Once upon a time, my parents owned a hobby farm complete with a large garden, a few cows, a solar-heated hydroponics vegetable grow building with tilapia in tanks, and a flock of egg-laying chickens.

Plus a mean rooster.

Whenever they’d go on a trip, they’d hire one of my boys or I to do their chores. 

Which led to a bunch of “fun” memories like the day the mama cow got out and while she was literally rolling around in a pile of wood chips, we tried to herd her back to her home using a car. (Didn’t work. It took wading into the manure–in flip-flops!–with a bucket of corn to get her back behind the wire fence.)

But most of my frustrations came from the rooster who loved to charge at my ankles while flapping his wings furiously. I followed my dad’s advice to boot him across the coop…and ended up with a bleeding gash on my shin.

Plus a ticked-off bird who gave me the evil eye every time I came close.

Which in turn led to a lot of manipulation by me to lure him out of one area, so I could dash back to collect eggs or grab the water bucket before he caught on and returned.

So, when I was in the process of brainstorming how to redeem the diva-villain from the first two books in The Wardrobe Series, I knew she’d need to get knocked down to the bottom rung. 

To come to the end of herself before she’d start to listen to God’s voice calling her name.

And what better symbolic low than Gloria facing off with a rooster?

It took a bit of maneuvering to get Gloria to willingly move to a rural location where she’d be responsible for such tasks, but I figured it out. And while the diva vs. rooster face-off doesn’t happen until a bit later in the book, I still love the scene where Gloria has just moved to Granny Rose’s rustic cabin.

As you can see in the next excerpt from chapter ten, she has a run-in with the local wildlife and has to call her boss for help. 

Hope you enjoy the following glimpse into Sing A New Song.

…While Gloria wouldn’t have picked this place as her first choice to stay, it would do until more housing opened up in the fall. Or maybe she’d stay here until the next gig. After all, it could take time to rebuild her finances, and she wasn’t in a rush.

In the meantime, she would be helping Granny Rose. The woman’s friendship and nuggets of wisdom she sprinkled while they worked were unexpected treasures.

As was this peaceful location.

A few noises drew her attention to the single windowpane above a small air-conditioning unit. The view outside encompassed a forest of tall trees behind the cabin. Birds flitted between the branches and a few moss-covered rocks. Last night it had been the sound of frogs that kept her awake, but this morning, the birds had begun singing before dawn…along with the rooster’s crowing. And then a woodpecker had started searching for its breakfast with a rat-a-tat-tat.

Whoever had glorified the peaceful quiet of country living had never tried to sleep here.

Gloria turned and glanced around the bedroom, feeling a sense of adventure, like she was stepping back in time. The rustic walls were bare except for a wildlife painting over the log bed, which was covered with a multicolored quilt. A crocheted afghan draped across a rocking chair in the corner beside a lamp. Cozy and simple.

And now that she was moved in, it was time to relax.

She glanced down at the T-shirt and yoga pants she had put on after her morning shower. With her hair up in a messy bun and wearing no makeup, she finally understood why both Liz and Dani had dressed in the same way around their shared apartment.

There was freedom in being herself without a facade or a mask.

Not to mention, the comfortable outfit wasn’t that different from the ponytail and jeans she wore when cleaning bathrooms at the theater.

If only her mother could see her now.

Gloria laughed.

No one to see her. No one to impress. And she didn’t have to act like she had her life together anymore.

After fixing a light lunch and then arming herself with a cold soda and a handful of home-baked cookies, she picked an interesting-looking romantic suspense novel from the bookshelf. However, it was starting to get a bit stuffy inside the cabin, since the only air-conditioning was in the bedrooms.

At least outside on the covered porch, she might catch a breeze.

To one side of the door leading onto the porch sat two wooden Adirondack-style chairs with a gigantic tree stump between them. She set her snack, phone, and book on the improvised table and settled into a chair. Ahh. She could almost imagine the lingering tension from the previous week oozing out of her body and dripping between the cracks in the weathered-plank floorboards.

She rested her head back and eyed the layout of the homestead. The original cabin had obviously been expanded several times over the years as well as modernized, but from the front it still looked like a black-and-white photo from the Ozarks. A wide porch with chairs. Wooden planters on the porch railing overflowing with colorful flowers. Okay, maybe the original settlers in this area didn’t have time for flowers, but the planters still left a backwoods, rustic impression.

To her left, the awning-style carport at one end of the cabin served as an outdoor garage for Granny Rose’s car, with Gloria’s Lexus exposed to the elements beyond it. With any luck, she would avoid hail damage from a thunderstorm, especially since she still owed several thousand dollars on the vehicle.

A gravel drive led out to the main road hidden behind thick stands of trees and green undergrowth. A small clearing in front of the house contained a soot-stained rock ring surrounded by log stumps—the remnants of a campfire.

She could almost imagine the smell of smoke, the taste of s’mores, and the sound of laughter as the sight triggered vague memories of childhood summer camp. But it was much warmer here in Missouri, even in the midst of so many trees.

A slight breeze kissed her face, bringing with it the smell of something more pungent.

She turned to the right, where a weathered barn stood surrounded by split-rail fences. The cow and the goat each stood in their own pens, while the donkey Granny Rose was keeping for a neighbor roamed in another.

Near the barn, a few chickens pecked around. She had heard about free-range chickens before but wondered why they didn’t fly away. Granny Rose had just laughed at her question, saying that the birds knew who fed them and they always came home to roost.

The rooster picked that moment to crow. Her eyes drifted to the chicken coop—if one could call what she was looking at a coop: chicken wire strung above a ramshackle fence tied together with rope. Of course there was a gate to allow them access to the yard during the day and a wooden shed where they laid most of their eggs and were locked up at night in order to protect them from the raccoons and other animals.

Last night, Granny Rose had given her the tour of the feeding chores—adding more notes to the list on Gloria’s phone—and then sent her in to collect the eggs. She’d been warned to show the ornery rooster who was boss and boot him across the coop if he tried to charge her shins.

Well, he’d retaliated this morning with his crowing. And even more now as if trying to scare her off.

“Well, take it or leave it, chickens, but I’m here.”

Peripheral movement beside the porch caught her attention. The old hound dog chased its tail, always striving but never succeeding. It collapsed into a weary heap—and then not a minute later was up and chasing again.

A new noise announced the arrival of a wild turkey that had invaded the yard. She grabbed her phone and snapped a couple of pictures. She might send these to Colorado since Dani would never believe that Gloria voluntarily lived here.

She snapped a few more pictures of her new home for good measure and then spotted a gray cat stalking an unsuspecting chicken near the woodpile. She switched over to video.

Just then something startled the cat, and it ran.

In that instant, everything changed.

The donkey brayed. The cow stomped. The turkey puffed up. The rooster crowed, and the chickens scattered.

Gloria leaned to the side and shifted the phone to focus on the bushy-tailed cat moments before the beast came flying onto the porch. It leaped onto her chest, knocking her over. The collision coincided with a cracking noise, and Gloria ended up wedged between the collapsed chair and the heavy log table.

Meanwhile, the frantic cat had its claws trapped in her shirt, scratching and clawing as it tried to escape the menacing, waddling, black-and-white animal headed their way.

A skunk.

With some fabric ripping, the cat freed itself. If only Gloria could be so lucky. With one eye on the skunk, she evaluated her predicament. One leg of the now-broken chair had slipped between the porch boards, leaving her half sprawled and with a board digging into her rib cage. But with one arm trapped beneath her and the immovable table by her cheek, she had no leverage to get free.

Meanwhile, the skunk stopped to sniff around the moss-covered foundation of the cabin and then disappeared into a hole. At least it wasn’t going to spray her while she was trapped…but now it was under the house. Would she awaken one day to a horrid stench that would permeate everything she owned? Bad enough to be a hotel maid and cleaning lady without smelling like a skunk too.

She eyed the phone still in her uppermost hand and stopped the video. Who could she call for help? Granny Rose wouldn’t be back for hours—plus, her list of phone numbers was inside the cabin while Gloria was stuck outside.

Another attempt at wiggling herself free only resulted in the chair leg sinking farther beneath the porch and even less room to move. No way was she going to get out of this predicament without help.

There was one local number saved in her phone: her boss, Nick. Just in case she had to call in sick or late or something.

Well, this qualified as an “or something.”

His number rang four times and then she had to leave a message.

Who knew when or if he would call her back. No, she had to get herself free somehow.

Wedging her free hand against the log, she tried to create enough space to move her bottom arm a little. After five minutes of pushing against the immovable object, she had only managed to gain a few millimeters of space and twice that many new scratches or splinters in her arm.

Then an ominous creaking was followed by a sharp snap, and she found herself wedged even deeper into the remains of the chair. Muscles unused to her totally awkward position began to cramp, bringing a few tears of frustration to the surface.

Could she hold out until Granny Rose returned? And could the old woman even help her? Or would they have to call 911 or the fire department for a rescue? If so, maybe she should place that call now.

She could just imagine the newspaper headlines.

Certain spots of her body began to feel numb. She deliberately wiggled her fingers and toes to keep the blood circulating but noticed a painful tingling, like when her foot had previously fallen asleep and the blood rushed back in.

This wasn’t her best moment.

Nick finally called back fifteen minutes later. “Thank heavens.” She tried to fight the tears in her voice but wasn’t above begging. “Do you know where Granny Rose lives? Bring a saw.”

“A what?”

“And then find a skunk trap.”

Backlist Bonus – Sing a New Song
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