Saturday, March 14, 2015


In honor of the recent release of The Road and Beyond in paperback, I'm giving away one ebook (PDF) copy of the novel to one commenter on this post! It's open internationally, and all you need to do to enter is to tell me in the comments below about a road trip you've either taken or want to take :) .

This contest is open until March 31st (noon, Central Time), and I'll draw the name of the random winner that afternoon/evening. Looking forward to reading about your trips!

I have pictures from my own trip -- the journey I took to research this story, which is the expanded version of my coming-of-age romantic mystery The Road to You -- when my family and I took a long trek down Historic Route 66. Check out the photos from Chicago to Albuquerque/Santa Fe right HERE!!

And below is a short excerpt from the story:

Pasadena, California ~ Friday, August 15, 2014
 No one else was home, of course, when I got the call that my twenty-eight-year-old son was missing.
“The Benson Plastics people are already here for the eleven o’clock presentation, but Charlie isn’t,” Gloria, the company’s secretary, informed me, her piercing voice tinged with an edge of hysteria. I’d only spoken with the woman on the phone twice before, but I got the distinct impression that her circuits were forever at risk of being overloaded.
“He’s not answering his cell?” I asked, surprised more than anything, actually, because both of my boys had their iPhones all but super-glued to their palms.
“Aurora, I’ve tried to reach him for an hour and a half,” Gloria insisted, the shrillness in her tone rising like high notes in a chorus and dancing for dear life on the other end of the line. “There’s no answer at home. His cell goes straight to voicemail. And I even called his girlfriend because she’s his first contact. She has no idea where Charlie is either. You’re his second contact, so I hope you’ll know where we can reach him.”
For a long, uncomfortable moment I was distracted by something ridiculous. The fact that I was only my son’s second contact. Well, he was practically living with Cassandra, so I supposed it made sense that she was his first. But still…
Then the deeper meaning of the secretary’s comments seeped in. No one knows where Charlie is. I tried to be calm, reasonable, rational and not like some TV sitcom mother who’d overreact to everything. But, naturally, given my family’s history, that was impossible.
I fought back the panic and asked, “Was he at work yesterday?”
“Yes,” Gloria said. “He was here when I left at four-twenty, and one of the department heads said he saw Charlie still working at his desk when he left at five. Martin, the team leader, was going to give the presentation to the plastics people this morning, but his wife called in saying he was sick with bronchitis. So, Charlie is the one who should be leading the meeting, but he didn’t come in or call in an absence, and none of the managers here were told about any changes in his plans.”
I understood instinctively that Gloria’s first priority and much of her loyalty was to the company—Cornman, Grabher & Pressly—a financial firm my youngest son had worked at for these past three years. But it irked me that her focus remained on not disappointing “the plastics people,” rather than on my son’s safety.
“He never said anything to me about being gone from work today,” I admitted, my mind reeling with that ever-present parental worry, which spun a dangerous path from my head to my gut. It settled there and began its slow, painful twisting.
Where is he? Is he okay? Why didn’t he tell anyone where he was going? Unless, of course, he wasn’t able to tell because he was hurt or in danger…or worse.
The questions started, and it was like 1976 all over again.
“I’ll call his father and his brother,” I told the secretary. “If either of them know anything, I’ll contact you immediately.”
“Thanks,” the secretary said, but I could tell her attention was still fixed entirely on the wrong things, at least in my opinion. Then, finally, she added, “This just doesn’t seem like him.”
“No,” I said. “No, it doesn’t.”
I hung up. I knew my son. He was a risk taker, an adventurous type, the kind of guy who loved thrill rides and fast cars and extreme sports. Different from his computer-obsessed older brother, who played Xbox when he was in the mood for serious activity and read ebooks when he was tired of programming things on his PC.
But Charlie wasn’t irresponsible. If he was going to be gone from work, he would have told somebody. Maybe not me, but someone.
I thought back to when I’d spoken with him last—on Wednesday night. I’d asked him about his girlfriend Cassandra. She’s okay, he’d said. And about work. Yeah, it’s fine. And if he had any special plans coming up. Nope.
The ticking clock on the wall marked the passing minutes as my worry flooded the rest of my body. Ripples of dread meted out in sixty-second increments. Everything had seemed all right with him just two days ago but, then, kids often lied to their parents or, at the very least, withheld crucial information.
I should know.
For all of my math-loving friends, Happy "Pi Day" (3.141592653...) by the way!! Hope you celebrated with a little pie treat or two. I know I did :D .