Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000032_00033]
Words from the author
Writing Process
My dream has never been to write the next great American novel. Funny, right? Most authors say the opposite. Me? I just want to tell a good story. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. So when I was between jobs, my now husband asked what I’d do if money wasn’t an issue, and without hestitation I said, “Write.” and he said, “So do it.” I haven’t looked back.
I’m sure my process isn’t much different than most authors. An idea forms in my head, usually I know the gist of the story, but it doesn’t come full circle until I hear that stories song. I just set my computer to shuffle on my entire playlist while I work on other things and before I know it a song plays and the story flashes like a movie preview through my head. Then I storyboard it, yes I’m an “outliner”. After that I write the rough draft, then edit, edit, edit.
Book Summary:
 Dovie Grant has just lost her daughter and husband in a car accident causing her to live alone with her father, James, on their farm, Quail Crossings. On a trip into town James discovers a young 18 year old boy, Bill, taking care of his three younger siblings since their parents abandoned them for California. James knows these kids need help, so he hires Bill and agrees to take in the kids. This does not make Dovie happy. She’s already trying to deal with her grief and wants nothing to do with three kids running under foot reminding her every day of her own lost child. It doesn’t help that 14 year old Evalyn doesn’t want to be there either and goes to great lengths to get Bill fired. The family must come together to brave the notorious Black Sunday dust storm or risk losing everything, including their lives.
About Jennifer
Having a great deal of wanderlust, Jennifer McMurrain traveled the countryside working odd jobs before giving into her muse and becoming a full time writer. She’s been everything from a “Potty Princess” in the wilds of Yellowstone National Park to a Bear Researcher in the mountains of New Mexico. After finally settling down, she received a Bachelor’s degree in Applied Arts and Science from Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, TX.  She has won numerous awards for her short stories and novels. She lives in Bartlesville, Oklahoma with her husband, daughter, two spoiled cats, and two goofy dogs.  Quail Crossings is her first novel. You can read more of her work at http://www.jennifermcmurrain.com.
Sample chapter
Chapter Fifteen
Alice skipped along the trail to the orchard with her apple bucket. She knew it was too late to find fresh apples, but there were other treasures to be found along the way. She sang You Are My Sunshine to Norman as they walked.
Norman softly honked out of tune with the song. Approaching the orchard, Alice spotted something shiny in the dirt. Kneeling into the dirt, she began digging at the object with a stick.
“It could be a gold coin that will lead us to other gold coins,” she explained to Norman. “I’m sure there’s some outlaw’s treasure out here. One he had to bury before the law got him.”
 Noticing her feathered friend had gone unnaturally quiet, Alice looked up. There, just a few feet away, stood the biggest dog Alice had ever seen. Holding onto the stick and bucket, she slowly stood up. The dog growled and bared its teeth, letting drool drip from its curled lip. Alice watched the saliva drop to the ground and noticed its ribs protruding from its belly. Hair had begun to come out in spots, giving the dog a mangy look.
She spoke in a low, calm voice. “You look awfully hungry, but I guarantee me and Mr. Norman don’t taste no good.”
Alice weighed her options. If she ran, the wild dog would catch her in no time, but she could scream and pray the mutt got spooked. She looked at Norman who was staring down the dog. Raising his wings he positioned himself between Alice and the beast.
“OK, Mr. Norman, on the count of three we make all kinds of ruckus. Maybe Bill will hear.” The goose lowered his neck and hissed. “One… two… THREE!”
Alice started screaming and beating the bucket with her digging stick. The dog leapt in the air, but was met with a face full of feathers.
“Norman!” screamed Alice. “Bill! Elmer! Help! Mr. Murphy! Somebody help!”
All Alice could see was a mess of white, grey and brown. She wanted to run for help, but was afraid to leave her friend alone. The winter air filled with honks and snarls. A loud yelp echoed through the trees as the dog retreated, chased by Norman honking on his heels.
Bill charged up the hill on his horse followed by James and Elmer. Sliding down, Bill embraced Alice. “Are you ok? What happened?”
Alice began to sob. “There was a dog. He looked sick, Bill. He was ‘bout to attack me, but Mr. Norman stopped him.” She looked around. “You gotta help Mr. Norman! He’s out there somewhere and he might be hurt!”
“It’s ok, Alice. We’ll find him,” said Bill, as he mounted his horse. “Elm, take Alice back to the house. Mr. Murphy, I believe we have a goose to find.”
“And a dog to kill,” said James, untying the strap to his rifle.
“I’m not going anywhere without Mr. Norman,” Alice cried.
“Be reasonable,” said Bill. “You can’t come with us. It’s too dangerous. You’ll be safe at the house. Elm, get her home.”
Elmer jumped down to wrestle his little sister into the saddle when Norman came waddling back down the trail.
“Mr. Norman!” yelled Alice, as she ran towards her friend. “Oh, he’s bleedin’! Mr. Murphy, do somethin’.”
James got off his horse and walked to the goose. Norman had a bite on his left wing several inches long. Alice hugged her friend as James cleaned the bite with his handkerchief.
 “He’s gonna be fine, Alice. Looks worse than it is.” James looked at Elmer. “I’ll take them both home and put some ointment on Norman’s wing. You go with your brother.”
“You’re still goin’?” Alice’s lips quivered.
“Yes, honey,” answered Bill. “We’ve gotta go get that dog. If he’s sick, he needs to be put down so he doesn’t hurt anyone else.”
Alice nodded, and James offered to give her a boost onto his horse.
“I’m walkin’ with Mr. Norman,” she said with her head held high. “I owe him my life, so if he’s walkin’, I’m walkin’.”
James shrugged and walked behind her, leading Tex back to the house.
After returning to the farm, Alice watched James apply the thick, grey ointment to Norman’s cut.
“Is Mr. Norman gonna be ok?” she asked, patting the bird on the head.
“He’s a tough ol’ bird. He’ll be fine,” said James, placing the cap back on the medicine.
“Since the dog was sick, does that mean Mr. Norman is gonna get sick, too?” Alice glanced down at her feathered friend with wet eyes.
“Nah, I’ve never seen a bird with rabies,” reassured James.
“Mr. Murphy?” Alice paused. James looked up to see fresh tears building in her emerald eyes.
“What’s wrong, Alice?” His eyes fell soft as Alice hugged herself.
“Would I’ve gotten sick if the dog had bit me?” she asked.
James shook his head. “Yes, you would’ve gotten very sick. But the good Lord made sure Norman was there to protect you. For that I am very thankful.”
Alice sat by Norman and picked dead grass off his wing. “Mr. Murphy, why did God take Mrs. Grant’s little girl and husband?”
James wiped the ointment off his hands with his handkerchief and sat on his knees. “We don’t always understand the plans God has for us.”
“Does that mean you don’t know?” she asked.
“No, I really don’t know. But I have faith that God loves us, and He knows best. Even though it can be hard at times, we have to have faith. Without faith there is no hope. Nobody is meant to stay on this earth forever. Some people just get to visit Jesus sooner than others.”
“Don’t you miss ‘em?” asked Alice, eyes wide.
“Every day. But I know I’ll get to see ‘em again in Heaven. I just pray for peace, for me and for Dovie,” explained James.
“Then I’ll pray for that, too,” said Alice.
James stood, groaning a little as his knees popped. Alice patted Norman on the head and also stood. Walking towards the house, Alice grabbed James’s hand, sending a buzz of both joy and sorrow through his heart.
Evalyn stopped them before they reached the back door. “What happened to the goose? Did the mean ol’ thing finally meet his match?”
Alice scowled at her sister. “You should be nice to him. Mr. Norman saved my life. Just ask Mr. Murphy.”
Alice stomped into the house.
 “What happened?” Evalyn rolled her eyes. “Another one of her stories?”
“Alice and Norman met up with a rabid dog. Norman fought it off before it could bite her.” James rubbed his hands through his hair. “Alice isn’t known for tellin’ fibs, especially about somethin’ like this.”
“It’s just… I never…” Evalyn’s hand flew to her mouth as Alice and Dovie came back outside.
“Was it really rabid, Dad?” asked Dovie, standing in the doorway watching the sisters embrace.
“I believe so, but everyone’s ok,” said James.
“Thanks to Mr. Norman,” Alice beamed.
“No more goin’ to the orchard alone, you hear,” Evalyn scolded, squeezing her sister’s shoulders.
“I wasn’t alone. I was with Mr. Norman, and I like the orchard,” Alice whined.
“There’s no need for that, anyway,” said James. “Your brothers are out there now takin’ care of the situation. She’s perfectly fine to run around anywhere on the homestead alone.”
Evalyn’s eyes narrowed. “I’m surprised you can be so careless with my sister’s life. You of all people…”
“Well, come in and get some lunch,” Dovie interrupted. “With all this excitement, I’m sure y’all must be hungry.”
“You go on in, Alice,” said James. “I’m gonna check on the boys. I’ll be back in a minute.”
James turned back down the orchard path. As soon as he was around the corner, he dropped to his knees and looked to the sky. “Oh, Lord, thank you for protectin’ our little Alice today.”
His heart ached as he thought about the day he lost his granddaughter. Losing Alice would have been unbearable for everyone, especially Dovie.
*
Elmer and Bill continued the search for the dog. It didn’t take them long to spot the mangy creature. Pulling out his shotgun, Bill shot the animal dead with one shell. Approaching the downed dog, he holstered his weapon.
“Definitely rabid. I don’t want to think of what might’ve happened if Norman hadn’t been with Alice.” Bill shook the thought away.
Elmer examined the dog. “I think this is Jelly.”
Bill raised an eyebrow. “What’s jelly?”
“The dog,” said Elmer shaking his head. “I think its Tiny’s dog Jelly. She went missin’ a few months ago during one of the dust storms. It’s got a red rope collar just like Tiny said.”
Elmer slid off his horse and approached the deceased dog.
“You shouldn’t touch it,” Bill said, reaching out to his brother.
“I know, but I’ve got to give Tiny something so she knows what happened to her dog.” Elmer put on his gloves before delicately cutting the red collar off the dog’s neck.
Bill sighed. “We should bury it then. Some place nice, so Tiny has a place to come if she wants to.”
“Just north of the orchard,” said Elmer. “There’s a place where the sun shines through the trees. It always feels warm there.”
After burying Jelly, Elmer left Bill at Quail Crossings and took off towards the Clark’s farm. He chose to ride the road to Tiny’s house instead of using the backcountry path. He used the time to think. He’d never had to tell someone their dog had to be put down due to rabies. He fingered the red collar. Knowing Tiny, she’d probably talk his ear off about how good Jelly was. She’d be ok.
Riding into the drive to the Clark’s house, he was met by Bud. “Hey Elmer, was Tiny expecting you for dinner? She didn’t say anything to her ma.”
“No, sir,” Elmer looked down at the collar.
Bud noticed the collar and inhaled deeply. “Looks like you found Jelly.”
“I’m afraid so. Is Tiny around?” Elmer asked.
“I’ll go get her,” answered Bud. “She’s helping her Ma. She really did love that dog. This won’t be easy on her. Are you sure you don’t want me to tell her?”
Elmer stepped off his horse. “No, sir. We had to put Jelly down. It’s only right I explain what happened.”
Bud nodded and went to retrieve his daughter. A few minutes later Tiny barreled out of the house. “Jeepers, Elmer, I can’t believe you rode all the way to my house. It’s almost dark. My pa never lets me ride after dark…”
“Tiny,” Elmer interrupted, “we found Jelly. There’s no easy way to say this, but she was rabid. She went after Alice. We had to put her down.” He handed her the collar. “I’m really sorry. If only I would’ve helped you find her that day of the duster.” He trailed off.
Tiny stared the collar. “Is Alice alright?”
“Thanks to Norman. He fought off Jelly so Alice didn’t get bit. I really am sorry, Tiny.”
“It ain’t your fault,” Tiny whispered. “You had to do what you had to do. I’m just glad Alice is ok and that nobody got hurt.”
Elmer could see her bottom lip start to quiver. Before he could stop himself he reached out and hugged his friend. “I’d bring her back if I could. We buried her just north of the orchard. I can take you there tomorrow to pay your respects if you’d like.”
Tiny stepped back from the hug. “I’d like that. I better go inside now and help Ma finish up dinner.”
Elmer watched her shuffle into the house before mounting back up. Riding home he felt as if his own dog had died. The look on Tiny’s face when he handed her the collar had spoke volumes – she was devastated. Elmer heeled his horse into a trot, he had to get home. He had a dog to train, Tiny’s dog.
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