It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult. - Seneca

Friday, January 29, 2010

Our SPOTLIGHT ON Peggy Ehrhart wraps up with a SPECIAL TREAT!!!


I was thrilled to learn from my publisher last fall that Maxx’s adventures will continue.
Five Star has bought the sequel, Got No Friend Anyhow, and it’s due out in just about a year.

Here’s a sneak peek . . .

Maxx has driven up to Rick Schneider’s house in Nyack, NY. He’s been producing a CD for Maxx’s band but didn’t show up with the master when he was supposed to, and he isn’t answering his phone. To complicate matters, Maxx became romantically involved with him while they were working on the CD.

Red is Rick’s pet rooster and the mascot of his record company, Prowling Rooster Records.

“Awrk?” Red blinks at me in the sudden wash of light as I flip the switch inside the kitchen door. His glossy feathers ripple as he twitches his wings. “Awrk?” His head with its gaudy comb darts toward his empty food cup, darts back up, and his bright eyes look at me accusingly.
Poor guy. He must really be hungry.

“Okay, okay,” I murmur. “I said I’d feed you, and it looks like you need some water too.” I reach for the bag of Farlo Boonton Chicken Feed, and as I pull it toward me, it skims the untidy stack of mail, knocking about half of it to the floor.

I stoop to collect it, and as I’m retrieving junk mail and bills and catalogues, my attention is caught by a letter scrawled in careless writing across a dog-eared sheet of paper. Above me, Red is pacing in his cage and my eyes are drifting over the scribbled words while my heart is sinking.

“Sweetheart,” the letter reads. “I’m doing a show in Westchester Nov. 7th. Call me Friday a.m.” The letter goes on to give the phone number then says, “Let’s get it back like it was,” and it’s signed “B.”

I stand up, feeling kind of sick. Red shifts in his cage and fixes me with a beady eye. I turn the page over and see what looks like a tour schedule: the Westchester gig, something in Chicago on the 9th—today—some other stuff all over the place, and another local gig—the Last Chance on the 14th.

I sink into one of the kitchen chairs and punch the Friday a.m. number into the phone. After four rings, a chirpy voice says, “Sleepy Time Motel. How may I help you?”

I ask for Rick Schneider.

“Is he a guest, ma’am?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know what he is. He’s staying with somebody, somebody named—” I reach for the letter. “Somebody named B.”

“Excuse me?”

“Never mind. I’m sorry.”

I hang up, but I don’t stand up. I call Manhattan information and ask for the number of the Last Chance. For an extra 75 cents, I let them connect me.

The “B.” who signed the letter to “Sweetheart,” who wants to get it back like it was, who’s playing at the Last Chance November 14th, turns out to be none other than Brenda Honeycut, one of the most happening singer-songwriters on the current scene. I jam the letter into my bag.
If Rick was going to hang out with his old girlfriend for a few days, couldn’t he at least keep me posted on what was happening with the CD? And leave enough food for his rooster?

Red’s sudden “Awrk?” brings me back to reality

“It’s okay, Red,” I say. “Here’s your food. Coming right up.”

I scoop a cup of feed out of the Farlo Boonton bag and unlatch the door of the cage. “Awrk! Squirk!” In a flurry of distress, Red flings himself into the air, hanging suspended inside the cage for a minute, wings flapping frantically as they churn up bits of shredded newspaper. Landing on his feet again, he bustles back and forth until, suddenly, he’s pecking my fingers. His beak is like a sharp thorn lodging itself in my flesh and tearing away, again and again.

I jerk my hand away, but I can’t dislodge my fingers from the latch on the door of the cage, and the cage comes along as I try to pull loose.

Now it’s hanging over the table’s edge, and as I free my fingers, the cage lands on the floor with a crash, another flurry of newspaper bits, and an irritated burst of squawking from Red.

The next thing I know, Red is scurrying down the hall toward the studio.

“Wait, wait,” I call, running after him. “I’m trying to help you.”

He looks back at me and suddenly swerves into the first doorway he comes to, Rick’s office, the house’s former dining room. I bolt past him, almost tripping over Rick’s desk chair, grab the door that leads into the studio and slam it shut. I run back the other direction and slam the door that leads to the hallway.

So where is he? A soft cluck and the sighing sound of wings settling into place draws my attention to Rick’s desk. Red is lurking underneath, seemingly content to stay put now that he thinks he’s found a safe haven.

If I can throw something over him, bundle him up, and stick him back in his cage, everything will be fine. I scan the room and see nothing promising. I could rip down one of the drapes—but they’re so long and wide, they’d be too unwieldy to wrap a rooster in. Half a pair is already missing from one of the windows though. I wonder what that’s all about.

I don’t see anything else that would work to wrap a rooster in so, okay, it’s got to be done. I shrug my way out of my silver thrift-store trenchcoat. Red regards me with his beady eye, clucking quietly to himself, as I come near, holding the coat in front of me like a bullfighter confronting a bull.

“Okay, fellow.” I try to sound soothing. “I’m just trying to help you.”

I kneel and swoop toward him with the coat. He clucks, louder now, and backs further under the desk. I creep forward on my knees, and as I look into the shadows, something catches my eye, something that doesn’t have anything to do with Red.

I’m distracted long enough for him to squeeze past me, half running, half flying. But I let him go, for the moment at least, because I’m looking at one of Rick’s prize possessions, and it doesn’t belong down here on the floor.

I pull it toward me, carefully because the glass is broken. It’s a framed album cover that used to occupy a special spot on the opposite wall. I remember asking Rick about it once and he said it was the only thing in the whole place he’d ever care about losing.

“Why?” I asked.

“That music was what my youth was all about,” he said.

I study the picture on the front. Four guys, their faces shaded by jaunty fedoras, are lined up against a brick wall. Above them, the word “MEAL” is spelled out in heavy, droopy letters that look like they’re melting.

I lift it up and put it on the desk. When I turn my attention back to Red, he’s crouched between the side of the desk and the wall. As I swoop toward him and bundle him into my coat, I notice that on the floor in the corner is a big stain that looks like dried blood.

Comments welcome. And one lucky commenter will win a copy of Sweet Man Is Gone at the end of the week.

Get your copy of Sweet Man is Gone today!

Order from Amazon
Order from Barnes & Noble

Sweet Man Is Gone is now available on Kindle. Just visit and follow the links. And watch for the audio version from Books in Motion, coming soon.
Same book, different title: Blue Murder.



Skhye said...

OOps! Poor guy! And lucky him that Red didn't spur him. The kid feeding our 60 chickens & 2 roosters was laid up in the hospital after being spurred in our chicken coop... There's all sorts of icky stuff growing in that dirt! UGH. Thanks for the intriguing excerpt. :)

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Great excerpt. I could have read more. My best friend's parents owned a chicken ranch and I was always pulled into helping out. Those birds can be dangerous....

librarypat said...

Nice scene set up. Chickens can be funny pets. We had several bantams for a while. They each had such different personalities.
Peggy, you must have dealt with chickens at one time. Sounds like an interesting mystery.

Chicks of Characterization said...

CONGRATULATIONS TO Library Pat for winning the copy of SWEET MAN IS GONE!!! If you could please leave your E-mail address so Peggy can get ahold of you that would be wonderful!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...