It’s been quite a wild ride the past five weeks--I've had two book releases in that time, and I'm still not sure I believe it. Here I am shilling yet again to you our amazing GLIAS readers, this time for GOOD GUYS WEAR BLACK, which was released last Tuesday. Before I say anything more, though, I need to thank you for supporting me and all of us here at Get Lost in a Story. It’s so nice to have such a great home with writers I admire and friends and readers I love and appreciate!
But, on to some fun stuff about GOOD GUYS WEAR BLACK. I’m particularly proud of this book, and the comments I’m getting so far have been truly uplifting. The story started out in my imagination as no more than a novella about a minor character from my first three books, but it morphed into a full-length book dealing with several themes that seem to have touched people: What makes a family? What’s with banned books in this day and age? What’s it like to raise a child dealing with autism spectrum disorder (in this case Asperger’s Syndrome)?
Here’s the back cover blurb to give you a little idea of the story:
Dewey Mitchell loves three things: fixing old cars, football, and family. Although an illness robbed him of his NFL dreams and his hopes for a big family of his own, he’s made himself content working the family business and coaching middle school football. But when his town’s vibrant new librarian and her young, emotionally-challenged son burst into his ordered life, Dewey finds himself inexplicably drawn to the fascinating woman
Boston-born Rose Hanrehan had no idea how different living in a small town would be. But she’s determined to start fresh for her son, who deals with Asperger’s Syndrome, without her overbearing parents judging her every move. Of course, sometimes her new neighbors seem to be equally closed-minded. And there’s one new neighbor she can’t seem to avoid… in fact, the handsome Dewey, despite his black hat and buried emotions, might end up being the only reason to stay in Kennison Falls.
Neither Dewey nor Rose is looking for love, but what they’re starting to feel can’t be anything else. Will the longtime bachelor and the free-spirited librarian let themselves fall? Or will their differences get in the way of their happy ending?
Rose’s son is Jesse, or as he says, “Jesse Loren Hanrehan. I’m named after my grandpas. Don’t call me Jessica.” Jesse’s challenges with Asperger’s syndrome manifest themselves in ways both big and small. He has a crazy-smart brain that can focus on and retain facts about his favorite subjects. His favorite things in the world are fire engines, and he knows makes, models, and specs on almost any engine he sees. Jesse also fixates on words, phrases, ideas, and things he decides he wants. He doesn’t have great social skills or good large motor coordination. He doesn’t like playing sports.
All of this affects both his mom and Dewey—who Jesse admires in a way that confounds everyone. Rose, because she’s a single mother, has grown very over-protective, to the point where sometimes she loses perspective on how to deal with her son. Dewey, because he’s always dreamed of having his own family of rough-and-tumble future football players, certainly has no understanding of a kid who can’t even catch a football.
But unique and special Jesse of course wears Dewey down. Here’s one of the craziest “guy scenes” I wrote between Dewey and Jesse. Warning: it’s about peeing in the woods—Rose was scandalized; hope you’re not! LOL.
“Come on, Mom.”
Jesse already sat astride the cutest little horse Rose had ever seen. This one was something called a Fjord pony—a buff-colored animal with a black-tipped mane that stuck straight up from its neck like the bristles on Marvin the Martian’s helmet. And its name was Thor. How sweet was that?
She’d have been content to take pictures of Jesse in his boots and little riding helmet sitting all by himself on the horse and call it good, but no such luck.
“Yeah, come on, Mom,” Dewey called from the back of a tall, gray horse named Rafe.
Rafe was big enough that he actually took up Dewey’s height and solidness. Rose had to laugh. Dewey wasn’t nearly as adorable in his helmet as Jesse was in his. In fact, she’d looked at herself and Dewey together in a car window after they’d put on the required helmets and thought they looked like alien nut cases. But she couldn’t argue with safety.
“You’ll be fine, Rose. I guarantee it.” Jill, beside her, gave her a confident grin. “Step on the mounting block. Tampa’s an old pro at this, she won’t move until you tell her to.”
Seconds later she was in the saddle. It was big, cushioned, and surprisingly comfortable. She grasped the saddle horn and forced her shoulders away from her ears.
“Are you sure we should be doing this alone?” she asked. “Don’t most riding places make you go with a guide?”
“Every one of these horses knows this trail blindfolded,” Jill said. “And Dewey knows it because he helped us clear it. Rafe’s main job around here is to lead kids around on Thor. And Tampa here, she’s cured a lot of people of their horse fears. Just let her follow. Take your time and have fun. If you’re not back in two days, I’ll send out the search and rescue.”
“Will you send a fire engine?” Jesse’s eyes lit.
“You want me to?” Jill asked.
“No!” Rose laughed. “No rescues. We’re coming back on our own.”
“Yes, we are,” Dewey replied. “Come on, cowpokes, let’s hit the trail.”
It wasn’t so bad. Fifteen minutes out of the old farmyard, Rose found herself trusting Tampa’s steady, cheerful walk. She didn’t rush, nor did she lag. She kept her nose beside Thor’s saddle and bobbed her head in a soothing rhythm. Jesse chattered on and off and held reins that were attached to sides of the bridle rather than the bit to keep him from pulling on Thor’s mouth. Dewey led the way, holding Thor’s lead rope in one hand. He rode like an honest-to-gosh cowboy, and noticing the sexy, almost suggestive way his legs draped around his horse’s sides had as much to do with Rose’s diminishing nervousness as anything.
“Y’all doin’ okay?” He turned in his saddle to check.
“Fine until I heard that fake Texas accent.”
“Ouch. Here I thought it was so authentic.”
“Do you want me to lie to you? What kind of lesson does that teach?”
He let roll a genuine belly laugh. “Sounds to me like you’re doing fine, Madam Librarian.”
“Okay, I admit it, this is kind of fun. You having fun, Jess?”
They rode quietly a few more minutes until Dewey nearly shocked the helmet off her by starting to sing. His voice, a deep, slightly scratchy baritone, nonetheless stayed in tune.
“Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’…”
He sang until he got the dogies movin’ through rivers and streams that were swollen, and by the time he got to the chorus, Jesse was laughing. “Git ’em up, move ’em out, Rawhide,” Dewey bellowed.
His absolute abandon, something she’d never seen or expected to see, given his almost pathologically even-keeled personality, wormed its way into her heart, helped along by Jesse’s giggles. For the first time, she saw a man who might break the mold. Someone who could love her son for the strange and wonderful little person he was.
Forty minutes into their ride, they left an open grassy field and entered a stand of woods, bright golden and scarlet leaves whispering softly, getting ready to fall. The path was gorgeous, the air sweet with the scents of leaves and pine and earth.
“I have to pee.”
Jesse’s blunt announcement shattered the magic woodland spell. Dewey sputtered.
“Jesse!” Rose half-covered her mouth. “That’s not polite.”
“But I do.”
“Well, you have to wait until we get back.”
“Why?” Dewey stared at her. “We’re in the woods.”
“Please don’t tell me the kid has never watered a tree in the woods.”
“You and your ultra-proper words,” he teased. “For cryin’ out loud. Stop the horses. The boy’s education is sorely lacking.”
“Don’t you dare!”
“Rose. Clearly, grandpas who are senators don’t go camping and teach their grandsons how to do this. It’s one of the few perks of being a guy, so stop, dismount, and get over the fact that your son has the equipment to pee in the woods.”
She wanted to be appalled, but he was right. She’d never had brothers. Her father was about as far from outdoorsy as one could get.
“Fine.” She moved up beside Rafe, pulled back on Tampa’s reins, and the mare halted. “But I guarantee you, this is not his style. He’s not a woodsy, grubby kid. He’ll want to wash his hands.”
“Stop fussing. Leave the guy stuff to the guys.”
He grinned, swung his leg over the back of the saddle to dismount, helped Jesse off, and aimed him toward the woods. He turned back to Rose and kissed her quickly. On the lips. Making her stupidly weak and acquiescent. “We’re going to whiz in the woods. Girls can do it on that side.” He pointed. “Use a leaf.”
He kissed her again.
She waited only a few minutes before Jesse came charging out of the woods, laughing like a little howler monkey.
“Mom, Mom, I watered a seedling by spelling my name.”
“Oh dear…” Rose covered her mouth to hold back a choking laugh. “Words cannot express my pride in you.”
“I didn’t look, but I think Dewey wrote the whole alph—”
Dewey swept in from behind and clamped a hand over his mouth. “Private boys’ club information there, champ. Trust me, she doesn’t want to know.”
Jesse struggled and broke free, still laughing. He clomped back to Thor. Dewey leaned in and kissed Rose again. And once more. “He rubbed his hands off on a basswood leaf. I’ll make sure he washes when we get back. Okay?”
“You are without a doubt a whizzing genius.”
He grinned, looking delighted and insufferably proud. “I keep telling you. He’s a boy. You have to treat him like a boy.”
She forgave him the cute little bout of arrogance. In all honesty, she was happy, relieved even, to have him role-modeling for Jesse. He still had no idea what Jesse could be like when he lost his emotional rationality, but there was no doubt Jesse listened to Dewey like he did very few others.
I don’t know if that makes Dewey a hero or not—it certainly did in Jesse’s eyes. As you’ll find out in the book, even after this ages-old male bonding experience, Dewey has a LOT to learn and accept about both Rose and Jesse. I hope I got it “right” in the book. I know very well that dealing with emotional challenges is no easy task and certainly not always fun and games. So far, reactions have been very kind. I hope anyone who reads the book will eventually let me know what she/he thinks!
Jesse might have lots of challenges, but he doesn’t always know it.
What about you, though? What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your life? Or, conversely, what’s the funniest challenge? Or the funniest thing you’ve ever taught someone to do? I’ve got a signed copy of my last book BEAUTY AND THE BRIT and a surprise gift card for one commenter today.
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