Book Excerpts

I'm a writer. A writer who, among other things, likes to write novels. That means I have several novels sitting on my bookshelf, gathering dust until I decide what I want to do with them.

What does that mean for you lucky readers? First chapters. Bear with me as I load the first chapters of my novels in this space.

Book 1: Drops of Jupiter. (This book will likely never go anywhere. It still needs extensive revision. EXTENSIVE. But it was the first book I finished, so it will always have a special place in my heart. Excuse all the errors, of which I know there are many.)

It wasn't the bright violet, Craftsman style house I lived in or the shed in the backyard made entirely out of edible, organic products that made me feel different from my peers. It wasn't the three legged, one eyed cat that called the garage a home, or the fact that my grandfather had once believed, truly believed, that he had lived a former life as a pirate (hence the plank that extended from the turret at the back of our old two-story abode). It wasn't that I didn't have a dad in my life, or that I had only a few names on the list of people I'd like to invite to my birthday party. It was more than that, and at the age of 11, the fact that I was a little different had started to bother me. I thought about it at school, at church, at the orthodontist's office, and when I sat with my best friend, Anthony Hartwell, in the tree house that spanned the two large oak trees on the property line between our houses.

And that is where we were, Anthony and I, one succulent summer afternoon in early June, when the whole idea of being different blossomed into something completely ginormous.

I had begun to explain a traffic light code that my mom and I had started using. Anthony looked at me while he fanned himself with the science section of the Dayton Daily News and, at the same time, threw Goldfish crackers in the air, catching them with ease in his mouth. Dragonflies danced in the humid air, the child-sized rocking chair in the corner of the tree house creaked, and the buzzing of a mosquito rang in my ear. The breeze smelled of fresh-cut grass and laundry detergent, which were two of my favorite odors.

"We used it the other day, Anthony! Mom picked up the phone without looking at caller ID, and I could see by the look on her face that she didn't feel like speaking to that person."

"And?"

"And mom said that she needed her red scarf."

"Did the caller get confused? I mean, it's summer…would your mom and the person really be talking about a red scarf?" Anthony said.

"No, they weren't, but Mom just apologized and told the caller that I'd asked her a question. I knew by the red scarf comment she wanted me to help her get off the phone immediately! Scarf is our code word, and the red meant pronto. If she'd said yellow, I would give her a couple of minutes and then tell her someone was at the door or something. If she'd mentioned a green scarf, I would know that the caller was a friend and that she'd talk until she was done."

"That's a complicated scheme for getting off the phone, don't you think?"

"Yes, Anthony, but we were just practicing. We wanted to see if it worked, in case we needed it for other times. Like when solicitors come to the door and they won't take no for an answer."

"Good plan, Laney, good plan."

"I know! And we could use this for so many situations!" It got excited thinking about the opportunities when we could use the code. Without warning, my mom opened the screen door and poked her head out.

"Laney," she called, and waited for me to thrust my face out of the tree house window. "I need you for a moment. It's important." Maribel Rollins raised her eyebrows and cocked her head to the side. I knew, in that instant, there was no room for argument.

"I'll be right there!" I called back. I pulled my neck back into the tree house. "Anthony, I guess I better go. This might be a red scarf moment, but I have to at least find out, you know."

"I know." Anthony nodded his head.

"Can I come over when I'm done? Will you be home?"

"Sure thing, Laney. I want to finish reading this then I'll head back. There probably isn't anything else for me to do today. At least I don't think so. My mom, of course, might say otherwise!" A playful smile graced Anthony's lips.

"All right." I hoisted myself up from sitting and moved toward the door. "I wonder what mom needs," I whispered, almost to myself.

"Got me," Anthony responded. "Anyway, I'll see you soon."

"Okay." I clambered down the ladder, crossed the lawn, and jumped up the steps of the porch. My mother sat on the swing, her fingers tapping the arm of the chair nervously.

"What's up, mom?" I fell into the seat beside my mom.

"Well, Laney, I have something I need to tell you. You…need to know… where you come from." I looked at her, pulse thumping in my ears.

"Really? But I already know about that stuff. And by the way, not to be disrespectful, but you ended your sentence with a preposition." I figured that mom would be proud; we had, after all, been working all spring on parts of speech and correct grammar.

Instead, my mom rolled her eyes at me. "No, no, that just came out wrong. I don't think you do know where you come from," she said, while at the same time ignoring my second remark. She held the screen open with one arm, and used the other hand to urge me to follow her. We walked through the hallway and turned right into the study, where she reached up and pulled down an enormous book from the top of the oak shelf. A thin film of dust fell to the ground at my feet.

"Mom, really, it's okay. I have Gray's Anatomy, remember? Between that and your old Biology book, I already know about the birds and the bees. Plus, we watched that Your Body and You DVD in school."

My mom continued to flip through the pages of the book that balanced on her knees. I tried to steal a glance at the volume, but I couldn't tell much by the cover. The front was a dusty blue color that looked similar to an old jean jacket I once found in the back of my closet. A neat white piping framed the perimeter, ran down the spine, and followed its course around to the back, where it landed in a loopy swirl.

Mom shook her head back and forth and waved her hand. "I don't care what you think you know, honey. It's all wrong. I don't like to be harsh, but you might not be from this planet." She paused, letting the sentence sink in for a moment. Again I felt my pulse quicken as if horses galloped within my chest. The hair rose on the back of my neck. "I certainly never carried you in my belly. I never even adopted you from another country." She paused again, probably in an effort to gauge my reaction. "I found you, and this volume, in a basket, wedged between the arbor vitae that line the back fence. According to the letter slipped in the front cover of the book, you come from some place called Adra-…Adra-st..."

I interrupted my mom. "Adrastea, Mom. You say it Add-ra-stee-a,"

"Yes, yes, you do. Anyway, Add-ra-stee-a is…"

Again, I jumped in and cut her off. "One of Jupiter's moons."

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