My brand new book, Hyde and Zeke, is done. Done!
It was a struggle at times, and there were moments when I felt like giving up. But then I’d look at the cover draft and gaze into the eyes of the little critter there, and realize I just couldn’t quit. That cover, by the way, has been updated just a smidge and now looks like the one below.
While the official book launch won’t happen until October 9th (assuming everything goes according to plan), you can get a copy of this delightful tale now (in either paperback or ebook formats) by clicking on this link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1737823748
In all fairness, I should share a bit of background about the little fellow on the cover–not the creepy guy in the background, the furry one up front. That’s Zeke, or as close to him as I could get. The fictional character is descended from an endearing little Australian animal called a quokka. They’re marsupials, like wallabies, kangaroos, and koala bears. Only they’re way cuter. In fact, if there was an award category based on adorableness, the quokka would win it, hands-down, every time.
Good books offer up characters readers love and characters they’d never want to meet in real life–bad guys. There are plenty of both in this book. If, like me, you enjoy seeing bullies get what they deserve, you’re going to love this book. And while I think Zeke is a character you’ll really like, he’s not alone. There are others, including Denver, the young man who tells this story.
So, to give you a little taste of both the tale and the teller, I’m presenting the first two scenes right here. Nothing would please me more than knowing my friends and followers got a kick out of this one. If you do, please post a review!
Herewith, scenes one and two of Hyde and Zeke:
“I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.”
Granville, Georgia. 1981 — It began during my senior year in high school….
Despite everything that’s happened over the years, and that’s saying a lot, Zeke is still my best friend. I couldn’t have said that in the beginning, of course, because… Well, let’s just say we got off to a weird start.
I remember it clearly. Malindi Moore had just announced we were through, and I was in a desperately rotten mood. She claimed it wasn’t anything I said or did. She “just needed her space.” She “needed to experience more of the world.” I think what really happened is that she heard the school yearbook layout was done, and she no longer needed to spend time with the yearbook photographer, me.
I shouldn’t have been surprised. Malindi made being shallow an art form. When I no longer proved useful, she discarded me like an old lens cloth. Zeke would have tried to warn me if we’d known each other back when Malindi and I first got together. But, of course, that didn’t happen.
Sorry. I’m getting ahead of myself. I do that a lot, so rather than apologizing all the time, you’ll just have to get used to it.
So, Zeke. He came into my life right about the time Malindi left it. And if she hadn’t dumped me as cruelly as she did, he and I would never have met.
When Malindi dropped me, I headed straight for the woods. It was right next to my house, and I’d spent plenty of time there in the past experimenting with nature shots. But I didn’t bring a camera then. I just needed some privacy. I figured if I shed a tear or two, nobody would see it and realize what a complete loser I am—well, was. See, Malindi was my first real girlfriend. She wasn’t my first big crush; that was Miss Lovingood, my World History teacher. She wasn’t a bad teacher for someone fresh out of college, but she’d have been an absolutely awesome swimsuit model.
Malindi wasn’t in the same league as Miss Lovingood, but she was really cute, and that should have been a warning sign. Back then, really cute girls just didn’t dig guys like me. It’s not in their genes. Zeke could have told me that. Not then, of course, but later, when he learned to communicate.
So anyway, there I was in the woods, sobbing and sniffling, and doing the love-sick moron thing. That’s what you’re supposed to do after a cataclysmic breakup, right? Weep. Moan. Eventually pour out your tale of woe in song lyrics. Constantly relive the misery in a ballad. With harmony. Make it sound really good. Get a recording contract. Achieve stardom, and then get revenge by marrying your former true love’s best friend.
To be honest, I doubt Malindi had a best friend, and if she did, he or she would probably have been just as shallow. Birds of a feather, right? Probably vultures.
Whatever. Anyway, there I was, firmly embedded in nature and busy agonizing over the demise of my love life. I’d settled myself on the trunk of a fallen tree, head in hands, and figured I could bask in my wretchedness a while longer, though I needed to get back to civilization before dusk. Folks have seen bears in those woods. I’m not a fan of omnivorous critters bigger than gerbils, especially not after dark.
Which, when I think back on it, makes my introduction to Zeke even stranger.
He was a whole lot smaller than he is now, and not in the least bit intimidating. He looked as pitiful as I felt. I didn’t know he was a “he” at the time, and I’ve got to admit, I’m still not sure that label is accurate. It probably doesn’t apply to his species, whatever it is.
Way back then, he gave off a sad puppy vibe. We’ve all seen it—mournful eyes, trembling lip, soft fur. Okay, I may have imagined the trembling lip thing; I haven’t seen him do it since. Anyway, just looking at him, I felt absolutely sure he’d been dumped, too. Abandoned. Probably by someone like Malindi. Kindred spirits, no?
“What are you doing out here?” I asked.
He didn’t vocalize, but looked right at me. The eyes got me. They were… I dunno, soulful.
I reached out to him, slowly. Scaring him wouldn’t do. But he didn’t seem intimidated at all. He sniffed my hand and must have sensed I didn’t intend to eat him because he wiggled close enough to rub himself against my knuckles.
He didn’t look anything like a mink, probably because of the extra legs, but I imagined he felt like one—maybe on steroids. He wrapped himself around my outstretched hand like a mitten of stunningly soft, thick fluff.
And then he sighed.
“My name’s Denver,” I said. “Most folks call me Denny, ‘cause I think they know I hate it.”
And then he sighed again, and it sounded like he said, “Zeke” in a quiet, breathy kind of voice that dwelt on the vowel sound.
That clinched it; we were formally introduced. He had a name, and he had me. No way could I leave him there, all alone in the woods. With the bears. Or worse. If Malindi found him, she’d have him skinned and turned into ear muffs or something. So, I took him home.
And that’s how Zeke and I got started.
To keep this in perspective, I need to step back a few months. Bear with me; it’ll all make sense eventually.
Miss Lovingood asked me, “How’d you like to join the Gangway staff?”
The question took me totally by surprise. I never thought Miss Lovingood would say two words to me outside of class. I had no idea she was the faculty advisor for the school yearbook.
I’m not much of a joiner, but the thought of working alongside Miss Lovingood had me all but drooling. “Uh, doing what?”
“Some of the kids say you’re a whiz with a camera,” she said. “We need someone with skills like that to create a photographic record of all the cool stuff that goes on here at Herbert Hoover High.”
Cool stuff? I wasn’t aware of anything like that. Mostly, I suspect, because the cool stuff was committed by the cool people, and I definitely wasn’t one of them. The cool people did cool things and had cool nicknames for all of it. They never said Herbert Hoover High; it was always H3. So… cool.
“Well, what do you say?” she asked, all smiles. Dazzling smiles; narrow-waisted and D-cupped.
Dazzling smiles mind you; dazzling me. There wasn’t a microscopic chance in hell that I’d pass up an opportunity to spend time with the most desirable female on planet Earth. “You bet,” I said. “That’d be… Uhm. Cool.”
I couldn’t believe that was the best thing I could come up with. But then, I’d been ambushed. It wasn’t like I had time to think of something clever.
“Excellent!” she said. “Our first staff meeting is at three this afternoon, in the library, right after school.”
I watched her walk away, mesmerized by the sight of her retreating figure—a graduate-level course in celestial mechanics. Utterly awe inspiring. At that precise moment, Malindi Moore stepped between us, and my focus abruptly shifted back to the real world.
She actually batted her eyelashes at me, and she had the cupid lips thing going full throttle. “So,” she said, her smile accentuated by bright lip gloss and perfect, brace-free teeth, “you’re going to take pictures for The Gangway?”
“Yeah,” I stammered. “I guess so.” Master of the understatement, that’s me.
“Do you know if they’ll use pictures students provide? I’ve got some really good ones.”
I could only imagine how good they were, and suddenly I realized she was posing for me: pouty lips, hair “just so,” one hand parked strategically on her hip. “Uh, maybe,” I said. “I don’t know how anything works yet. I just—”
“But you have a camera, right?”
“Sure! It’s a Nikon with—”
“Great—you can take some pictures of me!” She fluffed her hair and did some kind of wiggle thing that left me distinctly short of words. And breath.
“Okay,” I managed. “You wanna do it… here?”
She looked around, slowly, as if hoping to spot something interesting, a virtual impossibility on the ground-floor hallway of H3. “Here would work, I guess. Provided you can do some special effects stuff; you know, like make the hallway out of focus.”
Finally, something I was good at. “I can do better than that! With a little planning, I can change the background completely. How does a beach in Hawaii sound?”
“With me dressed like this?” She waved the idea off, thought for a moment, then said, “Have you ever looked at a fashion magazine?”
I didn’t want to admit that I hadn’t. “I’m more into… you know… Photography Today or maybe—”
“I’m talking about fashion, Denver.” She paused, thinking. “It is Denver, isn’t it? Like, in Wyoming?”
“More like the one in Colorado,” I said, immediately wishing I’d said something cool instead, but she didn’t seem to notice I’d corrected her.
“So, where’s your camera? I’m ready.”
“Uhm. Well… See, I don’t usually bring it to school. The halls are always crowded, and if somebody knocked it outta my hands or something, I—”
“Well, bring it tomorrow, for sure. Okay?” She winked at me.
Oh, my God, she winked at me! “Uh, right. No problem.”
“I’ll meet you here,” she said tapping on one of the five zillion identical metal doors that lined the hallway. “My locker. Right after classes.”
I’d miss the bus, but I didn’t care; I’d walked home before. Now however, I had a reason: Malindi Moore, locker number 1222, wanted to pose for me. Life was good.
Of course, back then, I was pretty stupid.
~End of excerpt~
Here’s the link again, if you’d like to get your copy now: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1737823748