The Pit and the Passion

She held her gaze steady, mainly so she could delve deep, deep into those chocolate eyes. Together with his sharp, angular nose and intense, almost predatory, expression, he reminded her of a peregrine falcon on the hunt.

The Pit & the Passion

Friday, October 4, 2013

Welcome to the End of Summer Blog Hop

Autumn was always my favorite season—primarily because I hate being hot. Once I got a swimming pool (a lap pool, courtesy of my mother) all that changed, however. Still, the musty smell of damp leaves, the deep blue sky, the weeks of pulling out boxes and airing sweaters, the seemingly constant parade of holidays that all need decorating for, and the sense of a fresh start caused by cold air making your heart beat faster—all make autumn very special indeed. That’s for all you Erma Bombeck fans.

Seriously, of my seven books, I only find one—Losers Keepers—my Chincoteague romance, set in the golden days of an Eastern Shore fall. Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge sits smack dab in the middle of the Atlantic flyway (there are four in the continental United States) so every fall finds it literally inundated with snowbirds—migrating waterfowl like snow geese, pintails, northern shovelers, mergansers, and other beautiful birds. It is the dry season and the great water impoundments that make up the refuge are often reduced to mud flats with shallow sloughs scattered about, providing the perfect habitat for the thousands of transient animals.

In Losers Keepers, Dagne Lonegan has come to spend the year on Chincoteague, hoping to write a novel. Instead she finds herself in the middle of a murder mystery, caught between an old lover and a new one. In this scene, the newly arrived Dagne enjoys a quiet sunset before all the excitement starts. This is what Chincoteague is like and why I love it so:

Dagne watched the evening slowly move into place. She sat on the little balcony off her upstairs bedroom, not so chilled that she couldn’t feel the splinter from the weathered Adirondack chair working its way through her khakis and into her underwear. The daylight had just begun to fade to that dun-colored pallor that always depressed her when, without warning, the sun exploded in its last throes, bathing the grasses and water in crimson dye.
     Her legs ached from the day's hike. Not as much as they had last Friday, the day before yesterday, after that panicky twilight sprint on the Woodland Trail. She cringed, remembering how frightened she'd felt. The day was exceptionally sunny for September and the refuge had beckoned, drawing her from her writing. On the spur of the moment she decided to take a quick hike, a last bit of exercise before supper. She should have checked the map, but the Woodland Trail had always seemed so short--maybe because before she'd always done it on a bike.
     She rubbed her sore calves, pressing her thumbs deep into the muscles and rotating them. Ouch. One of these days she would stop herself from slogging that extra mile on the off chance she’d catch a glimpse of the elusive “what’s-it” flitting from bough to bough in the next pine tree. One of these days. Of course the muscles that still ached from the other night weren’t suffering on account of a fast-moving warbler but unreasoning fear of the dark. She thought back, remembering her panic.
     The path twisted and turned, first left, then right, each time giving her the false hope that she had reached the halfway point and was on the return stretch. Her watch read five o'clock. Although the thick pines obscured the sun, the light had already embarked on the twilight descent into gray that told her she only only had a few minutes before darkness dropped over the forest. She hadn't seen anyone after that middle-aged couple passed her maybe twenty minutes before. Silence smothered the woods like a goose down pillow over a victim's face. Not a whisper of air rattled the tops of the tall loblolly pines.
 A scrabbling sound in the leaves had caught her attention. A Delmarva squirrel scurried across the path and jumped onto a branch. He swished his long bushy tail, chattering in anger at the intrusion. For some reason his agitation had infected her and she began to walk a little faster. Her breath came in puffs, her heart rattled against her chest.
“You were being silly, mon ange,” her mother had told her. Dagne had stupidly related her fright to her mother earlier that day when they were chatting on skype. If she didn’t know better, she’d swear her mother lived online. Every time she logged on she’d see the blinking icon at the bottom of the screen. “Piaf chatting,” Piaf being her mother’s screen name. Too too apt. Her mother idolized the late great torch singer and resembled her a little too closely for comfort. A tiny pixie of a woman, she still smoked like a fiend and drank absinthe on her birthday, singing along to Non Je Ne Regrette Rien and cursing Dagne’s father in remarkably inventive slang.
“Yes, Mother, I know. I’m a wuss. It’s not like Chincoteague isn’t perfectly safe—nothing even remotely dangerous for a woman alone here.”
“Except maybe those snapping turtles.”
“They live in the drainage canals, not the woods, Mother. I’ve never seen anything but squirrels and deer on the Woodland Trail.”
“How long is that trail anyhow?”
“I don’t know. I wish I’d checked the map at the entrance.”
“You really shouldn’t have started that late in the afternoon anyway.”
“Yes, Mother. Won’t do that again, Mother. Good night, Mother.”
Yup, another lesson learned. Her shoulders sagged with fatigue and the unwanted memory of Jack her thoughts dredged up. If only she followed every rule she set for herself. If only she stuck to every principle ever taught. If only she stuck to the truth, to reality, to practical, positive things. If only—but she was a romantic, a little less than an idealist, a little more than a wishful thinker, and real life only intruded on that pretty scene.
Actually, she thought, as the last rays of the autumn sun burned its way through the cumulus, I’m not that romantic. She only wanted what most women want. Oysters. Sex. Flowers, flowers, flowers. A man who recognized when he was wrong and let his woman know it without apologizing. Simple things.
The breeze picked up. A mass of Canada geese convened on the mud flats left exposed by the retreat of the tide. Somewhere out in the pine woods a salt hay stallion whinnied his commands to his mares. The schluck schluck of a clammer penetrated the quiet. She watched the old man as he wrenched each boot from the muck with an oath and a whooshing sound, his full pail bobbling dangerously. Clams. Yuck. Coriaceous muscles with the texture of rubber balls. Inedible. Now, take oysters—a good candidate for “God’s Greatest Invention.” Exceedingly ugly, exceedingly delicious, and here in Chincoteague, hers for the asking. She counted on her fingers—three dozen in the five days since she arrived. She rubbed her tummy contentedly. A dozen yesterday alone.

The opposite shore had by now disappeared into blackness. Tiny lights sprang up out on the salt flats. Phosphorus, perhaps? More likely the reflection from floodlights on the buildings along the shore. She shivered in the cold. It was so beautiful. It should be so peaceful. If only Jack’s image didn’t keep popping up like an annoying Internet ad. Let me go, Jack, please. Let me enjoy my new world. Why must you foist your unavailable person on the stretcher of my fragile heart? Dagne smirked. She liked to smash Jack to bits with words. Satisfying. No feedback, sure, but who needs criticism? She picked up her toys and went to bed.

I hope you enjoyed this excerpt. For more on Losers Keepers click on the cover to the left or on the title. Do leave a comment (with your email address) to be entered to win one of my books. To see the selection, click on BOOKS on the page bar. And then head back to to find other wonderful authors’ memories of autumn.


Sandy said...

Beautiful description. I felt like I was there in the woods with you. Fall is my favorite season, too. I live in the midwest, so our trees are beautiful in the fall.

Jean MP said...

Really enjoyed reading your excerpt, very descriptive, story sounds exciting.
Love fall, the cooler temps and seeing all the changing leaves.
skpetal at hotmail dot com

M. S. Spencer said...

It's easy to describe places you love, isn't it? Thanks for your comments. M. S.

bn100 said...

Nice excerpt

bn100candg at hotmail dot com

christinacoleromance said...

Lovely! Autumn is my favorite time of the year.

JackieW said...

Losers and Keepers sounds like a book I would enjoy reading. I like Autumn too.... after hot summers a cool breeze now and then is welcomed.

JOYE said...

Enjoyed reading your blog today. Autumn where I live is just a bit cooler weather. We don't have changing of the leaves so much so it isn't much different from the rest of the year, only cooler.

Shadow said...

I love fall! Ill admit, i still play in leaves. lol I love it when the trees start turning colors. Its so pretty! And i do enjoy the cool air! Your book sounds awesome! Definitely looking forward to reading Losers and Keepers! Thanks for sharing it! Thank you!