The Dead Tree
by Lori L. Clark
Title: The Dead Tree
Author: Lori L. Clark
Genre: New Adult Romantic Mystery/Family Saga
Expected Release: June 10, 2014
The town of Steele Grove, Missouri sits high along the bluffs of the Mississippi River. Legends run rampant around town about crazy Blythe Fountain, who discovered her beau hanging from the oak tree in the family’s front yard. A short time later, two of her friends mysteriously disappeared, never to be seen, or heard from again.
Eighty years later, Ariel Fountain has inherited the property, and after catching her boyfriend cheating on her, decides she needs a change of scenery and runs headlong to a place shrouded in superstition and family mysteries which may be better off left unsolved.
Ariel sets out with the help of a local man, Grady, to uncover the truth behind the hanging and the girls’ disappearances. What Ariel discovers is a secret so horrific she wishes she would have left it buried.
The engine of the Bobcat sputtered a few times before dying. Grady swore and climbed down from the machine. I watched him out of the corner of my eyes as he sauntered up the hill. His feet stopped right under my nose. “I have to run back to town and get some gas.”
I raised my head and stared at his gorgeous pale blue eyes. He surprised me by holding my gaze.
“Um, I think there’s some in the garage. I’ll check, if you’d like,” I offered. He was still watching me intently. I blinked and looked away. I reached behind me to push myself off the ground and immediately felt a searing pain in my left palm. I jerked my hand back and felt something warm trickle down my wrist. I’d just managed to impale my hand on the garden shears I’d laid in the grass behind me. “Damn.”
Grady knelt beside me, gently taking my hand in his. He inspected the wound, while I was too afraid to see how bad it was. Judging from the way it felt, it wasn’t good. “You’re gonna need stitches,” he said.
My eyes went round. “Are you sure?”
“Yes, Ariel, I’m sure.” He quickly removed his t-shirt and wrapped it around my bleeding hand. I grimaced when I caught sight of the amount of blood trailing down my arm. “Hold it above your heart and apply pressure with your other hand.”
The edges of my vision went dark, and I thought I was going to pass out. Not from the loss of blood, I was squeamish when it came to the sight of blood. I whimpered and wobbled on my feet. “Oh, shit.”
Grady wrapped his arm around my waist and half carried me to his pickup. He opened the passenger door and helped me inside. “You okay?”
I shook my head no but said, “Yes.”
He laughed. “Hang in there.”
As it turns out, I had a pretty nasty gash. Fourteen stitches and some kick ass pain meds later, we were on our way back home. “Thank you,” I whispered.
“Let this be a lesson,” he said.
I peered sideways at him. “A lesson? For what?”
“I told you, you jinxed yourself when you said you weren’t accident-prone, and look what happened.”
I rolled my eyes. “Pfft. As if.”
He chuckled. “One of these days, you’ll trust my superstitious nature.”
I lowered my eyes and nodded. “We’ll see.”
When we returned from town, Grady shut the truck off and jumped out. He hurried around to open my door and help. The warmth of his hand radiated through my tank top when he pressed it against my lower back and guided me toward the front door. “Let’s get you inside. I think it’s safe to say you can have the rest of the day off, Princess.”
The pain meds must have made me loopy, because I would never have said what I said next, had I been in my right frame of mind. “If I’m a princess, then you must be my knight in shining armor.”
“Something like that,” he said softly.
Some of you may wonder why I only write standalone novels, as opposed to series. I don’t really have a great answer for that but I think my best answer is because I’m fickle.
An author lives and breathes his or her characters for eighty-thousand or so words. These people become your friends, or your enemies, whichever the case may be during that writing process. For me, by the time the end of the book rolls around, I’m usually tired of these people. I’ve got other ideas brewing — often long before the current project is finished — and new people to meet.
Like the saying, “I’ve got places to see and people to meet.”
Perhaps one day, I’ll meet a group of characters who have more than one story to tell. I’ll like them so much that I want to keep them around for another book or two. Don’t get me wrong. I love each and every one of my characters…as long as I’m writing their book. I’ve written about some pretty great people, and I’ve written about some really nasty ones, too.
I enjoy reading some trilogies, but, I also think there are times when the story could have been told in one book and (please don’t hate me) I wonder if the sequels, series, and trilogies aren’t overdone. Yes, I read sequels and/or trilogies. Usually, I like to wait until all the books in the series are released, or close to being released, before I do. Nothing is worse than getting to the end of book one, finding there’s a HUGE cliffhanger, and having to wait another three (or more) months before you can even buy book two to find out what happens. Yes, for authors it sells books. But for readers, it can be immensely frustrating.
I like to read standalones with no cliffhangers — happily-ever-after endings optional — I can’t help but think I’m not the only one out there who likes a good standalone, too. If I ever do decide to write a series, I think it will be decided before I even write book one. None of this “Oh this book was supposed to be a standalone, but it sold so well, I want to tell it from every character’s perspective and just change the words up a little.” No, thanks. Again, don’t get me wrong, there are some kick-ass series out there that are told from multiple viewpoints.
I also think that maybe I’m just not confident enough in my stick-to-it-ness. Like I said, I’m fickle. I’m also easily distracted. Oh look, a squirrel. 🙂
Lori L. Clark was born in Iowa, where she spent the first forty-six years of her life. In 2007, she loaded up a moving van and relocated to Missouri, where she currently resides. Lori’s only child is a very spoiled Min Pin named Barkley. When not writing, she reads and runs. She completed her first half marathon at the age of fifty.
In 2009, after participating in NANOWRIMO, she began to take seriously the voices in her head. Two New Adult contemporary romance novels, Different Roads, and I Breathe You, were published in 2013, and showed early success. The Heart Knows What the Heart Wants is set to release in March 2014, and has her venturing into the realms of Romantic Suspense.
Lori is a member of Savvy Authors, the St. Louis Writers Guild, and Romance Writers of America.
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