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A New Chapter

Today’s blog is simple. I’m posting the new, improved Chapter One of Palo Duro Panic: A Moochie Mockingbird Tale. (For those of you who are first time readers, the series is for 3rd to 5th grade readers, but also makes a good “read-to-me” book for younger kids. Available on Kindle for 99 cents!!)Thanks to the constructive comments of several readers, I’ve seen the errors of my ways…well, at least as far as the book is concerned…and made a few changes.  So, without further ado, the revised (but unfortunately unformatted) first chapter of Palo Duro Panic:

by Laynie King

Chapter One: Coyote Gets Caught
On this particular late afternoon in March, it was gloomily dark, bitingly cold, and very windy. In the heavy snow, Cody Coyote hunted along the rim of the canyon. His sharp eyes saw movement just off the path. Rabbit! A big old jackrabbit for his supper. Cody crouched for a jump. Just as he started to leap forward, his front paw slipped out from under him. He went sprawling forward on his chest. He thought he’d stop sliding right there, but Cody was wrong. As he slid, he dislodged a very large, very slippery piece of sandstone. The rock was covered with ice and once it started rolling, nothing was going to stop it. That rock, hundreds of small stones, and Cody went skidding along to the very edge of the mesa.
Then Cody stopped rolling, and he lay panting for breath. He could see over the edge. It was long way down to the canyon floor! The old coyote wondered why he’d stopped rolling and skidding where he did. Then he saw! That sandstone rock had also stopped rolling and skidding, slipping and sliding, too… stopped right on top of Cody’s left hind leg.
Cody could not move. He was trapped. Trapped under a sandstone rock. Trapped right on the edge of a canyon 820 feet deep. Trapped with no one around to hear his yelps for help. Trapped alone. He lay still and listened. He couldn’t hear the snow blowing, or the creak of the mesquite tree that jutted out from the canyon wall. He couldn’t hear himself panting. Cody couldn’t hear the hard beating of his heart. Couldn’t hear the wind. He listened again. He couldn’t hear anything! He touched his head with a paw and found a very sore spot under his ear. When he looked at the paw, he saw a faint smudge of his blood. He’d been hit by a tumbling rock.
Cody knew other animals that had lost their hearing after being hit in the head. But they heard just fine now. Cody hoped his hearing loss would be temporary. If he couldn’t hear, how would he ever be able to hunt? How could he find a squirrel hiding behind the cactus? Or hear a predator coming?
Cody Coyote lay his injured head down in the snow and thought. He was the oldest, wisest coyote in Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Years of experience had made him a well-qualified teacher in the ways of the coyote, of nature, of other animals. It was Cody’s goal to make sure every pup born into his den could use its own good sense before it went out to face the canyon alone.
But all that knowledge wasn’t doing him any good right now. He couldn’t think of a way to get out from under that rock.
The old coyote remembered back a few hours that afternoon, just before the snowstorm hit. In a secluded cave under the canyon wall, old Cody had gathered the newest pack of young coyotes around him. He’d had to speak loudly to be heard over the howling of the wind outside the cave.
“It smells like snow! Stick your noses out into the wind and feel the cold and the damp. Feel the direction of the wind. That’s what snow smells like. It’ll be heavy on the ground before the afternoon is over. Now, I know how you like to jump and play while you’re hunting. And I know how some of you like to run away from the rest of the pack. But, for tonight, don’t ever go off on your own. When the weather is bad, y’all have to be more careful. Snow can make the rocks very dangerous. And where there’s snow, there’s usually ice. And where there’s ice, it’s slippery! I don’t want any of you hurt. So, be careful and be aware of your surroundings.”
Several of the pups had already started playing and weren’t listening at all. Casey Coyote stood up. “Y’all settle down now and listen to your elder.” Casey was a little older than the pups and sometimes he acted more important than he was. “Now, listen up!”
Casey was Cody’s grandson and he made the older coyote grin a bit. Cody remembered how he used to act important, too. He’d get a bit bossy with the little ones. Then those little ones would grow up, and Cody would have to deal with them being as big as he was! Casey would learn that lesson, too.
Then Cody had repeated his warning to the pups. “Stay together, two or three of you, and be careful. Good hunting. I’ll see y’all later.” The pups ran off into the canyon, each of them thinking of rabbit, squirrel, or mouse for dinner.
Now, lying on the edge of the mesa in the darkening dusk, Cody was a sad old coyote. He hadn’t listened to his own advice. Cody had started hunting alone and now he was trapped…and wondering what would happen next. He felt the snow fall into his thick fur coat. He felt the ice forming under his jaw, and the wind was making him so very cold. All through the long night, Cody waited in the silence. He couldn’t sleep, but he was very still. He had no choice but to wait for morning.

Copyright June 2011 All rights reserved

Thanks for reading! Let me know what you think.

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Filed under Samples, The Business of Writing

Following the Experts

I’ve read, in several places, that if you are an unknown author (I am), and if you’d like to be noticed (I would), then you write a blog and give out free samples!! I HAVE! Check out “Promised Sample” in this blog.

Additionally, I am publishing (here and now) a very short story based on my Moochie Mockingbird character. This is for one reason…and one reason only…my blog writing and my children’s story writing are not the same. I’d like you to sample my children’s writing. So, would you read my very short Texas tall tale?…here?…and now?…thank you very much.


by Laynie King

“The distance is a long way away,” thought Moochie Mockingbird.  “Not sure where I’m going, either.  Better look for a place to rest.”

Moochie was ready to continue his exploration of Texas.  He’d been to Palo Duro Canyon and Ratcliff Lake and Saragosa.   Someday he’d go down to the Gulf Coast, but not today.

As Moochie settled into the branches of a nearby mesquite tree, he remembered something he’d seen on his way to Pecos.  He’d go back and check on that…first thing in the morning.

Just at dawn, Moochie ate a small beetle and some ants for breakfast.  He had a swallow of water from a puddle and took off into the sky.  His destination was about two hours away.  Looking down from a great height, Moochie saw exactly what he was looking for, off to the east.

Moochie flew in closer to a tall, metal, man-made object that reached far into the sky.  There were a lot of them around, but he decided to pick one that didn’t have humans near it.  He flew in and around the ladder-like structure.  He flew to the very top where he found a flag.  He flew to the middle where he saw a long pipe that went down into the ground.  Parts of this big contraption were going round and round and parts were moving up and down.  It appeared to Moochie as if there had been a little hole in the ground and this ‘whatever-it-was’ was making the hole bigger.  And it was noisy!  Moochie thought this was all very strange.

“I can’t imagine what humans would want with a hole in the ground.  They won’t be able to live down there, I don’t think.  There must be something valuable at the end of that pipe, but I sure don’t know what it is.  And I can’t ask…‘cause I don’t speak human.”  Moochie wasn’t so much confused as bewildered.  He wished there were other animals around.  They might have the answers to his questions.

The mockingbird flew to the shade of a prickly pear cactus.  He ate his fill of little wasps that were flitting in and out of the fruit.  It was getting hot and the sun was very bright.  It reflected off the sandy desert and back into Moochie’s eyes.  He was too smart to exert himself in this West Texas heat.  Just because he was curious didn’t mean he had to be foolish.  Mooch decided to rest a bit.

A couple of hours before sunset, Moochie left the shade.  And just in time!  Off to his right he saw a rodent-like animal.  He thought it was a gopher, but he wasn’t sure.

“Hey, you!” called Moochie.  “Hold up a minute.  I want to talk.”

“Well, this should be interesting,” said the gopher.  “I’ve never talked to a bird before.  Why can I understand you?”

“Oh, it’s just a talent I have.  I can speak every animal language except human.  Anyway, I have a question.  The name’s Moochie, by the way.  What’s yours?”

“Pleased to make your acquaintance.  I’m Gail Gopher.  Full name’s Gail Prairie Pocket Gopher, but that’s bigger than I am.  What’s your question?”

“Well, a few days ago I was flying west and I saw these big tall things sticking up out of the ground here.  I got busy over by Saragosa, and forgot about them for a few days, but I’m here now.  I’ve just got to know what the humans are doing with these things.  Do you know?”

“It’s your lucky day, Moochie.  You’re asking a question about something that’s in my own backyard, so to speak.  These are oil-drilling rigs.  I live underground and every time the humans start drilling, it shakes my burrow nearly to pieces.”

“If humans are drilling for oil, does that mean you have oil in your burrow, too?  Oh, and what’s oil?”  Moochie had finally found something he didn’t know anything about!

Gail laughed, and then answered,  “No, I don’t have oil in my burrow.  The humans have to drill down hundreds of feet to get to the shale that holds the oil.  Oil is a black liquid.  I’m not sure exactly what they do with it, but when it comes up the pipe, it sure does smell.”

“Is that what’s in the air?”

“Sure.  Smells like this all the time.  I can’t imagine that the humans would want this in their houses.  I sure wouldn’t want it in mine.  This is close enough, thank you.  I just don’t know what they
could do with it.  And I never really thought about before you asked.”

Moochie and Gail stood quietly, thinking that they now had more questions than answers.

“Y’all don’t have a clue about that rig, do ya?”

“Who said that?  Where are you?”  Gail Gopher looked around, but couldn’t see anyone with her tiny, beady eyes.  “Come out where we can see you.”

Moochie jumped back quickly.  A big ol’ scorpion appeared right in front of him.  Moochie had seen one before, knew they weren’t edible, and was actually a little scared of it.  “Gail, it’s a scorpion!  Watch out!”

“Oh, I’ll wager that’s Scorpio.  He’s always around here.  Just don’t get him riled up; he’s harmless if you leave him alone.”

“Gail, why are you talking to a mockingbird?  Wait a minute, why am I talking to a mockingbird?  What’s goin’ on?”

Moochie ventured a little closer.  “Well, Gail and I were just wondering what humans do with the oil they drill out of the ground.  Do you know?  Oh, and we can all understand each other, ‘cause I have a talent for language.  When I’m in a group, everybody understands everybody.”

“Okay then!  So, to answer your question.  The humans use the oil for energy and that’s all I know.  Well, I do know there’s a strong smell around here most of the time.  It doesn’t help that there’s oil floating on top of that pond over yonder.”

Scorpio pointed to a rectangular, man-made pond not far from the rig.  Moochie could see the sun reflecting off the oil that floated on top of the water.  It made rainbow colors all over the surface.  As he watched, he saw a small gopher climbing the steep dirt walls that kept the water from draining away.

“Um, Gail, do you let your kids play on the pond walls?”  Moochie was concerned.

“Oh, no!  Never!  I’ll bet that’s Garry; I can’t let that boy out of my sight for a minute.  I told him to not go over there.  Garry!”  Gail shouted out to her son.  “Gar-r-ry!!”

The little gopher didn’t hear his mother.  He continued his trek up the pond wall.

“If I go over there,” said Moochie, “will he listen to me?”

“Probably not.  Garry thinks he’s smart enough to do anything he wants.  He won’t listen.  And I can’t shout loud enough for him to hear me.  If we don’t hurry, he’s going to fall into that stinky water!”

Gail started to worry.  “I’m not going to be fast enough to stop him.  What are we going to do?”

“Scorpio to the rescue!”  And the scorpion took off.  “I’ll just scare him away from the edge.  He’s a bit afraid of me.  It’s our only chance.”  The scorpion ran faster.

“Hurry!  I don’t know what I’ll do if he falls in the water.”

As the scorpion ran toward the pond, he was followed on the ground by Gail and in the air by Moochie.  They’d be there quickly, but not before the scurrying scorpion.

Garry was making his way up the dirt hill.  He’d pretty much forgotten what his mom had said.  He didn’t think once about the water on the other side of the wall.  Just as he was going over the top, Scorpio jumped out.

“Stop right there, boy!”

“What?”  Garry started to back up.  “Why are you talking to me?”

“Because you’re too hard-headed to listen to your mother.  Get away from that pond right this minute or I’ll do more than scare you!”

Garry backed down the hill, away from the scorpion.  His mother called up to him from the flat ground.  “Garry, you get down here this very minute, or I’m gonna tell Scorpio to sting your stubborn tail!”

Moochie laughed… and then tried to pretend he hadn’t.

“Moochie Mockingbird, don’t you laugh when I’m talking to my son!”  Gail was indignant.

As the baby gopher reached flat ground, Moochie said, “I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t have.  But you have to admit  that a little sting would have given Garry quite a shock!”

Said Scorpio,  “I wouldn’t have stung him all that hard.”

“Garry, you get back to the burrow and wait for me.  I want to talk to my new friends.”  Gail gave the little gopher a shove in the right direction.  “And don’t you stop anywhere on the way!”

“Thank you for hurrying over here, Scorpio.  Maybe you scared him enough that he won’t go back up, but I wouldn’t count on it.  He’s the orneriest little one I ever had.”

“Moochie, if you hadn’t seen that rascal go toward the pond…well, I don’t know what would have happened.  Thank you for caring.”

“This has certainly been an interesting afternoon!  Here I am, just a prairie pocket gopher talking to a scorpion and a mockingbird as if it were the most natural thing.  Hmm.  I’ll be thinking about this for a while.  Thanks again, hope I’ll see you both later!”  With that, Gail ran back to her burrow to have a few stern words with her son.

Moochie knew he probably wouldn’t be seeing Gail and Garry again.  The gophers wouldn’t be venturing out of the burrow tonight.  And he’d be leaving for parts unknown in the morning.  He turned to speak to Scorpio.

But the scorpion was gone.  Moochie was disappointed.  He really wanted to talk to Scorpio more about oil and drilling and strong smells.  But the arachnid was gone, and so was Moochie’s chance to get more answers.  Well, at least he knew more than he had before.  He supposed that he was just going to have to settle for that.

Maybe someday Moochie would learn human language, and he’d ask them all about big ol’ deep, noisy rigs drilling holes in the West Texas ground.

—The End—

Thanks for reading.  I look forward to your comments.


Filed under The Business of Writing