Wednesday, August 29, 2007
On the Loose: Preview Part II

Here is the other half of chapter one. Just to refresh: Tornado. People in bathtub.

Rocky’s whining is louder than both the siren and the TV. His big dog mouth is near my ear, and his breath is more of a natural disaster than any twister. I try to shove the dog off me with an elbow, but he’s rock solid.

“Doing OK?” James holds his cushion up with one hand, his other arm curling around me and Millie.

My teeth chatter and my body quakes. No, I’m not OK. I’m petrified! I’ve watched the Discovery Channel. I’ve seen what random chaos a tornado is capable of. I know perfectly well in a few hours it could be me, a few cows, and a television set stuck in a tree on the other side of town.

“Everything’s going to be fine. It’s tornado season. Nothing to be afraid of. We’re just taking some precautions.”

Millie’s voice does little to comfort me. Precautions? A precaution is wearing your seatbelt in case you might have a wreck. Or carrying an umbrella because it may rain. Three people and a dog huddling in a tub with parts of a couch balanced on their heads is not a precaution. It’s what you do when the weatherman says a tornado is going to sail over your house and rip through your community.

“I’ll pray for us.”

With our heads already bowed, James leads us in prayer, asking God for safety and protection.

Even though I’m living with a pastor, and I’m at church a million times a week, I’m not a Christian. Shocking, I know. I’m still on the fence. I’m new to church and God, and I’m only now getting to the point where I can go to the youth services on Wednesday nights without wanting to hide in a broom closet all night. This life of faith the Scotts lead has been a huge adjustment for me.

That being said, I hope we don’t get wiped out tonight because I’m just not ready. Should we meet with untimely deaths, I know where the Scotts would go. They’d waltz right into the pearly gates of heaven. Me . . . now that’s another matter. Not tonight, God. I’m not exactly in the believers club yet . . . And besides, I can’t die without getting my driver’s license. It would be so embarrassing.

Rocky’s ears perk up and he sniffs the air. Maybe he got a whiff of his own breath.

The lights flicker a few times, and James’s arm tightens around my shoulders. This is not good.

The trees outside beat on the house, and rain pelts the roof. Isn’t it supposed to be really quiet before a tornado? Maybe the threat is over. We’ll probably be back in front of the TV in a few minutes.

Then the room goes black. I stiffen.

No lights. No noise from the TV. Nothing but the sound of the wind howling in the rain and the house shaking at the force of it.

The dog growls and paws at the tub.

I scratch his ear. “Rocky, calm down.” But who can blame him? I’m about to pee my pants myself.

Woof! Woof!

The walls begin to vibrate, and Rocky catapults out of the bathtub, barking at a new noise.

“Got that cushion over you, Katie?” Millie’s voice is higher-pitched than usual, and our huddle gets tighter.

The dog scratches at the door, whining and yelping.

“You shut the door, right?” Millie whispers to her husband. “Rocky, come here. Come on.”

An eerie sound like a distant jet plane has me holding my breath in fear.

The door creaks open then crashes against the wall, as the dog frees himself from the bathroom.

“Rocky!” We all call out in unison.

The jet sound is getting louder.

And closer.

I can hear things flying against the house. Or maybe it’s hail.

“I’ll get the dog.”

“No, James. Rocky’s more likely to come to me. He’s got to be under the bed. I’ll run out really quick and get him.”

“Millie, no.”

Ignoring her husband, Millie makes a dash for the door, calling for the dog.

Just as the bedroom window explodes.

My ears fill with the pounding of my pulse. The alarm can no longer be heard, and the jet sound is now more like a train—coming for our house at mach speed.

“Stay here!” James flies into the bedroom, calling his wife’s name.

“I’m over here! Just got a little scratched.”

I can’t see a thing, except for the bedroom occasionally illuminated through the doorway by lightning. My eyes don’t leave the door, and I only release my pent-up breath when the shapes of my foster parents are in front of me.

James shuts us in the bathroom, and we gather close again.

The wind roars, and the Scotts cocoon around me. James is talking, but I can’t hear him. Tears slip down my face, and I grit my teeth and bury my head into Millie’s shoulder.

The house shakes and sways, as if it’s fighting to stay in place. Glass shatters somewhere else in the house. I hold on for dear life.

And then it stops.

My breathing is the loudest thing in the room as the locomotive sounds fade away.

“Is everybody all right?”

The calm timbre of James’s voice fills me with relief. We’re OK. We made it.

“Katie?” And now Millie’s voice.

My body sags against her.

“I’m good.” Though my head is spinning. I can’t believe I just sat through a tornado. Maybe the Weather Channel will want to interview us.

“I’m going to get a flashlight. Everybody just stay put for now. I think we lost a few windows, so there’s probably glass everywhere.”

James returns in a moment, the beam of his light illuminating the bathroom. “Millie, you said you were OK.”

“I am.” She tenses beside me. “Oh . . . I see what you mean.”

My eyes follow the path of the light, and I see Millie’s white shirt.

Covered in blood.

Copied from On the Loose, by Jenny B. Jones, copyright 2007, by permission of NavPress, All rights reserved.

  posted at 2:16 PM  

Monday, August 27, 2007
On the Loose Preview: Part I

Look for On the Loose, book two in the Katie Parker series to hit shelves the week of September 15.

What's the book about? Why, thank for asking.

What's a girl to do when the glass slipper doesn't fit?

Six months into her stay with her foster parents, Katie Parker is finally adjusting to her new family. But when a tornado rips through the town of In Between, nothing is ever the same again.

When her foster mom, Millie, is diagnosed with cancer, Katie begins to doubt if God really does care. What will happen to Katie? Could she possibly have to leave In Between and the family she's come to depend on? Things spiral even further out of control when Katie juggles a science fair project, a malfunctioning best friend, Spring Break plans, and holding the attention of her own Prince Charming. It's going to take more than a glass slipper and some fairy dust to fix Katie Parker's problems. But will help come in time?

Chapter One

(And by the way, I've found if you read it out loud using a British accent, it sounds much more exciting. Not sure why. Australian works well, too, but don't even waste your time with Jamaican.)

Chapter 1

Another adverstisement for feminine products. Is it just a universal law that if you sit down to watch TV with a guy, you are guaranteed at least two tampon commercials?

I sigh with relief when American Idol comes back on and focus my attention on the contestant.

“Get off the stage! You can’t sing. Girl, your mother’s been lying to you.”

James, my foster dad, rips the remote control out of my hands. He collapses back into his leather recliner and shouts another piece of artistic advice to the contestant on TV. I watch this fifty-five-year-old pastor howling along to Kelly Clarkson’s “Breakaway,” and wish I had a mute button for his singing voice.

“How did she get into the top ten?” His intense gaze seeks mine. “Have you ever heard anyone so bad?”

I blink. Is this a rhetorical question—like when we girls ask if we look fat?

As the painful song ends, James shouts more criticism and comments at the TV. If his congregation could only see him now, preaching his Simon-like truth to the contestants on American Idol, they would drop their NIVs and run. It’s like the evil spirit of pop, rock, and disco takes over his body. So not pretty.

I eyeball the remote in his hands, clutched in a death grip. Ah, remote, we used to be so close. Once upon a time we had such good times together. So much of my life has changed since coming to live with James and Millie Scott. Most of it for the good, but their firm control of my viewing habits still totally bites. I’m used to free reign, trolling through the cable channels to my heart’s content. I mean my own mother’s rules during prime-time viewing hours were that I didn’t interrupt her illegal drug sales. She was all for HBO if it kept me occupied. Those days are so over. But now I’ve got my foster parents completely addicted to the few shows I can still watch. Like American Idol. And yet Laguna Beach still calls my name . . .

“James, are you watching the weather?”

Millie walks into the living room, a frown on her face. She opens the blinds and looks outside.

“Yeah, the weather. Uh-huh.” He turns up the volume. “Oh, did you hear Simon? That’s exactly what I would’ve said.”

“Honey, switch it to a local channel for a second, would you? Mother just called and said there’re some weather alerts.”

“Millie, this is the last contestant for the night. We’ve got to see this. The theme tonight is Justin Timberlake songs, and I’ve been waiting all week for this.”

My foster mom and I freeze. And stare at James.

OK, number one, how does he even know who Justin Timberlake is? And two, he’s been counting the days until the former ’N Sync star was on American Idol?

With a final glance out the window, Millie plops down on the couch beside me. “This is all your fault, Katie. Last night he asked me if he was too old to try out for the show.”

James laughs and passes me some popcorn. “I could show Justin a thing or two.”

Yes, but he would need intense therapy afterwards. “James, the world is just not ready for your singing talents.”

Rocky, the family dog, follows the food and parks his large body on my feet. I try to shove him away, but it’s no use. Just one of the many things I’m getting used to around here.

“OK, commercial break. Now flip it over to channel seven.” Millie throws a pillow at her husband to get his attention.

“Just a sec.” James pulls his cell phone out of his pocket. “We’re still going with that voting strategy we talked about at dinner, right?”

My foster dad has a whole system going. He’s got spread sheets, bar graphs, and occasionally he even watches Entertainment Tonight to get some inside scoop on the singers. I’m just waiting for the day he starts his own Idol blog.

Millie lifts herself off the couch and grabs the remote out of James’s hand. “Come on. We’re gonna miss the first part of the judge’s comments. If you could wait ten more minutes and—”

A loud siren from outside stops James mid-sentence. It sounds like the fire drill at school, but it’s much louder. My eyes go wide, and I look back and forth between my foster parents.

“What’s that?” The hair on the back of my neck stands on end.

“The tornado alarm.”

Millie changes the station and a map of our county is on the screen. It’s covered in red.

James loses all interest in our TV show, as he grabs his glasses and reads the message scrolling on the bottom of the television. “A tornado’s been spotted. It says we need to take shelter immediately.”

The town siren seems to grow more insistent. Rocky whimpers and buries his nose under the couch.

“Let’s get to the bathroom.”

Millie grabs the couch cushions and hands me some to carry with us.

I have never been in a tornado before. I’m from Texas, but where I come from, drought is the biggest weather disaster you have to deal with. Living with the Scotts has been one new experience after another, but this is a moment I could definitely do without. Who has a tornado in February, I ask you?

“I’m still calling American Idol,” James mutters. “Come on, Rocky.”

We speed walk into the Scott’s master bath. Having a bathroom of my own, I’m never in here, but now is not exactly the time to study the nautical theme Millie has going on in her powder room.

“Get in.” Millie steps into the large Jacuzzi tub and holds out her hand.

“In the tub?” What, does Millie want to make sure she and her loofah aren’t separated?

“Katie, get in. Then put the couch cushion over your head.”

Great. So in addition to worrying about being sucked up by a funnel cloud, I’m going to have really bad hair too.

I climb in next to Millie and squat low. The TV is blasting the weather report in the other room, and all I can hear is ‘Take cover. Go to your safe place.’ I scoot closer to my foster mom.

“James, come on. Shut the door.” Millie raises the khaki cushion over my head.

Shoving the dog into the bathroom (which is no easy task; that Lab is about as big as a buffalo), James swings his legs over the Jacuzzi and sits on Millie’s other side.

“Excuse me.” I clear my throat. “Shouldn’t I be in the middle? I am the child here. You know, the one you two should be protecting at all costs. My left side is totally unprotected, and—oomph!”

Rocky throws his body in to join us, his monstrous frame crashing into my side.
Well, who cares about the tornado? I’m pretty sure I’m gonna die under the weight of this overfed mutt.

“Good boy, Rocky.” Millie reaches around and gives her dog a pat. “Feel better, sweetie?”

“Oh, much.”

Copied from On the Loose, by Jenny B. Jones, copyright 2007, by permission of NavPress, All rights reserved.

  posted at 3:49 PM  

Saturday, August 25, 2007
As If I Needed Another Reason to Love Ice Cream
I hate peas, but I love this commercial.

  posted at 5:30 PM  

Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Vacation Pics--London
From my friend Sheila: "The security guard at the American Embassy in Paris was OBVIOUSLY flirting with you. Why didn't you flirt back?"

"Because he had a machine gun." Totally took all his charm away.

Anyway, after Paris, we hopped the Chunnel to London. I was nervous about this because it goes under the English Channel for about twenty minutes. That's not a thought that brings about feelings of security, but we survived.

As soon as we got on the Chunnel and were seated, the drink cart was brought out. And we were offered champagne. At eleven in the morning. Turns out our seats were in first class and didn't even know it. One of the perks of sitting in first class was that they brought you lunch. Our choices were veal or fish. (Ick no. 1 or Ick no. 2) I absolutely can't stand the idea of veal, so I had to go with the fish.

It was...powerful, to say the least.

Ever been to the lake and walk by a dead fish? Yeah.

So we make it out of the English Channel without drowning and take a cab to our hotel. Our "Five Star" hotel. I'm not sure which part of our room they thought was five star, but it wasn't our bathroom.

And check out our space age, super modern blow dryer.

We went to see the Tower of London, which I really enjoyed. While our bathroom at the hotel wasn't exactly top notch, apparently people think the bathrooms at the Tower are. A whole wall was dedicated to their awards.

Can you see it? It says "Loo of the Year Award." It's like the Toilet Oscars. The Potty Pulitzers. And believe me, with the predominantly skank public bathrooms we saw, we were grateful for their loo pride.

We took a tour bus to Kent and visited Leeds Castle. It was a beautiful area.

Leeds Castle was once the dowager home for royalty, where the queens would reside after their husbands had passed away. Remember my grass green bedroom? I guess King Henry V's widow and I have the same taste.

Take that all your scorners of the green!

You can't go to London without seeing Buckingham Palace. I had hoped, of course, to catch sight of Prince William, but they said he was out of town. And in case they were onto my idea of climbing over the wall and looking for him anyway, this might've deterred me.

It's like they knew I was coming.

And I don't know about you, but somebody needs to tell the queen that she needs to tidy up her pond. Ew...

If only the poor girl could afford to hire someone to clean it. I know! Maybe she could put her name on some ice cream and sell it! No, Queen Elizabeth would never cheapen herself and the royal family like that.

We didn't get to see the Changing of the Guard because it doesn't occur every day. But as our tour guide said, we got to see something just as good!

Men on horses.
Standing there.
Staring at each other.
It was riveting.
There was a name for this...standing and staring, but I don't remember what it was. But I think it translated into, "Oh, my gosh. This is boring. Are they going to do anything? No. Okay, let's go get a funnel cake."

It is the tenth anniversary of the death of Princess Diana. While her home, Kensington Palace was not something to see, the grounds around it were nice. And you know, we all grieve in different ways. Some people purchased things to add to an art memorial to Diana. Others...sunbathe on the castle grounds in their underwear.

Seriously, he didn't even bother with a bathing suit. Just his undies.

We shopped on some famous streets. I thought the store "American Apparel was interesting. Is this what they think we wear?

This was all they had in the store. It was like I had stepped into Olivia Newton John's closet circa 1984.

So we had a great time in Europe, with the icing on top being me getting frisked (violated!) at the airport on the way home. Just a little memory to reminder you by, London. (I think I would've preferred a postcard or some Buckingham Palace ice cream.)

Stay tuned for a sneak peek at On the Loose, which arrives on shelves next month!

  posted at 3:34 PM  

Saturday, August 18, 2007
Parisian Pics
Long time, no blog.
I am editing The Big Picture, attempting to write back cover copy for the same book, trying to write a new series, starting back to school, and on top of that, I squeezed in a fun weekend trip with my family to good 'ol Branson, MO.

But other than that, I have no excuses for not blogging.

I took over 700 pictures while in London and Paris. I wanted to share every one of them with you right now.
Just kidding. I thought I would share a few of interest though.

I think we were all a little impressed (and intimidated) by all the stylish people we saw in Paris. Men wore mostly suits. Or they wore these:

Much of fashion starts in Paris and trickles down, so get ready, gents--capris are coming your way! In New York guys who wear, typically like other guys. But not so in Europe! Frankly, if we ladies have to share some piece of fashion with the men-folk, I'd rather it be heels. Feel our pain.

We went to the world famous Louvre.

Saw Mona Lisa. Many say she looks sad and believe the model was recently recovering from the loss of a baby. Others believe she is thinking on something funny and on the verge of a smile.
I just think she looks gassy.

In the Louvre there are lots of statues like this:

And when you have statues...sometimes you just have to take a closer look. Like in this favorite shot of my friends I caught:

"What is THAT?"
"The Louvre is so rated R!"

We toured Versailles, which was a highlight for me.

When I looked at their landscaping, it was like looking in my own backyard. Wow, so similar.

We saw the Eiffel Tower in daylight, at sundown, and when it was dark. So yes, I have close to 40 pics of the monument. And yes, they pretty much all look the same. Here's a favorite.

Here's another great one I took on the tower. I think it says something.

It says you're never really THAT far from Arkansas.

Have a great week. Pray for me--teaching starts next week. Is it unrealistic to pray for snow in August?

  posted at 8:26 PM  

Sunday, August 12, 2007
Back to the Real World--Outlaw That I Am

Vacation is so over, and it’s back to school time. Woo. Hoo.
Had a great time in Europe. I survived the world’s largest Ferris wheel, the London Eye, though it’s resemblance to my childhood bicycle wheel worried me.

Here’s something else that didn’t exactly comfort me.

Don’t touch because you don’t want to break out the Windex, or don’t touch because I could fall through and go plummeting to my death on the cold, hard concrete below? Just asking.

My cats also survived the nearly two weeks without me. One of them (the psycho one who is frequently on mental-meds) has followed me around all week. Just staring. At first I thought it was like, “Oh, I cannot let you out of my sight, for fear you will disappear again.” But now I’m thinking it’s probably more like, “If I keep my laser stare on her long enough, maybe she’ll catch on fire and run away again.” It’s not working, Psycho Kitty. I am resistant to your beady, creepy gaze.

This was the longest time away from Internet and my cell phone for me. It was actually quite nice. But you know what I missed the most? My Britney/Lindsay updates. Seriously, every time I would call home it would go something like this: “How are you? Uh-huh, great. And Britney? And Lindsay? What?! Nothing? Surely you jest! You’re playing with me—torturing me from across the globe.” It’s like E! couldn’t do their job, knowing their most faithful viewer couldn’t tune in. And the second I get back, Brit jumps in a pool topless with a college guy. It’s like entertainment time had stopped for me, only to resume again on my return. Could a girl ask for anything more?

So more vacation details later. I have some fun, super meaningful pics to share. But you probably do need to know that I committed a crime in Paris. I took a picture of the American Embassy. Apparently you cannot do that. The guards blew their whistle and yelled at me from across the street. I had to cross the street, weaving through perilous traffic (okay, nobody was coming, but with those crazy drivers, you never know.), and present myself to the uniformed gentlemen.

“Are you an American?”
“Yes, sir.” (Insert heavy Southern accent here in case anybody found it the least bit cute. They didn’t)
“Did you take a picture of the Embassy?” (Said like I had just pledged my allegiance to Osama Bin Laden)
“Yes.” Please don't shoot me with your big guns.
“You can’t do that.” And he sticks out his hand for my camera.

Now at this point I am all smiles and manners because I had hundreds of pictures on this camera, and I didn’t want to lose them just because a “friend” asked me to take a picture of the stupid embassy. (Kids, a real friend won’t ever ask you to steal, do drugs, or take a picture of the American Embassy in Paris.)

“Do you want me to delete the picture?” As in please don’t touch my camera.
Another guard pipes up. “Am I in the picture? If so, you don’t have to delete it.”
Me. “Really?”
“No.” Oh, Embassy jokes. Those are the BEST!!!

And then they watched me fumble with my camera (my thumbs wouldn't work) and delete the offensive picture. And that was it. Or was it?

See I’ve watched enough Alias in my day. I know these people will now be following me, tapping my phone, searching my computer when I’m at work to see if I had truly taken more than ONE picture of the Embassy. Desperate to see if I was more than just a simple tourist with a rogue point-and-shoot finger. Probably by this time next week I will have a new identity, go by the name Myrtle T. Doody, and will disappear, only to mysteriously reappear on an isolated section of Bora Bora.

All because I took a picture of the American Embassy.

I believe there’s a lesson here for all of us. If warning you of the dangers of snapping trip pics of the Embassy is all I accomplish in this life, then it was well lived. If I can save just one of you, it is worth it.

If you never hear from me again, please know that I shall have a happy life wherever my new identity takes me.

Think of me fondly-

  posted at 8:22 PM  

Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Back on Home Soil

I know you're just dying for all the juicy details about my Euro trip, such as my altercation at the US Embassy in Paris (pictures = no no), getting frisked at the airport (hand violations!!), and almost getting taken out by a manic biker (I didn't know I was in "her lane." Excusez moi.). But it will have to wait. I must catch up on drinking ice tea (when will those Europeans see the light?), laundering my undies (no laundry=commando), and pulling myself out of the deep depression I call "Thirty-six hours until I have to either return to school or throw myself in front of a bus."

But in the meantime, I want to share this video my good friend Tiffany sent. I don't want to like it--in all its cheesy glory--but I do. It's like a happy pill for my back-to-school blues. "NIV with the ribbon bookmark. NIV with the ribbon bookmark..."

"And if you're Catholic, there's even more."
See? It's hard not to like it, right? Kinda like Hannah Montana. Darn you for being so cute and clever!

"She's got good doctrine..." His mad rhymes put me to shame.

More updates later. I need to clean some litter boxes and download a million pictures. Sadly, no Prince William sightings. The Royal fam was off on holiday. I take that personally--like they knew my revamped stalking strategies and I were coming.

One day, Will, you must face me. It is destiny. And I will introduce you to the important things in life.
Like ice tea.

  posted at 12:36 PM  

About Me

Jenny B. Jones

Arkansas, US

I am a teacher in one of the largest high schools in the state. I'm also a writer of Young Adult novels and am currently working on a brand new series. Book three in the Katie Parker Production series, The Big Picture, will hit shelves in April 2008. Stay tuned!

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