Sample Saturday: “In The Eye of The Beholder”

25908261On this day, 155 years ago, Joseph Carey Merrick was born.  It is in his honor that I share this excerpt from my debut novel, In The Eye of The Beholder.  At the end, I’ve added a video of the late David Bowie playing Merrick in a Broadway production of The Elephant Man.  Enjoy!

At London Hospital, in Whitechapel, Dr. Treves deposited me at what I presumed was his surgery office door.

“I’m wanted in the operating theatre, Madame LeMaître. Please make yourself at home,” he said. He bowed to me and left me alone.

I let myself into the suite, but saw no one. From a back room came a muffled “I shall be with you in a moment. Please have a seat.”

“Thank you, I shall,” I responded.

“Oh, my goodness. A lady caller? I wish I had known. I would have rung for tea.” From out of the back room came the man to whom the muffled voice belonged. The reason for his tone was immediately obvious: his mouth and head were grossly malformed, as was one side of his body. However, the hand he extended to me was as beautiful and graceful as a woman’s.

“Madame, please allow me to introduce myself. I am Joseph Merrick. Sir Frederick isn’t here just now. May I have the sisters bring you tea?”

I wracked my brain, for Merrick’s name was familiar to me. I finally remembered reading an article in the London Times about him: the press called him “the Elephant Man.”

I took the hand extended to me and sketched a brief curtsy.

“Thank you, Monsieur Merrick. Tea would be lovely. I am Madame Claire LeMaître.”

I took the proffered chair and continued. “Monsieur Merrick, Doctor Treves asked me to wait for him here. I believe that he wanted me to visit a patient.”

“Perhaps it was I whom he wished you to see? Sir Frederick had said he would try to arrange callers for me. I am rather lonely here. And please, could you call me Joseph?”

“But of course. And I am Claire. So, you are Doctor Treves’ patient?”

“Yes, and his friend. Sir Frederick rescued me from a traveling circus and I have lived here at London Hospital since then; he is trying to learn about my disease.”

I understood then how the doctor thought I could help. Erik’s face was not even a patch on poor Joseph’s case, to be sure. I was unafraid of what many people found freakish and frightening. How many women would take tea with Joseph Merrick?

Sample Saturday, “The Rock Star in the Mirror” … plus a bonus track

Today’s sample is from my 2012 award-nominated novella, The Rock Star in the Mirror (Or, How David Bowie Ruined My Life), which is also available as an audiobook narrated by Matt Haynes.  I’ve included a bonus track at the end.  Enjoy!


Every month, Lynnie drives her rattletrap Ford Maverick up to Portland. She uses her tip money from George’s Place, supplemented by part of what Mom pays her, to get the coolest vintage clothes she can find. She has some guy up on Glisan, in the Alphabet District, who does her hair.

“No way I’m going to the Cut-n-Curl,” she says, which I can totally understand. Most of the women who work there look like they got their beautician’s license during the Johnson administration, and they do hair accordingly. Since most of the year-round population of Rockaway is of a similar vintage, they do a booming business.

On this particular day, Lynnie is wearing a pair of skinny white jeans, a coral blouse (you grow up in a beach town, believe me, you know that color) that matches her lipstick perfectly, and a pair of white sandals. Coral polish on her toenails, too. Her long, auburn hair is held off her face with a white-and-orange scarf, and she has a big pair of white-framed sunglasses in her hand.

“Joe-the-lion,” she purrs conspiratorially, “come with me to Portland.”

“I’ve got to deliver these,” I reply, shoving an unruly strand of brown hair behind my ear. I always feel drab as dirt next to Lynnie.

Did I mention that I’ve got a huge crush on her? And that I turn into a tongue-tied dimwit whenever she’s around?

Well, now you know.

So, Lynnie heads off to Portland. I deliver the breakfast baskets, prep the check-out bills for the day’s departing guests, and go to my room.

I look at myself in the mirror for a few minutes. I’m a skinny guy with a beaky kind of nose, high cheekbones, blue eyes, and longish, straight brown hair that never looks right, no matter what I do to it. Most of the time, I just part it down the middle and stick it behind my ears. I’m wearing my usual uniform of jeans, t-shirt, and sneaks. Lynnie’s always offering to take me shopping, but I never take her up on it.


I pick up my guitar and start practicing this song I want to play for Lynnie. Like I said, she’s totally obsessed with David Bowie, so I’m learning this song of his called Starman. I can sing okay, and I play pretty well. I practice posing in the mirror so that I’ll look just right. I hope she’ll dig it.

If I ever get up the guts to play it for her.


Sample Saturday: “Bayou Fire,” with Bonus Track

M&M frt Verson 1Today’s snippet from Bayou Fire has Diana Corbett visiting Cajun country with Amos Boudreaux.  I’ve provided a video with the song referred to in the story.  Enjoy!

Diana went back inside for a few minutes to scribble some notes about the food and music. When she walked by the fireplace, she noticed a number of photos on the mantel and went to investigate them. One of them was a much younger Amos, in a rather peculiar tassel-covered shirt and matching pointed hat, riding a black horse. A strand of large wooden beads circled his neck, draping down his chest.

“That’s Cajun Mardi Gras,” Annie said, coming up behind her. “It’s not like what they do over in New Orleans. Out here, all the men dress in traditional costumes and ride horses from house to house, trying to get the women to give up something for the gumbo pot. At the end, everyone puts the ingredients together and there’s a big batch of soup to share. Amos was always one of the best riders, with those long legs of his. That black mare belonged to a neighbor, and they’d always let Amos borrow her for Mardi Gras. Every year he managed to get some woman to give up the chicken; we said he just batted his eyelashes and that was all she wrote. The chicken was the big prize for the stew pot.”

“That’s fascinating,” Diana said. “Thank you!” It seemed that Amos was even more multi-talented than she’d thought.

She followed Annie back outside. There, Amos, Harmon, and Billy were singing an a capella song in French. Diana was able to understand only about half of it, something about the keys to the prison, but it didn’t matter. The three of them sounded marvelous together.

Sample Saturday, “The River Man”

Hi, everyone.  This is a really tiny snippet from a first draft.  “The River Man” is one of the stories in Bayou NonStandard Time.

Henri’s death still rankled. None of the Blacks on the Devereaux place were slaves anymore; Alcide had freed them himself. Henri and his valet, a free-born man named Guillaume, were shot out on the River Road by a gang of poor whites who wanted their mounts.

When Alcide’s famous black horses were recognized by the sheriff, he was more than happy to press charges. So, he stood quietly and watched his son’s murderers hanged for the lesser crime of horse theft and wondered at the strangeness of the world. He could never have foreseen people going to war over the right to own other human beings.

Sample Saturday: Clytie’s Caller

Clyties_CallerToday’s sample is from my sweet Regency novella, Clytie’s Caller.  At the end, I’ve included a video of the dance Clytie refers to.  In this scene, Samuel and Clytie are talking to one another from opposite sides of a closed door.  Enjoy!

By the time Samuel finished reading “Emma,” Clytie was talking to him more.

“Mama had a very soft, pink dress made up for me,” she said.

“I should like to see it some day,” he replied.

“Maybe someday. I am still not able to leave the room.”

“Clytie, can you tell me what happened to keep you inside?”

“It was at Almack’s. I stepped out to get a breath of fresh air after dancing the ‘Sir Roger de Coverley’ …” she paused. “It was almost like what happened to Georgiana Darcy. And then, I started seeing him everywhere … and …”

Her voice broke.

“I must ask you to leave now, Samuel.”

“As you wish.”

Clearly, he had pushed too hard. And who on Earth was Georgiana Darcy?

Clytie’s Caller is also available as an audiobook, narrated by Stevie Zimmerman.