Tuesday’s Teaser with Kathleen Neely
I have Kathleen Neely here today sharing her new release In Search of True North and giving us a glimpse at her characters. Welcome, Kathleen!
I’m pleased to introduce you to Mallory Rose Carter. Actually, please skip the middle name Rose. Although her mother insisted on the full name, Mallory deplored it.
If I had to describe Mallory in three words, they would be bitter, passive-aggressive, and insecure. I know that sounds like a downer, but please don’t stop reading. It’s a starting place with room to grow. After all, who wants to be remembered for attributes from their teenage years?
As layers of bitterness begin to unfold, Mallory finds hope. When circumstances allow her to be a mother to the child she gave up in her teen years, Mallory discovers a fiercely protective maternal nature. It’s not easy for her to trust. Too many people have failed her. The question Mallory must answer is this—can Brady Donaldson be trusted? Will she allow him to pierce the self-protective armor that she’s worn for a dozen years?
Mallory begins to trade her bitterness for hope. She begins taking responsibility for the past after years of shifting blame. Then the unthinkable happens. Will she lose her son again? You will find the answer in the pages of my novel, In Search of True North.
Secondary characters add so much to a novel. You will meet Samuel, the child Mallory gave up twelve years ago; Brady Donaldson, Samuel’s paternal uncle; Savannah Joy, the sister who continually challenges Mallory; Elliott Moore, Samuel’s biological father and political pundit for a national cable network; Chloe, Mallory’s free-spirited friend; and Liam, whom some might call a beach bum.
I loved writing Liam’s part in Mallory’s story. His role is small but significant. Liam offers a contrast to the life that the Carter family embraced. While Mallory was raised to be goal-driven, Liam embraced living day to day. No competition. No ladder climbing. Just enough industry to support his surfing lifestyle. Samuel thought Liam was way cool!
This story has something for everyone. The overriding themes include overcoming a victim mentality, taking responsibility, and a mother’s love. Added to that, readers will find a sub-theme of astronomy. Mallory teaches Samuel to love the wonders of the heavens through the lens of her homemade telescope. While they take a peek at the stars and planets, here’s a sneak peek for readers.
Excerpt from Chapter 12
Jolene had taken a picture of Samuel on the first day of school each year since kindergarten. Mallory downloaded them from Facebook and kept them in her picture album. That tradition wouldn’t die with Jolene. Her sister probably had a high-end camera, but Mallory’s cell phone would have to do.
She snapped a picture of Samuel with his backpack and another as he entered the school bus. He paused to say something to the driver. Then with a brief wave of his hand, he disappeared from sight. Mallory scanned the seats for one more glimpse. The blinking lights of the school bus stopped as it started in motion, leaving a scent of diesel behind.
What would Elliott think of their son? Would his heart swell with love as Mallory’s did? Would he agree that she had made the right decision? A cold chill sent shivers down her arms. What if she had done as he’d asked? That thought was too horrific to entertain.
Samuel had been in school for a week, long enough for Mallory to realize she needed something to fill those hours. Why not research career options so she could plot out a schedule for her coursework before the spring semester? But today, she’d tackle the laundry. She went upstairs to gather Samuel’s clothes.
As she came down with a laundry basket perched on her hip, the doorbell sounded. The front door got very little use. She peeked out the window to see a man carrying a portfolio. A salesman? Soliciting was prohibited in this neighborhood. Mallory eased the door open a few inches. “Can I help you?”
“Yes, are you Mallory Rose Carter?”
“Yes, I am.” He looked vaguely familiar but she couldn’t place him.
“Legal guardian of Samuel Donaldson?”
“Yes.” This must be someone from Social Services. She opened the door wider. “How can I help you?”
“Is there somewhere we can talk?”
He seemed perfectly safe, but Mallory hesitated inviting him in. She was ready to ask for ID when he motioned toward the porch chairs.
“This would be fine.”
She stepped out and closed the door behind her. “I didn’t catch your name.”
“Jeremy. Jeremy Edwards. I believe you know my wife, Lauren.”
All defenses went on high alert. Mallory fought the urge to run back inside and lock the door between them. She sat straight up in her chair. “Yes, I know Lauren.”
He slowly unzipped the portfolio and removed a burgundy file folder. Then he pulled out a digital recorder from its Velcro holder. “May I record?”
Mallory stood up. “No, you may not. What’s the purpose of your visit?”
“Please have a seat. I’m working on a story and would like to give you an opportunity to confirm or refute the information that I’ve uncovered.” He turned a copy of Samuel’s birth certificate so she could see it.
A pounding drum beat in her ears. Her knees weakened and she eased herself into the chair.
He shuffled through the other pages. “It seems that the signature on this birth certificate has been forged.” He turned two copies of Jolene’s signature for her to see. A marriage certificate and a high school term paper.
Mallory gave him the same response she had given to Samuel. “She had just given birth. Of course, her signature would be sloppier.”
Wordlessly, he turned a photocopy of the information that she had given Lauren at lunch, the bed and breakfast, Airlie Gardens, and Bellamy Mansion. Jeremy held them side by side along with a copy of Mallory’s GED application.
“Where did you get these documents?”
“Journalists always have sources. Everything you say is on the record. This report is from a forensic handwriting expert.” He retrieved a document with columns of data. You can read over his findings, but this…” He pointed toward the closing paragraph. “…shows his summation. The confidence level is 99.04% that this was signed by the same person who signed your GED application.”
Rage built up inside of Mallory. With one quick movement, she swiped the folder from his hands.
His lips turned up in a smirk. “You can keep those. They’re your copies.”
“You’re making inferences that you know nothing about. Even if they had any merit, which they don’t, there’s no story here. No one would care enough for a newspaper to print it.”
He reached into his portfolio and retrieved another paper. As he turned it over, the faces of Samuel and Elliott sat side-by-side. “I think they’ll care.”
Mallory felt the blood rush from her head, certain that it left her pallor white. “The Charlotte Post would never print that.”
“Oh, you’re correct on that. I have a source in Washington that will print it.”
Washington? Not the Washington Post. Suddenly it came to her. “A scandal magazine.” She spit the words out through tight lips.
“Well, that’s not a very complimentary term. Let’s say, a magazine that prints what people love to read.”
Mallory stood. “This meeting’s over.”
“Can you confirm that you falsified the birth certificate of a son you had with Elliott Moore?”
She turned toward the door. “No comment.”
Mallory reached for the doorknob, but stopped short at his next words. “Thank you. I’ll see Elliott Moore tomorrow. We’ll see if he has a comment.”
She would plead and beg, if it would help. But a man who could do this would have no compassion. Her shaking hand barely managed to turn the doorknob. She opened it and stepped inside without looking back. Once the door closed, she locked the deadbolt, then leaned against the wall for support. Mallory took deep breaths trying to regain her composure.
Elliott. She had imagined the scene so many times. Imagined looking into his face and telling him they had a son. In her fairytale imagination, he’d pull her into his arms and thank her for not listening to him. He’d profess his love and they’d ride off into some happily-ever-after world.
She never imagined he’d find out from a low-life reporter looking to make a name and a few bucks by spreading gossip. She couldn’t let that happen. She had to tell him.
Mallory paced in circles trying to form a plan. She could call him, but this kind of news needed a face-to-face encounter. She couldn’t take Samuel, but where could she leave him? Certainly not with Savannah. Was it feasible to drive to Washington and back in a day? And how in the world would she arrange a meeting?
Twelve years ago, her dad pressed her to tell him the father’s name. Mallory had remained silent, determined not to tell anyone it was Elliott. Now her parents would find out. They’d never read that type of magazine, but if the story gained momentum, if it hit the news, Dad would know. All that secrecy twelve years ago and now it had the potential to become nationwide news. Would Alzheimer’s protect her mother from understanding?
Brady. Perhaps he would come and stay overnight. She couldn’t tell him why. But then, if it became news, he’d find out. Everyone would. Mallory lowered herself to the sofa in the family room and cried.
When she calmed her panic, Mallory took a moment to look at the documents. A professional letterhead had the company name of the handwriting expert. With great detail, the report analyzed size, spacing, slant, and pressure. Columns of letters were graphed to compare the letters that were connected and disconnected, wide and narrow loops, and pointed tops. It was irrefutable.
She lifted the photocopy of her scribbled information about Wilmington attractions. Lauren. Her best friend for years. Did she harbor that much bitterness over Mallory’s departure? Enough to ruin three lives? The lunch had been a set-up. An intentional ruse to get her handwriting. Mallory and Elliott may deserve that, but Samuel didn’t. He was the victim of Lauren’s revenge. She surely knew the havoc that she’d set in motion.
Her hands shook as she picked up the receiver of the landline. “Brady, it’s Mallory.”
“Hi, Mallory. Something wrong? You sound upset.”
Mallory attempted to laugh it off. “No, just trying to make some plans. Hey, I have a favor to ask.”
“Sure. What do you need?”
“I need someone to stay with Samuel, hopefully tonight. I have to make a short trip and don’t want to ask my parents.”
“Actually, I’m on the road right now headed in your direction. I have to meet with the project manager. I’ll be happy to stay there tonight.”
“Thanks, Brady. I can have Samuel go to the neighbor’s until you’re finished.”
“No need. My meeting’s tomorrow. I’m headed in today to check things out before the meeting. I had planned to call you later.”
“I’m leaving in about an hour. I’ll leave the door unlocked from the garage. Do you have the garage keycode?”
“Yep. I’m all set.”
Mallory sat down to write a note to Samuel explaining that she needed to see a friend about something important.
I’m so sorry I couldn’t wait until after school. I’m sure you won’t be too disappointed to find your Uncle Brady here.
She left the note with his name on it, written in her sloppy left-handed back slant. She hated her handwriting more each day.
Where to get your copy
You can purchase your copy of In Search of True North at:
Kathleen Neely is a retired elementary principal, and enjoys time with family, visiting her two grandsons, traveling, and reading.
She is the author of The Street Singer, Beauty for Ashes, The Least of These, and In Search of True North. Kathleen won second place in a short story contest through ACFW-VA for her short story “The Missing Piece” and an honorable mention for her story “The Dance”. Both were published in a Christmas anthology. Her novel, The Least of These, was awarded first place in the 2015 Fresh Voices contest through Almost an Author. She has numerous devotions published through Christian Devotions.
Kathleen continues to speak to students about writing and publication processes. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers.
Where to find Kathleen online
Website – www.KathleenNeely.com
Facebook – www.facebook.com/kathy.neely.98
Twitter – https://twitter.com/NeelyKneely3628
Instagram – www.Instagram.com/KathleenNeelyAuthor