January 5, 2014

Mark of a Man Excerpt- Crusty Anchor

Making the Mark:
Readers often ask me where I get ideas for my novels.  Here is one quick explanation with a short excerpt from my upcoming Amelia Island's Mark of a Man, part of Amelia Island's Goodbye Lie Trilogy. Set in 1898, the action happens from Florida up to Pennsylvania, down to Cuba and back to Florida. This particular scene is set in the Crusty Anchor Pub. The fictional pub is named for my granddaughter's stuffed cat.  When she was very little, she used to chew on the tail, it would dry, and get icky between washings.  Hence, we nicknamed the animal, CRUSTY Kitty.  The ANCHOR is to honor my brother, a Navy man, and there you have it- Crusty Anchor.

Mark of a Man excerpt: 
   Aunt Jency was a youthful thing and delicate, barely older than Pat, himself. In the short while he'd known her, he decided he liked her. She seemed a fine and caring person, even if she wasn't much of cook. From the looks of her husband's belly, he was finding sustenance somewhere.
   They caught sight of the rough, painted sign spelling out Crusty Anchor Pub in faded red letters. Pat envisioned it rowdy with mariners and didn't want to see Jency put in an uncomfortable position. To his pleasant surprise, the small place was mostly crowded with families. The chatter was high and the aroma wonderful. 
   They sat at a table in the center of the room with thirty or so customers enjoying their meals. Twenty feet from the window, they crooked their necks to get a glimpse of the darkening sky and deep gray of Presque Isle Bay.
   "You know, y'all," Pat commented, "the scene outside reminds me of Florida, with the boats, I mean."
   "You'll be having your fill of water by the time your hitch is up in the Navy."
   "You're right about that, Uncle John," Pat agreed, but silently hoped he was wrong, since water was what floated his family's business.  
   "Hear that accent, y'all?" mimicked a booming male voice. "Sounds like we got us a dirty Grayback clear up here in Erie."
   Tightly and quickly, Pat blinked, hoping that menacing voice behind him spouted only an empty challenge. Hags-teeth! Brawling got him where he was today. In the second before he turned to face his aggressor, he tossed a glance at Uncle John who was polishing his utensils on the sleeve of his plaid shirt and seemingly paying no mind. Jency, bending over her child, shielded the baby with her body. Pat stood, spun on his boot, and stepped away from the table, in case there was trouble. He tensed, saying, "The war's long past, man. If you still want to do this, I'll give you one free swing. After that--"...

   Perpetua stirred, fussed, and Jency pulled forth a tea towel wrapped baby bottle. "Good, it's still warm."
   "It had best be," the child's father said. "We don't want our little girl to be unhappy."
   "My daddy always says girls are made for spoilin', Uncle John. I see you both have the same philosophy."
   Their attention turned from one another and back to the baby when she let out a huge wail as the bottle slipped from her mother's hand and pulled from Perpetua's mouth to crash to the floor. Spikes of glass glistened in the light of the oil lamps on the surrounding square tables.
   "Oh dear," Jency murmured, the worry heavy in her tone. "Perpetua may still be hungry. I never imagined this happening. I haven't another bottle with me."  She lifted the baby over her shoulder and patted the child's back. A soft burp erupted and Perpetua calmed down.
   "Shall we go before the poor thing realizes she hasn't had a full meal?" Uncle John ordered in the form of a question.  
   The buggy ride jostled Perpetua back to sleep. Pat talked softly so as not to wake her. "Thank you both for a wonderful taste of home." The moment he'd said it, he realized the thoughtlessness of his remark. He would never intentionally hurt Jency's feelings about her cooking. "I mean--being with you has reminded me of my family in Fernandina. I miss them a great deal."
   Riding up to their front door, Pat dismounted and helped Jency and the baby down from the buggy. He didn’t go inside. Instead, he shook his uncle's hand and kissed the back of his aunt's on their front stoop.
   "Well, son, we'll write to your father and tell him what a fine man he has in you. Be sure and come visit us again when you get leave. Don't be a stranger."
   "I won't, sir." On his horse, "Thanks again, Uncle."
   "Goodbye, Pat." A tender smile lit Jency's face. Perpetua whimpered. "I must see to my little one."
   Riding away, Pat aimed his ear in the direction of Uncle John's house.  Curious, he thought, how similar a child's cry was to that of a woman's.