazel eyes, the same color as my own, as she mouthed, “I love you.”

I rolled down the window, choking back my own sobs. “I love you, too. I’ll call. Don’t worry. I’ll be fine. I really will. I do love you.”

With that, tears blurring my vision, Mama Cass’s head in my lap, a Patsy Cline cassette in the tape deck, I headed west to the City of Angels. And although the tears kept coming, streaming down my face as the highway spread out in front and now behind me, for the first time in sixteen years I felt like I could finally breathe again.