JC Miller will be on tour December 8-15 with her novel Believing in Bigfoot
Reeling from his failed comeback and ruined marriage, washed-out actor Ian James (née Isaac Janowitz) flees Los Angeles for a two-week respite in Northern California’s remote Marble Mountains—Bigfoot country. His time alone in the wilderness begins to peel away the layers of his Hollywood persona. After a fateful meeting with a beguiling woman, Ian begins to question his heart. In a moment of clarity, Isaac ditches his publicist and finds himself in Redding, living with invisibility at the Vagabond Motel.
Professor Ruth Hill is burnt out teaching photography at Redding’s Shasta College, eager for her upcoming retirement. But for unexplained reasons, despite weekly therapy sessions, her panic attacks have escalated. Her artistic slump persists. Looking back, she regrets a life without risk; looking forward, she dreads a meaningless future. Going over her proof sheets one morning, she stumbles upon a series of striking thumbnails, reigniting her passion and creativity.
Readers will root for Isaac and Ruth as they grapple with their chance encounter on the mountain and search for meaning in their repellent, yet intense attraction. Their paths do cross again, but when confronted with the possibility of enduring love, Ruth’s cynicism creeps in; Isaac’s self-defeating beliefs take hold. For these two damaged souls, it just may be too late.
Ruth’s eyelids rolled open and closed, letting in just enough light for awareness to return in measured doses. When her eyes opened for good she could no longer deny the gravity of her predicament. This was not one of her nightmares—he was not an illusion. Indeed, his presence loomed solid as a tree trunk. The beast drew closer, towering above her. She was a mouse in the dirt. She was prey.
This was it. At a visceral level she felt certain she would die today—out here. He would rape her and strangle her with his filthy, gnarled hands. He would leave her here in this empty land. Despite this awareness, a strange sense of peace washed over her. Visions came and went—her father’s kind face, the sound of her mother’s voice. Scenes from her childhood floated above her like a movie, yet she remained oddly detached.
Then, like flipping a switch, Ruth remembered, Gentle Meg—Meg, who sees the good in everyone. Meg!
No! Not me, too, you son of a bitch! Sasquatch outweighed her by a hundred pounds, but she would not back down—not without a fight.
Ruth scrambled to her feet. “What do you want?”
The beast recoiled. It spoke. “Look, lady. I’m not here to hurt you.”
She squinted, sizing him up. Bigfoot was feral, woolly—Paul Bunyan mythic. But he was no threat. If anything, he was intimidated by her. Ruth tapped into a dark well of feminine power, invoking a stance of hostility and absolute authority. “Then what the hell are you doing in our campsite?”
He took a step back, boots heavy on the rocky ground.
Ruth examined the intruder more carefully. Human, as it turned out. Damn—this sealed it. The time had come to stop putting off that eye exam.
The man wore putty-colored nylon shorts, a red flannel shirt. Graying hair sprigs poked out from beneath his black woolen cap. His beard, more salt then pepper, was unkempt, his face unwashed. With all that face fuzz his age was indeterminate, but Ruth understood one thing: he was no kid. But like a kid, he rocked back and forth on his heels, avoiding her eyes. It wasn’t the first time she’d had that sort of impact on a man. Ruth folded her arms across her chest. “What do you want?”
Brow furrowed, he struggled to find words. “I tried to tell you, it’s your friend.”
Cottony clouds drifted overhead and then parted to reveal a glimpse of the pale waning moon, a glint of sunlight in the east. Ruth’s gaze fell on the creek bed, the granite outcroppings to the north. She noticed her palms were scraped and bleeding, her manicure shot to hell.
She realized now what had happened. She’d keeled over like a frail old woman and blacked out at the mere sight of him. Her face flushed when she became aware of her sweatpants, pee-soaked, cold and clinging to her thighs. “My friend?”
“Yes—we should hurry!”
The intensity of his tone unnerved her. Ruth shoved her phone into her pocket and tramped after him, but she was no match for his long strides. He scrambled down a steep grade and then vanished beyond the first switchback. Cursing her old knees, she rounded the bend, where she spotted him squatting trailside, tending to a supine Meg.
“Here!” He waved her over.
Ruth scrabbled down the embankment to the patch of bare earth where Meg lay motionless. Ignoring the popping in her knees, she, too, squatted. Touching Meg’s cheek, she found the surface of her skin cool and doughy. She swept strands of errant gray away from Meg’s closed eyes.
Meg’s lifeless expression triggered a memory—the endless night Ruth had kept vigil by her hospital bed. When Meg finally came to, she’d made light of her “little stroke.” It was nothing, she’d said. In hindsight, she may have been right. Meg hadn’t had a subsequent attack in over ten years. Ruth shook off the memory. Her focus sharpened. “Meg, can you hear me?”
Meg’s eyes opened. They closed again.
Ruth patted her cheeks gently. “Honey, it’s Ruth. It looks like you took a fall, but you’re going to be okay.” When Meg was unresponsive, Ruth slid her hands beneath her shoulders to the cold, pebbled ground.
“Don’t move her,” the man said. “It’s not a good idea to move her.”
Ruth had forgotten about Grizzly Adams. “What are you, an expert?”
“No.” He sank back down to his knees. “But I know that much. You don’t move an injured person.”
Right. “I knew that—for God’s sake.”
He looked away, as if stung.
Please visit CLP Blog Tours for all the tour stops!
JC (Jeanne) Miller, M.A., is an educator and founding member of JAM, an editorial-consultation team. An avid reader, aspiring traveler and table tennis enthusiast, she resides in Northern California.
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