I am also really excited that I will be releasing a new book (mystery series) next month. THE GREY TIER; A DEAD CELEBS MYSTERY. This series will be under my name Michele Scott, and although is has the humor and romance that the Nikki books do, there is an added element of paranormal and urban fantasy to it. It's a bit different for me, but I have had a blast writing this book and my fingers are crossed that readers will enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Here is a bit of a preview. Check back over the next few weeks for more chances at Amazon gift cards, and pre-postings of the new book.
Have a wonderful weekend!
My name is Evie Preston and I hang out with dead rock stars. Oh, and the occasional dead movie star or two. I know, weird, huh? Trust me, I think so, too. I've actually came home to witness Janis Joplin strumming her guitar and singing along with Bob Marley. And that is only the beginning of what happened that night! I’ve learned quite a bit about those who live on the other side over the past few months. For instance, they aren’t all ghostly and transparent-like. Oh no. The ones I see tend to be in full-color 3-D except for when they exert, ah…certain energies. Then they go a bit hazy. I will get to that. And they prefer to be called spirits.
I know, I sound 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 the Hollywood hills getting high and singing ‘Buffalo Soldier,’ (sans Janis) I thought I was either dreaming, hallucinating from a bad meal at Denny’s, or, yes, completely nuts. None of that was the case. Bob is a very real, very dead guy who likes to hang out with me, along with a handful of other deceased, famous rock musicians (and a few who never quite made the charts, one of whom I’m currently developing some feelings for. But more about him later, too). So, not only do I hang out with dead rock stars, I also think I am in love with one or, at least, in lust…which makes me totally screwed up. But I am not crazy.
Before I go any further, though, I need to go back a few months to the day after my twenty-eighth birthday in Brady, Texas: population 8,000. The signs were everywhere. Signs, that is, to get the hell out of dodge.
I was at Mrs. Betty LaRue’s place which smelled of fresh laundry, home cooking, and mothballs. She was comforting me over the dismal turnout of my Mary Kay presentation, which she’d kindly hosted—my latest attempt at becoming an entrepreneur.
We were drinking apple-cranberry tea, her Lhasa Apso, Princess, curled in a ball under Betty’s chair, and my dog (of indeterminate breed…possibly part-coyote, part-lab, maybe a dash of border collie in there), Mama Cass, lay across my feet. I loved how Betty always let me bring Mama Cass in the house. Cass went everywhere with me, but not everyone is as gracious about her as Betty.
“I really thought this would go much better,” I said, bringing the warm tea 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 snickerdoodles. But you know how some of us old gals get; we forget things.” She twirled a yellow-white wisp of curled hair around her finger. The rest of it was pulled up into a loose bun (or chignon as Mama calls it). 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 anyway, and the cookies were delicious. Three isn’t such a bad turnout.” Thing was, only Betty bought anything. Her friends Margaret and Hazel only came for the cookies and samples. “And I made about ten dollars, so that will buy me a couple of meals. You’ll love that anti-wrinkle cream.”
Betty ran a hand over her face and laughed sweetly. “Child, there is nothing gonna work on this here face at this stage. And I’m proud of these lines. I earned them.”
I laughed back. “So you only bought the cream because you felt sorry for me?” Mama Cass’s ears perked up and she lifted her head, which I bent over to scratch.
Betty sighed. “Evie Preston, I have known you since you started kicking up a fuss in your mama’s belly,” She winked at me. “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. And there was that little faux pas with—” she paused briefly, “What was his name?” She brought the cup to her lips, her hand shaking ever so slightly. I sighed, knowing exactly what bad business she was referring to. As for the faux pas, he was the star quarter back my senior year and the lucky recipient of my virginity. Sadly, he was also the jerk who then decided to share the news with the entire town. Thank God my mother was able to intercept that little tidbit before it could reach my father’s ears.
But as far as the bad business, neither of us wanted to go there.
Betty waved her free hand carelessly in the air as if to brush the painful thoughts away. “But I know you wanted to be a good Texas girl and marry a good Texas boy and have babies and run a family like your folks did. However, dear girl, then you got real lucky, 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, setting it down for her. She beamed at me. “Thank you, honey.”
I looked down at my dog, now licking my toes sticking out of the only pair of high-heeled sandals I owned. “No, I don’t, Betty. I know I’m good, but there are a lot of good musicians out there.” Now I was twirling the ends of my hair, but there was no way my mother or even myself would ever put it up into a chignon. It was stick straight, long—just past my shoulders, dark brown, and baby fine but silky, which is good, I suppose…the silky part, anyway. The closest I ever get to pinning my hair up is a ponytail. Everything else just slips through the hair ties.
Betty waved her hand again. “Nonsense!” Placing her hands on the sides of her chair, she pushed herself up and ambled over to the white-bricked mantle. She grabbed an envelope, brought it back, and handed it to me.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“Your birthday was yesterday, wasn’t it?”
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.
“Oh Baby Girl, you know you are. You got spunk. Had it since you came out ass-backward showing the world what you thought of it.” She was referring to my breech birth.
“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 stuff. 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 found a check inside for five thousand dollars made out to me. I gasped. “Betty! What…” Cass jumped up, her huge ears pricked forward, tail wagging, 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, and I was once beautiful, believe it or not.” She winked at me, but there were tears in her eyes. I knew about Betty’s dreams from long ago. I also knew that there was a part of her life that hadn’t been so good, and it was that part, which had changed the course of her life. If only I had known her back then, but I hadn’t been alive yet. I could have made it easier for her. Although, it had been decades since the trauma she’d endured had passed leaving a large scar on her heart, I could still help in a small way. I laid my hand on top of hers. Ten seconds later, her tears were gone and the scar from the past was lessened and she continued.
“But then my folks, like yours, had other ideas and I decided to play by their rules. Now, I don’t regret it . . . maybe I do a little. Thing is, Evie, you can sing like a nightingale and you can play the guitar like nobody’s business. You need to get the hell out of this town before you wind up like every other girl here—knocked up, changing dirty diapers, and cleaning up after some idiot male who spends his nights with a beer in one hand and a TV remote in the other.”
I frowned. I’d already seen almost every girl from my high school graduating class living out the life Betty had just described. The lucky ones skipped town and went 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, which is where I like to go, I at least had not had the misfortune of marrying 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 brimstone and fire sermons.”
“Pretty much all of the above, but still, I can’t accept this.” I held the check up.
“Yes, you can, and you will. Go live your life, Evie Preston. Pack up that van of yours, your guitar, Mama Cass, and head west. You sing your heart out in every bar, every café, every church—I don’t care where you go, but go and sing. I know one thing: you have what it takes to be a star. Forget all about them cosmetics you’re trying to pawn…”
“Mary Kay,” I interrupted. “It is a really good line. Mama swears by them.”
She frowned and waved that 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 four 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.” She shook her head vehemently. “Now your parents, they have to 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 as she choked back emotion. “You go do this for Betty La Rue.” She shook a bent finger at me.
How could I refuse after a plea like that? I tried one last time, for the sake of courtesy. “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 packed up my 1974 VW bus, a suitcase of clothes, my Rosewood Gibson acoustic guitar, and Cass. I pulled out of my parents’ driveway while Daddy waved his arms wildly in the air, yelling, “You’re gonna ruin your life out there, Evangeline (he’s the only one who ever calls me by my full name)! Los Angeles isn’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, I’d see tears in his eyes. God, I felt so heartless, so cruel, but…I knew Betty was right. This was something that had to be done.
I could see 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.”
With blurred eyes, Mama Cass’s head in my lap, a Patsy Cline cassette in the tape deck (Thank God for eBay. You have no idea how hard it is to find cassette tapes these days), I headed west to the City of Angels. For the first time in sixteen years I felt like I could finally breathe again. I was leaving behind the only two people around me who I had never been able to heal even a little bit, and I didn’t think I ever could.