In June I will be making an appearance at the ALA (American Library Association) 2017 Conference and Exhibition in Chicago. One of the traditions at this event is for authors to provide unedited copies of the first three chapters or so of their upcoming books, flaws and all.
So, with the permission of my editor, I think it is only right that those of you who follow me here should have the first glance.
So watch this space for periodic sneak previews of what’s to come in the third book of the North of the Tension Line series, beginning with this snippet.
My earliest memories are of fire.
I was lying in my crib in the dark, and my father woke me, wrapped me in my blankets, and carried me from the house. There were sirens coming closer. I remember the scratchy wool of his jacket on my cheek, its dusty smell in my nostrils, and the feel of the cool night air. Then the smoke was everywhere.
My mother and father and sister and brother were all there, with jackets over their night clothes. My father carried me in his arms as we all moved toward the fire down the street.
“The pig farm,” my mother said.
I knew the pig farm. I knew the comfortable smell of well kept animals; the sight of the red barn on the hill, the pleasures of catching a glimpse of a tractor, or better yet, a family of piglets, on an afternoon ride.
Instead, I could see the silhouettes of men against flames that reached into the sky, the yellow and orange fire that flickered and shot up; the black shadows of men in big coats, and boots, and helmets, carrying hoses and axes.
There was a low rumbling sound from the diesel engines of the fire trucks; the crackling static voices of the radios and walkie talkies.
My father hoisted me up on his shoulders, and I could look down at the tangle of hoses, the gleaming puddles everywhere, with the circling red lights. I could hear more sirens in the distance, more fire companies arriving, the undulating shift of their sound changing as they moved.
“The poor animals,” murmured my mother, watching the flames. There was another smell in the air that was not wood burning.
I was afraid, but I did not cry.
Maybe I slept on my father’s head.
At last the men’s voices changed from shouts to words, the brilliant, intoxicating light in the night was gone, leaving a gray dawn. The red lights of the trucks still turned, reflecting in the puddles of water as the firemen coiled the hoses. The voices on the radios still crackled, but with less frequency, as the fire men, weary, diminished their conversation.
I do not remember being tucked back into bed. But I remember the flames.
I always remember the flames.