As I get prepared for editing and cover design to start on the first book in the Rust trilogy (A Crooked Mile), I thought I’d share another little tidbit from it. Some of you may have read this book already when I first released it, but believe me when I say you’ll want to pick up the new edition when it comes out! It will be much longer, and will include a ton of material you’ve never seen before. Originally the first half of the new book would have been Before That Winter, but they’re being combined into one book to make it an even better story.

A Crooked Mile is the story of Alec Davis and Ramona Sanders, two very different people who are thrown together for a project at school. While there is a hint of a love story, that is ultimately not what this novel is about. It’s about pain, loss, sorry, and redemption. It’s about how we all have so many feelings warring inside of us, and how sometimes our demons get the best of us. I never wanted to write a cut and dry love story, I wanted it to be so much deeper than that, and I hope that those of you who read it (or have already read it) feel all the things I felt while writing it.

In this excerpt we see a moment of calm between Alec and Ramona as they work on their school project.

The maple tree had already lost all of its leaves, standing tall and bare by the back corner of the Sanders home. Alec had a forlorn look on his face as he studied it, his lips pursed and his arms crossed over his chest. Beside him stood Ramona, a notebook clutched in her hands as she worried over her bottom lip with her teeth. They had planned to start shooting more of their scenes days earlier, but life had got in the way. More specifically Alec’s basketball practices had got in the way, since he’d been staying late to try and help Bryson out, and the weather hadn’t exactly been cooperating either.

            Ultimately his father had gotten what he wanted, and Bryson and Alec were now both on the Rust High School varsity basketball team. Alec wasn’t sure whose palms had been greased to make that happen, but it was very obvious that his kid brother had not gotten in on pure talent. They were at the gym most evening’s fairly late, working on drills and practicing different shots. It was a lost cause really, but Alec II insisted that they make it happen and so they did. It wasn’t ideal for either of them, neither wanted to be there, but it was hardest on Bryson. Alec tried to keep that in mind as he watched his brother throw up air ball after air ball, but sometimes it was hard to remember that they were both suffering.

            Now it was a Saturday, and practice had ended well before the lunch hour. He had eaten and then headed straight for Ramona’s place with his camera equipment, ready to get some work done. They wanted to have all of the segments filmed by Halloween, so they could watch everything and mark what could stay in and what had to go. After that Bryson would do the editing, and then they would be done until it was time for their presentation.

            The tree that they had planned to use for a backdrop, however, had given up the ghost sooner than they had thought that it would. They had wanted to use it in all its autumn glory, with its brightly colored leaves reaching toward the flat gray sky. Instead it just looked kind of dead; it’s branches bare and sad. Both of them stood staring at it, almost as though they thought they could will it back into something more beautiful. It was no use, however, because the tree stayed just as ugly as it had been five minutes before.

            “Now what do we do?” Alec asked, rubbing the back of his neck as he turned to look at Ramona. She stood with her notebook to her chest, eyes still focused on the tree. Suddenly her eyes lit up and he knew she had an idea, cracking a smile before she even spoke.

            “We just rearrange things a bit, that’s all,” she told him, flipping through the papers. “We can do an introductory bit here, and you can read the line that Cathy said about her love for Linton being like foliage in the woods, and that time will change like winter changes the trees! It would be perfect, and we can definitely find a good place for it!”

            Alec knew she was right, and he also knew he should have trusted her to come up with a good idea despite natures changing their plans. They found an old milk crate and set it up beneath the tree, fixing the camera on its tripod so the video wouldn’t be shaky from someone trying to keep a steady hand. Producing his copy of the book, Alec found the passage and then situated himself beneath the tree on the milk crate, reading the same few lines several times until he finally got it the way that he wanted it.

            There was something wonderful about listening to Alec read aloud, and even though he read the same bits several times, Ramona was content to sit back and listen. He had a lilt to his voice, a passion for the words that just resonated with her. His soft accent, vaguely southern with the way he emphasized certain words, was absolutely wonderful and she wanted to tell him to just keep reading on and on and on. Unfortunately now was neither time nor place for such thoughts, and she cleared her throat and hit the pause button on the camera once he was finished. He seemed dazed when he realized it was time to move on, flashing Ramon a little smile as he rose from the milk crate to stretch out his long limbs.

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