Friday, July 28, 2006

FIRST Day, August 1st: FULL TILT by Creston Mapes


It is August 1st, time for the FIRST Day Blog Tour! (Join our alliance! Click the button!) The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and their latest book's FIRST chapter!


This month's feature author is:
Creston Mapes

Creston Mapes' first book, Dark Star: Confessions of a Rock Idol, has been selected by the Romance Writers of America (RWA) as a finalist for its 2006 Inspirational Readers Choice awards in the category of long, contemporary novel. Awards will presented this summer in Atlanta at the Marriott Marquis hotel.

Full Tilt, the second book in the Rock Star Chronicles, is racking up a number of fine reviews, many stating that its story/writing has surpassed the quality of that in Dark Star. His third novel, a psychological thriller based in Las Vegas, is due out in 2007.

As he has for 20 years, Creston resides in the Atlanta metropolitan area with his hometown sweetheart and four marvelous children. He loves reading, painting, morning walks with his dog, family outings, watching hockey, going on dates with his wife, meeting friends for coffee, and spending time in God's Word. Read Creston's Complete Bio



Rock Star Chronicles, Book 2
Full Tilt
a novel
by Creston Mapes

1
Black night. Familiar backstreets. Windows down. Cold air. Cruisin’ free.


Top of the world.


This was what it was about, baby. Lit on meth and movin’ at what seemed like the speed of light.


Lords of the night.


Over to Fender’s Body Shop on autopilot. Hands drumming on the dash and seats to the beat of the night and the pulse of the blood pounding through their veins.


Down the slope.


Whoa.


Past the dimly lit customer entrance and around back of the shop the Yukon swung and jerked to a stop. One, two, three of them exited the SUV and glided through the gate that was cracked open.


Wesley Lester was last to pass through the high chain-link fence. He slowed to peer at the snow-covered wreckage way out back of the shop, much of which had sat unchanged, like an eerie sculpture, for months beneath a haze of dim yellow lights. Dozens of mangled cars and pickups, SUVs, a hearse, vans, and an old school bus sat like jagged headstones in a haunted cemetery, some piled one on top of the other.


Several hundred yards away, in the vicinity of the far lamppost, David Lester’s black Camaro lay still and sinister. Wesley’s little brother and two teenage friends had perished in that car with David at the wheel. Seventeen years old. Too dang young to die.


After having rushed to the surreal scene of the wreck in nearby White Plains a year ago, Wesley had never ventured back to reexamine the remnants of his little brother’s car—or the totaled Chrysler that carried an elderly couple from Scarsdale, also pronounced dead at the scene.


On the way toward the huge body shop, Wesley shivered at the chill of the New York winter—a feeling his little brother would never experience again. Grinding his teeth, Wesley ran several yards, bashing the already dented door of a white Beamer. Spinning away, he welcomed the sense of release, thrust his dead brother out of his jumpy mind, and followed the others.


Brubaker led the way through the employee entrance, slamming open the heavy steel door against the outside of the fabricated beige metal building. "Ah, smell that?" he said, not looking back. "Good ol’ Bondo. Be high all day if you worked in here."


Wesley cruised in last, leaving the door wide open and purposefully taking a giant whiff of the pungent air that reeked of metal and plastic dust.


Like mice, the three figures zigzagged through a maze of half-repaired vehicles toward an area that glowed white, back in the far corner of the building.


As they drew closer to the dancing light and long shadows, hard-driving music mixed with the static sound of a welder. A dark blue ’65 Mustang sat up on a hydraulic lift, and beneath it—behind a welding hood—stood Tony Badino.


Brubaker and Wesley came to a standstill, fascinated by the sparks that rained down on Tony’s dirty, charcoal coveralls and scuffed brown work boots; the kid stopped between them, equally entranced.


Tony must have seen them but went on welding like a macho man, his brawny legs braced apart, tool belt hanging low around his lean waist, broad shoulders and triceps locked in place as he hoisted the blazing welder.


Brubaker was like a four-year-old. Constant motion. Bobbing his head, singing unintelligibly, rubbing his face and arms, and repeatedly peering back toward the door and out the dirty windows. His paranoia was enough to make anybody start seeing things. The kid in the middle watched spellbound as Tony melded metal to metal.


In the scalding flame, Wesley remembered his brother, curly haired and anxious, slapping a twenty-dollar bill into his hand for a teener—one-sixteenth of an ounce of some of the best crank Wesley had ever come across. Then he flashed back to David’s demolished Camaro hours later—what was left of the engine, parts of the car scattered along Post Road, still smoking.


Once again Wesley was slapped in the face by the fact that he was the one who had poisoned his brother’s bloodstream the day he drove to his death.


No. No. No!


It wasn’t the meth that killed his brother. It was the years of Everett Lester’s tainted music that had contaminated David’s mind. It was Everett’s empty promises and repeated letdowns that had sent David longing for the grave and a so-called better life on the Other Side. And Everett would burn for it; uncle or no uncle, he would pay. Because Wesley was hearing the voice again.


Wesley actually jerked when Tony snapped back the flame, lowered the welder in his right hand, and flipped the dark visor up with the other.


"Boys." He eyed the dazed kid in the middle.


"This is the dude we told you about, from Yonkers," Brubaker yelled proudly above the music, rubbing at the insides of his elbows with his wrists. "Needs an ounce."


Tony extinguished the pilot on the welder, lowered it to the concrete floor by its cord, then walked over to the stereo and turned it off.


"Slow down, Brubaker." Tony shook off his big, stiff gloves and removed the hood to reveal a tough face with small, pronounced features and a glistening scalp covered only by what looked like about two weeks’ worth of brown hair.


Reaching inside the front waist pocket of his coveralls, Tony pulled out a silver Zippo and a pack of Marlboros. Tapping one out, he stuffed it in the side of his little mouth and lit it with a grimy hand. As he took a long drag and snatched the cigarette away with his left hand, Wesley noticed a small tattoo of an upside-down cross on the inside of his wrist.


Tony was one creepy dude. Knew what he wanted. Had kind of a fiendish aura about him. People were naturally scared of the guy. Maybe that’s why Wesley liked running with Tony, because it was risky and unpredictable. That gave him a rush. And it didn’t hurt that Tony always had the best jenny crank on the street.


Grabbing a hanger light from the frame of the Mustang, Tony walked beneath his work, inspecting the length of the exhaust system.


"How do you know Lester and Brubaker?" He tapped the muffler, cig in hand.


"Uh…a friend introduced me to Wesley at a party," the middle kid said.


"When?"


"Last week."


"And Brubaker?"


"Met him a couple nights later."


"Been tweekin’?"


"Uh…when do you mean?" The kid’s eyes darted to Bru then Wesley.


"Tonight." Tony stopped and stared at him.


"Earlier today," Wesley interrupted. "Couple teeners."


Tony went back to inspecting his work. "That same stuff from the other day?"


"Yeah. Finished it off." Wesley coughed, feeling somewhat like a raw recruit reporting for duty before some high-ranking officer.


"This new cristy blows that stuff away." Tony glanced at the three visitors, his right eye twitching. "Just in from Pennsylvania. Keep you amped for days. I’ve been workin’ nonstop since yesterday—goin’ on, what? Thirty-five hours?"


Brubaker and the stranger nodded, swayed, and laughed. Wesley simply stared, promising himself he wouldn’t bow down to the grease monkey like everybody else.


"So you need an ounce." Tony held the light up close to the tailpipe.


"Yep," piped up the kid in the middle.


"Good old Wesley Lester. I can always count on him to bring me the finest clientele." Tony nodded toward Wesley. "Do you know who this guy is? Who brought you here tonight?"


The kid stared at Tony with hollowed eyes and shrugged.


"This is the great Everett Lester’s nephew. Bet you didn’t know that."


What the heck?


The kid turned to Wesley. "No way."


"Straight," said Tony. "You’re in the presence of the bloodline of one of rock ’n’ roll’s greatest legends."


"Dude," the kid exclaimed, "I saw one of their very last shows—at The Meadowlands. They played three and a half hours, at least."


"With Aerosmith," Tony chimed in. "I was there. Wesley was supposed to be there backstage, but Uncle Everett stood him up."


"That’s cold," Brubaker mumbled.


Silently, expressionlessly, Wesley agreed.


Tony smirked at Bru, but it went right over the head of the kid in the middle.


"I lived and breathed DeathStroke," the kid said. "Lester was so stoned out of his mind that last show, he could barely stand by the end. But they jammed their hearts out."


"And now he’s a Jesus freak." Tony’s eyes shifted to meet Wesley’s, but his head didn’t move.


Wesley met his glance without flinching. His nostrils flared and his temper cranked up like the flame on the welder. He searched Tony’s face for the reason he would be trying to push Wesley’s buttons.


The kid in the middle picked up on the friction.


Tony smirked, knelt down, and began banging his tools into the drawers of a tall red metal toolbox on wheels.


"What’s he like, anyway?" the kid barged ahead. "Everett Lester, I mean…"


Brubaker looked uneasy, twisting and bouncing slightly on his toes.


"He’s a loser, okay?" Wesley snapped, walking over to a workbench cluttered with jars of nuts and bolts and old tools. "Dude’s a lyin’ hypocrite. Dang waste of breath!"


"Where does he live?" the kid asked. "Does he still have a place in Manhattan?"


Wesley’s back was to the others. He fingered the tools without a word. I wonder if he’d shut up if I heaved this jar of bolts at his head.


Brubaker ran interference. "He has a farm near Bedford and a place in Kansas—where his wife’s from."


"Oh yeah, that chick who converted him," the kid said.


Tony slammed the middle drawer closed.


"That was some story. I heard she wrote to him ever since she was like a teenager—Jesus this and Jesus that. And finally it stuck…can you believe that? The guy went off the deep end!"


Tony stood, banging another drawer shut. "Some people hit you over the head again and again with that Jesus hype till you’re brainwashed. Seen it happen."


"Well, look at the guy," the kid said. "I mean…he’s changed! I saw him and his wife on Larry King Live and he, I mean, it’s like he’s a different person—"


"Let’s do this deal!" With three long strides and a commanding kick, Wesley booted a large piece of scrap metal twenty feet across the dusty white floor.


The corners of Tony’s mouth curved up into a quick smile as he raised an eyebrow at the kid in the middle, stomped out his cigarette, and walked over to an old white sink. Pushing up his sleeves, he rinsed his hands and squeezed a glob of gray goop into his palm from a bright orange bottle.


"You got the cash?" he asked the kid above the running water.


"Yeah, yeah." The kid dug almost frantically into his front pocket and pulled out a clump of folded bills.


"Count it, Wes," Tony ordered, still washing.


Wesley hesitated before snatching the wad and rifling quickly through the bills. "Fifteen hundred. It’s here."


Tony dried his hands with a dirty towel, wiped his face with it, and looked at himself in the smudged mirror above the sink. Then he found the kid’s reflection in the mirror. "You don’t know where this devil dust came from."


"Oh…d-definitely n-not." He smiled anxiously. "I don’t even know you. We never met, as far as I’m concerned. Nope. Never met."


Tony dropped the towel on the edge of the sink and walked to the tool chest. Lifting the top, he pulled out a Tech .22 assault pistol with his right hand and a good-sized bag of off-white, crystal-like powder with the other. Turning, he tossed the bag to the kid, who fumbled it awkwardly but mangled it at the last second before it escaped his hands. Embarrassing.


"You hear about the body that turned up in Canarsie other day? In the scrap yard?" Tony approached the kid, whose forehead was glistening with sweat.


Here we go. Wesley wished Tony hadn’t picked up the gun but, at the same time, found it strangely exciting.


"Uh…no." The kid eyed the piece. "No, I missed that."


"Well, don’t miss what I’m telling you." Tony’s voice grew vicious as he neared the kid’s face. "That guy had it comin’, okay? I know that for a fact."


The kid’s mouth was wide open, big eyes flashing, cheeks red as radishes.


"He was blabbin’ about where he got his rocket fuel."


"Listen, I…"


But before the kid could eke out another word, Tony lifted the modified Tech .22 sideways, shoulder-high, squinted, and blasted six rounds across the base of the metal wall beneath the workbench with one squeeze of the trigger.


Brubaker floundered back four feet as the smell of gunpowder hung in the air and the rattle of gunfire echoed in their ears.


The kid’s red face went ash white, and he looked as if he might lose his dinner.


Wesley kept a stone face, not wanting to show a trace of the fear that was making his hands shake.


"You know how many twenty-twos this mag carries?" Tony grabbed the fat magazine with his free hand.


The kid jerked his head in one rapid no.


"Twenty. And I got it rigged so I pull the trigger once and the thing can unload. You understand?"


The kid opened his mouth, but nothing came out.


"Word on the street is, the dude in Canarsie was a rat-squealing tell-all." Tony lightly tossed the Tech .22 in his right hand. "He got himself whacked for blabbing."


"Oh…don’t worry—"


"And the same will happen to you if you tell one soul where you got that cristy, you read?"


"Oh, hey, I read, I read. I’m not about to—"


"Now beat it!" Tony hoisted the weapon up to his shoulder and the kid scrambled an about-face, practically sprinting for the door with a blubbering Brubaker right on his heels.


Badino’s dark eyes locked in on Wesley, followed by the cock of his head and a smirk. "He ain’t gonna do no talkin’, now is he, Wes?"


Wesley watched the two figures scurry into the darkness. "No, I don’t believe so."


As Tony banged the Tech .22 back into the toolbox, two things occurred to Wesley: 1) He would love to see the bullets from that weapon rip through Everett Lester’s sickening, superspiritual flesh, and 2) if you ever wanted to commit a murder, Tony Badino was probably a very good person to know.

************************************

Excerpted from Full Tilt © 2006 by Creston Mapes, Inc. Used by permission of Multnomah Publishers, Inc. Excerpt may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of Multnomah Publishers, Inc.


This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogues are products of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.


FULL TILT


published by Multnomah Publishers, Inc.


Published in association with the literary agency of Mark Sweeney & Associates, 28540 Altessa Way, Bonita Springs, Florida 34135
© 2006 by Creston Mapes, Inc.


International Standard Book Number: 1-59052-506-X


Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from:
New American Standard BibleÒ Ó 1960, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.


Other Scripture quotations are from:
The Living Bible (tlb)Ó 1971. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.All rights reserved.


Multnomah is a trademark of Multnomah Publishers, Inc., and is registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The colophon is a trademark of Multnomah Publishers, Inc.


Printed in the United States of America


ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without prior written permission.


For information:


MULTNOMAH PUBLISHERS, INC.601 N. LARCH STREETSISTERS, OREGON 97759


06 07 08 09 10—10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 0

Saturday, July 01, 2006

FIRST DAY: JADE


It is July 1st, time for the FIRST Day Blog Tour! (Join our alliance! Click the button!) The FIRST day of every month we will feature an author and their latest book's FIRST chapter!

This month's feature author is:
Marilynn Griffith.
Marilynn Griffith is a freelance writer and conference speaker whose online columns reach over 20,000 women each month. Her recent writing credits include Pink(Shades of Style #1), Made of Honor, Chicken Soup for the Christian Woman's Soul, Proverbs for the People, and For Better or for Worse. She is also a blogger! Visit her Rhythms of Grace blog and learn ever so much! Marilynn lives in Tallahassee, Florida, with her husband and children.

Her latest book, Jade (Shades of Style #2), just came out and she has agreed to be our July feature author for the FIRST Day Blog tour.

Having the perfect life isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Designer Lily Chau doesn't know if she's finally got it together or if life is starting to unravel. With a successful boyfriend and a great job at up-and-coming fashion house Garments of Praise, it seems she has the perfect pattern for success. But her mother's health is failing, her boyfriend just won't pop the question, and being a pattern maker is a far cry from having a clothing line of her own. Lily is sure her hands are just too full to draw her deepest dreams.

Raya and Chenille, Lily's pals at Garments of Praise offer plenty of advice and sympathy. Jean, Lily's co-worker and second Mom even goes behind Lily's back to boost her chances of success. When she's chosen for the reality show The Next Design Diva, it seems like the chance of a lifetime for Lily. But the mysterious designer chosen to mentor her sends her spinning. He's fresh, fine—and way off limits. Suddenly Lily's life goes from carefully patterned to nothing but a tangle of threads.

Praise for the Shades of Style series:

"Griffith's ...Shades of Style series features four women in the fashion industry: Raya, Chenille, Lily, and Jean. The women fight to save their struggling business and learn some important lessons about people, life, and faith."— Library Journal


“The …Shades of Style series combines multicultural characters with heartache, drama, humor, and romance.”—Charisma Magazine
Read the FIRST chapter!

PROLOGUE

The envelope held Lily Chau’s future. She held a letter opener, stabbing under her nails for the remnants of her past. Skimming under the nail of her ring finger, she snagged what she’d been going for, a hunk of prunes caught under her nail last week during the chop and puree fest once known as her mother’s breakfast. A breakfast that her mother had returned as quickly as Lily had spooned it all in, leaving Lily standing in a puddle in her best shoes.

“Jump in the shower. Grab the black pants. Your wrap blouse is clean. I saw it the other day,” her neighbor Pinkie had said, arms going in every direction. “You don’t know how to feed her, Lily. You should have waited for me.”

Lily had tried to wait, but her mother wasn’t in a waiting mood today. The guilt over leaving her mother hungry with their neighbor had sent her into a chopping blending frenzy that ended as such things usually did, seeping into her shoes and staining her best skirt. But that was okay. She’d put a barrette in her mother’s hair and fed her breakfast. Where God chose to store that breakfast was up to Him.

Though Lily was known around the office for her eclectic and exciting personal style, the pants she wore now were turning into her work uniform. But her mother was still alive, her boyfriend was still dropping hints about their inevitable wedding and she grew closer to God each day. Things were good, with hopes of getting better. Becoming stable.

So why was she holding the letter opener in both hands? Lily poked the point of it into the envelope, tracing the letters in the return address: The Next Design Diva Show, Nia Network. Lily slipped the blade into the envelope’s back flap then slid her finger against the instrument’s edge. She pulled upward slightly, ripping the corner and . . .

“Are you sleeping in here?” A husky voice laced with laughter echoed in the hall before its speaker reached Lily’s office. Jean believed in giving people warnings of her impending arrival, even her friends. For everyone but Lily, the announcement was usually warranted since people tended to find Jean a little intimidating. Lily saw through Jean’s fast moves and loud talk . . . to her heart. She hoped her friend wouldn’t see her through her just as quickly today.

“Can’t you ever stay in your office during the creative hour? We’ve got thirty more minutes. Take a nap why don’t you? Or color in a coloring book like that guy over in production.” Though Lily chided her loving workaholic friend for coming to visit when they were all supposed to be spending time alone to refuel their creativity, the interruption was a gift. For a moment she’d let herself consider something impossible. Something still forked on her letter opener.

Jean whisked into the office just as Lily swept the letter into her desk drawer, where it would accompany her secret copy of Modern Bride and a cigarette she’d found after quitting and hadn’t thrown away.

Lily squirmed under her friend’s withering glance as Jean pushed Lily’s huge fossil doorstep into place. Jean shook her head. “Oh my. Now she’s cramming things into that drawer again. Don’t tell me. You’re peeking at those silly ten dollar wedding books? Or were you dreaming of that picket fence on Long Island with your doctor friend?”

Warmth rushed to Lily’s face. “Neither. You need to stay out of my desk, you nosy thing.”

Jean approached Lily like a lioness in a good suit. A hearty laugh bubbled up from her throat. “Listen, honey, nobody needs to be nosy to know anything around here, especially when you stuff that drawer so full it can’t shut. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to come in here and pick all that mess off the floor since you ran the custodian away from here.”

“Here you go with that again. I told you. I did not run the custodian away. He can still clean in here . . . when I’m around.”

“Uh huh,” Jean shook her head in pity.

“He was stealing my rocks!” Lily banged the letter opener on her desk, wanting to shove it into the drawer too, but now to afraid at what might come flying out if she did.

“Listen to what you just said. Stealing rocks. Now I admit you’ve got some of the best pebble and bauble collections I’ve ever seen, but you’ve got to let it go.” She reached around Lily and yanked out the drawer. The magazine unfurled as if she’d pulled the string on a parachute. Fabric swatches, neon note squares and office supplies spilled over the sides and onto the floor.

Jean stuck her hand toward the back and came out with a pitiful excuse for a Virginia Slim. “You’ve got to let this go too. You haven’t smoked in almost two years. What are you doing, planning a slow suicide some time in the future?”
“I-I-just give me that, okay?” Lily reached for the cigarette and peeled back its skin, emptied the tobacco guts into the trash while trying not get too much of the smell on her fingers. As she considered what she’d really saved up for later, disobeying the voice of God, Lily became much less concerned with Jean and more concerned with her own heart. Sometimes it seemed like she’d come so far, but there still those little secrets she tried to keep, parts of her life she tried to stuff in a drawer. And God kept having to come and pick up the pieces when it spilled over the side.

She grabbed a wet wipe from her purse and scrubbed her hands, only to realize what dangled from Jean’s fingers.

The envelope.

The rumpled magazine had covered it, but as usual Jean had left no stone, or mangled bridal book unturned. She looked as though she’d caught a tiger by the tail.

“So they did pick you! I knew they would. They had to. I told Raya I was going to call her father myself if they didn’t.”

Lily froze. She’d carried the envelope around in her purse for two days wondering why the show had written her. She considered submitting sketches several times, but each time something happened with her mother’s health to make her forget it. There was also the quiet that had come over her every time she’d prayed about it. She felt as though she was suppose to wait and see the salvation of the Lord, that what God had would come to her through another way. Now it seemed that her other way might be from the office down the hall. “What did you do?”

Beads from Jean’s bracelets jangled as she shook her wrists. “Nothing much. I took a few sketches from your book and scanned them. Sent that robe you designed for that stupid boyfriend of yours—”

Lily clenched her fists. “The kimono? That was Ken’s Christmas present. I’ve been looking everywhere for it. How could you?”

Her friend smiled. “Easy. Now hush and open the letter. At least I don’t try and match you up with men. Not that you couldn’t use some help there too . . . Don’t look at me like that. I care about you.”

If this was caring, Lily didn’t want to think of what not caring might feel like. She pried the letter from Jean’s fingers and placed it into the drawer, now empty except for a star-shaped paper clip in neon pink and a pencil with no eraser. Lily’s sketching pencil. She stared up at the ceiling. “Why couldn’t I have regular friends who don’t care about me so much. Goodness, Jean, how could you? I mean sure I’d love to have my own line, my own show, but I can’t—”

“Here we go again. You really should have been a Catholic you, know. You’re a natural at the guilty martyr thing.” Jean dropped into the chair a few inches away. “We’ve been over this a gazillion times. You can do this. None of your excuses hold water, especially your first one, that you’re not good enough. You’re good enough and you have the sense to still question your talent. Good enough for me. As for your mother, she can go wherever you go.”

It was Lily’s turn to laugh this time, though there was little humor in it. “Like the way your grandkids could go wherever you go, Jean?”

Her stoic friend grabbed the desk with a white-knuckled grip. “Okay, you got me. I still think you should open it. Just to know.”

“No thanks,” Lily said, taking the letter from the drawer and ripping it to shreds. “Some things are best left unknown. The things that count though, that people care about you and want the best for you, those are the prizes of life.”

Jean’s jaw tightened as she swept the torn bits of paper into the trash with her cupped hand. “Oh, please. Friendship is great and everything, but this is it! Your shot. And you ripped it up. How could you?”

Lily covered her friend’s hand with her own. “I don’t know, but I did. If it’s mine, God will bring it back . . . at a time when my hands are free enough to hold it.”

From JADE, by Marilynn Griffith, Revell Books
ISBN
0800730410, June 2006, Copyright © 2006. All rights
reserved.

TO ORDER JADE (SHADES OF STYLE) PRESS HERE!