Monday, February 17, 2014

Wildwood Creek

There is a mystery in Wildwood Creek's history, a mystery that affects Allie's present...

Wildwood Creek

by Lisa Wingate

Christian Romance

Paperback, 384 pages

February 4th 2014 by Bethany House Publishers

Allie Kirkland has never been one to take wild risks. But when she’s offered a costuming assistant’s job on a docudrama in the hills near Moses Lake, she jumps at the chance. She’s always dreamed of following in her director-father’s footsteps, and the reenactment of the legendary frontier settlement of Wildwood is a first step. The family expectations will have to wait.

But in 1861, the real Wildwood held dangerous realities. Town founder Harland Delevan held helpless residents, including young Irish schoolteacher Bonnie Rose, in an iron grip. Mysterious disappearances led to myths and legends still retold in the folk songs of Chinquapin Peaks. Eventually, the entire site was found abandoned.

When strange connections surface between Allie and the teacher who disappeared over a century ago, everyone in Wildwood, including Allie’s handsome neighbor on the film set, Blake Fulton, seems to be hiding secrets, and Allie doesn’t know who she can trust. If she can’t find the answers in time, history may repeat itself . . . with the most unthinkable results.

Bethany House

Here's an excerpt:

Chapter 1, Part II

Allie Kirkland, February, Present Day

A shadow fell nearby and I looked up to find a woman there, her face rigid, exotic in some way, her dark hair slicked back in a bun so tight you could’ve bounced a quarter off it. A gray sheath dress made her thin frame look even thinner, and impossibly high heels gave her an imposing height. Stand- ing up, I felt like a munchkin on the soundstage of Amazon Women on the Moon.

Her lashes lowered partway and I wondered if she was going to tell me to leave. She seemed unhappy about some- thing. Decidedly.

“This way please.” Her voice was strangely robotic, tinged with an accent that sounded slightly Middle Eastern and slightly French. I couldn’t place it, and I was usually good with accents. The University of Texas being fairly global, Kim and I loved guessing where the strangers came from. This woman was far too glamorous to be shuttling people through a casting call in a dank theater building.

Which made me wonder if Kim might be right about Rav Singh. This exotic girl looked like she could be an actress out of Bollywood, a part of Singh’s famed inner circle. He was known for keeping a tribe of loyal minions who fiercely protected his privacy . . . and the content of his ongoing projects.

I hitched up my backpack and fell into step behind her, feeling uncertain, awkward, and plain as we moved into the deepening shadows near an arched side-stage door that led into total darkness. A chill skittered past, and I conjured wild scenarios in which I was grabbed by the burly security guy, bound, gagged, and stuffed into a shipping crate. What would happen from there, I wasn’t sure, but if I gave my mind a little time, it would come up with several possibilities. For as long as I could remember, my thoughts had worked that way. In scenes. Wild, unpredictable scenes.

“They told you I’m here to interview for the production assistant’s job, right?” I asked.

She skimmed a look over her shoulder, the way people do when they want you to know you’re wasting your breath. Perhaps, schlepping applicants around wasn’t her normal job, and she resented having to fetch me. Since we weren’t going to talk, I focused on the bun . . . sort of a flawless blue-black cinnamon roll. A half-dozen hairs had escaped to trail along her smooth olive skin. The only rebellious thing about her.

The darkness fell like a veil and I was walking blind, following the click, click, click of her heels. My flip-flops slapped in response, the thready Bohemian skirt I’d grabbed before leaving the apartment, swishing in a way that was soft, yet audible against the dusty silence. We moved down a ramp, and the murmur of the multitudes faded until there was nothing but the echo of our passing. Not a soul was back here, as far as I could tell. Old wall sconces cast a dim glow along the corridor as we turned a corner, the arched plaster tunnels like catacombs reaching deep into the earth. She stopped at one of the dimly lit doors, opened it, then stepped aside, motioning for me to enter the room.

“In here, please.” The request was polite, yet clipped. I glanced at her as I passed, and she looked me up and down in the way one alley cat sizes up another. What her issue could possibly be, I had no idea. Someone like her was under no threat from someone like me.

The room was small, with a desk on one end, a leather chair behind it, and a cheap plastic cafeteria seat in front. One position was intended to denote importance and the other to emphasize subjugation. I had a sudden creepy image of what the production manager might be like, assuming I was here to interview with him or her. I envisioned the guard staff in an out-of-the-way Russian work camp somewhere.

There had been a meeting in this room recently—some- thing having to do with costuming. Assorted fabric swatches lay strewn across the desk and there were sketches on a white- board—line drawings of men and women, the clothing seem- ing appropriate for an eighteen-hundreds reenactment, at least inasmuch as I knew about eighteen-hundreds reenactments, which honestly was not all that much. I’d taken a few classes in costuming as an undergrad
and worked on many university and community theater productions over the years, but that was about it.

A scattering of résumés rested on the desk, along with design portfolios in neat black folders. Setting my backpack in the plastic chair, I sidled closer and peeked at the nearest ones. Clean dossiers printed on linen paper and accompanied by lists of coursework and various accolades. Qualified people had applied for the jobs here. Film and fashion design graduates who’d already racked up a plethora of industry experience.

I didn’t have a prayer.

The door opened and I jerked away, then hovered by the cafeteria chair as a woman stepped in. Tall, leggy, smartly dressed in a formfitting white silk shirt and a black skirt with some sort of gold thread in the weave, she glowed. She was gorgeous. Bun hair, this time blond. She looked unfriendly. I was detecting a pattern here.

The door clicked closed behind her, as if it were afraid not to hop to its job, and she whisked past me on her way to the leather chair, a perfumed breeze traveling in her wake. “Sit,” she commanded, pointing. I wondered if she had a dog at home.

Slipping into the seat, I set my backpack aside.

“Résumé.” Her lashes swept upward, tugging cool sea-gray eyes with them as she adjusted a Bluetooth in her ear.

I hesitated, and she stretched a hand, fingers open impatiently. “You have brought one, I  resume.”

“Yes.” I retrieved it and handed it over, though now it seemed pathetic. I noticed the wrinkles in the paper as she pinched it between her neatly manicured fingernails. Next to the other packets on the desk, mine was Cinderella after the stroke of midnight, realizing she doesn’t belong at the ball.

I sat there waiting while the woman perused my credentials.

“You have experience sewing with commercial machines?” she asked without looking up. She was far back on the résumé now, to my high school vacations at Grandma Rita’s in Texas.

“Yes. My grandmother owned a dry cleaning and alterations shop. I worked for her in the summers for years. I’ve worked part time in several fabric shops, and I’ve also taken fashion classes when I’ve been able, but of course my primary interest is production.”

She blinked, the action completely, perfectly impassive. Her pale eyes were blank, her face android-like. “And you’ve ap- plied for a position with us because . . .” She left the sentence open-ended, as if she were volleying the ball back to me and seeing what I would do with it.

“Film has always been my dream.” For some reason, I de- cided to go for the personal approach, to see if I could melt the ice a bit. It’d always been a problem for me—desperately wanting to persuade people to like me. Being the odd man out in a blended family, you develop strange quirks. “My father was a director. My earliest memories are of being on set with him. He died when I was eight. I’ve always wanted to follow in his footsteps. Being in Arizona, there weren’t many opportunities.”

“Yes, I see you’ve completed your undergrad degree at some . . . this is a community college, I presume? I’ve never heard of it.”

“I worked my way through. My parents were only will- ing to finance college if I studied something they considered practical, preferably law school.”

“I see.” For an instant, she and I were strangely, un- expectedly connected. I had the distinct feeling she knew all about having someone else pull your strings. Her eyes thawed momentarily, and there was something behind them, but I couldn’t tell what.

“I have many qualified applicants for the production assistant’s positions. Perhaps your skills would be better suited to one of the lay positions available—something on the cast. No experience in the film industry is required there, this being a reality-based production.”

“I’m not exactly the on-stage type. I was the only fifth grader in the school production of A Christmas Carol selected to work behind the scenes, rather than in front. I love the inner mechanisms of a production. I’ve been involved in every way I could with theater—costuming, set design, whatever was needed. I know it’s nothing compared to a full-scale film project like this one, but I’m willing to do whatever it takes to learn. No one will work harder than I will.”

I scooted to the front of the chair, and she lifted a hand in a way that indicated she was accustomed to people freezing in place when she told them to. Her eyes darted toward her earpiece, and there was a quick headshake before her attention returned to me.

The interview questions then took a rapid right turn toward Terre Haute. “I would assume that you are not a superstitious type? There are some . . . myths and legends surrounding the town we intend to reenact. We are not looking for ghost enthusiasts, psychic mediums, and thrill seekers. We are also not looking for those who might be sniffing after a story or who intend to cash in by leaking details of the production to the media. Cast members in the reenactment village are, of course, not a concern, as they will be living on set for the duration, as part of the game. They will have no means of en- tering or leaving, unless they are dismissed from the cast. The location is remote enough to allow us that luxury. Support personnel, conversely, may be coming and going for months, though they will be housed in an onsite camp prepared for crew members. Confidentiality agreements will be required, as well as references and background checks. Would any of these caveats be problematic for you?”

Now I was thoroughly confused. Was she offering me a job? Or telling me why I wasn’t qualified for the job? “I’m not superstitious and I have no problem signing confidentiality agreements of any kind.”

Her attention drifted toward the door. Finally she stood, so I did too.

“One final thing,” she added. “Are you familiar with the name Bonnie Rose?”

The interview had taken another hairpin turn. “No, not that I know of . . .”

“Very well,” she said. “We’ll be in touch."

Bethany HouseAmazon * Barnes & Noble * Book Depository

Lisa Wingate is a journalist, inspirational speaker, reviewer for the New York Journal of Books, and the author of over twenty novels. Her novels combine elements of history, romance, mystery, and women's fiction with nuggets of Southern culture, from the sublime to the humorous. She is a seven-time American Christian Fiction Writers Carol award nominee, a Christy Award nominee, an Oklahoma Book Award finalist, a Christianity Today Book Award nominee, an Inspy Award nominee, and a two-time Carol Award winner. Her works have been selected for Booklist’s Top Ten List in 2012 and in 2013. Recently, the group Americans for More Civility, a kindness watchdog organization, selected Lisa along with Bill Ford, Camille Cosby, and six others, as recipients of the National Civies Award, which celebrates public figures who work to promote greater kindness and civility in American life.

Website * Southern BelleView Daily Blog

Goodreads * Facebook * YouTube * Pinterest

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