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Back covers for “Jasper Lilla and the Hendersonville Rescue”

unnamed-3Hendersonville Rescue: Back cover I

Back to normal was never an option for Jasper Lilla.   Besides kissing the girl of his dreams, Jasper had solved a murder, and nearly got himself killed, twice. Even if a 17 year-old boy could return to normal after all that, what he learned about his mother made it utterly impossible. In spite of all that his junior year at Watauga High was shaping up quite nicely. He had a girlfriend, a job, a new car, and a reputation for an appetite that would challenge the biggest eater on the football team. But then the unthinkable happened. To make it right Jasper would have to cut school, avoid the scrutiny of a nasty police detective, and tell some white lies to his family.   If the Hendersonville rescue was to succeed he’d need his unique gift and the unique gifts of each of his friends, but in the end would it be enough?

Hendersonville Rescue: Back cover II

“Why is it that just when you get exactly what you want, it’s taken from you?” It wasn’t a question Jasper ever uttered out loud, but his whole being screamed it with every breath.

“Let the police handle it, you’re not a warrior,” his mother told him.

“You’re not a hero,” his friends told him.

“Stay out of the way,” the detective told him.

Jasper knew he wasn’t a warrior. And he knew he wasn’t a hero. But he had good reason to mistrust the police and an even better reason to believe making it right was precisely his job.

 

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JASPER LILLA COVERS

unnamed-3Book II is still in the hands of a reader so I’m free to focus on Book III.  The plot line flowed of Book III flowed over a 2 day period last week and so did the prologue and first 3 chapters.  That’s when I hit a wall.  I woke up Saturday morning at 4:30 with where Chapter 3 ended calling out to me from Blackbird Bakery.  What else could I do but go.  But when I got there, there was no where to go.  Chapter 3 had flowed easily, but it took me to a dead end.  So I did what I always do when I get stuck;  I did something else.  That something else was to play with the unnamed-4covers.  For me, playing with the covers means to color on my dry maker board.  I get to color and then ask Dyan to do the computer stuff.  Here’s what she came up with:

As for me, I’ve finished a second attempt at the first 5000 words, and luckily it is all savable.  It’s just not right for the first 5ooo words.  Attempt number 3 here I come.

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the JASPER LILLA CHRONICLES: BOOK 3

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JASPER LILLA UPDATE

BOOK I: “Jasper Lilla and the Wolves of Banner Elk” was released last month.  I’ll be at the Banner Elk Chamber of Commerce next week promoting it, and it will be on display at the 2015 Book Expo in New York later this summer.

BOOK II:  “Jasper Lilla and the Hendersonville Rescue” is in the hands of the last reader and it will go to editing and formatting after that.  We finished the preliminary cover last week and passed it on to Cam Collins to “fix” it.  Yesterday I heard from one of the earlier readers that she and her daughter took a day trip to Hendersonville last Saturday because of my description of Main Street.  We’re projected an early summer release.

BOOK III:  “Jasper Lilla and the Flight to Boone” is in the earliest stage of development.  It has been percolating in the back of my head since I finished the first book, but it was yesterday that I sat down and penciled out the entire plot line.  And today I wrote the Prologue and changed the name from
“Back to Boone” to it’s current title.

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MIKE’S on MAIN in HENDERSONVILLE

unnamed-2I just finished the re-write of the ending to “Hendersonville Hostage,” completing the transition from Asheville to Hendersonville.  On the second day that Jasper and his friends cut school and go to Hendersonville he has lunch at Mike’s On Main Sandwich Shop.  I had lunch there myself last Thursday and thoroughly enjoyed it. As you can see it is an old fashioned soda shop with stools in front of a marble counter.  They have milkshakes, ice creams treats, and egg creams. photo-17 The table in front of the window is where Jasper and Rose sat watching for what they came to Hendersonville to find.  I can’t tell you more about Jasper and Mike’s on Main, but as for me I’d go back and next time I’ll try the egg cream.

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HANNAH FLANAGAN’S in HENDERSONVILLE & BOOK II of the JASPER LILLA CHRONICALES

logoAfter a successful research trip it is time to re-write the Asheville sections with places of note in Hendersonville.  The first day that Jasper cuts school in Boone and goes to Hendersonville he and his new friend Dirk Sawyer have lunch at Hannah Flanagan’s.  I had dinner there the other night.  I asked Laurel what she recommended and without hesitation she said, “The chicken pot pie.”  She was right it was great.  It was topped with a pastry puff instead of a pie crust, but the filling was wonderful.  In the book I had Dirk order a burger with goat cheese and onion rings because I watched a few burgers go by and I’m pretty sure they’d be a 5 on Kevin’s 5 point scale.  Jasper got the pastrami because I’m partial to pastrami (it’s what I always recommend to anyone headed to NYC).  I’m hoping I’ll make it back to Hendersonville for the apple Festival in September and I’ll try the shepherd’s pie.

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HENDERSONVILLE HOSTAGE

photo-16The sequel to “Jasper Lilla and the Wolves of Banner Elk” was originally named “Escape from Asheville.”  It was a convenient city to use because it worked and because I know Asheville very well.  But then the City of Asheville decided to drop their big festival, Bele Chere.  I thought of Abingdon, but I’ve already featured Abingdon and Abingdon’s downtown doesn’t quite do what the plot needs it to do.  My next thought was Hendersonville, NC.  I had only been to Hendersonville once and that time was just a ride through downtown in the backseat of someone else’s car.  So I came to Hendersonville early yesterday afternoon and checked into the Claddagh Inn, an old boarding house built in the 1890’s.  Arial, the manager gave me the heads up on the eateries I should check out and off I went to do my kind of “research.”  I hit four spots yesterday and two this morning already and the decision was made: “Escape Form Asheville” is no more and “Hendersonville Hostage” is the new title.  Look for it (and me) at the Hendersonville Apple Festival in September.

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Chapter 3 from JASPER LILLA and the WOLVES of BANNER ELK

8P9iCh4KOGhr591IL7zD0cJOU4J4i5rLI6puk8RNPG8Having similar school troubles brought Riley and I together, and being able to talk to each other about anything kept us together, but the thing that made us best friends was when I lost my big brother, Linus. Riley had lost her mom to leukemia when she was eight. I lost my dad before I was born, so I knew about only having one parent, but I never knew him so it didn’t really feel the same as Riley losing her mom or me losing Linus.

Linus was ten years older than me. He died two years ago when Riley and I were freshmen. He was flying a rescue mission in Afghanistan when his helicopter malfunctioned and crashed. His helicopter was sidelined for maintenance, but a distress call came in and he took it out anyway.

Riley was with me the Monday after Linus’s funeral. Mom, Aunt Maggie, and Carol were gone, so we had the house to ourselves. I sat on my bed while she looked at a picture of Linus in his uniform. When she rubbed my back and told me it was okay to cry, the floodgates opened up. When I was done I confessed that since Linus died I was too afraid to go into his room.

“I’m not superstitious,” she announced as she marched down the hall to Linus’s room, opened the door, and let herself in.

I followed her.

“After my mother died I went into her jewelry box and got her mother’s cross necklace. It was my mother’s favorite necklace, and I knew my Aunt Brenda was going to want it.” She reached inside her blouse and held the small gold cross up for me to see. “So I claimed it,” she bragged.

I knew right away what I wanted to claim for myself: a wolf’s-tooth necklace that had belonged to my father. Linus kept it in his desk in a small leather pouch.

“I don’t have to worry about someone taking what I want,” I told her.

She elbowed me on the chest. “But you’re going to want to claim it anyway. That will make it completely yours.”

“Let me see,” she said as I took the pouch from his desk.

I couldn’t help feeling strange as I took the necklace out. My hand shook as I held it out for her to look at. It was much larger than I remembered. One end was wrapped with a very thin leather cord that also served as the strap.

“It’s so cool,” she said as she took it from my hand. She held it open for me to dip my head through.

Our faces were closer than they had ever been. I forgot what else was happening. I could smell her strawberry lip gloss. I noticed that her eyes, which had always reminded of big brown puppy eyes, had flecks of green in them. Her attention was so focused on the necklace, though, that she didn’t catch me staring at her.

Once she had the necklace in place, she put both her hands on my chest and pushed me back upright. It was a different kind of strange I felt as she smoothed out my shirt with her palms and then leaned up against me while she fixed my collar. It took everything I had to keep from putting my arms around her.

As she tucked the wolf’s tooth under my shirt she said, “Now, don’t you take that off until you get comfortable wearing it.”

I’m glad Riley talked me into claiming it, but she was wrong. That didn’t make it mine. Making it mine would require something more. I decided to duplicate a ritual Linus had told me about when he was initiated into the Varsity Club, an exclusive service club. Linus was asked to join when he was a sophomore. The initiation ritual was a harmless gesture that was not supposed to be dangerous at all. It had to do with the Lion Pharmaceuticals building, although it wasn’t Lion Pharmaceuticals at the time.

Lion Pharmaceuticals is located a couple of miles outside of Boone, North Carolina, on the site of what was once the estate of Harley Makrus. When Harley died, the mansion was donated to the county as a meeting hall for weddings, banquets, and the Watauga High School prom. In the middle of the circular driveway in front of the mansion was a circular flowerbed, and in the middle of that was a replica of Michelangelo’s statue of David. The initiation ritual was to sneak in, place a tuxedo T-shirt on the David statue, and get a selfie with the David in the background. The ritual had to be done just after dusk, but before security began to patrol at ten o’clock. The only thing that changed since Lion Pharmaceuticals bought the estate was that they used Dobermans for security, but that wasn’t supposed to be until ten, so I had plenty of time to earn the wolf’s-tooth necklace.

After dinner that night I rode my bike out to Lion Pharmaceuticals, climbed the oak tree, and waited until the traffic out of the parking lot stopped. The ritual had gone like clockwork right up to the point when I was looking at the selfie I had taken. It was a good picture of me, but unfortunately I completely blocked the tuxedoed David from view. It was as I tried for a second pic that I heard the sound of the Dobermans. The noise startled me, and I dropped my phone. As I bent over to pick it up I caught a glimpse of the Dobermans. They weren’t supposed to be there, but there they were and they were moving my way in a hurry. Forgetting the phone, I began to run. What I should have done was run into the building, but I didn’t think of that. What I did think of was that I’d never outrun them back to that old oak tree.

On the left side of the building the terrain dropped steeply down into a rocky forest, and that’s where I headed. I was going to find a tree to climb. It was a good plan, but it almost got me killed.

I just barely reached a tree I could climb before the Dobermans caught up to me. For half an hour I stood there watching five snarling Doberman pinchers jump and snap their teeth at me.

When all that fervor tired them out, they formed a semicircle around and settled for just staring at me. Their shift allowed me to shift as well. Confident that they couldn’t reach me, I lowered myself to a sitting position.

Sitting there surrounded by five really ticked-off Doberman Pinchers, I had nothing but time to think. Sooner or later someone would come to see what the dogs were barking at and I could go home. At least that was what I kept telling myself.

I’ve heard about people being so scared they couldn’t feel it anymore, but I never understood it until that point. Aunt Maggie called it terror. “When an animal is being pursued by a predator and it can no longer escape, it freezes. That’s what terror is,” she explained. I had asked her what the expression “like a deer in the headlights” meant. “The creator made them that way so they would not suffer.”

As I sat on that ledge I knew I was afraid, but I couldn’t actually feel it. What I felt was numb. Then this thought hit me: Numb isn’t the absence of feeling; it’s a feeling all by itself. I was feeling a large dose of it right then. I found myself wondering if the numbness would keep me from suffering if I fell out of that tree. That thought was followed by a surge of fear that the numbness quickly swallowed up again. I promised myself that, if I survived this ordeal, I’d tell the world what I had discovered about numbness being a feeling.

It felt good right then to think about what I’d do in the future. It felt good right then to think I’d have a future. In the glimmer of satisfaction about my insights, I tried to reposition myself, which made my right leg swing out just low enough for one of the Dobermans to get a hold of my shoe. He tore it off easily and began shaking it back and forth violently.

Instinctively I scrambled back up to a standing position.

Tearing apart my shoe gave them renewed energy, and the barking and jumping started all over again. I hid my face behind my hands as if looking was what made it real. I remember pleading with them to “just stop” and “go away,” and then their barking took on a different tone. It was higher pitched and more feverish.

It didn’t make any sense to me, but their barking sounded more fearful than ferocious. My curiosity got me to open my eyes, and sure enough, they looked afraid. When I was their focus their bark was different. They paced back and forth a step or two and only crouched to jump at me. Now as they barked they stayed in a constant crouch. It was as if they were preparing a counterattack.

They weren’t looking at me anymore but at something behind me. In an attempt to see what it was, I leaned forward just a bit and lost my balance. What I remember next is the briefest of moments when the branch beneath me was gone, but I was not yet falling. The moment lasted only long enough for me to notice, and then I dropped.

I didn’t bounce when I hit the ground. I crumbled. I crumbled into a ball, with my face buried in my left arm. I was a goner. I knew it. There is no possible way I was going to survive whatever would happen next. I remember thinking, I’ll never see my mother again.

I didn’t look but could hear the dogs getting closer. I felt the hot breath of one of them on the back of my neck. I was about to find out if terror really reduced suffering. I pleaded again, “Please stop.”

The next sound I heard was a yelp. It sounded farther away than I had expected. When I peeked from behind my arm, all five dogs had retreated to a spot about ten yards away. They were huddled together and still barking, but the bark was void of the menacing quality from before. I stood up. I was still trapped where I was, but there was some distance between them and me, so I chanced a glance to see what they were staring at. I’m still not really sure I saw what I saw.

It was wolves. They were staring at the Dobermans. The wolves weren’t looking at me, but I still recognized the intensity in their eyes.

I was so relieved that the Dobermans had backed off that it didn’t dawn on me that the wolves might be even more dangerous. It didn’t seem like the wolves even noticed me. They were, in effect, protecting me, but that seemed unlikely, so I reasoned it must be that they had a taste for dog.

The wolves were as still as statues starring at the Dobermans. There was no growling, no gnashing of teeth. The largest wolf, an all-white one, held center position. I watched them in awe but nearly jumped out of my skin when suddenly the white one turned its head and looked directly into my eyes. One wolf then jumped over me, then two and three at a time jumped over me. I was holding my breath as they were springing over my body.

What was left of the dogs’ bravado disappeared as they turned and sprinted back toward the mansion. I lost sight of them, but I lay there listening to the sound of the chase for a while longer. Then I noticed that I was still holding that tooth.

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Chapter One of “Jasper Lilla and the Wolves of Banner Elk”

jasper-lillaMy name is jasper Lilla, and this is the story of how I got a man killed. I don’t know if he deserved what he got, but he wasn’t innocent and he wasn’t nice. Guilty or not, he deserved his day in court, and it’s my fault he didn’t get it. I doubt you’ll believe what I’m about to tell you. I’m not sure I believe it myself, but it’s the true account of what happened. The story starts when I met William “King” Lyons.

* * *

It all began in the eighth grade when Phily Dunkin, our designated class bully, was making fun of my name again. He had been calling me Jasper the Friendly Ghost since third grade, but it was different that day. He must have caught me staring at Riley. He knew I was crazy about her, so he started telling me how she couldn’t see me because I’m a ghost and asking if I was trying to haunt her down.

I told him to shut up, which made him mad. I had never talked back to him before. When Phily stood in front of my desk and grabbed my shirt, Riley tried to pull his arms away. She’s so small that it didn’t take much of a backhand from him to knock her over. As she fell backward she hit her head on a desk and then landed on her right shoulder. I thought she had broken her neck when I heard her scream. She was trying to protect me.

They sent us to the gym for the rest of that period while an ambulance came to get Riley. As soon as I got home my mom took me over to the hospital to see her.

Riley wasn’t in her room when I got there, but her father was. He was just a little taller than me, wider shoulders, a bald head, and glasses.

“Who are you?” he asked me.

The question scared me. He scared me. I was there to check on her, but mostly I was there to apologize for getting her hurt. Instead of being alone with Riley I found myself alone with her father. He wasn’t scary big. He was intense, though. When he looked at me he tilted his head back, and even though he was only a little taller than me, he was looking down his nose at me. And he didn’t just look at me. He lined up a shot at me.

“I’m Jasper, Jasper Lilla,” I managed get out.

“How do you know Riley?” He hadn’t shifted his eyes or even blinked since I walked in.

“I’m in her class,” I told him.

“Come in,” he told me. “I’m Riley’s father. Please sit down. She’ll be glad someone from school came to see her.” The intensity was gone, and he was more like a school nurse than the sniper he had been a moment before. “Were you there when it happened?” he asked.

In the room there were two padded chairs by the window. I sat in one of them, and he sat in the other. His attention was still fully focused on me, but instead of looking suspicious he sounded interested.

I didn’t want to answer that question because if I told him I was there when it happened he was surely going to ask what happened and I didn’t want to tell him that either. Riley’s interested father was tough enough to be with. I for sure didn’t want her suspicious father to come back.

“Yes sir,” I answered. I’d have lied if I had been clever.

“Tell me what happened,” he told me as he scooted closer to the edge of his chair.

I distinctly remember thinking, Don’t say it was my fault, just before I said, “It was my fault.” I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t help crying either.

It was more of a sob than a cry, but I still leaned forward and rested my face in the palms of my hands. I’m not sure why I cried then. While I sat in the gym waiting for class to be over, all I could picture was Riley lying there on the floor. The nurse had her wrapped in a blanket. She wasn’t moving. As I sat in the bleachers I had to stop thinking about her lying there because I was on the verge of losing it in front of everyone.

Then, when Riley’s father asked me those questions it all came back. I got myself back under control as best I could and lifted my face. I was certain I was going to get yelled at. In fact, I was a little surprised he hadn’t grabbed me the way Phily had grabbed me in class. But when I looked at him it wasn’t what I expected at all. He was still completely focused on me, but he was crying, too.

“I don’t know what happened, son, but it wasn’t your fault.” He swallowed hard. “What happened to Riley was my fault.”

At first I thought he was tricking me, but he looked serious.

“This is the first time it’s happened in a couple of years, but she used to separate her shoulder fairly often. That’s why I wouldn’t give her permission to play soccer anymore.”

I didn’t know she was a soccer player but I wasn’t surprised.

He kind of rocked back and forth a little. “It’s my fault her shoulder does that.” He looked at the door like he was expected someone to walk in. His voice cracked, “Riley has always been a very strong-willed child. When she was about two and a half, she and her mother would have battles of will all the time. I got fed up with it one day when Riley was sitting in front of the TV instead of doing what her mother told her to do. I took her by the hand and jerked her up.”

He was still facing the door, but I could see a tear roll down his check.

“I’ll never forget the sound her shoulder made.” He took a long, slow breath and looked at me. “I hope you never have to hear a sound like that, son.”

I felt like I was supposed to say something, but I had no clue about what would be okay. No adult had ever talked to me that way before. I felt sort of special while he talked to me. I felt like an adult, but I was also terrified of saying the wrong thing.

Luckily a nurse came in right then. “She’s fine. It’ll be tender for a bit, but the shoulder is back in place. They’ve taken her down to do an MRI.”

Riley’s father stood up as he listened. “Is that necessary?” he asked.

“She’s got a pretty nasty bump on the back of her head, but it’s just a precaution. She’s probably fine,” the nurse said while she rubbed her hand across Mr. Lyons’s arm. “It’s just a precaution.”

* * *

When the nurse was gone Mr. Lyons came back and sat next to me again. “I know Riley lied to me about what happened. I talked to the school nurse while I drove over here. I know a boy in your class pushed her, and I know he’s going to be suspended. I know he was fighting with you before it happened, but that’s all I know. So, please, tell me.”

“The whole thing was my fault.” My heart started racing again. I was so caught up in what Riley’s father was telling me that I forgot how I fit into the whole mess. “I lost my temper,” I blurted. “I told a kid to shut up.”

“The kid that pushed Riley?”

“Yeah.”

“Why’d you tell him to shut up? What was he saying?”

“He was just making fun of my name. I didn’t have to let it bother me.”

He shrugged. “That sounds like something an adult would say—‘Just don’t let it bother you.’”

It surprised me to hear him say that. It was an adult slogan, and I was only saying it then because there was an adult listening to me. But he responded to me like he remembered what it was like to be in junior high.

“So, what was he saying?”

I almost told him that Phily was making fun of me staring at a girl. I thought he’d understand how being caught staring at a girl feels, but I decided that since the girl was his daughter he might not. “Jasper the Friendly Ghost,” I told him.

“Casper the Friendly Ghost,” he said. “I’m surprised people your age know that cartoon. Nickelodeon?”

I nodded yes.

“Jasper,” he said as he extended his hand, “I’m Mr. Lyons, Riley’s father. We skipped over introducing ourselves earlier.”

I shook his hand.

“My daughter has spoken well of you since we moved here.”

I tried hard not to smile too much when he said that.

“Do you know what I got teased about when I was your age?”

I shook my head no.

“I got stuck with the nickname ‘King.’ It’s a name that has stuck with me because my last name is Lyons. The name ‘Lion’ was originally intended as a put-down. It was the summer before the seventh grade and my family was on vacation in San Diego. We were at the zoo, and my little sister got her face painted like a tiger. It was her whole face. I thought it was so cool that I got a lion for myself. I wouldn’t have done it if we were closer to home in San Francisco, but I thought I was far enough away to be childish.” He smiled on one side of his face. “But, of course, Linda Walls, the biggest blabbermouth from my school was at the zoo with a camera.” He laughed. “Seventh grade was hell for me after that. It really bothered me then,” he smiled. “But now I’m the ‘King.’ I even named my company Lion Pharmaceuticals.”

It was the second time I felt like I was being talked to like an equal.

My phone began to vibrate in my pocket. It was a text saying Mom was waiting for me.

“I have to go,” I told him. “My mom is waiting out front.”

He stood up and held his hand out again. “Thank you for coming by, Jasper. I’ll make sure Riley knows you were here. She’ll be glad you came by.”

“Thank you, sir,” I said as I let go, but he didn’t let go of my hand.

Instead of letting go he stepped closer to me. He almost looked like he was going to cry again. “Thank you for being a good friend to my Riley, too.”

* * *

That was three years ago. A lot has happened since then, but I still remember how tall I felt when I walked out of that hospital.

 

 

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Author CS “Chuck” Thompson telling Martha’s story from his new novel

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“Jasper Lilla and the Wolves of Banner Elk” back cover

IMG_3045Before he inherited his father’s wolf tooth necklace, Jasper Lilla considered himself to be the most ordinary guy in Boone, North Carolina. He’d have done anything to please Riley Lyons, the girl with the strawberry lip gloss, but why would a girl like her be interested in an ordinary guy like him? To please her, he put on the necklace, and his life became anything but ordinary.
Despite the disapproval of his mother, Jasper got a job as an errand boy at Lion Pharmaceuticals. A man died in
his arms. A panic attack sent him to the ER. He was nearly killed…twice. Was the necklace responsible for that, or did the
necklace save him? Could the necklace have something to do with the uncanny appearances of the white wolf? What was its connection to the weird security guards at Lion Pharmaceuticals?
A deeper confusion came when Jasper discovered his father’s journal. Did his father really believe the necklace had some sort of magic power over wolves? Could it be a talisman used by the Nicatani, a legendary, priestly Cherokee clan? Could the necklace hold the key to who he and his family really are?
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